The Haneef episode has come to haunt the ruling conservative coalition in the run-up to the polls.
The government did not succeed in its effort to link the Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef to the failed Glasgow bombing of June 30 and now evidence has emerged that it could have invoked the Migration Act only because the courts released him on bail.
AdvertisementBy the time the Federal Court in Brisbane quashed Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews' decision to revoke Haneef's temporary work visa on character grounds, the doctor had returned home.
The issue still hangs fire as the Australian government has gone on appeal against the Brisbane decision.
When he chose to revoke Haneef's visa, the minister had claimed that his action was unrelated to the bail decision by the courts.
But an email from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) agent David Craig, now released under freedom of information laws, seems to give the lie to Andrews' statements. The email was sent on July 14 - two days before Haneef's scheduled bail hearing - to another senior federal agent, Frank Prendergast.
"Contingencies for containing Mr [sic] Haneef and detaining him under the Migration Act, if it is the case he is granted bail on Monday, are in place as per arrangements today," Craig wrote.
He noted it was unclear whether Magistrate Jacqui Payne would grant bail at the hearing scheduled for the Monday, July 16.
At 8.10am on Monday, the email was forwarded to a senior Immigration Department and former AFP officer, Peter White.
Official sources said the Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, in the forefront of the drama then, was briefed on the option of using the act's character test provisions to keep Haneef in detention.
After two weeks of police questioning after his arrest at Brisbane airport, Dr Haneef was charged with supporting relatives involved in the Glasgow attacks.
The AFP official White had worked on the Haneef case as an Immigration Department branch head and was regularly in contact with Immigration minister Kevin Andrews' office.
The minister had used the briefing received from White to cancel Dr Haneef's visa within a few hours of bail being granted on July 16, which meant he could be held in immigration detention.
That eventually the Indian doctor emerged victorious is a different issue altogether. The point is whether the minister had used the laws of the land to torpedo the granting of bail by the courts.
A spokeswoman for the minister has maintained that recourse to the Migration Act had nothing whatsoever to do with the court ruling. "The minister's office was not involved in any contingencies or planning over the weekend," she said, adding that Andrews had not discussed the case on the Saturday or Sunday with White.
The Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, tipped to win the national elections later this month, has promised to hold a judicial inquiry into the saga if his party is voted to power.
The Sydney Morning Herald is holding a poll for its readers on whether the Haneef episode could be an election issue.
The options before the readers are: No. It's a matter of national security and not one of political argument Yes. There should be inquiry. It's a civil liberty issue and one of honesty in politics.