Monday, February 19, 2007

When Ray Martin and Dick Smith come out against you, you've lost the middle ground

I spoke to Dick Smith last night.

On the Nine network yesterday both he and Ray Martin came out publicly against the Australian government's treatment of David Hicks.

I am reminded of a story about Edward R Murrow.

Apparently when one of McCarthy's friends heard that Murrow was doing to come out against McCarthy on CBS he explained that it meant the game was up. McCarthy would lose.

Why, asked McCarthy, were Murrow and CBS that powerful?

No, came the reply, but if Murrow and the CBS decided to come out against you, it meant that you had already lost the middle-ground.

Below is my report of my conversation with Dick Smith...

The millionaire businessman Dick Smith has bought in to the dispute over the treatment of David Hicks telling the Canberra Times that he has spent $60,000 of his own money assisting with the family’s legal expenses.

He said that it was money the Salvation Army and similar organisations were being denied. “I am going to donate a certain amount of money to social causes each year and, unfortunately if I am forced to donate it to try and get an Australian a fair trial that means it is less money for other important causes.”

Mr Smith said he approached the family around two years ago after he heard that even US military prosecutors were privately unhappy with the process believing that it was not fair. He noted that no US or UK citizen was be subjected to a military commission trial. The process was contrary to US law and the UK had successfully demanded the return of its detainees.

“I am not a supporter of David Hicks, never have been” Mr Smith said last night. “I am a supporter of an Australian citizen getting a fair trial"...

The philanthropist businessman said that he had spoken personally to the Prime Minister in December warning of political danger if the proposed US military trial went ahead.

“If they do have a trial and he is released without a conviction that will be a disaster for the government, but if they have a trial and he is convicted when so many reliable people are saying that the system is flawed that will be worse, a catastrophe. He will be turned into a martyr, which he should never be.”

Mr Smith said he had also spoken to the new US ambassador Robert McCallum and told him that he believed a trail could severely damage US-Australian relations.

“I supported Australia going into Iraq and I support the US alliance. I believe that John Howard has been badly let down in this one instance. If the US goes ahead with this flawed process it will damage the government tremendously, in the lead-up to an election.”

“It is all so unnecessary for one person who can’t possibly be a threat to us if he comes back because he is famous and they can put him on a control order,” he said.