Phillip Ruddock at Friday’s talk fest between the government and business on national security saw the Attorney General further refine the fine art of hosting a press conference: he hit himself with a question that he was unable to answer.
“And do we have liaisons with other governments?” he asked himself during a Q & A session about Australians who might have trained with terrorist organisations overseas.
“I can’t answer,” was his considered reply – apparently because of secret ongoing investigations.
The attorney’s contribution emerged after three hours of talks between government people and a selection of business big wigs. There to give them the latest on the security scene was the new director general of ASIO, Paul O’Sullivan, and the head of the AFP, Mick (“Big Mouth”) Keelty.
Fabulous Phil dismissed as “speculation” The Daily Telegraph’s Friday headline, “Unmasked: prime suspect behind terror video”. It may well be, but now we know he reads the Tele.
Despite his objections to the tabloid media, Phil was keen to weigh into the general matter of Australians who had trained with terrorist organisations before the ASIO Bill of 2002, describing such people’s legal status succinctly as “a la Hicks”.
Perhaps enemy combatants have more to fear from the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. Fresh from charming the ASEAN conference in a white dinner jacket, Downer told the House on Thursday (Aug 11) that any Australian turned enemy captured by the US could face the military commission process, but it was “not certain” they would even enjoy this privilege.
Furthermore, those captured by other countries could face consequences “significantly more severe” than the process that awaits David Hicks after four years in pokey on Cuba.
But the question of the week, which even its recipient called a Dorothy Dixer, undoubtedly went to a radio journalist at Ruddock’s Friday press conference. Standing alongside the Attorney General was Hugh (“Huge Organ”) Morgan, President of the Business Council of Australia.
“Would business like the government to pay for them to be more security [sic]?”
“That would be nice, yes,” replied the beaming corporate legend.