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Minister discusses Dr Mohamed Haneef.



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Kevin Andrews MP Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Interview with Ray Hadley

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Interview Ray Hadley 2GB Sydney

Subject Dr Haneef

E&OE…

RAY HADLEY:

Kevin Andrews, our immigration minister, is now being challenged to release all information on Dr Mohamed Haneef's alleged links to the UK terror plots. That's what his lawyer wants, Mr Russo. He wants Dr Haneef's information to be leaked to everyone.

So far, some details of the internet conversation between Dr Haneef and his brother in India have been revealed. And I found it all very interesting. Very interesting. And I would agree with the minister. It does raise your suspicions. The tone of that conversation. I'll get the full tone of that conversation here with me in a moment. But in the meantime, the Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, is online. Minister, g'day.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

Good morning Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

They've certainly given you a tough time over all of this. You've released snippets of the second police interview with Dr Haneef. But that's been simply based on the fact that you've been told that's what you can release by higher authorities.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

It's not actually parts of the police interview. It's actually the conversation that occurred on a computer chat room, between Haneef and his brother in India. So it's not from the record of interview with Haneef. It's the actual

conversation which occurred over a computer chat room, between the two of them.

RAY HADLEY:

So was he questioned by Federal Police about that particular matter?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

I understand he was questioned by Federal Police about that matter. And as to the transcript of that, my understanding is it has not been released by the Federal Police. But that's a matter for the Federal Police and the DPP.

RAY HADLEY:

But in some detail, you've gone into - and I'm glad you pointed that out, because this is not part of the interview. This is just some of the information that's been passed to you, to illustrate that perhaps he's not the type of person we want here.

And it's a conversation between him and his brother, shortly before he attempted to board the flight from Brisbane. That's correct, is it not?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

That's true. It happened on the Monday afternoon. He attempted to leave Brisbane on the Monday evening. And this is in the context that on the Sunday he speaks with the other Indian doctor, Ali, and doesn't say anything about leaving the country then. He goes to work on Monday morning and doesn't apply for leave then from the hospital…

RAY HADLEY:

Right.

KEVIN ANDREWS: …

to go overseas. There is then telephone conversations, including one from India, and this chat room conversation between Haneef and his brother on the Monday afternoon. And in the course of the Monday afternoon, he applies for leave from the hospital and he is trying to get on a flight out of Australia on the Monday night.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay, now that application for leave, does that come after his brother says nothing has been found out about you and asks him whether he's getting out today? He says yes, today.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

The application for leave occurred after a telephone call and, as I recall, before that chat room conversation. So somewhere in the course of the

afternoon, the telephone call. He then does apply for leave and the chat room conversation occurs.

RAY HADLEY:

And then there's something else about either him or his brother talking about Aunty, who's the mother of one of the alleged terrorists in Glasgow, saying that he was found with something in his possession that should be of some concern to Dr Haneef.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

The conversation says - the brother says Aunty told him that brother Kafeel used it. He is in some sort of project over there.

RAY HADLEY:

Some sort of - yeah, here it is here. Aunty told him brother Kafeel used it. He's in some sort of project over there. The brother also referred to the disturbance (incident) which happened.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

Yeah.

RAY HADLEY:

So…

KEVIN ANDREWS:

That had to be the terrorism…

RAY HADLEY:

Now the solicitor-general told you you could release that.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

The solicitor-general - what I did. This is - as you know, Ray, people have been saying well, you know, on what basis did you make this decision? And my hands have been tied behind my back because the police have been saying to me you can't release this information because it can affect the ongoing investigation.

I got the solicitor-general to look at all the information, to review it and give me advice. And the solicitor-general, in the course of giving that advice, has set out some further of the protected information, which he says goes to my exercise of discretion, that is to cancel the visa, and he didn’t think would jeopardise the police investigation. So he's done that. And that's why that information is out there.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay. I think I need to try and get you to answer this, if I can. Based on what we now know, as a fact, about the internet chat room conversation between Dr Haneef and his brother, if you’d just seen that, would that have been enough to convince you to revoke the visa? Or is the other information, that we're not privy to, even more damning and damaging than what we actually know about?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

I cancelled the visa on the combination of information. It was the information that clearly established that Haneef had an association with the Ahmed brothers. He had fraternised with them in the UK. He’d clearly been associated with them. There’d been a loan of money that was involved. There was the leaving of the telephone and the SIM card.

There was a whole range of activities that clearly established an association. On top of that, there are what I believe and the Federal Police believe are highly suspicious behaviour in the day or two prior to Dr Haneef trying to leave Australia. And on that basis, I have got a real suspicion, a reasonable suspicion is what the legislation requires. I've got a suspicion. I’ve got doubts. Once I have those doubts, in my mind, I had no option but to act upon that and to cancel the visa.

RAY HADLEY:

I think what I’m asking is what we now know, this Internet chat room conversation between the doctor and the brother, is that the most damning of the evidence presented to you that raised your suspicions or are there other matters that are even more damning?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

No. The matters which the Solicitor-General has set out, which is what I’ve just discussed, is basically the matters upon which I rely. The other material goes to the investigation in other ways but we've basically, or the Solicitor- General has basically set out the range of material which I based my discretion on.

And as he said, it was open for me to come to that conclusion. In fact, I don’t think I had any other option. My view about this is this is about national security, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to a visa, remembering a visa is just permission for someone to be in Australia.

No one has got a right to be in Australia because they've got a visitor's visa or a work visa. They’ve got permission to be here and that means they have to obey the laws of Australia and part of those laws is that you’re of good character and there is material here that clearly establishes in my mind suspicions about Haneef and his activities and his associations and that’s why I cancelled the visa and I’d do it again tomorrow.

RAY HADLEY:

Who’s funding his Australian lawyer, Peter Russo? Is that being…

KEVIN ANDREWS:

I have no idea.

RAY HADLEY:

It’s not by the Government?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

Not as far as I know.

RAY HADLEY:

No legal aid?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

I would have to check that but I’m not aware that the Government is funding it.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay. Mr Russo, I don't know him. He’s probably a very decent man who thinks he’s doing the right thing but to leave your practice and travel to India and then appear on stage at media conferences and stay there for an extended period of time, you know, you've got to eat, you’ve got to feed yourself. I just don’t understand how people have the capacity to do this.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

Well, that’s a question for him, Ray. I mean, the thing about the media conferences in the UK is that I think it's - you know, he’s doing all these media conferences in the UK. He didn't do any media conferences in Australia - sorry, in India.

RAY HADLEY:

You mean in India?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

Sorry, I meant India.

RAY HADLEY:

Yes, I thought you did.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

I was thinking of the protected information. No, he’s doing the media conferences in India but there was no media conference except with this interview with one television station before he left Australia.

RAY HADLEY:

For $150,000?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

Is that what it is?

RAY HADLEY:

Well, yes, Channel 9 paid him $150,000.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

Yes.

RAY HADLEY:

So - and you know, that is the question. Now, he’s also saying now that he wants to come back here. Would there be any time in the future, given that you’ve just told me that if the same thing happened tomorrow you’d do exactly the same thing, that his visa will be returned to him?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

On the information I have, including what I’ve been told by the police since the initial decision I took, there is no way that I would change my mind on this. I genuinely believe that this bloke has got real suspicions about him and his activities and his associations.

I’ve taken the decision in the national interest. I’m going to protect Australia and Australians first. So far as I’m concerned, his visa’s cancelled and that’s that.

RAY HADLEY:

Are you looking at the visa of his fellow doctor who’s now suspended with pay from the Gold Coast Hospital, Dr Mohammed Asif Ali?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

He - the situation there is that he hasn’t been dismissed. So his visa still continues to operate. He has been suspended and I understand there’s an inquiry into him. If the Federal Police come to me, as they did with Haneef, with evidence in relation to Ali, then I will consider it and I’ll take advice, just as I did with Haneef.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

And if I come to a reasonable suspicion, as I’m, you know, required to do, I will act in relation to Ali appropriately but I’m not going to be frightened off doing what I believe is in the interests of Australia and the Australian people, simply because there’s clamour in some sections of the media that they don't think I've done the right thing.

RAY HADLEY:

Well, we’re going to have them running the place - the floodgates are open and we wouldn't have the sort of - well, we turned boats away, boats away, boats away. We had a change in the way we deal with immigration here and we haven’t had any boats from Indonesia more recently.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

That’s right. Look, I think the Australian people are quite clear about this. They want us to be tough and they want us to make sure that Australia’s protected and they know that there are people in the world who have a different view.

RAY HADLEY:

Well, I sat here whinging about your predecessor for two years and if you’re tougher than her, more power to you, because she was as weak as water. Now, let’s get to the migrant test which came into - will come into being next February.

Look, just on a - I had a conversation with a bloke last night about the problems being encountered in Western Sydney with some members of the Sudanese community and the problem being, as was the case in Tamworth when we had the brouhaha up there.

We dumped these people there. They have very little clue of where they are, what they’re doing. Virtually no English skills. They're in houses and they're not used to that type of residence, they're not used to our way of life.

Is this migrant test about making sure people come here and that actually when we bring them here, we're making life easier for them, not more difficult for them?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

What I want to ensure, Ray, is that if people come here, they’re going to integrate into the community in Australia. That is, that they’re going to be able to fit in with our Australian way of life and we do interviews when people apply to come to Australia.

And what I’m saying is when we do these interviews in the future, we’re going to actually ask questions that go to whether or not somebody can actually integrate into Australia. As you say, we bring people now from all countries and all sorts of countries in the world.

Many of those countries don’t necessarily share our values. People have not lived in a society like Australia and I think we’ve got to balance up bringing

people from overseas but with an ability to actually be able to properly settle and integrate into the Australian society and I think that's what Australians want.

RAY HADLEY:

And do you think over the next decade we’ll see a sea-change in relation to that?

KEVIN ANDREWS:

Well, I’m going to do what I can to put in place what I think the Australian people want in this regard and I’m not, as I said, I’m not going to be - not going to be scared off by people who don’t stand up for Australians and their values.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay. I appreciate your time. Despite what some might say, I think you've handled this rather appropriately, given what we now know and there’s more that we can’t know because of ongoing Federal Police investigations. I thank you for your time.

KEVIN ANDREWS:

My pleasure, Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

Kevin Andrews, the Immigration Minister. As I said, we had Amanda Vanstone, pussyfooting around for a number of years on all of this. We get a bloke who’s actually got the bottle to make a decision and be a bit tough because we are, at the end of the day, concerned about the welfare of Australians in Australia.

And if the Immigration Minister is there to make sure we’re a bit safer, more power to him.

[Ends]