This is an extract from a speech former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser gave yesterday at the Australian National University — read the full text here.
So David Hicks will be home by the end of the year, partially gagged. The gag order which was undermined by information provided to the British Government and subsequently published in his application to become a British citizen and subject to the same treatment as other British citizens formerly held in Guantanamo Bay.
And so this story comes to an end but at what a price. The main story is not David Hicks. The main story is a willingness of two allegedly democratic governments prepared to throw every legal principle out the window and establish a process that we would expect of tyrannical regimes. That our own democracies should be prepared to so abandon the Rule of Law for an expedient and as I believe, evil purpose should greatly disturb all of us. But how many are concerned? Too many are not concerned because they believe that such a derogation of justice can only apply to people who are different, in some indefinable way.
Only the other day I was speaking with somebody who quite plainly believed that Hicks deserved anything that was metered out to him because he was what he was, the Rule of Law did not need to apply. For somebody who has done terrible things, why does he deserve justice? That denies the whole basis of our system, the necessity of a civilised society which cannot exist unless there is an open, predictable justice system that applies equally to every person.
David Hicks at the best was clearly a very foolish young man. He was terribly misguided and may well have done some terrible things. I do not know. But if our Government says he has had his day in court, he made a plea bargain, therefore he deserved what he got, it only emphasises its lack of commitment to the Rule of Law for all people.
If the Government believes it to be expedient, we now know that it is prepared to push the Rule of Law aside. That is a larger issue than the tragedy of David Hicks.
A number of Liberals have spoken out about these and similar issues in relation to asylum seekers or refugees, or people improperly treated in Department of Immigration detention centres. Too many have remained silent. Does silence connote acquiescence, acceptance or fear, being fearful of standing and saying what they know to be right? A Liberal who fails to recognise the central importance of these issues for the maintenance of a fair and just democracy, bears no resemblance to the Liberals of Menzies’ day and to the Party that Menzies founded.