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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3604

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (11:32): There can be no more important public discourse on human rights than that associated with the death penalty and the lives of our citizens. The right to life is a fundamental human right recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 as well as in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights 1966. This year will be the 65th anniversary of the adoption of the universal declaration, an occasion to acknowledge and recommit ourselves to the principles it stands for.

At this time we should stand as a nation, particularly for the rights of Australian citizens Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, currently on death row in Bali, Indonesia. They have both been on death row for the last seven years and are just a stroke of a pen away from execution. Their situation was recently made worse with the Indonesian government's target of executing 10 condemned persons per year.

In 2009 I was a part of setting up the cross-party working group on the death penalty, co-convened by my colleagues Senator Humphries and Senator Hanson-Young. The group was about promoting the abolitionist position in relation to capital punishment as well as specifically addressing matters involving Australian citizens on death row. I also undertook a study visit to Indonesia in 2011. I visited Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Kerokoban prison along with Scott Rush, another young Australian who was at that stage on death row but who has fortunately had his sentence commuted since. While I was there, each of them spoke to me about their daily struggles and the prospect of being executed at any time.

Whatever one might feel about the crimes Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran committed, it is impossible not to feel for them as human beings and also feel for their families. I would like to make it very clear that we all condemn the menacing world of drug-related crime. I also note the difficult and commendable job that the Indonesian police do, along with their Australian counterparts, in doing everything they can to target not only drug crime but the effects that drugs have on our community. However, in a civil world the principle of punishment is that the punishment should fit the crime. After all, it is the heart of our judicial system and, as I understand it, it is also the central tenet of the Indonesian criminal justice system.

My views against capital punishment became even stronger after a chance encounter with the parents of Scott Rush many years ago. As parents of three children, Bernadette and I really felt for Lee and Christine Rush in having not only a child on death row but the uncertainty of everything associated with that and simply relying on prayers and good conscience of all those who support their children.

I speak today not just in pursuit of what I regard as a genuine human rights issue but also as a parent who holds the strong view that, regardless of what our children might do, nothing extinguishes the love and care we have for our kids.

In concluding, I would like to leave you with words of former Chief Justice of the Constitution Court in South Africa, Ismail Mahomed, in speaking about the death penalty:

… is the ultimate and the most incomparably extreme form of punishment … It is the last, the most devastating and the most irreversible recourse of the criminal law involving … the planned and calculated termination of life itself; the destruction of the greatest and most precious gift which is bestowed on all humankind.

Justice Mahomed went on to say:

It is not necessarily only the dignity of the person being executed that is invaded. Very arguably, the dignity of all of us in a caring civilisation must be compromised.

I would encourage all members to take an interest in the current position in Indonesia in respect of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and whatever efforts members can make to make their intentions known about the death penalty would be appreciated.