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Thursday, 11 February 2010
Page: 1195

Ms PARKE (1:57 PM) —In November last year I was in my parliamentary office to prepare my speech in support of this important legislation, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009, which imports into Australian domestic law the principles contained in the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment—an instrument that Australia has been a party to since 1989—and the provisions of the second optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. While I was in the office that day the mail was delivered. Among the envelopes addressed to me was a handwritten one with stamps indicating it had been sent from Indonesia. I opened the envelope to find inside a Christmas card. The card was from Scott Rush, one of the young Australians on death row in Indonesia. He wrote:

Kerobokan Prison

18 November 2009

Dear Ms Parke

Peace be with you this Christmas. I thank you for all you have done for me again this year. God bless.

Scott Rush

Despite all this young man is going through, he had the presence of mind and the kindness to write this lovely card. This bill is for Scott and those imprisoned with him on death row, whatever their nationality and whatever their crime. This bill is for all those who have gone before them for whom it is too late.

As noted by renowned anti-death penalty campaigner and author of Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents, Sister Helen Prejean:

The practice of the death penalty is the practice of torture. By the time people I have been with finally climb into the chair to be killed, they have died a thousand times already because of their anticipation of the final horror.

By this bill we as a nation fundamentally repudiate the death penalty and the use of torture. We repudiate these acts in keeping with our international obligations. We repudiate them explicitly in the form of Commonwealth law as one of the highest statements of our common values and convictions. It is an affront to human dignity whenever a fellow human being is tortured or put to death. By this law we clearly say that the state shall not put individuals to death and that the state shall not in any circumstances practise torture.

I commend the Attorney-General for his work in preparing this bill. Australia has taken significant steps under this Labor government to re-engage with the international community. As the Attorney-General has noted, the United Nations Committee against Torture recommended that Australia enact a specific offence of torture at the federal level. Torture is any act by which severe pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted upon a person by a public official for certain purposes such as obtaining information—

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for Fremantle will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.