Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Keelty Update

Sometimes, you just wish you hadn't opened your big mouth, right, Mick?

With his quasi-totalitarian suggestion of a media blackout during terror cases, Keelty has managed to unite, in one fell swoop, a number of disparate groups. Well, one might expect those bleeding hearts in the Council for Civil Liberties to be against it. And the Rudd troops have demonstrated much less squeamishness over the Haneef case in government than it did in opposition: first McClelland, then Rudd himself condemned Keelty's argument.

But then, to add insult to injury, the Opposition's justice spokesman, Chris Pyne, joined the chorus. Pyne is, to be sure, one of those Libs - they do exist - whose past record has a faintly suspicious whiff of humanity about it; he's a moderate who's been known, for instance, to voice concern about certain aspects of the Howard government's immigration policy. But that was as a backbencher; now, he is speaking in an official opposition capacity. If Keelty can't rely on the Libs' spokespeople to maintain their support, who can he turn to?

Of course, there's always someone. And that someone is, as usual, Gerard Henderson. Ah, Gerard: lone voice in the wilderness, brave contrarian flying the flag for the AFP, taking the fifth-estate consensus and ripping it apart with nary a care for his own interests. In these confusing, apology-offering, Kyoto-signing times, it's good to know that some things will never change.

So what's the argument? Sez Gerard:

Journalists, editors and producers are invariably willing to advise police how they should behave but do not appreciate being told what they themselves should do by police.

I see. There is a distinction between the media advising police how they should behave, which is non-binding and constitutional, not to mention part of the intended function of the media, and the police suggesting, seriously, that the media should be dealt blanket legal restrictions forbidding them to publish details of terror cases on the off-chance that what the media has to say might damage the credibility of the case put forward by police. One is part of the checks and balances of a democratic society; the other runs directly counter to them. But never mind. Next objection?

Also, many in the media do not approve of Australia's updated national security laws which were passed by the Howard government, with the support of the Labor Opposition, following the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.

All true. Lots of us, even outside the meejah, don't approve of Australia's 'updated' national security laws, which were, apart from anything else, of dubious constitutionality. I, for one, would rather expect laws expanding executive power and suspending habeas corpus to cop a hiding in the press. But we're not really talking about an interpretive matter here: Keelty is mostly peeved that The Australian - the Australian! - published a full transcript of the Haneef interview. To quote from the great cop himself:

... we are now witnessing these records of interviews being leaked to the media to add weight to public campaigns. When a "record of interview" is given to the media with accompanying commentary, we run the risk of jeopardising the accused's ability to receive a fair trial when the matter reaches court. It is also only one part of the greater body of evidence, and when considered in isolation it may serve as a public relations tool in the short term, but it has the potential to severely harm a case in the longer term.

Translation: this is not merely a crusade against soft-on-terror writers of opinion pieces. It's factual reporting Keelty is opposed to. Get it?

Look, Gerard. We all understand that you're feeling a little beleaguered in the post-Howard era. There are certain socially acceptable remedies available to you; one would understand if you felt like turning to the bottle, or perhaps kicking the cat around a little. But defending Mick Keelty's call for a media blackout is not the way to cope. It makes you look silly, and it alienates you from your peers. Chris Pyne has proven he knows which way the wind is blowing. It's probably time you took heed.


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