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Attorney-General discusses David Hicks.
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Tuesday, 19 September 2006
Online Text: 1466239
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RUDDOCK, Philip, MP
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Attorney-General discusses David Hicks.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON PHILIP RUDDOCK MP
Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 â¢ Telephone (02) 6277 7300 â¢ Fax (02) 6273 4102 www.ag.gov.au
Date: 19 September 2006
Location: ABC 774 Morning program
Topic: David Hicks
JON FAINE : But I'm joined first by the Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock. US President George Bush yesterday signed off on legislation to set up a new system of dealing with people in Guantanamo Bay, including Australian David Hicks, and Philip Ruddock in The Age today says we might be doing a deal to bring David Hicks home. Mr Ruddock, good morning.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Morning John.
JON FAINE : What sort of a deal?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I mean, this, these matters need to be understood in context, and the context is that in the United States the military commission process was found to be unlawful as constituted by the Supreme Court, and they gave advice as to what form it should take, and it included full congressional authorisation of the process.
And, I've been pushing for the United States Government to resolve that issue, particularly before the mid-term elections, and that was done, and the President signing the law yesterday was the completion of that process. That means...
JON FAINE : But what sort of a deal might you be doing?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, that means that the military commission process can be now up and running, and we're urging them to do so as quickly as possible. And I set out, in the interview I gave yesterday, the next procedures - which include regulations and constituting military commissions - and then charges are laid and then the, the defendant can pursue whatever course he is advised is most appropriate for him.
But amongst those, include challenging the process. I think that would be highly suspect now, given the changes that have been made, but that's a matter of opinion. Secondly, plead not guilty. And thirdly, in the context of the American system, to engage in plea bargaining. And that's a process by which parties are able to negotiate a lesser charge and negotiate what level of penalty might be appropriate,
and that agreed position can then either be confirmed or squashed by the, by the military commission.
And, if you wanted to resolve the issue quickly...
JON FAINE : Yes.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: ...that may be a way forward.
JON FAINE : Well, I'd like to resolve the question of what sort of a deal you've done fairly quickly...
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, I've done no deal.
JON FAINE : ...if you could please.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: I've done no deal. They're matters between the party - that is the defendant...
JON FAINE : Yeah, but you're hardly a spectator to whatever deal is being done. You're undoubtedly one of those that's been consulted over what is an acceptable outcome for the Australian Government, and what is it?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, we're not consulted on those matters, and I think it'd be quite inappropriate for us to be party to it. I mean this is a process in which the Americans, in their justice system, are dealing with those people that they are
detaining. And, we've been...
JON FAINE : And you're not consulted at all?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, we've, we've pushed ourselves into the game to say, we want these issues dealt with as quickly as possible. And that's been the approach that I have taken, and in all my discussions with the Americans I have not sought to form a judgement - to access the evidence or form a judgement on it. That's a matter for the defendant and his legal representatives to deal with.
JON FAINE : The general view of most media commentators, whether in Australia or in the US, from the peak legal bodies representing Australia's thousands of lawyers and America's hundreds of thousands of lawyers, is that whatever procedure George Bush introduces here it's quaintly for an Australian, called a kangaroo court. So why should any new system be any more credible than the old one?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well it's a, it's a process which is, is known to the American legal system, as it was to ours at the aftermath of the Second World War. But, the point I make in relation to this is that these matters were brought into question; they
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were tested before the United States Supreme Court; they were found to be wanting because the Congress has not been involved fully in authorising the process.
The Congress has now, with very large majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, endorsed the process that was sought by the administration for the conducting of military commissions.
JON FAINE : In fact what's happening is George Bush is scrambling to patch together some sort of legitimacy for a process that is universally condemned as illegitimate.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No. He is, he is a participant in a process under American law which involved the Congress in authorising military commissions in this form.
JON FAINE : Will David Hicks come back convicted and imprisoned, or would he come back convicted and freed?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well...
JON FAINE : Having served already seven years.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No. What would, what would be the options, as I see it - first, he could continue to challenge the process and he would remain there for a very much longer period of time because that will inevitably take time. He can plead not guilty, and if he was found not to be guilty, he would be, in our view, we would be seeking his return to Australia, as we did in relation to Mamdouh Habib.
JON FAINE : Yes.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: If he were found to be guilty, then there would be the question of penalty, and we have negotiated with the United States, a prisoner exchange agreement, and we are in the process of updating that agreement to take into account the new form of the military commission.
JON FAINE : So the most likely outcome, even though you say you're not being consulted - is that he does a deal; he says, alright, look, I'm sick of this, I'll plead guilty; you send me to serve whatever is the remainder of my term in an Australian prison where I can have access to my family and they can have access to me.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: And I'll use the words I've used before John, that is one of the options.
JON FAINE : Is that the option you think is the right one?
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PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, it's the one that I think, exercising my own judgement, not being party to all the evidence and having not seen the evidence, that if you wanted to resolve the issue quickly, is the way forward.
But, he's got to be properly advised on those matters, and nothing I have said...
JON FAINE : No.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: ...is other than saying that this is one of the options available to him.
JON FAINE : Well it certainly opens up a range of possibilities. Is this the final proof though Philip Ruddock that the David Thomas case is becoming an embarrassment, that - sorry the David Hicks case...
PHILIP RUDDOCK: David Hicks.
JON FAINE : ...is becoming an embarrassment politically for the Howard Government?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, I mean look, we've made it very clear all the way through that we want the issues to be resolved as quickly as possible. But, we believe that justice should follow its natural course, that is that if there are...
JON FAINE : Justice with a capital J or a small J?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: With a capital and a small J - I want a just outcome in which the evidence is properly tested...
JON FAINE : Yes.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: ...in which, in which a proper adjudication is made, and we want to see that happen as quickly as possible, and we've been barrackers for quick resolution.
JON FAINE : I can hear the bells ringing if you're in the parliament. Mr Ruddock, thank you. The...
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Pleasure.
JON FAINE : ...Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.
Media Contact: Michael Pelly 0419 278 715
Attorney General Transcript 4