He’s been away in China, Bali, Cambodia and the Philippines and then he turned up on the ABC’s Insiders where he showed off his cartoon collection.
What we saw was Phil trying out his softer, kinder routine. He’s not a ball of laughs by any stretch, but as he explained to host Michael Bowers, the pictorial editor of The Sydney Morning Herald:
“The responsibilities I’ve had don’t lend themselves to a lot of humour. If you’re having to detain people … you can’t laugh… But I’ve got a keen sense of humour.”
Bowers asked him about a cartoon in The Hun showing the attorney general with a machine gun, shooting-up the Ombudsman’s office in Victoria.
The way Phil saw it was that he wanted, “to find something that depicted me as a conservative attorney general, and I suppose that’s very much the part, carrying a machine gun. Isn’t it?”
He ended the little session by giving Bowers a “middle eastern kiss”.
Funny little fellow.
* * *
It was soon back to Mr Grim, what with the ACT government being weak on terror.
The attorney said that the laws in the national capital might need overturning, if they’re not toughened-up.
He told The Australian that the ACT’s watered down laws were both a risk to national uniformity, “The ACT is regrettably one man out”; and a risk to the wonderful national institutions which Canberra hosts: “The capital is one of the higher-priority areas of concern.”
On top of that, the ABC’s AM reported that AFP chief Mick Keelpie is also worried by the ACT’s alterations to last year’s COAG draft legislation. One change is that the ACT law prohibits preventative detention orders for people aged between 16 and 18.
The instigator of all this, Leaker-in-Chief Jon Stanhope – who last year conveniently dropped a copy of COAG’s draft terrorism legislation onto his website – isn’t having a bar of Phil’s criticism.
“And that’s the classic redneck law and order, keep people frightened response that politicians such as Philip Ruddock make. You know, there is another position to be put in relation to this, is that to abandon our traditional commitment to the rule of law, to abandon Australia’s longstanding commitment to human rights is also to capitulate to terrorism, it’s also to give terrorists the success which they achieve. That’s the position that I’ve taken.”
Asked if he would beef-up the territory’s laws, Stanhope replied that Phil would have to make another trip to the rubber stamp man, Jolly General Jeffery at Yarralumla:
“Well, he will and of course, we’ve seen the experience just in the last month of Mr Ruddock and Mr Howard overriding the ACT’s laws on civil unions, and to that extent, I think it’s probably consistent with despots all around the place. Once they have a taste of it, perhaps just like alcoholics, they can’t let it go.”
The issue should come up at Thursday’s Standing Committee of Attorneys General meeting. Funnily enough it was on the agenda of the most recent heads of government get together, but Little Johnnie chose not to raise it.
Now Phil thinks it’s a red hot issue, vital to our national security. As he said:
“I don’t think it’s fair to put the people of the ACT in a situation where potentially they face greater threat than other Australians.”
* * *
There was one pesky reptile who popped-up after Phil chaired the annual Business Government Advisory Group on Terror. This is the outfit that involves some of Australian’s leaders in life and letters: Transport Minister Warren Truss, Justice Minister Chris Ellison, Cowboy Sol Trujillo of Telstra, Stephen Lowy from Westfield and the lovely Peter Hendy, chief IR attack dog.
Here’s the moment that Phil looked more shifty than usual:
Question: You told us before Christmas these laws were needed urgently and that there was potential that you would be putting them into place immediately. You’ve not arrested a single person under those control orders despite telling us before Christmas that law had to be introduced immediately.
Ruddock: Mmm. Well it might be said that the measures are being very effective.
Question: But you said you would be making arrests…
Ruddock: No, I’ve never said that, I’ve never said that…
Question: You said there was a potential for arrest as soon as Christmas…
Ruddock: I said there was always a potential but I never said there would be because those matters depend upon police investigations and their request for those matters to be enacted. And the advice I had was that these measures were very necessary in the context of the changed environment in which we’re operating, and I don’t resile from that at all. But I’ve never said there would be particular arrests or control orders sought within particular time frames because, quite frankly, I don’t benchmark myself on those matters …
This is actually what Phil said on October 22, 2005, in Paris:
“If there is available evidence and the measures are passed, I would expect that competent authorities exercising their judgment would move on those matters at the first available opportunity. Does that mean it could happen before Christmas? Of course it means it could happen before Christmas.”
* * *
Out of all the froth and turmoil of the latest Howard-Costello leadership hissy there were a few moments that have lingered with me.
The tiny PM turned-up on the Tired Old Tonsils radio show, where there was this rigorous exchange:
Laws: It’s been a funny sort of week hasn’t it?
Little One: Yes, I’ve had a few funny weeks in politics.
Laws: None this funny I’ll bet?
Little One: Oh, I don’t know whether funny is quite the word. In its literal meaning it’s not been funny. Funny as in unusual, yes, funny amusing, rip-roaring laughter, no.
Then he was into his nauseating Humble Johnnie routine:
“Nobody in that McDonald’s expected me to turn up. I was a bit early so I went and had a cappuccino with a couple of my staff, my security detail and chatted to probably 30-odd people who were coming and going, and they were a great cross-section of my fellow Australians and very interesting.”
Out at the Blacktown Workers Club the other day a reptile asked the PM:
“I am just wondering, how long can you work with Mr Costello, have an effective relationship when you’re still at odds over who is telling the truth. And would you agree that truth is the foundation of good governance and here you are still publicly at odds over who is telling the truth?”
Little One: “Ten-and-a-half years and counting. Thank you.”
Thank you. Over and out.