Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . Search

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 4270..

subordinated by national need? Inevitably, the process must trip an otherwise free and open society headlong into the quicksand of justice not being seen to be done.

The point of detaining 600 men and boys at a military base leased from Cuba was, according to the British jurist, Lord Steyn, "to put them beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts, and at the mercy of the victors." Until the United States Supreme Court intervened two months ago and reasserted the rule of law, the clear intention was to install for these detainees a structure where judges, juries, prosecutors and defenders were all delegates of the US executive. It is yet to be clarified just how this will be changed by the Supreme Court guarantee of a "fair opportunity" for detainees "to rebut the factual assertions against them before a neutral decision-maker".

Many Australians are antipathetic to Hicks and a second Australian detainee, Mamdouh Habib. This has encouraged the Howard Government to sit on its hands for most of their detention, content to let Americans move at a tortoise pace. But the test of a government's mettle is the vigour with which it defends the rights of its least popular citizens, with which it insists everyone is entitled to be tried according to law, whatever their alleged crime. The Government has failed more than Hicks and Habib. It has failed the principles which should distinguish Australia.

I think it is appropriate today, Mr Speaker, the day on which David Hicks has been brought before a military tribunal, that we do pause and reflect on this most sorry episode in Australia's history. It needs to be said, and it needs to be said again and again, that this is an appalling breach of the rule of law. It is an abandonment of Australian principles of and our commitment to justice, a fair go, habeas corpus and international law. It is, I think, an appalling stain on our national character.

Today, in Guantanamo Bay, an Australian has been dragged, after three years detention without charge, before a military tribunal, a kangaroo court by another name, and once again completely disregarded and ignored by his government and by the people of Australia. It is an appalling stain on our national character, and one which will take us years to remove.

Miles Franklin primary school

MRS DUNNE (12.53 am): Mr Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to my favourite primary school, Miles Franklin primary school, which last weekend conducted the 19th Miles Franklin Music Festival. I had the honour to be the compere for the eight-years and under piano competition, where I witnessed probably 45 or more children-not just Miles Franklin students but students from across Belconnen and the ACT-in varying stages of their musical development playing magically.

The splendid work that is done in conducting this music festival is a great testament to the parent body at Miles Franklin, which essentially runs the festival, and the Miles Franklin music teachers. I understand that the other day the Chief Minister and the Minister for Education and Training experienced the joys of hearing the Miles Franklin choir. I think this innovation was commenced last year. Miles Franklin also has a senior band.

The Miles Franklin Music Festival, which has grown over the years, is a very important part of the Belconnen community. I think the clear message that came from the

Next page . . . . Previous page. . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . Search