Haneef inquiry: power to compel needed

As the tepid inquiry into the Haneef matter continues behind closed doors, it is clear that ex-justice Clarke lacks power to compel full disclosure of information and documents. CLA doubts – as do Haneef’s lawyers apparently – that traditionally ‘mum’ government agencies like Police and Immigration will suddenly spill all they know, without legal compulsion. CLA is calling on Attorney-General Robert McClelland to act immediately to empower Mr Clarke to do a proper job, for the sake of public integrity and trust.

2 May 2008

Civil Liberties Australia is calling on the Attorney-General to immediately give the Haneef inquiry’s head, retired judge John Clarke, the power to compel the taking of evidence under oath and the production of documents.

“The inquiry is meant to restore public trust in government agencies. To do that, the inquiry must have its own integrity. It won’t have integrity unless it is given investigative teeth from the outset,” CLA Director Lance Williamson said.

“The manner in which Mr Clarke is to conduct the inquiry provides little confidence that the whole truth will come out.

“What integrity would already-conducted ‘interviews’ have if Mr Clarke and Attorney-General McClelland decide in a week’s time – as is highly likely – that power to compel is needed?”

Mr Williamson said police had shown they were reluctant to provide information that might reflect poorly on their actions. “The level of selective leaking of mis-information and the failure to adequately adduce evidence during Haneef’s detention was appalling,” he said.  “Mr Clarke apparently believes he can breach the entrenched culture that encourages and supports such behaviour.”

The Department of Immigration was dragged kicking and screaming through several inquiries, where it was compelled to respond, before any justice emerged for Cornelia Rau, Vivien Solon and more than 200 others. There was no indication during the Haneef affair that the department’s culture had changed.

Attorney-General McClelland should act now, CLA says. Otherwise the Haneef/Clarke inquiry is a facade on its way to becoming a farce.

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