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Minister says it’s all legal

Australia’s defence minister says no one wants to see anybody, including Dr Haneef detained any longer than necessary, reports Amit Baruah.
Hindustan Times | By Amit Baruah, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2007 04:18 AM IST

“No one in Australia wants to see anybody, including Dr (Mohammed) Haneef, detained any longer than is necessary to satisfy the authorities that he should be charged or released,” Australia’s Defence Minister Brendon Nelson has said about the Indian doctor being held in Brisbane.

A medical doctor himself, Nelson was dismissive about comments made by the Australian Green Party that Haneef should either be charged or released. “I hesitate to dignify anything said by the Green Party but, essentially, the process we have is that the police rigorously collect all the material they think is relevant to bringing in charges or not bringing them forward,” he told HT on Thursday. Nelson said the police have to revert to a magistrate if they need more time to hold Haneef. “If they can’t satisfy the magistrate, he (Haneef) will be released.”

“We are not, nor will have under any circumstances, a programme of choosing our doctors on the basis of their race or religion,” Nelson emphasised, stressing that Haneef was being provided with consular, legal and other assistance. The Indian national, he promised, would be treated in the same way as any other individual — whether an Australian citizen or otherwise — in the circumstances that are the subject of the inquiry.

The minister also confirmed there would be more stringent checks on skilled professionals coming to Australia through the migration programme. “I think it’s reasonable to make sure that while we continue to accept the number of skilled migrants we do, we have to make sure our assessment of them is adequate.”

“Questions need to be asked, given that we have seen some — and I’m not referring to Dr Haneef — evidence that we have professional classes who appear to have a malevolent intent in relation to the countries to which they go.”

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