8 Feb 2007

There is no doubt that there is a groundswell for David Hicks happening at present. There's no saying quite how deep it is. Still, it's forced the Prime Mininister into action.

Fairfax have an extraordinary story now: the PM has apparently told the Coalition party room that he has has de facto power over Hicks's fate all along. That is to say, that Hicks has only been in Guantanamo for so long because Howard has wanted him there. Well, that's not quite true of course: Howard wants Hicks to be in prison, but not in a legal limbo, wants Hicks convicted. Howard admits that Hicks could not be tried in Australia, which is to say that he has not broken any Australian law. Yet Howard has decided that Hicks is a bad man, and must pay the price for violating Howard's personal standards of propriety – and it's Howard's personal prerogative we're talking about here, not a decision by coalition, party or cabinet.

The pressure mounting, Howard tells the US to try Hicks or free him. So ths US set up another kangaroo procedure. I see no reason to expect that this one will stand where the last fell. Indeed, the last was more or less in the same vein, a sop to Howard. The US in general seems in no hurry to regularise the status of Guantanamo detainees and remove them from the limbo it has so extraordinarily created. Indeed, why should it? That would only give them less power over the detainees. But Howard, under pressure from the Australian public, has been pushing the idea of a trial for Hicks all along. But, I would conclude, there can be no real trial, since there was no real crime.