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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3974..

Human rights

MR CORNWELL (5.57): I rise to refer again to some comments made on Tuesday night by the Chief Minister in relation to a Mr David Hicks. I have here some extracts from the draft Hansard. They say, "... Mr Hicks to be guilty of an offence that he hasn't been charged with"; "simply assuming that Mr Hicks is guilty"; "You don't even need to charge Mr Hicks, you can just arrest him"; and, "Mr Hicks wasn't arrested for allegedly anything."

Unfortunately, this is from the spin doctors of the left and I am a bit concerned that Mr Stanhope may have been corrupted by them. To read from those quotes would indicate that Mr Hicks was some sort of tourist wandering around Afghanistan with a Lonely Planet book in one hand and a Michelin map in the other when in fact, in the only photograph I have seen, he was not carrying a map or guidebook, he was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

I suppose that would lead one to imagine that he was not just a tourist. In fact, one could say, perhaps, that he was a mercenary. Certainly, he appears to have been captured in the fighting in Afghanistan and was, quite properly, treated as a prisoner of war. I see nothing wrong with this but it appears that somehow he is different from anybody else. This country, unfortunately, has a bad habit of getting involved in other people's affairs. I am not just talking about criticising other countries such as Spain and the Philippines for pulling their troops out.

Mrs Cross: And 30 others!

MR CORNWELL: That is a legitimate comment, I suppose. The fact is that it went ahead. Where we do get involved, which I find offensive, we are continually talking about our human rights; we are sanctimonious. Therefore, if some mug decides to smuggle heroin out of Singapore and gets caught-and they know that the penalty is death-the next thing is that this country is jumping up and down demanding, in some sort of neo-colonialist way, that these nasty Singaporians should not give them the penalty that Singapore imposes upon drug traffickers. I see nothing wrong with any of this. Nevertheless, this country, and indeed this Assembly, has a habit of doing it. Unfortunately, our Chief Minister is particularly prone to this sort of thing. He tends to overlook the fact that there is enough to keep us busy here in this city, in this territory.

We have the problems of the bushfires; my colleague Mr Stefaniak referred to the financial blowout in JACS today; there are the police problems; there is health; there are the aged; and there is the look of the city. There are plenty of other things to occupy Mr Stanhope's interest. But no: he chooses to go offshore, so to speak, and ignore a lot of the good work being done overseas-and Mrs Cross referred to it earlier too. He chases after the needs and wants of somebody who most sensible people would regard as a captured terrorist, ignoring the work that Mr Pratt referred to the other night of good people in Afghanistan such as Peter Bunch and Diana Thomas, who are trying to do the right thing in that country.

Mr Quinlan: Talk about neo-colonialists! What were they trying to do? What were they doing?

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