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Transcript of doorstop interview: ABC Melbourne: 31 July 2007: Dr Haneef, Scott Parkin.



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Interview with Jon Faine

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Interview Jon Faine, ABC Melbourne

Subjects Dr Haneef, Scott Parkin

E&OE…

JON FAINE:

The Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, joins me on the phone. Mr Andrews good morning.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Good morning Jon.

JON FAINE:

Will you, or will you not release the material which you say you relied upon, that until now has been secret about Dr Mohammed Haneef?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

That will depend entirely upon the advice I get this morning as to what I can release. But it is the fact that the police are still concerned about the release of this information because of their ongoing investigation.

JON FAINE:

Who’s advice are you waiting from, upon?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well, I am seeking the advice of the Solicitor General but I’m also obviously going to take the advice of the Chief Commissioner of the Federal Police as to their views on the matter.

JON FAINE:

Is it a case of you telling them what sort of advice you want in order to justify whatever political strategy or course you want to pursue?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Kevin Andrews MP Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

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No, far from that Jon. All through this I’ve acted upon material and information provided to me by the Federal Police. I didn’t go seeking the information, they provided it to me.

JON FAINE:

What is the nature of the information, if you can’t discuss its content, what is the nature of it?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well it goes to various associations if I could put it that way. I don’t want to say more because I’ve been told saying more than that could reveal aspects of the investigation and I simply don’t

want to jeopardise that investigation.

JON FAINE:

No, neither do I. Terrorism and the investigation of it is absolutely crucial to our survival as people and as a democracy but I think we’re also entitled to know exactly what it is, without revealing the content of the information, the form of the information, the origin perhaps of the information or some other details so that we can form an opinion on, first of all, whether it even exists, because some people question that, and secondly, whether in fact it’s of any significance.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well when the information goes to association then the course of questions that you’re asking, Jon, are ones which I’m simply precluded from answering because once I start to talk about that in any sort of particularity it will reveal aspects of the investigation which I’m being told I shouldn’t reveal.

JON FAINE:

Is it information from secret agents?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I can’t answer that, Jon.

JON FAINE:

Is it telephone tap information?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

All I can say is it’s information that goes to the question of association of various people. It’s information which both the Australian Federal Police, I’m advised also the UK authorities, have asked us not release.

JON FAINE:

Is it information from the UK?

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MINISTER ANDREWS:

It’s information that relates to matters in Australia and elsewhere.

JON FAINE:

Is it information that’s been passed on to our authorities from overseas and that’s why it can’t be released?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

No it’s information that our authorities have here.

JON FAINE:

Is it information that confirms Dr Haneef’s involvement in activities that have not yet been publicly scrutinised?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I can’t answer that. Jon.

JON FAINE:

The problems that we have, of course, Mr Andrews, are entirely of the Government’s own doing. There is some commentary saying that this is like the supposed photographs of people throwing their children into the water in the children overboard saga, which turned out to be photos of nothing like that and here we go again, the Government’s doing the same thing, saying that information exists which is of a particular nature, which it isn’t.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well the Federal Police took the view, and took the action of providing information to me which was in a number of parts. The reason why they put (inaudible) information, in so-called ‘Part B’ of the document, was that it was what they regarded as protected information. I have to rely upon their advice in this regard. I can’t simply turn around and say the police are saying this is protected information; I can’t just ignore Mr Keelty and the police saying to me that we are very concerned about the release of this information. If I went ahead and released it and that then jeopardised their investigation I think I would be irresponsible.

JON FAINE:

Mr Andrews you’d be aware that at the moment you’re in Federal Court and proceedings taken against you by the American activist Scott Parkin who was deported and who says he doesn’t understand the reasons for his, deportation and he’s suing you to

obtain access, in very similar circumstances, to information that you say is secret. Is that why you can’t release information on this case because you have to be consistent in the Scott Parkin case?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

It’s unrelated to the Parkin case. As for me being in court, I think

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the Minister for Immigration is one of the most litigated persons in the whole Commonwealth just by the nature of the duties I have to undertake.

JON FAINE:

Yes but the Parkin case is not a typical case, is it?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

The Parkin case has got nothing to do with this, Jon.

JON FAINE:

It’s a consistent application of the same reasons in the Parkin case. ASIO, Federal Police are said to have information which must remain secret to protect operational details, which would, if it was released, justify the decision that it can’t be made public. That’s precisely the same argument you’re running here.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

All I’m saying is the decisions that were made in this case were made on the information and advice in this case, they weren’t related to any other case.

JON FAINE:

The Federal Police are blaming the Scotland Yard in the latest episode for, what they say is misleading information. Is it Scotland Yard’s fault that you’ve ended up in the hot seat?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Oh, look I’m not apportioning blame or fault to anybody. I have a very close working relationship in my department (inaudible) Federal Police. I have the utmost confidence in the professionalism of the Federal Police.

JON FAINE:

If Dr Haneef is still a man, over whom a slight cloud, even the slightest cloud hovers about his involvement or association with terrorism, why was he released?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well he was released into the community on what’s known as community detention, after the charge was withdrawn by the DPP. As for him leaving Australia, that was the decision that he made, his lawyers communicated to my Department at about 9pm last Friday night, asking if it were possible for Dr Haneef to leave the country, basically as soon as possible. And I took advice about that the next day and the advice, particularly the advice form the Federal Police, was that they had no objection to him leaving the country and therefore we acceded to that request.

JON FAINE:

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Isn’t there an inconsistency in trying to tell the Australian public that there is still some hint of suspicion about Dr Haneef in relation to his association with people involved in terrorism, and then giving him his liberty, either in Australia or in India?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well I’ve acted on advice all the way through this. I know, you know, people have been critical of my approach and perhaps, you know, the right of people in a democracy to do so. But can I assure you that in every step of the way, including the decision about releasing information today, I’ve taken the advice of my Department, the advice of the lawyers concerned, right up to the Commonwealth Solicitor General, and the advice of the Federal Police. And everything I’ve done has been on the advice that I’ve received.

JON FAINE:

You didn’t answer my question. Isn’t there an inconsistency between on the one hand saying that there’s still a sniff of suspicion about Dr Haneef and on the other hand giving him his liberty?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well the question about whether or not there’s any criminal charge that could be laid against him is obviously a matter for the Federal Police and the DPP. My decision was to cancel his visa on character grounds and that’s what I did and my cancellation still remains on foot.

JON FAINE:

You still haven’t answered my question. If there is the slightest hint of suspicion over Dr Haneef why do you release him either into the Australian or allow him to be released into the Indian community…..

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Because…

JON FAINE:

…..without supervision whatsoever?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

…Because the Federal Police gave me advice that they had no objection to him leaving Australia.

JON FAINE:

Doesn’t that then tell you that there isn’t the slightest whiff of suspicion about Dr Haneef?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

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No, not at all Jon. Not at all.

JON FAINE:

Well I’m sorry. To any independent observer, that is completely inconsistent. Do you agree? Terrorism is the single greatest threat, as the Prime Minister, George Bush and Gordon Brown have reminded us to our (inaudible), anybody associating with terrorism has to be treated with the utmost care and detention of suspects is entirely justified, but releasing someone, entirely, completely, utterly, out you go, off you go,….

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Jon…

JON FAINE: ….is not the way you treat people who are known to be or are suspected of being associating with terrorists.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Jon as a lawyer, you would know that if the DPP comes to the conclusion, as he did, that one of the elements of the charge against Dr Haneef could not be sustained beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law, that is a conviction in the DPP’s mind couldn’t be obtained, because of that, all that says is that the charge can not be sustained. Does that mean that there is not some lingering or continuing suspicion? Of course not.

JON FAINE:

If you, on a separate matter Mr Andrews, rather than going round and round in circles, the Democrat’s Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja is preparing terms of reference for a parliamentary committee, a Senate inquiry into the entire Haneef case. Will the Government cooperate with the inquiry?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

This matters been inquired into. It’s been, if you look at the criminal proceedings the actual questioning and the time frame of that was all under the direction of a Federal Magistrate, who was a Magistrate who looked into the bail proceedings and made a decision about that. There was then a further inquiry by the DPP personally into the charge and the charge being dropped and there’s an appeal in the Federal Court against my decision. I think this matters being inquired into quite sufficiently.

JON FAINE:

So does that mean no, the Government will not cooperate with an inquiry in the Senate?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well, I, I haven’t discussed the Senator’s proposition with any of my colleagues….

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JON FAINE:

No, but I’ve asked you whether or not you know, from your own, you make decisions independently, you’ve told us, will the Immigration Department, will your Department cooperate with a Senate inquiry?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well, there’s no inquiry on foot at this stage….

JON FAINE:

No, they’re preparing the terms of reference for one, Minister. Will you…

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Yes, but that, that, that Jon, as you know, has to be a determination of the Senate to go ahead with that and I don’t know whether the Senate’s going ahead with that. But my view is, this matter is being inquired into, it’s been reviewed at every stage of the process and that’s sufficient.

JON FAINE:

An independent inquiry, surely you’d agree, Kevin Andrews, may in fact achieve some things that internal inquiries do not achieve. They have in the past and they may in future.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well the DPP is an independent statutory officer Jon. The Federal Court is an independent judicial body.

JON FAINE:

The Federal Court is an adversarial tribunal not an inquisitorial one. The DPP is independent of government but not open, not external and not subject to the same external scrutiny as the Senate inquiry will be.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Oh look I’m, I have faith in our judicial and legal processes.

JON FAINE:

So I’m reading between the lines here, you will not be interested in the Senate inquiry by the sound of it?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well if there’s a Senate inquiry, first of all the Government will have some view about that. I’m not speaking for the whole of government on this. It’s the first I’ve heard of Senator Stott-Despoja’s proposition. You know, we will consider it but I’m not going to make some decision on the run as to whether or not we

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just engage in what may well be just a political stunt on the part of the Democrats.

JON FAINE:

If you’ve got nothing to hide why not provide all support and assistance and cooperation that they require?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well Jon, I don’t know how many times I have to say, but this has been the subject of ongoing review by various bodies over the period of it.

JON FAINE:

Minister, I have Senator Andrew Bartlett from the Democrats waiting to speak to us. I think we’ve probably gone round sufficiently in circles for both of us to be a little dizzy at this point.

Just finally, Dr Haneef says he may want to return to Australia, I think you’ve already said you would, as Immigration Minister, not give him a visa if he wanted to return. Can you confirm that?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well, I’ve cancelled his visa and that’s my decision unless the Federal Court comes to a different conclusion then his visa remains cancelled.

JON FAINE:

And would you entertain giving him a fresh one?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Not on the basis of the information I have at the moment.

JON FAINE:

Which is the information that we’ll never get to know about.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I think we’ve canvassed that Jon.

JON FAINE:

Thank you for your time this morning again.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

My pleasure.

JON FAINE:

Kevin Andrews, the Immigration Minister.

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URL: http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/media-releases/2007/ka_transcript_0744.htm Last update: 31 July 2007 at 16:52 AEST

17/08/2007 http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/media-releases/2007/ka_transcript_0744.htm