Readers will have to excuse me — I’m about to break the habit of lifetime and speak about myself!

My letter to the Australian head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, regarding the plight of David Hicks, has caused ructions at the highest levels; namely the offices of the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister. Some background is necessary.

When Her Majesty replied to my letter, I was told David Hicks’ plight was “not a matter in which Her Majesty would intervene”. So far so good. Then came the cruncher. “Nevertheless, I have been instructed”, wrote the Queen’s correspondence officer, “to forward your letter to the Right Honourable Margaret Beckett, MP, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth matters, so that she may know of your approach to the Queen on this matter.”

I wrote to the Queen in her capacity as Australia’s Head of State and made that clear in my letter. The Queen chose not to forward the letter to Alexander Downer — she’d have her own reasons for that.

I subsequently wrote to Beckett and outlined my concerns and asked her if she had made representations to Canberra regarding Hicks, or more importantly, had Canberra asked her how Blair’s government went about getting their people out of Guantanamo Bay? So far no reply although I’m told one is on the way.

So far no reply although I’m told one is on the way. I’m also informed that when Beckett’s office told Downer’s office of my letter to the Queen, Alexander Downer was “incandescent”with rage and reported that I am just an “agitator and trouble maker”.

John Howard, I’m told, went a step further, saying that writing to the Queen and thereby embarrassing the Head of State was “un-Australian”!

That’s what I have been told by very reliable sources indeed. If correct, which I have no reason to doubt, it says more about Howard and Downer than it does about me.

Peter Fray

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