Last week, after 13 years in parliament, Liberal Member for Sturt Chris Pyne was finally made a minister – but will his career be killed off by David Hicks? Two Liberal seats are threatened by the self-confessed supporter of terrorism.

Hicks is likely to be back in Australia by the end of the year, according to the US military’s chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Colonel Morris Davis.

Reports today say he could be in South Australia’s Yatala Labour Prison, on Grand Junction Road in the suburb of Northfield, within weeks.

Yatala is just in the electorate of Makin, which outgoing Liberal MP Trish Draper holds by just one per cent. Cross over Grand Junction Road and you’re in Sturt, held by Pyne by 6.8%.

Makin is being contested for the Libs by HR Nicholls Society veteran Bob Day. Labor are already waging an IR grudge match there. Labor is polling well in SA. While Day will wage a strong campaign, many observers already believe Makin is gone.

Which makes Sturt the interesting one. While the term offends the delicate sensibilities of Crikey readers, Sturt has possibly the highest concentration of doctors’ wives in SA.

It’s at the very top end of Labor’s wish list of seats in the state, but it could just be doable – especially with Hicks dumped on the doorstep of the doctors’ wives. They don’t care if he’d like to make them wear a burqua.

Remember the rallies that have been held outside Baxter Detention Centre over the past few Easters? Hicks could well end up imprisoned a short 15-minute drive from Adelaide’s CBD.

Liberal sources say that Hicks has pleaded guilty to assisting terrorism. They say his sentence will be reduced by the time he has already spent in jail and that he will serve any other time in Australia. They say public sympathy for him will dissipate once he’s home, and that only the usual suspects will keep up the anti-American rhetoric.

They shouldn’t be so sure. What happens, for example, if the US Supreme Court invalidates the Military Commissions Act later this year or early in 2008, as many observers expect it will? Does Hicks walk free? Will he be paroled? If he is paroled, what happens to the big bad terrorist who needs to be kept in the dungeon line the Government has been running since his imprisonment?

There’s another legal question, too. Hicks may be able to launch a habeas corpus action in an Australian court once he’s home, and argue he pleaded guilty under duress.

All of these issues could strike a chord with the well-educated and liberal-minded voters who could well be David Hicks’ neighbours by the time of the federal poll.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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