Gold Coast Dr Mohamed Haneef was today released on bail by a Queensland magistrate. He has been charged with recklessly providing material support (a mobile phone SIM card) to a terrorist organisation: his cousins, with whom he worked in Britain.
Within hours, Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews announced Haneef's detention after deciding that Haneef was not a fit and proper person, and revoked his visa.
Mr Andrews said he had used his Ministerial powers because Haneef failed the "character test", because "'the person has or has had an association with someone else or with a group or organisation whom the Minister reasonably suspects has been involved has been or is involved in criminal conduct".
The Labor opposition has said it supports the decision: - it could do nothing else, politically, because John Howard would play the "you're soft on terror" ace.
There are questions we should ask:
- the decision falls under 'ministerial discretion' of the Immigration Act. There is NO review, unless the Minister changes his mind.
- the magistrate, in granting bail of $10 000, believed that this was legally reasonable.
Mr Andrews has been at pains to try to separate his actions, from that of the magistrate. Why? Because he can, and has, operated outside normal legal principles of presumption of innocence, and burden of proof. However, even Mr Howard, in Tasmania said: "Dr Haneef is entitled like any other person to a presumption of innocence ... "
- Did Mr Andrews asked the AFP for a "briefing" that he could use to justify a decision he had already made, but not announced? That is, was the first approach from the Minister, his office, or anyone else from the government or their officers.
On Sky News, Piers Akerman defended Mr Andrews' decision by referring to the granting of bail as coming from "just one Queensland magistrate". He was trying to belittle the magistrate, and create the impression that no other magistrates would have granted bail. That is, Mr Akerman's response was of the "shoot the messenger if it's bad news" style.
Mr Andrews cannot reveal the information provided to him by AFP officers, but it would seem unlikely that there was any new evidence not presented to the magistrate. I suspect this is just a detention driven by political desires of the Federal Government. But we won't know for 40-50 years when the archives are released. I hope Mr Andrews is alive to defend his decision. I hope it is justified from an ethical and moral perspective.
The press are right to be sceptical, and inquisitorial; and so should the public be.