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Thursday, 29 March 2007
Page: 88


Mr CAMERON THOMPSON (2:22 PM) —My question is to the Attorney-General. Would the Attorney-General advise the House whether there are arrangements in place to allow David Hicks to serve out his sentence in Australia if necessary?


Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) —I thank the honourable member for Blair for his question, because there have been some developments about which I should inform the House. The International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 facilitates the transfer of prisoners between Australia and certain countries with which we have entered into agreements. The Australian government obtained undertakings from the United States to develop such an arrangement to facilitate the return of citizens, in particular Mr Hicks, serving any sentence that might be imposed by a military commission and to serve that sentence in Australia. I am therefore pleased to be able to advise members that this morning the Governor-General, on the advice of the Executive Council, made regulations to give effect to an arrangement between the governments of Australia and the United States. The arrangement, signed in Washington last week, facilitates a transfer to Australia of prisoners sentenced to imprisonment by a military commission. The making of regulations clears the way for Mr Hicks to apply for transfer should he receive a custodial sentence. The arrangement provides for enforcement of the nature and duration of any sentence, so that the Australian government could not unilaterally shorten or dispose of any such sentence.

I note that the Leader of the Opposition, when he was asked whether he would honour any sentence, uncharacteristically, I suppose it might be said, declined to give an answer, saying that he would seek advice from the Attorney-General’s Department. It is interesting that he needs advice on matters before coming to a view. Perhaps I could be forgiven for having come to a view that the Leader of the Opposition thought the Prime Minister should form views without advice. I simply make the point, and I assure the member for Griffith that the arrangement with the United States is such that only the United States can pardon a prisoner.

I spoke earlier this week with the Premier of South Australia, Mr Rann, and I explained to him the law dealing with the handling of Commonwealth prisoners. I note that he indicated that he would be positively disposed to an application from Mr Hicks to serve out any sentence in South Australia if that situation arose. The Australian government will of course work quickly to progress any application if that situation arises.