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31 July, 2009  
The Attorney General and the Sheik

A great beat-up about AG McClelland’s nice reference for Sheik Mansour Leghaei … ASIO says the Sheik is a danger … Procrustes thinks much the same thing about ASIO

imageBreathless stuff, those reports in The Australian that Attorney General Robert McClelland “gave references for sheik spy” Mansour Leghaei’s application for a fresh visa.

The second of the two references was given in 1997 after ASIO had put the finger on the sheik, the leader of the flock at Imam Husain Islamic Centre in Sydney’s Earlwood.

The Australian portentously observed that “McClelland’s second reference is likely to become an issue for him if ASIO, which falls under his portfolio, is required to review its assessment of Sheik Leghaei”.

Naughty Robbie, disagreeing with the line taken by the spooks, who would a decade later be under his nominal oversight.

McClelland’s vice is that, instead of accepting the ASIO fatwa on the sheik, and leaving well alone, he settled down to report on his own observations of the man.

This he derived from meetings they had and from his listening to his sermons, which according to the McClelland “were balanced, informative and emphasised tolerance and mutual cooperation and respect”.

Whatever possessed McClelland?

imageFortunately Julie Bishop (snap) was right onto this apparently treasonable activity, sooling on The Australian on day two of the carnage with a demand on McClelland for a, “full explanation [of] the circumstances surrounding the second character reference … prepared after ASIO declared this person a security risk”.

Thank heavens this Liberal Barbie Doll is looking after our national security and not indulging in cheap political theatre.

Helpfully, she drew an analogy between giving a reference for the sheik and giving a reference for an absconded member of the Melbourne Underbelly.

Even more heartening, Julie is a top flight lawyer (former partner in a firm of serious suits), so she knows that it’s ridiculous for the sheik to expect natural justice in his visa application.

If ASIO has spoken, then let there be no contradiction.

According to The Australian, between 2004 and 2007 lawyers had been attempting to have the Federal Court review the ASIO recommendation to then Attorney General (Fabulous) Phil Ruddock to have the sheik deported.

The appeals, all the way to the High Court, were, as The Oz put it “dismissed on national security grounds.

A search of the Austlii versions of the various Leghaei judgments will find a number of them heavily redacted.

The sheik’s appeal, run on the basis that he was refused natural justice by the then Attorney General, was thwarted by the delivery to the court of the entire ASIO bucket load, but naturally Leghaei wasn’t allowed to see it.

Even the catch words are blacked out in the judgments. ASIO knows its onions.

Meanwhile, the do gooders (or do-Godders) over at “Save the Sheik Christian Coalition” led by “social activist” Father David Smith maintain that the sheik is much maligned.

Will they dig out the photo of the sheik washing feet with Father Smith in Holy Week as an act of cooperation and humility?

Who knows what the rights or wrongs of this mess are, surrounding as they do a man who has lived in this country for 15 years, raised children here, who are now permanent residents, and who’s been surviving in Australia on what must be the world’s longest running bridging visa since the High Court threw his case out in November 2007.

Leghaei was reported as saying that the translations of his religious materials, on which ASIO based its view of his undesirability, were faulty. ASIO conceded as much in July 2004.

However, security organisations have a large investment in not being controverted.

imageIt follows that the sheik must be thrown out, whether he’s undesirable or not, to salve ASIO’s feelings. Rob McClelland (pic) might care to recall the fate of Lionel Murphy, who took ASIO on and came off second best.

Anyway, who fed this story to The Oz?

The day the newspaper kicked off this saga, Attorney General McClelland was slated to give the key note address to the Castan Centre for Human Rights and Basket Weaving in Melbourne.

His topic – a Bill of Rights.

The question, boys and girls, is: does ASIO want a Bill of Rights making it difficult for them to slot people in secret?

One clue might come from a former Wall Street mining analyst for SG Warburg (now part of UBS), John Wilson.

He says he’s been the subject of unwanted ASIO attention since he wrote a report about an incident in which seven people were killed in and around Freeport McMoran’s Grasberg copper and gold mine in Indonesian Irian Jaya.

He expressed the view in a report to the market that increased military presence in the region posed the potential for escalation of violence in the mid-term.

This heightened the political risk of Freeport’s investment in Irian Jaya and consequently Warburg put a “recommendation under review” tag on the stock.

Ever since, he claims, he’s been harassed and bugged by ASIO.

Wilson has written a submission to the Human Rights Consultation about ASIO excessively broad mandate.

Anyway, the attorney delivered a splendidly anodyne speech to the Castan Club on how the principle of legality would see us right.

Breathlessly, Rob explained:

“The courts play an important role in the protection of fundamental rights. One of the ways they do so is by interpreting legislation consistent with fundamental rights unless parliament clearly intends to override those rights.”

Apparently, the audience copped this unveiling of a Non-Bill of Rights like so many New Guinea Cargo Cultists waiting for the fridge and icecream maker.