Haneef probe will boost national security: Australian government

February 24th, 2008 - 4:35 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, Feb 24 (IANS) Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef’s saga is continuing to divide Australian politics with the new Labour government keen on a full judicial inquiry into the embarrassing faux pas committed in the medic’s failed terror case and the now opposition coalition arguing against it. Keeping to his pre-election promise, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has assured a judicial inquiry to probe the handling of the failed terrorism case against the former Gold Coast registrar by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the previous John Howard-led coalition government.

The government says a full judicial inquiry into the Haneef affair will help improve Australia’s national security.

But Opposition Justice Spokesperson Christopher Pyne Sunday told Channel Ten that such an inquiry would expose sensitive information into public domain.

Pyne told Channel Ten, “In the Haneef case, obviously, it didn’t go nearly as well as the Australian Federal Police and others would have wanted. But a judicial inquiry into the Haneef case, I think, would be a tremendous overreaction by the new Labour government.”

“If there is to be an inquiry it should be conducted by the Australian Law Enforcement Integrity Commission. That was set up for this express purpose,” he said.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland told the Australian Associated Press, “The impact on ongoing national security operations is a factor being taken into account in arrangements for the inquiry. Australia’s national security will be boosted by learning the lessons of the Haneef case.”

Pyne insists the opposition had nothing to fear. Former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews drew flak after his controversial cancellation of Haneef’s work visa last July only hours after a magistrate had granted him bail, keeping him behind bars.

Last December, the full bench of the Federal Court upheld a judge’s earlier decision to reinstate Haneef’s 457 work visa.

AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty last week told a Senate Estimates Committee hearing that the AFP didn’t think there was any need to change its handling of terrorism investigations. AFP has been criticised for its role in the bungled 28-year-old doctor’ case.

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