Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Glenda, ranting because she needs feeding...

Subtitle: Why Australian Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews would never make a novelist

What am I doing at the moment?

1] Waiting for some feedback from UK or S.Africa. An email from a reader. An Amazon review. Any review. Something. I am - as I have remarked before - a typically pathetic author in need of sustenance in the form of connection to readers... My progeny is out there and I want to know how it's doing.

2] Making graphs and tables and analyses of interesting stuff like how much the average birder spends on his hobby, or whether birding tourists care about things like air con in their rooms and bars with beer (I kid you not).

3) Shaking my head over an inane statement by the Australian Immigration Minister.

When I was last in UK, attending the Worldcon in Glasgow, I took along my phone and bought a pre-paid SIM card for it so I could keep in contact with my friends in among the 5000 or 6000 people attending the con. When I left UK, I hadn't used up all the credit on the card so I left it behind for a friend.

That simple action could have landed me in jail.

After all, that's all it took to put an Indian doctor in custody in Australia for 3 weeks. When he left the UK, he made the mistake of giving his SIM card to his second cousin, who apparently had some connection to the Glasgow airport bombing. It seems one is now responsible for the actions of your old SIM card?

Then I read something about how they were looking at photos the doctor took of highrise buildings on Australia's Gold Coast. Wow. Real criminal activity, that. Of course, it's actually a bit hard to take photos there without getting the buildings, but still...

They were having a hard job making a case against the doctor, so they cancelled his visa. That way you can hold him on the grounds that he is in the country illegally.

Anyway eventually they had to admit here was no evidence the doctor had done anything at all illegal and they had to release him.

So let me ask you - what would you have done then, if you had been in a foreign country under those circumstances? Think about that for a moment. Seriously.

I know what I would have done. I would have hightailed it out of the country as fast as I could buy a one way ticket back home.

The doctor even had an added incentive - his wife just had a baby he hadn't yet seen.

So what does the Minister for Immigration say as the doctor leaves? He remarks that his behaviour is suspicious. "If anything, that actually heightens rather than lessens my suspicions," says the Minister.

Good God.

The minister could never write a novel. A writer has to get the connection between motives and action.

And Australia should stop traipsing down the same path American is trampling along. If you take away basic freedoms, then what the hell are you trying to protect? Throw away what you've always believed in, then at the end of the day, you may have a hard time trying to see the difference between yourself and the people attacking you.

9 comments:

hrugaar said...

I kind of get the SIM card thing, in that if it is somehow registered to your name then - like a vehicle or internet log-in or anything else registered to your name - you may be held accountable for what's done with it (permission being implicit, unless it's been stolen).

I can also see why the connection of the SIM card and the cousin would warrant a simple, routine enquiry. But the over-zealousness of anti-terrorism detaining and investigating is a highly debatable point (how far can one go in the cause of National Security, before protection becomes oppression?).

I dare say that had the doctor chosen to stay in Oz, the Minister would no doubt have commented that that only heightened his suspicions - because he's thinking about arguing his (department's) course of action, not thinking about the doctor as human being (which is why he's a politician, no?).

Andrew Macrae said...

It's an extraordinary case, despite the claim yesterday by the Foreign Minister that 'these things happen all the time', and by the Attorney General that 'it proves the system is working'.

Haneef's alleged involvement with a terror organisation was over an attack carried out in the UK, not Australia. Why was he charged in Australia, and not extradited to the UK?

A British investigator flew to Australia very early on. There's nothing on the public record to say whether this investigator even interviewed Haneef. Certainly, the British seemed to lose interest in Haneef very quickly.

It seems that the Australia Federal Police tripped over themselves in their excitement over having a 'real live' terror suspect on their hands. The longer he was held without charge, the greater the pressure to charge him with something, anything.

Now I can accept that, given the circumstances, the Australian Federal Police would want to detain and question Haneef. But he never should have been charged in the first place.

This error was compounded by Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews' decision to cancel Haneef's visa on 'character grounds' under the Migration Act. It's 'guilt by association', a logical fallacy.

The use of these sweeping and unchecked power to deprive someone of liberty and circumvent a decision by the courts is a blatantly political and prejudicial act. It's even more disturbing that the Minister doesn't have to disclose the information ('evidence') he used to make his determination.

The whole thing has been horribly botched and insensitively handled.

Hopefully, however, Dr Haneef will get some sort of compensation and redress for the slurs against his reputation. And hopefully the matter will have the positive effect of raising awareness that the threat to basic rights posed by the anti-terror legislation is as real as the threat of terrorism itself.

Oh dear, I think I've been ranting.

Glenda Larke said...

Lovely rant, Andrew. And now I see the Minister is saying "Well, I want to tell you the whole story, but that's a no-no..." In others words, "Let's cast more aspersions without bothering to show any proof." When we all know that if he could prove anything at all, the guy would still be in jail...

I despair for the world.

And Hrugaar - we don't run after the owner of a car involved in, say, a fatal hit and run incident once we find out he lent his car to a relative and was actually in another country at the time of the death.

Yeah. Politicians...

hrugaar said...

Well, I did only say 'may be held accountable'. ;oP

But if, for example, the person you lent the car to actually had no valid driving licence or insurance, or had a history of intoxicant-related crashes, then I think our guys probably would want to invite you in for a little chat about why you gave him/her permission to use your car in the first place - whether it was in innocent good faith, or otherwise - though that would only be a little chat, and I doubt they would slam you in the clink for three weeks during the process.

Sorry, I hope that doesn't sound grumpy - maybe I just need feeding too. :oD

Glenda Larke said...

Ah, Ru, first you must write if you want feedback...how about it, eh?

hrugaar said...

Um, actually I was thinking hot rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream. :oD

Glenda Larke said...

Chicken. And you can take that which ever way you want...*g*

Ian said...

Since reading the blog I was expecting to be able to buy my copy on my first shopping day in August but it was not in Border's yet.

I have a copy of all of the previous books and buying them through the Australian edition through the internet worked well (and quickly). Congratulations on getting published in the UK (and more financially important in the US). I would only suggest that you insist on the cover remaining the same if they republish (sneaky UK publishers trick to get you to think it is a new book)

I am looking forward to reading Heart of the Mirage and enjoy the blog.

IRH (UK)

Glenda Larke said...

Hi Ian. Borders probably had them, but just hadn't unpacked them yet - with the HP book coming out, things get a little crazy in booksellers.

Authors have very little say in matters of covers. I love the UK cover myself, and think it will help sell the book as it entices people to pick it up and have a look. Publishers look on covers as marketing tools and they tend to have an inhouse style - if they were to use another publisher's cover the book would not be "their" product...