30 July 2007

An unhealthy relationship

Now it seems that Dr Haneef is guilty of nothing more than being careless with his SIM card.

I don't believe Kevin Andrews when he intimates at grounds for his cancellation of Haneef's visa, and the Kafkaesque-McCarthyite nature of the case are starting to make the intellectual staleness of civil libertarianism sound sensible.

The mainstream media can't complain about bloggers when it prints stuff like this, easily the silliest article written about the whole business. The link between terrorism and NSW OH&S is tendentious, worthy of Des Moore at his most loopy, and no sensible editor should have published it.

What is clear that Phillip Ruddock, frustrated at his inability to nail Haneef, remembered his old job at Immigration and asked his mate Kevin to help him out. Now that Andrews is under the gun (from the Murdoch press, of all people!), Ruddock is maintaining a cadaverous silence.

Rather than go into the details of that case, I'm more concerned about what it means going forward.

The Indian community in Australia is 200,000+ strong apparently, disproportionately represented among aspirational and professional Australians. It publishes Indian Link and The Indian, which carry input from locals as well as from Indian media. Darshak Mehta feels the injustice that adds to the adjustment difficulties Indians must face in coming here.

If this - and the Jayanth Patel case (where an underqualified doctor caused patients to die in a regional hospital in Queensland) - is the representations of Indians in Australian media, then no wonder they are upset. Indian doctors, emigrants or isa-holders, play an increasing role in Australian medicine. While there have been calls for training to help foreign doctors adjust to Australia, it runs both ways - devaluing and demonising doctors from one of the few areas of growth in this profession is unutterably poor policy.

Queensland in particular has had long-standing doctor shortages, particularly in non-sexy areas far from Brisbane or Cairns, and Beattie is right when he says the Haneef case will make the shortage worse rather than better. To focus on Haneef as a short-term problem for Howard, as Pawan Luthra does, is to miss this point. It's already hard to get qualified doctors to want to come here, and the well-publicised Haneef case will discourage those who are considering coming here.

The Health Minister should know better than to come out with this, but he doesn't. What we need is a new Health Minister, and a new PM.

Though scenes like this can be overstated, it shows how much attention the case has received in India.

I wish we had a better system for training and attracting doctors. I wish Indian migrants felt more comfortable here. I hope we get better at targetting fake militant Islamic terror. We definitely need a new government.

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