Random Friday memory: 2 – not so random: David Hicks

Today  I was going to tell you about Digit Dick – but that will have to wait, as the Daily Telegraph recycled an infamous image this morning.


David Hicks, you see, has been cleared. Sydney lawyer Michael Bradley writes:

David Hicks is now officially an innocent man in the eyes of the law. In the eyes of Tony Abbott, he remains guilty of being “up to no good”, which is a legal novelty but aligns to our Prime Minister’s current irritation with old-fashioned notions like the presumption of innocence.

Attorney-General George Brandis helpfully noted that Hicks’ activities would likely be crimes if he committed them now, which is factually correct but not exactly above politics, as the Attorney-General is supposed to be.

The Tele weighs in as you would expect: Anger as Bill Shorten claims ‘injustice’ for David Hicks. And Fatman has an opinion piece. But for the moment consider that front page image:

One telling item for Hicks in the book is the famous picture of David with the rocket launcher. We all remember how this was used to demonise him and purported to show him in Afghanistan. It turns out to be cut from a photo taken in Albania of three friends playing around with empty weapons. Yes, he took part in the Kosovo war, but never saw action. Another photo shows him saluting the NATO flag, under which he was really serving then.

Interesting though that the Tele website does eventually show the whole photo:


And the comment above the picture is my own from In the matter of David Hicks — 4, which includes my 2010 South Sydney Herald feature on David Hicks’s autobiography.

See my related posts

It strikes me that if the powers that be really want to know how radicalisation works and how people can return to Australia and recover they could do worse than utilise David Hicks, not as an Aunt Sally or scapegoat or useful demon but as someone with much relevant knowledge and experience.

Then there is the point Michael Bradley makes:

In Hicks’ case, everyone is left unsatisfied. He is seriously unhappy, having been incarcerated for years, vilified and ostracised from society. His detractors feel aggrieved because he’s been exonerated and may end up being compensated, when he clearly engaged in acts that very few of us would condone. No matter how naïve he may have been, he did know that Al Qaeda wasn’t on a mission of world peace and it’s understandable that he attracts very little sympathy.

It’s this dissatisfaction that causes the likes of Abbott and Brandis to debase themselves and their offices with comments that trample on the most basic legal rights. The fact is that Hicks never committed a crime and should never have been charged, convicted and imprisoned. That ought to be acknowledged. Not necessarily apologised for, nor compensated – those are political choices the Government can make.

The lesson that should be taken from this case is that the rule of law, imperfect as it is, provides much better solutions to complex situations than governments will do when they decide to make up the rules as they go. Next time we decide to invade another country, we need to determine our legal justification for doing so and then deal with who and what we find accordingly.