Courage under fire from usual suspects
David Marr, smh
December 27, 2008
With trademark self-absorption, homosexuals are making a fuss over the Pope's remarks about the "ecology of man" delivered pre-Christmas to the Roman Curia. "It is not outmoded metaphysics," Benedict XVI declared, "when the church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected."
Harsh things are being said about His Holiness in the aftermath. But poofs who love the planet more than themselves should acknowledge the pontiff was onto something here: not just saving homosexuals from their "own destruction" but announcing a new role for the church defending "the earth, water, air, as gifts of the creation that belongs to all of us".
This is welcome. At a time when the Rudd Government can only muster the courage to promise 15 per cent cuts in emissions if, maybe, other countries sign up too, the Catholic Church is setting out on a campaign against global warming at least as determined as its historic mission to stamp out gays. Expect a couple of millenniums of persecution. Even burnings. Don't rule out coal miners being refused Communion.
Courage was also the word Kevin Andrews plucked from nowhere to describe his handling of the Haneef matter. "The Australian people expected me to act," said the former minister for immigration this week. "I had the courage to do so."
Did he mean ingenuity? How but by the most ingenious devices could Andrews have remained, as he claims, entirely ignorant of ASIO's cheerful view of Mohamed Haneef until ASIO's submission to the Clarke inquiry was shown to the world in July? He told The Age: "The first I knew of it was when I saw their submission."
Those 13 months of ignorance rank with some of the great blackouts of the Howard era: the five or so years Alexander Downer spent out of the loop as wheat scams to the tune of $300 million crossed the desks of his Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the year the whole cabinet remained convinced Iraq bristled with weapons of mass destruction; and the iconic month no one got around to telling the prime minister that kids weren't thrown overboard.
Recall the problem Andrews faced in July last year: Haneef's arrest was a God-given pre-election terrorism scare that would deflate like a used party balloon if the vilified doctor was allowed to go back to work at the Southport Hospital. As Andrews prepared to cancel Haneef's visa on "character" grounds, ASIO kept reporting all around Canberra the doctor was clean.
Andrews says only the "general tenor" ever reached him though ASIO officials were briefing officers of his department almost daily. As Haneef was entering his 10th day of detention without charge in the Brisbane watch house, ASIO put its verdict in writing. Surely that got to Andrews? No. Clarke reports the assessment was delivered to the acting secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship but "Mr Correll did not circulate the report to anyone else in DIAC or to the minister."
How close it came. There must have been days the minister's cuffs almost brushed the file. Did he know not to ask? Is there some wink or nod, some Masonic handshake that tells a minister not to go there?
A thumbs-down from the spooks was all Andrews needed to cancel Haneef's visa and, though he had his lawyers searching in the dimmest recesses of the legislation for help, he never picked up the phone to get ASIO's verdict.
Hours after a Brisbane magistrate granted Haneef bail, Andrews had the rare privilege of attending a meeting of the national security committee of cabinet. ASIO was there. ASIO delivered its unchanged verdict: Haneef was clean. An impeccable source tells me Andrews was in the room at the time.
Not so, according to the then minister. He told Clarke he only arrived in time to hear the Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, give a briefing on continued police suspicions about the Indian doctor. Immediately after the NSCC dispersed, Andrews cancelled the visa and Haneef stayed behind bars for another fortnight. It's a neat trick we can pull in Australia: imprisonment by ministerial decree …
Though probably the most crucial meeting in the whole Haneef saga, it's another of Canberra's little dark pools. We can't know what went on there. John Howard didn't front the inquiry and Clarke reports that officers of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet were told "they could not disclose to me any aspects of the discussion of the matters in question in cabinet or cabinet committees - in particular, at meetings of the National Security Committee." Ingenious.
By the way, Clarke reserves the word "courage" for ASIO. He endorses the view of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Ian Carnell, who said the organisation "showed good moral courage in expressing its views".
THOUGHTS of courage in adversity at this time bring Conrad Black to mind. The former Fairfax proprietor and convicted fraudster, Black is reviewing books from his Florida prison.
For the online Daily Beast, he's had a go at Michael Wolff's biography of The Man Who Owns The News as "a confusing and cliched account of Rupert Murdoch's life, replete with factual errors, serious omissions, mind-reading suppositions, extreme psychological liberties" etc.
Marcus Einfeld might take up book reviewing to while away the time he's going to be spending in the slammer when he's sentenced on February 25 for telling a few porkies to get out of a $77 speeding fine. Around the courts they reckon he'll be spending a couple of years thereafter behind bars.
Lord Black of Crossharbour is also lining up for a pardon from the departing George Bush - something, alas, Quentin Bryce can't extend to Marcus Einfeld. It's just one more problem we need to address in the constitution.