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© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

Sydney, Feb 19 (IANS) Australia's former immigration minister Kevin Andrews spent more than A$200,000 (US$183,000) on monitoring the media, much of it on the bungled investigation of Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef, a Senate Estimates Committee was told Tuesday.

For a failed case that earned Australia and the former John Howard government bad press across the world, it was a heavy price borne by the taxpayers.

The whopping A$7.5 million spent on the police does not seem to have been enough for a single charge against the former Gold Coast registrar, which was dropped within a fortnight.

Immigration department secretary Andrew Metcalfe told the Senate committee that media services provided to Andrews' office included press clippings, radio and TV monitoring, transcripts, press release distribution and access to the Australian Associated Press news wire.

Andrews' monthly media-monitoring costs provided by Metcalfe showed the former minister's bill coming to over A$211,000 during his tenure as the immigration minister from Jan 30 to Nov 24, 2007.

The media monitoring expense soared once international interest grew after Haneef's arrest, incarceration and subsequent cancellation of his work visa by Andrews, soon after the terror charges against the 28-year-old were dropped last July.

Metcalfe told the committee: "I would note that there was quite a significant level of expenditure across the months August, September, October and November. Dr Haneef's case was considered by the minister in July and it remained a significant issue for a period thereafter.

"So without having checked the individual invoices, I think it is a fair assumption that some of that media-monitoring activity would have related to the significant level of media interest in Dr Haneef's case," he added.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated.

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