SINCE COMING to power late last year, the Rudd Government has been unabashed in continuing the Howard Government’s “anti-terror” campaign. Not only has the Rudd government made it clear that it has absolutely no intention of reviewing or repealing the “anti-terror” laws introduced under Howard, the Government has continued to pursue criminal charges against the Muslim men from Melbourne and Sydney arrested under these laws. They have severely limited the powers of the inquiry into the detention-without-charge and deportation of the Queensland doctor, Mohamed Haneef, on false allegations of “providing support” for a terrorist act.
This grim picture should probably come as no surprise. When Rudd made a late election promise in 2007, that Labor would launch an independent judicial inquiry into the Haneef affair, he stated that the purpose of the inquiry would be to restore public trust in the “anti-terrorism” laws and, on 12 July 2007, during Haneef’s unlawful detention, Rudd roundly declared that he had “confidence” in the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to “handle this manner in an appropriate way”, before confirming that Labor would retain the “anti-terror” laws if it won power.
More recently, Attorney General Robert McClelland has stated the objective of the inquiry is not to uncover the lies and highly politicised manoeuvring that led to the victimisation of a Queensland Muslim doctor, but rather to reassure Australians “that their national security agencies are functioning as effectively as they can be, and that our counter-terrorism laws are being appropriately enforced.”
However, it is hard to imagine how the inquiry report (to be delivered on 30 September) will be able to reassure anyone of anything at all. The Rudd government has refused to grant the inquiry any coercive powers. This means that Mr Clarke has no power to compel any of the key participants to give evidence (or tell the truth when they do so), nor any power to force compliance with the production documents requested by the inquiry.
All of this is occurring against the backdrop of the extraordinary admissions made by Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty in April to a parliamentary committee that, at its height, the investigation in Dr Haneef involved more that 600 state and federal police and had so far cost $8.2 million. He also revealed that Dr Haneef is still under inquiry by the AFP. Haneef’s lawyer, Rod Hodgson, has pointed to this continued investigation as a possible AFP tactic to circumvent the powers of the inquiry, despite him being fully cleared by the DPP in July 2007.
Rudd’s weakening of the Haneef inquiry has occurred hand in hand with Labor’s defence of the anti-terror laws. When new anti-terror laws were being rushed through Parliament in 2005, Rudd, then Shadow Foreign Minister, argued for more time to scrutinise the laws. In March of this year the ALP blocked Liberal Petro Georgiou’s proposal for an independent review of all the Howard government’s “anti-terrorism” laws-a modest proposal already supported by parliamentary committees.
In mid-May a further two anti-terror raids were conducted in Glebe and Riverwood in Sydney. Shrouded as ever in secrecy, the raids were conducted by the Joint Counter-Terrorism Team. No details of the purpose of these raids, the evidence acted upon, or of the continuing investigations have been revealed by police.
We can only guess that the victims of these raids will eventually join the members of the Barwon 12 and Goulburn 9, held without bail on anti-terrorism charges since late 2005 and early 2006 and whose trials finally began in February of this year. None of the charges against these men involve allegations that any of the defendants committed a terrorist act or even attempted to commit a terrorist act, but rather include charges of membership of an unspecified terrorist organisation and “conspiracy to do acts in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act”.
Rudd’s track record so far reveals the government hasn’t the slightest intention of restoring the civil liberties stripped away by the Howard government’s anti-terror laws. Instead, Rudd has ensured that the final truth of the Haneef affair may remain forever in the backrooms of Parliament House, ASIO and the AFP. Without a public campaign against the terror laws, Rudd will continue with the prosecution of trumped up “terrorist” charges and the abolition of basic civil liberties begun by the Howard government in 2002.
Stop the war coalition Sydney is holding ‘putting the terror laws on trial’ a public meeting with Peter Russo, Mohamed Haneef’s lawyer, on Monday June 21, 7pm, room CB 01.04.06 at UTS, info: Jean 0410 772 110
By Anthea Vogl