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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What bad news did governments successfully bury over the holiday season?

Sure to be quite a bit according to this editorial in the Canberra Times which obseved that this is a great time to get bad news and dodgy reports out there when no-one is listening. Such as the independent report into the Haneef affair:
"Three days before Christmas a 350-page report was dropped to the media, a hasty press conference called immediately afterwards giving no one time to read the document, and we learned of a grave injustice to a resident of Australia.The much anticipated inquiry found Andrews was cleared of any wrong doing, but that his reason for cancelling Haneef's visa was ''mystifying'', and that he had failed to analyse the conflicting reports from ASIO and the Australian Federal Police on Haneef's alleged security threat.

The police were rapped over the knuckles for their ''rambling brief'''. And AFP commander Ramzi Jabbour and the Brisbane-based representative of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Clive Porritt, were singled out for the most, but qualified criticism. Recommendations called for obvious terror law/procedure reviews, but reactions to one of the most headline-making stories of the year were few and not long lasting. In fairness, the report was delayed because of a request by British authorities, but the delay nevertheless highlights the way in which a mood, an event, or a season, can be used in a strategic manner to dampen the bigger-picture inquiry this story should have. It might be the time of year when funny, quirky events steal the show in the media, but the world still turns, the financial crisis is not over, international human rights abuses will not disappear and governments will continue to govern. And we should all keep watching."

It's worth noting, as Dr Susan Rimmer comments elsewhere in the Canberra Times, that the Clarke report didn't have a lot to say about what the whole episode says about attitudes in the Department of Immigration to detention, and that what we can deduce came by way of documents forced out of Immigration through use of the Freedom of Information Act:

"As Haneef's barrister, Stephen Keim, said at a human rights conference in regard to submissions to the Clarke inquiry, ''The picture that emerges then from the FOI documents is one where immigration detention is regarded by law-enforcement officers as another detention option when they are unable to produce the evidence required by the law to detain a person under any true law-enforcement option. This conduct on their part does not appear to receive any significant opposition from the immigration department or its minister.''

Dr Rimmer concludes"In my book, that is a ''bungle'' that deserves attention and structural reform."So does the way the FOI applications were handled. This from a post here last July:

"This decision last week by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal concerning documents sought by Dr Haneef provides an insight into decision making in the Department when dealing with an application for documents about the decision making process. The Department originally claimed 282 documents were exempt. After subsequent concessions, the removal of 73 duplicates, and the Tribunal's decision on six remaining documents, one was found to be exempt. It's worth noting that the original decision was made five months after the coming to office of the Rudd Government, with its many pre-election commitments to change the culture in government in the direction of greater openness and transparency."

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