Howard on Hicks today:
"I'm not happy at the time that has gone by.If Hicks has been held for over five years without a proper trial, it is largely the fault of the Howard government which, unlike the UK and other governments, has never even requested (let alone demanded) the release of its citizens from Gitmo.
"I do not accept that he can be held indefinitely without trial, whatever view I may have about the alleged offences with which he is charged." ...
Mr Howard defended Australia's decision not to ask the US to return Hicks to Australia, like Britain had done with its citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay.
"We took the view that somebody who was charged with the offences that Hicks was charged with, knowing as we did that he could not be charged with any offence under Australian law because they were not crimes under Australian law when he allegedly committed them ... we took a view that it was reasonable that he face a military commission in the United States, he said."
On talkback radio, Mr Howard rejected criticism from a listener that the government was being a lapdog to the US by allowing Hicks to be held so long.
"There are a lot of Australians who think a close and strong alliance between Australia and the United States will be as important to our future security as it proved to be critically in the past," he said.
"I don't think we're sacrificing Australians - I think what we're doing is trying to strike a very difficult balance, on the one hand our detestation of the alleged offences and also our proper desire to ensure that no one is held indefinitely without trial."
The UK model makes it pretty clear that the USA would have been happy to send Hicks home to Australia if asked: indeed, US authorities have all but begged (between the lines, in diplomatic-speak) for foreign countries to take their citizens home.
Howard's comments today make it pretty clear that Hick's detention has continued for one reason only: because Howard has already decided that Hicks is guilty. So Howard verbally "balances" his new-found concern for the rule of law against "whatever view I may have about the alleged offences with which he is charged" and "our detestation of the alleged offences".
Mr Howard, it really doesn't matter what you think of David Hicks and his "alleged offences". It doesn't matter what we, the Australian public think of them. What matters is what a judge thinks of them, when they are fairly presented to him in a proper court of law.
If I claim that John Howard raped and killed my grandmother, of course everybody but the most depraved deviants in our society would abhor the "alleged offences". Whether these "alleged offences" are true or not is another matter entirely.
However, if simply alleging such offences is enough to get John Howard thrown into some hellish foreign gulag for half a decade or more, I am prepared to stand by my claims.