Australia: Draconian anti-terror laws expose right-wing government

Australian Labor Party gives Howard full support

The case of Dr. Mohammed Haneef shows the draconian and anti-democratic nature of the Howard government’s "anti-terror" laws. In early July, Haneef was stopped at Brisbane airport as he tried to board a plane to India. He was held by the Federal Police for 12 days without charge.

Haneef was eventually charged with providing "reckless support" to a terrorist organisation. The only evidence produced against Haneef is that over a year ago he gave a mobile phone SIM card to his second cousin. His second cousin is the brother of one of the men accused of the recent failed, but potentially horrendous, bombings in London and Glasgow.

Haneef denies any involvement in terrorist activities and despite a 14-day investigation which involved up to 300 police and government officers, the evidence the crown had against him was extremely thin. The SIM card is not even alleged to have been involved in the bombings but Haneef faced 15 years in jail.

A Brisbane magistrate had said that crown prosecutors had failed to provide evidence of a direct link between Haneef and a terrorist organisation and released him on bail. Within hours of this decision, however, Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, used his personal powers under the Migration Act to overturn the bail ruling and cancelled his visa. Andrews ordered that Haneef be detained at the Villawood detention centre in Sydney and said that he had cancelled the doctor’s working visa because of suspected links to criminal activity and because he had failed a ’character test’.

Haneef was finally released from detention after nearly four weeks and the charges are dropped. He has now returned to India to be with his family.

Despite widespread condemnation of the government’s actions by prominent lawyers, and civil rights advocates, Kevin Rudd, Australian Labor Party (ALP) leader gave the government immediate ’in-principle’ support for the visa cancellation. The ALP also backed Haneef’s 12-day detention without charge. Once again, Rudd has shown that he is no different to Howard on almost every issue. The ALP will keep every aspect of the ’anti-terror’ legislation if they win government later this year.

The problem that the Howard government currently has on its hands is that this case was based on such flimsy evidence and they have gone so far over the top that they now risk losing legitimacy. This is not the situation that the Australian ruling class wants to find themselves in and that is why more far-sighted sections amongst them are moving over to supporting the idea of an ALP government. Howard’s refusal to apologise to Haneef is only assisting this process.

The ruling class want and need a government in power that will implement neo-liberal policies and crack down on democratic rights but it needs one that will do so with a cloak of legitimacy. The last thing the bosses need is an agitated population that threatens their profits. They see Labor as not only the best party to keep the workers in check on the industrial front but also as the best party to implement their anti-democratic measures.

Labor has proven their anti-democratic credentials at a state level and by supporting every piece of draconian legislation in the federal parliament. With Howard in trouble, it seems like it is now time for the bosses to call out the ’second eleven’.

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August 2007