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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17099

Mr PYNE (10:35 AM) —I am happy to speak a little bit on the subject of David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib.

Mr Melham —On behalf of the Attorney-General?

Mr PYNE —I speak on my own behalf and on the behalf of the government. The member for Banks may not be aware that David Hicks was a constituent of mine. In fact, he comes from Windsor Gardens in my electorate, and his father, I think, still lives in Windsor Gardens.

Mr Melham —I thought he was Martyn Evans's constituent.

Mr PYNE —He lived in Windsor Gardens before he went off and became a vigilante around the world as part of terrorist organisations. So I have taken a keen interest in the—

Mr Melham —Where is the evidence that he was a vigilante?

Mr PYNE —Do you want me to respond—

Mr Melham —Yes, I do.

Mr PYNE —or do you want to keep interrupting?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. D.G.H. Adams)—Order! The honourable member will not respond to interjections.

Mr PYNE —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I look forward to your protection. If my honourable friend wishes to intervene, I am happy to take interventions, but otherwise I would like to get at least one sentence out before my friend interrupts me again. I have taken an interest in the David Hicks case in particular. I have not taken a great deal of interest in the case involving Mamdouh Habib but, obviously, the same issues pertain to him as to David Hicks.

A number of legal principles date back to the Roman Empire. The member for Banks will be well aware of this; I have read his columns in the Australian with great interest. For example, there is the Latin statement `civis Romanus sum', which means `I am a citizen of Rome'—and, therefore, entitled to the protection of Roman law. This was reaffirmed in the 1850s by the Don Pacifico case, where Lord Palmerston—`old Pam', as he was known—the Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time, sent gunboats into Athens to ensure that a British citizen of Gibraltar was handed back to the British government in order to be tried in Britain rather than under Greek law. So these are legal principles that were well established 2,000 years ago and that we adhere to in this government.

That is why consular officials from DFAT, AFP officers, officers from the Attorney-General's Department and other Australian public officials have played key roles in ensuring access for David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib in Guantanamo Bay to Amnesty International and the Red Cross, to ensure that they are being treated with the respect all citizens of Australia deserve. Investigations by the Australian and United States governments continue into the activities of these Australian nationals who, very foolishly, decided to join terrorist organisations that we would regard as, at the very least, unsavoury and, certainly, now illegal in this country.

Over time there will be proper consideration of the evidence that has been gathered. This is no easy feat. It is not easy to get evidence from Afghanistan and the other places David Hicks was operating, in order to be able to determine just what should happen to him in the future. But that process is going on, and the Australian government has been involved in it. We are looking after our Australian citizens. There is no suggestion that the Australian government has abandoned Australian citizens in Guantanamo Bay. In fact, they are people who do not fit under a number of the conventions to which Australia has been a signatory, because of the unique status they adopted through their own behaviour. But, given that, Australia still believes that we should ensure that they are protected, taken care of, treated with respect and questioned correctly. When the evidence is gathered by both Australian and United States officials, an assessment can be made as to how they should be charged, tried or subject to whatever the outcome is.

The member for Banks also commented on the death penalty and suggested that there was some kind of walking away from Australia's strong stance in opposition to the death penalty. There is no suggestion that the Australian government has decided to do anything other than continue our strong, longstanding opposition to the death penalty at the federal level and at the level of all states and territories. That pertains, and to raise it is really just a bit of hysteria on the member for Banks's part. He knows that; he knows that there is no support in the government—just as there is no support in the opposition—for reversing Australia's position on the death penalty, and I hope that that will remain the case in relation to this matter long into the future.