Fabulous Phil Ruddock can be an awfully elusive little codger when he wants to be.
The basalt-like Phil was the only AG not to meet with Davie Hicks’ lawyer, Michael Mori, at the most recent Standing Committee of Attorneys General knees-up in Perth.
Phil’s answers to a written set of questions from Labor MP John “Spud” Murphy, tabled in parliament, showed the attorney’s unyielding quality.
First, Spud wanted to know if Phil was aware of a cross-party briefing Mori gave to federal MPs during his visit to Australia in August, and if so, had the attorney attended.
Ruddock replied that he was aware of Mori’s briefing, but instead of attending some good people from his department had met with the Marine lawyer. Further, he hadn’t met Mori at all during his visit.
On the allegations made by the US government, Phil said they did not specifically refer to the prisoner firing a weapon at or attacking a US soldier, but rather:
“that he had extensive weapons and tactical training with Al Qaida and that, armed with an AK-47 automatic rifle, ammunition and grenades, he joined others engaged in combat against coalition forces in Konduz, Afghanistan.”
Phil confirmed Australian forces were in Afghanistan when Hicks was arrested.
I always thought that if you were fighting for the government of another country you were entitled to Geneva POW status – but that’s just silly little me.
Spud also asked whether the attorney was aware “that there are no video and/or audio recordings of David Hicks’ interrogation following his capture by US forces; if not, why not?”
Ruddock said it would be inappropriate for him to comment.
Additionally, Murphy wanted the attorney to confirm Hicks would not have been able to cross-examine his interrogators or the Marines involved in his capture under the old pre-Hamdan military commissions, and asked what the situation would be now.
Phil said that under the old military commission rules the accused could cross-examine prosecution witnesses who appeared before the commission. The new Military Commission Act, Phil said, allows an accused to cross-examine witnesses who testify against them.
Couldn’t be fairer than that. Ruddock forgot to mention that evidence extracted under torture is still admissible and at the same time the criminal sanction to prevent torture has been removed by the MCA.
Anyway, Phil’s not fussed by a bit of torture-lite. He’s already declared that sleep deprivation is not torture.
Murphy also asked the AG:
“Can he provide assurance that interrogation sheets used in the course of any future prosecution of David Hicks will be accurate and will provide scope for cross-examination of his interrogators and the US marines involved with his capture; if so, why; if not, why not?”
Fabbo excused himself from answering on the basis it was a matter for the Septics.
Finally, Murph wanted to know what representations Phil had made to the US government to ensure “procedural fairness and justice” in the new military commissions.
The attorney general said he had had several conversations with US attorney general, Alberto “Torture Boy” Gonzales (snap), including on his recent trip to Washington where he “emphasized the Australian government’s desire to see Mr Hicks’ case dealt with fairly and expeditiously”.
Amnesty must be proud of its little member.
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Murphy also recently called upon the government to increase legal aid funding, telling parliament between 2003-4 and 2005-6 the legal aid budget was reduced by 51.5 percent.
Fabbo didn’t issue a response to this, however he wrote an article for The Party Room, a Liberal Party organ, in which he accused community legal centres of squandering funds on political causes.
On a similar note, Phil recently let some of his dark side out of the bag at a corporate lawyers knees-up in Sydney.
He hopped into the Law Council for making an issue of the Hicks’ case. It was just a “fashionable cause” and should not be an issue of “professional solidarity”. The Law Council “risks the professional equivalent of imperial overreach”.
He thought it would be better for these bleeding heart types (Julian Burnside was nominated) to assist with “genuine cases”: a disadvantaged citizen victimised by loan sharks or a pensioner seeking a will.
In other words, do-gooder lawyers should keep away from trying to effect “broader social and political change”.
Phil thoughtfully provided a copy of his speech to his favourite organ, The Australian.
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If the AG is unhappy with the Law Council then he’s utterly livid with the Standing Committee of Attorneys General. The meeting between Major Mori and the Labor AGs was the last straw.
He now wants to cut the number of SCAG meetings from three to two a year. He doesn’t like being in a room with all these Labor fellows.
Further, he complained that he wasn’t invited to the meeting with Mori in Fremantle while WA’s attorney general Jim McGinty said that Fabbo had boycotted it.
It didn’t help that Fabulous Phil was heckled by protesters outside the Freemantle gathering. There he was on the telly looking like a bloodless voodoo doll next to Michael Pelly, his press secretary, who has a head like a badly circumcised penis.
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When the Copyright Amendment Act passed the House recently, the attorney reflected on the previous lack of “fair use arrangements” in Australian law, which allow punters to make the most of their gadgets by copying material onto different formats.
Phil said: “when people want to tape at home their favorite program – for me it is probably something like The 7.30 Report or Lateline”.
Hansard recorded an interjection from Labor’s Julia Gillard.
” ‘You should go out more’ – I hear the comment! I make the point that taping programs is time-shifting and that, while nobody thought they were really committing an offence, it has been an offence under our law. People are using new technology; they take it up far quicker than I do. My children go around with iPods and other sorts of equipment. When I find a piece of music that I like – that is fairly hard to find – I tape the record and listen to it on the tape deck in my car. Does that say something about me? Modern people put it on their iPods. Having bought the copyright material, they expect that they are able to use it in another form. That seems very sensible to me. What we are trying to do is, in law, deal with these issues.
What a ghostly groover he is.
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Finally, wondrous news to hand. Fabulous Phil Ruddock is nominating again as the Liberal candidate for his seat of Berowa. He’s already been in the federal parliament for a massive 33 years, but as far as I’m concerned too much of Basalt Man is never enough.