THE BUNGLING of the Haneef case will be investigated by a judicial inquiry headed by John Clarke QC, federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced last week. Clarke is a former NSW Supreme Court judge, sitting on the bench from 1983 to 1997 and on the NSW Court of Appeal from 1987 to 1997.
However, support for an inquiry is far from unanimous. A highly-critical editorial appeared in the Sunday Mail last weekend, written by the shadow minister for justice and border protection, Christopher Pyne, labelling the investigation “a stunt” and a “witch-hunt”. His denunciation comes despite the former Coalition government’s initial support for an investigation into the mishandling of the matter.
The Clarke inquiry will examine and report on four key aspects of the case of Dr Mohamed Haneef which resulted in his extradition from Australia in 2007. The inquiry will focus primarily on the arrest, detention, charging, prosecution and release of Dr Haneef and the cancellation of his Australian visa and issuing of a criminal justice stay certificate.
Administrative and operational procedures, as well as the effectiveness of the cooperation between Commonwealth agencies and state law enforcement agencies will also be examined.
The inquiry a much-needed bolster for public confidence in anti-terrorism measures, according to the Attorney-General’s office and “delivers on the government’s election commitment to establish an independent judicial inquiry into the handling of the Haneef case”.
There will be opportunity for input into the inquiry, with Clarke indicating that he will be calling for submissions and conducting public forums about the operation of the current counter-terrorism laws and arrangements.
Almost immediately, Pyne lashed out at the Rudd Government, calling the judicial inquiry “the wrong sort of investigation conducted by the wrong sort of agency at the wrong time”.
The shadow minister, who is also assistant to the shadow minister for immigration and citizenship, pointed to the ongoing Australian Federal Police investigation and the secrecy of intelligence gathering procedures as paramount concerns for national security. He accused the Rudd Government of political grandstanding on the issue.
“Most importantly of all, the government would be best advised to keep grubby politics far away from Australia’s national security,” Pyne said.