10 August 2008


The Australian Labor Party is against the death penalty. This is not one of the reasons or a factor in the reasons that I vote for the Labor party. I have traditionally voted Labor as the party of those of us workers struggling to make ends meet. Stupid, maybe! The coming to power of the Rudd Labor government is likely to test those core beliefs that I hold in Labor representing the socialist democratic ideals that I hold.

That said, this is really a post about the hypocrisy of the Labor party with respect to its position on the death penalty. Stephen Smith, the Foreign Minister of Australia, is going to be making representations to the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, about the Bali Nine. These representations are in fact a plea for clemency. This is merely a case of public relations where the government can later claim that it has done everything it possible can to save them from the firing squad.

The hypocrisy here is that the Labor party is against the death penalty but it is not going to be making any representations with respect to the Bali Bombers who are also on death row. I have written about the Bali Bombers in this blog a number of times (if you're interested search "Bali Bombers").

My view is that I am against the death penalty and my preferred option for Amrozi, Samudra, and Mukhlas is that these murders rot in jail for the terms of their natural life. However, as they have been sentenced to death, then so be it! These killers are being afforded opportunities to appeal their sentences that in theory others might also have enjoyed but were never afforded the same opportunities to exercise.

The difficulty here is that most Australians would, and should, be aware and also understand that if you traffic or smuggle drugs into or out of Indonesia and you are caught in Indonesia then you are in trouble. Up the proverbial creek without a paddle, so to speak. The death penalty applies; no ifs, no buts, and no maybes. If you play Russian Roulette and get caught, you die! You take the risk then you know what the consequences are.

The simple reality here is that Australia could much more easily adopt the high moral ground here if it was uniformly against the death penalty no matter who the convicted persons are. This would include the Bali Bombers.

The warm fuzzy feeling that one might get when they know that the Australian government is making representations on their behalf quickly evaporates when the cold hard reality sets in that these representations equate to nothing more than the government saying the same crime in Australia would not be subject to the death penalty. These representations might just be more effective if Australia was serious in its opposition to the death penalty and not just paying lip service to the issue.

The idea that Australia is vocal in its opposition to the Iranian government's policy of executing children need not be cited as some form of achievement. State sanctioned murder is abhorrent at any time and the fact that this punishment is meted out on children is particularly abhorrent. Th need to oppose it goes without saying.

Australia needs to step up to the plate and make clear that it opposes the death penalty on all crimes. Australia can still respect the sovereignty of Indonesia as a State without having to accept the death penalty. I know the international legal arguments that can be made here with respect to States that are already imposing the death penalty have a right to continue to do so. Nevertheless, a representation from a government that is universal in its condemnation of the death penalty will always be more effective than those representations coming from a government that wavers on the issue.

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