Some of us have long predicted that when it comes to using anti-terrorism laws for political purposes, the Rudd government would be no better than the Howard government. It’s early days but it looks as though that is the case. What other possible explanation could there be for newly minted Attorney-General Robert McClelland backing the Australian Federal Police’s move to impose a control order on former Guantanamo Bay detainee, David Hicks?

Mr Hicks is today a broken man, and he was probably always harmless. He was used as a political plaything of the Howard government for five years and when he returned to Australia, the South Australian Labor government’s chief head kicker (and apparently the man responsible for the stellar career of failed federal Labor candidate Nicole Cornes) Kevin Foley was ready with a kybosh to beat Mr Hicks around even more.

Let us remember that it is doubtful if David Hicks’ actually broke any anti-terror laws either here or in the US, despite his plea agreement with the US authorities. This is because the Guantanamo Bay regime of interrogation and detention is to put it simply, corrupt.

Over the past two weeks the CIA has admitted that it destroyed video tapes of interrogations of detainees, despite a US Federal Judge order in 2005 to “preserve and maintain all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

The severe restrictions on detainees’ access to legal advice has been criticised by a number of US courts, and its proposed method of trial has been thrown out by the US Supreme Court – a conservative-dominated body. Prisoners are shackled and kept in solitary confinement in many cases for up to 23 hours a day.

In other words, why would anyone believe anything other than that the only reason Mr Hicks struck a plea bargain that saw him serve his last few months of imprisonment in Adelaide was because he wanted to escape life in hell?

This is why a control order is unnecessary in David Hicks’ case. He is as about as likely to go near anything associated with terrorism as he is to fly to the moon at Christmas.

So why are Mr McClelland and the Rudd government letting it happen? Because it’s good politics. This government, which supported the Howard government’s anti-terror laws when in Opposition, wants to be seen as tough on terrorism even if it means treading on a few individuals’ rights along the way.

The Rudd government seems to be conveniently forgetting that the reason John Howard cut a back room deal with US Vice-President Dick Cheney early this year to return David Hicks to Australia was because the Australian community thought Mr Hicks’ had suffered enough torture for one person.

If the Rudd government was seriously committed to human rights responsibilities then it would oppose efforts to shackle David Hicks with an order requiring him to be a captive in his own community. What a pity it has taken the cowardly way out. Plus ca change…!