I emerge from hibernation just in time to catch the flood of correspondence surrounding the Jonestown thriller. Of course, I’m very disappointed to be told that Alan “Dunny” Jones is gay. This is something I had not realised and personally I think it is just too much information.
However, the documents concerning Dunny’s “submissions” to the then Immigration Minister “Fabulous” Phil Ruddock, on behalf of a young German diving instructor, are quite moving.
Dunny badgered Fabulous to let the lad stay in the country, even though he had breached his tourist visa by working at a Magnetic Island diving shop.
The department was all set to toss the hunky dive boy, Rico Regner, overboard when Jones entered the fray, telling Phil in highly persuasive correspondence:
“The dive industry has had some bad press lately and they do not need it splashed over Europe and beyond that Australia has deported a diver for the crime of helping out in a dive shop in an honorary capacity.”
And if that weren’t convincing enough, there was this follow-up epistle:
“This is a distressing, and perhaps dishonest, example of a deportation case, involving the usual bureaucratic authoritarianism. Philip, the public would be horrified to hear of this case.”
“Kindly advise your intentions by Tuesday June 30, as I intend to raise the matter on air on Wednesday July 1.”
This had Fabbo dancing like a Dervish to appease a very cross Dunny.
Urgent briefings were called. The department was instructed to take “no action” to enforce Herr Regner’s exit from the country until the brief was properly considered.
Whereas less fortunate visitors would be been booted out next day or sent to Villawood, Phil issued a bridging visa to the magnetic divester – giving him a few weeks to make his own arrangements to depart.
Jones wrote again, demanding that Regner be allowed to stay. Fabulous then issued the lissom lad with a second bridging visa, this time for three months.
The story was not fully ventilated in Jonestown, but the author gave all the correspondence to David Marr of The Sydney Morning Herald by way of a bit of promotional leg-up.
Marr quoted one immigration lawyer as saying that the bridging visas were unusual in the circumstances and that, “Three months is the equivalent of another tourist visa”.
After Phil’s pandering to Jones, the broadcaster wrote to the minister:
“Rico Regner has asked me to pass on his gratitude, and I’m pleased to do so. This young man for the rest of his life will be an enthusiastic advocate for Australian tourism.”
* * *
Phil’s been under attack from Labor’s homeland security spokesbore, Arch Bevis, who wants the attorney general investigated for tipping-off TV crews about ASIO raids in June last year.
Archy told the house earlier this month that both ASIO and the AFP had investigated the matter and found that they were not behind the leak. The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security was satisfied of this in his annual report.
At the time of the raids, Phil was reported as saying there was no legal basis to support the allegation he was behind the leak.
Bevis said this is just “cute splitting of hairs”. Phil shot back that the opposition fellow had “completely misunderstood” the context of his comments. There was, and is still, no legal basis to the allegation, since his office just confirmed search warrants had been executed and “there are no limitations on confirming the existence of search warrants during or after their execution”. Fabbo added:
“In relation to the claim that my office was the original source of the information, I would strongly reject that and invite the opposition to provide evidence to prove otherwise.”
Confirm, yes. Leak, no. That’s Phil’s line and he’s sticking to it.
* * *
Nifty Neville Wran has been in town along with a bunch of people from the Lionel Murphy cheer squad.
Nifty delivered the annual Lionel Lecture, marking 20 years since the High Court judge slapped the cue in the rack. Wife Ingrid was there and so too son Cameron, now spokesperson for the NSW Civil Liberties Council.
Nifty Neville reckoned, even on the most charitable view, that Fabbo Phil Ruddock was treating our fundamental rights with “scant respect” and that “intellectually his attitude to the preservation of those rights is quite flippant”.
He pointed to the attorney’s decision to ban a Jihadist book used for academic purposes at the University of Melbourne, even though it is available free online.
Then there were Phil’s recent comments on interrogation methods used on terrorist suspects: “I don’t regard sleep deprivation as torture. I’ve not heard it put that way.”
“Obviously he hasn’t heard it put that way because no one would idiotic enough to say it”, said Nev. Except, maybe, for Dick Cheney, who recently has said that the use of waterboarding to gain information is a “no-brainer”.
Nifty was full of praise for Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer, who told a jamboree in Sydney recently:
“The rule of law must prevail just as much in times of terror as it does in times of peace”.
Smiler Gleeson also got a pat on the back for this paragraph at the Judicial Conference of Australia’s knees-up this month:
“The rule against the admissibility of involuntary confessions is no doubt an inconvenience for those who enforce the criminal law. It is an inconvenience they are obliged to accept. The alternative, that is to say, receiving evidence of forced confessions, is a price we are not willing to pay in order to secure convictions.”
(The swivel-eyed brigade who came out with teeth bared over the Jack Thomas affair please take note.)
Nifty (snap) thought it was “comforting” Charlie and Smiler had fulfilled the traditional role of lawyers, to take a principled stand when individual rights are threatened. He urged more folks with law degrees to do likewise.
He also thinks it’s time to launch a campaign for an Australian bill of rights, despite Fabbo and Little One’s “predictable opposition”.
In fact, New Matilda launched a campaign months ago for a Human Rights Act.
He ended with a flourish: There was something “wrong with our values when are willing to go to war to defend or promote those fundamental democratic principles”, but happy to leave David Hicks at Guantanamo.
“So much for land of the free,” concluded Nev, leaving the stage waving a peace sign to the thunderous applause of the Murphyites.
* * *
Shadow attorney Lillian Roxon prodded Phil Ruddock during a debate on a matter of public importance she initiated on World Anti-Death Penalty Day.
“The last man who was hanged in Australia was, I think, hanged two months before I was born. So Australia has not used the death penalty as a sanction against its own people for nearly 40 years.”
She claimed Little Johnny’s record and that of former opposition leader, Mark Latham, was not so clear, with the two having sent “mixed messages” on the issue.
Lillian wasn’t sure Ruddock’s opposition to torture was so resolute. Drawing on his sleep deprivation remarks, she said:
“I am hoping that, in making these comments in Washington, the attorney was perhaps suffering from some jet-lag himself. He may have been sleep deprived… It does the history of his party and this parliament a great disservice to have that on the record, and it does Amnesty a great disservice for the attorney to stand up here and debate this with his badge on.”
Fabbo insisted he tried “to enjoy a good relationship with the shadow attorney”.
Roxon: No, you don’t.
Ruddock: I try.
Deputy Speaker: We do not need any chatter across the table…
Ruddock: Interestingly, I found recently a quote by somebody whom the member for Gellibrand would probably want to eulogise, and that is the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton. At the University of Berkeley, when he spoke at Zellerbach Hall, he said: ‘I’ve spent 30 years sleep deprived and I’ve got used to it.’ The only point that I am making is that sleep deprivation per se, without further steps, is not necessarily torture”.
Fabulous, isn’t he?