Tim Blair


New Criterion



Sunday, August 01, 2004

South Australian magistrate Brian Deegan, "whose son Josh was killed in the Bali bombing" to give him the postnominal Auntie employs every time she covers the would-be politician's utterances, is a man of large moral vanity. On the basis of his son's sad fate, and his standing as a magistrate, Deegan has promoted himself vigorously on a range of issues, from refugee policy to capital punishment.

On each, Deegan's opinions lack the development that would in itself justify their broadcasting, and his public office would normally be regarded as excluding him from public debate.

Deegan decided to seek elected office, standing against our beloved Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer. While making public appearances in his new capacity, Deegan refused to resign his magistracy, hoping to negotiate a guarantee of re-appointment should he fail at the poll. Late last week the South Australian Chief Justice showed him the door.

Deegan's use of his judicial office for political purposes was hardly behaviour based on high principle. His pursuit of an unprecedented guarantee on his old job can be described as prudent, but hardly as courageous. This makes Deegan's principal platform for election, labelling as cowardly "avoiders" those university students, like Defence Minister Robert Hill, who claimed deferments of their military service at the time of the Vietnam war, even more odious. Deferments were just that, and not exemptions.

Aliexander Downer, also labelled a dodger by Deegan, was at the time living in London, where his father had a sinecure from the Menzies government.

Labor's shadow Defence Minister Kim Beazley was able to extend his deferment to take up a Rhodes Scholarship, a more questionable case.

Considering Deegan's behaviour, who can doubt that he would, in the circumstances of the 1960s, have advised his son to take advantage of the exemption to which he would no doubt have had access.

Apart from these personal and partly erroneous slurs, Deegan's anti-war position never rises above slogans.

Still, he has received blanket coverage, especially on Auntie.

Compare Deegan with the father of David Hicks, a son who is far from innocent.

David Hicks, either a "guantanamo Bay detainee", if you're Auntie, or a "terrorist suspect", according to other reporters, certainly went looking for trouble with open arms. When he is charged, even Auntie may be forced to call him by a title that is more to the point.

Hicks's father, Terry, is, in comparison with Brian Deegan, a model of restraint and persistence, the lobbyist's most powerful weapons.

To my knowledge he has not abused Parliament's hospitality, like the family of Mamdouh Habib, when they were offered the opportunity to do so by Bob Brown, during President Bush's visit.

He has never made himself the story, and has given David Hicks's position the flavour of injured innocence.

I know who I'd rather have as a father.