Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.
Having made a comprehensive mess of the Haneef case while he was in Australia, and having paid for his flight to India, the government and the AFP, might reasonably have sought to turn the page, and given a “No comment” or other non-response to further questions on the subject. Given the Minister’s broad latitude under the law, it seems most unlikely that Haneef’s appeal against the visa cancellation can succeed, so they had a chance to get the story off the front page.
Instead, they’ve decided to go double or nothing. Andrews won a round of the media cycle with his carefully timed and staged release of allegedly secret information on Tuesday. With no time for any real response, he got a perfect run on the TV news and the morning editions. It took a day or so for some of the problems to emerge, of which the most significant were:
* The information wasn’t secret and had been put to Haneef by the police in interviews (for which the transcripts have apparently not been made available)
* The apparently damning quotes (mostly from Haneef’s brother) were tightly edited extracts from a translation of a conversation in Urdu
* Andrew’s presentation ignored the fact that Haneef had called the British police four times without success in an attempt to resolve the SIM card question
Not content with this, Mick Keelty suggested that further charges “might” be laid against Haneef, managing in the process to misspeak yet again regarding the location of the SIM card. Then there was the convenient leaking of an Indian police dossier (apparently just a summary of material provided by the Oz and UK forces).
Perhaps all this will succeed in political terms. But most people must be aware by now that seemingly clearcut evidence presented by this government has a habit of turning out to be flimsy at best. Having made the latest claims, the government should either lay charges against Haneef or agree to Rudd’s call for an inquiry in which the whole issue can be examined by someone credible.
If there has ever been a worse contribution to Australian federalism than this decision by the Howard government to provide special funding to a hospital in Tasmania (naturally located in a marginal electorate) I don’t recall it. I say this as someone who has repeatedly called for the Commonwealth to take over hospitals.
Interfering in the funding for one hospital is worse than useless, and the transparent political opportunism of this decision makes it worse still. Why not have the Federal Health Minister review waiting lists, and push swinging voters up the queue?
This is part of a pattern with the Howard government, in which it funds or mandates politically appealing extras while leaving the states with the responsibility for providing the basics. We’ve seen this in schools (chaplains, values education, compulsory history and so on), TAFE (the Commonwealth’s new colleges) the Murray (where the states are still stuck with managing land use), Aboriginal communities and a whole host of other areas. The result is even more duplication and waste than we had before. Howard is now more centralist than Whitlam, who at least encouraged the states to join his efforts.