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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 233

Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 6 December 2004:

(1)   Has the Attorney-General received letters from the public expressing concern in relation to the proposed military commission trials in the United States of America of Australian citizens Mr Hicks and Mr Habib and/or their treatment as detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

(2)   Is the Attorney-General refusing or declining to respond to letters from the public concerning those matters.

(3)   Would the Attorney-General specify the number of letters addressed to him by members of the public concerning those matters during November 2004.

(4)   Would the Attorney-General specify the number of letters from members of the public concerning those matters which he has replied to during November 2004.

Senator Ellison (Minister for Justice and Customs) —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   No, I am not refusing or declining to answer letters from the public. Letters are responded to as appropriate. If for some reason it is not appropriate or possible to respond to an individual letter, for example where the letter is abusive and does not raise substantive issues or where there is no return address, or where previous correspondence has already addressed the issues raised, then a response may not be sent.

(3)   123 letters were received by my office in November 2004. That number includes letters addressed to the Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard MP, to which I responded as the Minister with portfolio responsibility for the David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib matters.

(4)   I replied to 82 letters in November 2004.