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Polly Peck
16 September, 2005  
Capital Offences

A week in the life of attorney general Ruddock. Fabuloso agonises about whether he’s done enough to deal with a “real threat in broad terms”


imageIf it’s humanly possible Phil Ruddock was even more “fabulous” this week.

Then again, many have questioned whether the attorney’s heart beats like the rest of us.

On Monday morning Australians awoke to the news of an “alleged al-Qaeda video released overnight” with a direct threat to Melbourne. They could certainly breath easier though once 3AW’s Neil Mitchell announced Fabuloso was on the line.

The attorney was happy to inform listeners that he was “aware of it last evening” and a “special incident task force meeting” had been convened. As usual he just couldn’t comment on any “particular issues” of the case at hand.

Still, he was happy to engage in a little brag-fest of his own when the mix-master asked how he felt about an Australian city being named for the first time.

“Well, it’s the sort of thing that I face almost every day… I agonise about whether or not we have taken sufficient steps to deal with what I know is a real threat in broad terms.”

With that off his chest it was on to question time where the attorney was first cab off the rank being interrogated by Bomber Beazley and first-time Liberal MP Jason (“Machine Gun”) Wood.

Given the attorney can go almost a whole parliamentary sitting without indulging the chamber in his easy-to-follow oratory, he must have thought all his Christmases had come at once when he received the first and second questions on a Monday.

I wondered whether Fabbo might break out a little air guitar as he wandered to the despatch box.

Disappointingly for some, he momentarily lapsed from his presidential demeanour and engaged in some good old meaningless political squabble. Perhaps, he felt liberated while Little Johnny was charming the rest of the world in New York.

“I assume he is referring to the joint press release between the Prime Minister and me in relation to measures that were announced last Thursday,” the attorney general parried after Bomber asked for details of the government’s new counter-terrorism package.

“I assume,” indeed. What other 12-point plan proposing micro-chipping citizens and up to 14 days “preventative detention” without charge is there on the table at the moment?

But Bomber really shouldn’t have been so rude as to ask a question without notice. He would have got his answer if he’d just waited for the dixer that was coming from Gunner Wood:

“Four years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, how is Australia placed to deter, prevent and respond to threats against our interests?”

Being a former senior sergeant with the Victorian police’s counter-terrorism unit you can’t criticise Gunner’s interest. He was busy heaping praise on Fabuloso and Little Johnnie’s freshest terrorism fighting proposal when it was unveiled last week.

But we shouldn’t be so cynical. The attorney was happy to inform the house that, as always, counter terrorism laws remain “an unfinished canvas”.

A bit like a blank piece of paper with Salvatore Dali’s signature down at bottom right.

For some reason though, the opposition leader wasn’t quite able to function on Phil’s ever-changing canvas this week. Take this bemusing little exchange on Wednesday morning curtsey of ABC radio’s AM.

“Control Orders, do you think they’re a good idea?” asked Katherine McGrath of Bomber.

“I’m not going to go through the Prime Minister’s blinking list,” he replied.

Nevermind that the “blinking list” says the 12-month control orders will be like stronger apprehended violence orders, allowing “tracking devices, travel and association restrictions” that wasn’t enough detail for the big boy and so we’re not allowed to know what Labor might do, in case it wins office.

Instead, Bomber took aim at an important detail of the package, asking whether it would now be an offence to leave “a trolley full of shopping goods in the middle of the shopping centre”.

Why would you bother with the real thing when alternative government can be so much fun?