Derryn Hinch

It’s called the voice of experience. It was in the middle of a typically terse Senate exchange one morning, between Greens Senator Nick McKim and Attorney-General George Brandis, acting as the PM’s rep in the Senate.

They were debating the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016 and had got into verbal ping-pong about a clause involving a person wearing an electronic tracking device having to report a faulty device within four hours.

As usual, McKim was throwing in some hypotheticals until he squeezed a concession from the A-G that, of course, they would look sympathetically at a situation if a man were only 15 minutes late.

It was sort of the bland leading the blind. I thought it was time for my voice of experience:

“Mr Chairman, as probably the only person in this chamber who has ever worn an electronic tracking device — for five months — let me try to explain to you that the person probably would not know that their tracking device was not working.

“The tracking device is monitored by a gadget in your house, but it is the people who are monitoring the tracking device who will know that it is not working –because there is movement by you and the device is not showing where you are going or what you are doing.

“The Attorney-General is not quite right when he talks about trivial matters — like four hours being four hours and 15 minutes — because I was escorted down to the Justice Department when I was back late from a one-hour, doctor-approved, exercise time in my courtyard. Walking around, like Rudolf Hess, the last prisoner in Spandau jail.

“I was 28 seconds late back, according to my device, and was threatened with being incarcerated for being in breach. So, when you are talking about it being four hours, or five hours or whatever it is, it will be the people at the other end, the officials, who will decide. It will be the AFP, if that is the case, who will say: ‘This device is not working; we must do something about it.'”

See, it’s good to have an ex-con on hand to fill in the details.

***

This week, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee held a public hearing in Melbourne and dealt mainly with submissions and evidence about Manus and Nauru. The session carried even more import because of the PM’s announcement of a deal for the US to take a (still unspecified) number of refugees off both islands. And because the US had just elected Donald Trump with all his anti-Muslim, anti-migrant campaign rhetoric.

As I said on Sunrise and on Twitter:

hinch-refugee-question

I followed it up at the hearing by asking Immigration and Border Protection Department secretary Michael Pezzullo what was the quid pro quo?

We know the payback for five or six refugees to Cambodia was $55 million. So what was it with Uncle Sam? We take a few of theirs from Costa Rica? Allow 10,000 more Marines into Darwin? Expand Pine Gap?

Mr Secretary assured me: none of the above. And I’m sure he also told me that “under our arrangement” such deals wouldn’t be necessary for more action in Darwin or Pine Gap.

***

A senatorial exchange at that hearing prompted this tweet:

hinch-they-want-my-vote

***

Last Friday was one of the proudest days of my short political career. Being able to hold a press conference and issue a media release about a ban on passports for convicted paedophiles to stop them going on child-rape holidays to places like Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and, of course, Indonesia.

Cynics asked (there’s that quid pro quo again) if I’d done an ABCC deal with the government. Not true. PM Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Justice Minister Michael Keenan were as repulsed as much as I was by these vile vacations.

The Federal Police told me that last year 800 convicted sex offenders went overseas, more than 300 of them to south-east Asia.

***

In a weekly wind-down in my Senate office, we’ve started holding a political quiz hosted by political adviser Sarah Mennie. I call her “Official Occasion”. (Run her names together and you may get it.)

One question last Friday stumped many: What is Malcolm Turnbull’s middle name? If I said there were a bounty on it you might come up with the correct answer: Bligh.

It reminded me of a great middle name pub trivia question. What was President Harry S Truman’s middle name? I’ll give you a clue. Ask yourself why there’s no full stop after the S? Because former haberdasher Harry Truman didn’t have a middle name. He was told that all presidents had to have one — FDR (and later JFK and LBJ). So Harry just took the letter S. No name, just “S”. I always liked Robert James Lee Hawke and Premier Jeffrey Gibb Kennett. Store them away for pub trivia nights.

Peter Fray

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