Back to top

Whatever you do, don't mention the policy

"Labor believes that supporting executions – even by a nation state – gives justification to all kinds of fanatical lunatics to take the lives of others in pursuit of their own warped ideologies. That is why, at the highest levels Australia’s public comments about the death penalty must be consistent with policy. This is especially the case if we are going to tactfully and successfully drive a regional abolitionist movement."

- Robert McClelland, Wentworth Human Rights Forum, 8.10.07

You got a problem with that? Kevin Rudd was convinced that he did, and publicly berated the shadow foreign minister for being insensitive in the days prior to the 5th anniversary of the Kuta Beach terrorist outrage of October 12, 2002 - the perpetrators of which are currently on death row in Indonesia.

John Howard knows a wedge when he sees one, and has today reminded us that he opposes the death penalty for Australians overseas, but supports it for terrorists and the like.

There's no story in this, apart from Rudd's knee-jerk reaction. He didn't contradict the ALP policy to oppose the death penalty - saying after all that the Bali terrorists should "rot in jail", ie, get life imprisonment. He just didn't stand up for it.

No one, but no one, should be killed by the State as a method of punishment, whatever the crime. Capital punishment serves no purpose but to cheapen the sanctity of human life. It is absolutely no disrespect to the victims of the 2002 atrocity, and their families and loved ones, to ask that the lives of the murderers be spared. It does nothing to diminish their guilt.

Meanwhile, have a read of the PDF transcript of McClelland's speech, delivered on Monday night. It's a quite damning indictment of Australia's track record in foreign policy, and in particular in international human rights, since 1996.