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Govt under pressure over Haneef inquiry -

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Govt under pressure over Haneef inquiry

The World Today - Wednesday, 30 July , 2008 12:25:00

Reporter: Tanya Nolan

ELEANOR HALL: Two of Australia's top federal agencies are under pressure to publicly release
information about their involvement in the arrest and detention of Dr Mohammed Haneef.

The push comes as one of the nation's most secretive agencies, ASIO, made public much of its
submission to the judicial inquiry investigating the handling of the case of the former terrorism
suspect.

But the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions are
withholding the publication of their submissions to the Clarke Inquiry. Tanya Nolan has our report.

TANYA NOLAN: A visit to the Haneef inquiry website quickly reveals what all the fuss is about. Of
the seven submissions provided so far, two state "submission provided - publication withheld." They
belong to the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions, two
of the federal agencies with key roles in the arrest, charging and detention of Dr Mohammed Haneef
in July last year.

And their self-censoring has been made more stark by the revelations made by Australia's top spy
agency, ASIO. Lawyer and commentator on the Haneef case Greg Barnes.

GREG BARNES: It's really quite extraordinary that one of the most secretive, understandably
secretive organisations in Australia is able to release much of its submission to the public and
the Australian Federal Police which ought to be transparent and accountable to the Australian
public. It is withholding so much of its evidence.

TANYA NOLAN: More surprising is how candid the secretive spy agency is prepared to be. ASIO chief
Paul O'Sullivan says early in the case the agency did recommend further investigation of Dr Haneef,
but goes on to say that in whole-of-government meetings, "ASIO's consistent advice, based on
available information, ASIO did not assess Dr Haneef as a threat to security and did not have
grounds to issue an adverse security assessment."

He goes on to say that in written advice to the government and various agencies on July 11th, 2007,
nine days after Dr Haneef's arrest at Brisbane airport, ASIO reported that while it continued to
progress its inquiries, it did not have information to indicate that Dr Haneef had any involvement
in or foreknowledge of, the UK terror acts.

One of Dr Haneef's lawyers, Rod Hodgson, a partner with Maurice Blackburn, says the revelations beg
the question of the AFP, why was Dr Haneef ever charged?

ROD HODGSON: It gets worse than that, by the 11th of July which was before Dr Haneef was in fact
charged and before his visa was cancelled, ASIO has repeated in writing that Dr Haneef was in no
way a threat or legitimately a suspect.

We now know that not only were ASIO telling the AFP and government ministers that at the time, the
Queensland Police Service was telling the AFP that there was no basis to charge Dr Haneef at that
time. There are serious questions as to why the AFP acted against both Queensland Police Service
and ASIO advice.

TANYA NOLAN: The AFP wasn't giving anything away this morning, and a spokesman told The World
Today, the agency won't be engaging in a simultaneous media inquiry while cooperating with Justice
John Clarke. The Commonwealth DPP was not returning phone calls.

So why is it imperative for those agencies to make public what they know of the handling of the
Haneef case? Lawyer and commentator Greg Barnes offers this explanation.

GREG BARNES: Because they are publicly accountable agencies; this case was a debacle. This case
demonstrated that there was a either a high degree of mis-communication or incompetence or
political interference, we don't know what. And it is fundamentally important in a democracy that
people understand what went wrong and why.

TANYA NOLAN: Earlier this week the former NSW Supreme Court judge charged with getting to the
bottom of the Haneef affair declared he would not be seeking the powers of a royal commission; and
said much of the information he's received must remain secret because of its security
classification. Greg Barnes says the inquiry has been undermined.

GREG BARNES: If this inquiry has effectively got a veil of secrecy over it because of the way
agencies are dealing with it, then one has to question whether or not it's worth going ahead with
this inquiry at all.

TANYA NOLAN: Dr Haneef's lawyer Rod Hodgson says the Federal Government must arm Justice Clarke
with greater powers.

ROD HODGSON: If you read carefully the statement which was released by Mr Clarke it's very clear
that there's a strong sense of frustration in that the material he has been asking for has not been
provided to him and that he feels constrained by his lack of powers.

The horse flu inquiry was given Royal Commission powers, the human rights and national security
issues involved in this case are so important, they must at least as important as the health of our
horse industry.

TANYA NOLAN: A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McLelland says it would be inappropriate to
comment on matters before the inquiry, but reaffirmed the Government's full confidence in Mr Clarke
to conduct a thorough inquiry that will get to the facts of the case and make appropriate
recommendations so the public can have confidence in Australia's counter-terrorism measures.

Now all eyes are on the former immigration minister Kevin Andrews who is likely to have been privy
to ASIO's advice at the time. He is on record as saying he will be happy to cooperate with the
Haneef inquiry but was not contactable today.

ELEANOR HALL: Tanya Nolan reporting.