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Thursday, 11 February 2010
Page: 1192

Mr HAYES (1:45 PM) —Further to my earlier remarks on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009, a notice of motion I submitted last year sought to incorporate into domestic law the provisions of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to communicate to the world that this country is ardently opposed to the death penalty. Even though there are no proposals by any state or territory government to reintroduce the death penalty, with the passage of this bill Australia will have implemented, in practical and effective legal terms, the second optional protocol by ensuring that the death penalty cannot be reintroduced in any jurisdiction in this country.

The passage of the bill provides a firm basis for diplomatic and political representations to be made with respect to citizens overseas who are condemned to death. It does so because there is nothing more Australia can do legally under international law to say to the world that this country stands firm against the death penalty and capital punishment. We have shown our abhorrence to the death penalty through our fundamental societal values. The passage of this bill will permanently protect the lives of all persons whether they be citizens of this country or not who are convicted of serious crimes in Australia. That is not to say that fitting punishment will not be imposed—of course it will. It will be applied through incarceration, and the punishment will fit the crime in accordance with our criminal law.

This bill is in line with consistent trends we see worldwide to abolish the death penalty. I encourage all members of this place to do what they can to advocate the abolition of the death penalty. I urge all members to speak out clearly and consistently against the use of capital punishment. Unless we do that and are consistent in our position on the death penalty, we will be accused of hypocrisy every time it comes to defending Australian citizens facing death penalty charges in another country.

We must continue to push our abhorrence of the death penalty as a fundamental value of Australian society and consistently oppose the imposition of the death penalty in any context and for any offence as a matter of principle. That must be a firm, bipartisan policy. This bill does that. The passage of this bill records, as much as the government can, the importance of the life of our citizens, particularly in relation to those I mentioned earlier such as Scott Rush.

In conclusion, I am proud to be a member of a government that has taken steps to demonstrate its fundamental opposition to acts that are contrary to basic human values and its abhorrence of capital punishment. I commend the bill to the House.