6 November 2003

Labor smells a new Tampa

The day he was appointed Attorney-General, it was obvious Philip Ruddock had been anointed as a central player in the run-up to next year's election. John Howard knew the Government had to keep national security up in lights as an issue and Ruddock had the toughness and political skills to do that.

That was the plan at reshuffle time but in politics, chance is important too. For Ruddock the matter of Frenchman Willie Brigitte, accused of being a terrorist with al-Qaeda connections, has come as a stroke of good political timing. It has given an early focus to his mission.

Just as Labor thought it was making ground on bread-and-butter issues, especially health, it is back in trouble. Yesterday's Newspoll, showing the Coalition getting a big bounce from the Bush/Hu visits, is less important for itself than for its likely effect in feeding back into perceptions about Simon Crean and the morale of the party.

Let's see, Ruddock blames Labor for Brigitte's release, even though the sections under which Brigitte should have been prosecuted passed the aprlaiment unchanged. Those sections are exactly as the government drafted them.

The French laws which Ruddock apparently finds more desirable allow terrorist supects to be held for up to 3 years without trial. There could be advantages to apssing such a law - given 3 years, even this government and this attorney-general might be able to work out what to do with a suspect.

As for the unopposed and unamended sections, Ruddock's spokescreature answered that question by saying it was 'moot'. Were they amended or were they not? Even in these exciting pomo times it should be possible to answer yes, or no.

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