Monday, July 16, 2007

Stop the Growth of Fascism: The Case of Dr Haneef

I travel to China every now and then, and have bought a local SIM card for my mobile. On one occasion a family member stayed on in China when it came time for me to return to Australia. I gave him the SIM card as I had not yet exhausted its credit. In fact, if a perfect stranger, knowing that I was going home, had asked me for my SIM card, I would have been more than happy to hand it over, no questions asked.

An Indian doctor working in Brisbane on a Section 457 visa has been held, without charge until recently, for two weeks of Federal Police questioning for apparently doing no more than I would have done. He had been in England, and on leaving for Australia, had given an unexpired SIM card to his cousin.

The SIM card was found in a blazing vehicle that his cousin had allegedly used in an effort to destroy part of Glasgow Airport in a terrorist attack. Whether there was still any credit on the card has not been made public, nor has it been revealed whether the card was used as part of a device to trigger the explosion in the vehicle.

Dr Haneef gave his card to his cousin a year ago.

After two weeks of intensive questioning, held without charge under Australia’s new anti-terrorist laws, Haneef was charged with “recklessly giving support to a terrorist organization.”

Having been charged, his lawyers then sought bail although, contrary to the requirements of criminal law that the police should have to show why bail should not be granted, it is a requirement of the anti-terrorist laws that the defense should have to show why bail should be granted.

Haneef’s lawyers won their case. Haneef was released on $10,000 bail after a Brisbane magistrate found that he posed no threat to society and could be released on strict conditions.

Moments later, Haneef was seized by police and taken back into custody when Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, notorious for his role in introducing anti-worker un-Australian Workplace Agreements, ruled that Haneef had violated Section 501 of the Migration Act. This is the so-called “character test” according to which it is illegal to have “an association” with someone the Minister suspects is involved in a criminal act.

Thus, Haneef has had his visa revoked and will be transferred to Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney pending deportation should he be found not guilty of the flimsy charge brought against him.

What has this got to do with fascism?

There is a continual struggle in capitalist societies between a tiny handful of monopoly capitalists (in Australia’s case, the core of these are imperialist multinational corporations), and the vast mass of the people.

People rightfully talk of living in a democracy, because the people have won significant democratic rights and freedoms from the ruling class through arduous struggle.

But the democracy we enjoy is proscribed by the dominant power of the monopoly capitalists. We have freedom of the press, but only a tiny handful can effectively utilize the freedom to own and operate the mass media. We have Mum and Dad shareholders, but the majority shareholdings are owned by giant corporations and super-wealthy individuals.

The rich compete with each other and are driven by the reality of that competition to restrict the people’s rights so as to more effectively extract the surplus value that comes from their exploitation.

When critical challenges are mounted to the ruling class, either by other competing capitalist interests, external enemies (and these days that incudes the various groups of Muslim theofacists and terrorists), or from below, by the people, then there is resort to fascism.

The important fa├žade of democracy is dispensed with in favour of direct use of the violence of state institutions and authorities such as the police (open and secret), the prisons, and the army.

Fascism does not need to come marching in at midnight wearing the crooked cross and a pretentious little square of moustache before it can be identified as fascism. The fascist experience of the Thirties was conditioned by the time and place of its emergence. It does not need the suspension of Parliament and the declaration of a personal dictatorship before measures that deprive the people of their rights can be denounced as moves towards, or acts of, a fascist nature.

It is this concern that has prompted many in the legal profession and the wider community to denounce as “a flagrant abuse of the criminal justice system, a trampling of human rights, and ugly pre-election opportunism” the actions of Minister Andrews in using the “character test” to keep Haneef in detention despite the ruling of the Brisbane magistrate that he should be released on bail. According to one journalist, “Having failed to get the result it wanted from the courts, even after toughening the rules to provide a judicial presumption against bail, the Government resorted to executive power…It has spoken of the presumption of innocence while acting with what appears to be anything but that in mind” (Mark Kenny, The Advertiser July 17).

Another sign of fascism is the slurring of the integrity of those who have crossed the Government, and the use of the race card to further denigrate them. In this case, there has been character assassination of Jacqui Payne, the Brisbane magistrate who ordered Haneef’s release.

Murdoch’s national newspaper The Australian has led the way, detailing a “record” of disputation between her and the police and quoting the Queensland Police Union’s attacks on her as “totally anti-police”. Her lawyer husband’s defense of murderer Ivan Milat (are the accused not to have lawyers now?) is cited as evidence, as is his work for Palm Island aborigines who have long been in conflict with racist cops in North Queensland. And just to make sure we get the picture, it is pointed out that Ms Payne “was the first indigenous person to be admitted as a solicitor in Queensland, and later became the state’s first indigenous magistrate.”

The intimidation and co-option of the Parliamentary Opposition also characterizes a drift to fascism. The German Social Democrats failed to stand up to Hitler. Their Australian counterparts are failing to stand up to Howard. On every significant issue – AWA’s, the funding of private schools at the expense of public schools, Howard’s grab for indigenous land in the Northern Territory, abuse and vilification of genuine trade union leaders, groveling before the US overlords – the Rudd-led ALP is failing to distinguish itself from the Liberals. It seems to be a case of “anything you can do, I can do better”. Hence the loyal Opposition’s support for the use of the “character test” to keep Haneef in detention.

The NineMSN website helps the manipulation of public opinion along by upgrading Haneef to a “terror suspect” in framing a question for an online poll: “Should terror suspect Dr Haneef have been put into detention?” Not surprisingly, the votes have been running at just above 70% in favour all day. Who wouldn’t want a “terror suspect” off the streets?

Dr Haneef may or may not turn out to be a willing accomplice of terrorists. If it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that he knowingly assisted in the Glasgow Airport car bombing, then he should face the full force of the law as a consequence.

However, democratic rights that protect all of us from the exploiters and oppressors of our own society, the writ of habeus corpus and the presumption of innocence among them - must be protected from the arbitrary whim of Government.

They must be defended in the face of moves characteristic of fascism.


Mike said...

As a PS to the above, we now find out, through a transcript of Dr Haneef's first interview with the AFP, leaked to today's Australian newspaper, that the SIM card in question expired in August 2006. Haneef left England in July 2006, and gave the card, with one month's credit, to his cousin.

There has never been any suggestion that the SIM card was a trigger device for the explosives in the car, and now we know why.

The SIM card will go down in history alongside the $US25 bills that Petrov claimed were passed onto Communist leader Lance Sharkey by someone at the Soviet Embassy as one of the great embarrassments of Australian conservatism.

Will they be burning the Reichstag next???

Anonymous said...

Not only that - RN reported earlier that the SIM card wasn't in the car and was in fact picked up at a house some hundreds of klm's away, at a house that Haneef ocassionally shared with his cousin.

Anonymous said...

if you would stop pretending that parliamentary society was democracy, you might be able to get the real thing. as it is, by swallowing the newspeak clayton's democracy you eviscerate the right of citizens to direct their society.

in a very real sense, you and similar bellwether chatterati are more dangerous than howard.