Terry Hicks cut a forlorn figure as he stood outside Parliament House in Canberra yesterday. Dressed in a coat and tie, the father of alleged Taliban fighter David Hicks was dwarfed by his lawyer.
He said he had asked to meet the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Attorney-General, the Foreign Minister - "everyone that may be able to do something, to speak to the Americans".
But the only person who had agreed to see him was the Labor MP Daryl Melham.
Mr Hicks's son has been held without charge for 18 months in a cage in Guantanamo Bay.
Mr Hicks believes the US has offered to send his son home, but because he probably has not broken any Australian laws - and so could not be prosecuted - the Australian Government does not want him.
"As a father I'm terribly frustrated. You try and cross a bridge and someone pulls it down," he said.
During parliamentary question time yesterday, Mr Hicks' presence in the public gallery was pointed
out to the Prime Minister, John Howard.
Mr Howard said the question of David Hicks had "arisen in discussions" between the Attorney- General and a legal officer at the Pentagon, and further talks were under way.
"At this stage it is not appropriate for me to say anything further, other than that, on the basis of what I have been told by the Attorney-General, he is well satisfied with the progress of those discussions. . .," Mr Howard said.
The director-general of ASIO, Dennis Richardson, told a Senate estimates hearing yesterday that ASIO officers were interrogating Hicks and fellow Australian detainee Mamdouh Habib.
The questioning would "enable us to better understand al-Qaeda's links and connections" within Australia, he said.
Also yesterday a war of words developed between the Federal Government and the Opposition over the banning of the Lebanese-based militant Islamic terrorist organisation Hezbollah. Both sides say they want the group outlawed, but differ over how.
The group hasn't been banned by the United Nations, which is a requirement under Australian law before any terrorist organisation can be banned here.
The Government wants to introduce a law giving the Attorney-General the power to ban terrorist organisations.
Labor is proposing a specific amendment to existing law to outlaw Hezbollah.
The Government also rejected reports that Pakistan authorities were angry at Australia's refusal to take back the suspected Australian terrorist Jack Thomas.
Mr Thomas was being deported to Australia, but the arrangements were in the hands of the Pakistani authorities, a spokesman said.
By Cynthia Banham
May 28 2003