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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 46

Mrs MOYLAN (3:20 PM) —I move:

That this House:

(1)   acknowledges the shared history and strong relationship between Australia and Singapore;

(2)   strongly supports representations by the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard MP, to the Government of Singapore for clemency on behalf of Mr Nguyen Tuong Van, who was recently convicted and sentenced to death for drug trafficking by the Singapore Court;

(3)   supports the representation by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Alexander Downer MP, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Kevin Rudd MP, and Members and Senators of the Australian Parliament who have supported a plea for clemency as outlined above;

(4)   expresses profound regret that the Prime Minister of Singapore, HE Mr Lee Hsien Loong, and his Cabinet has rejected the pleas for clemency;

(5)   notes that although the Singapore Court has adhered to due process, there remains an option for the Prime Minister and Cabinet of Singapore to overturn the death sentence, replacing it with a prison sentence;

(6)   acknowledges the severe social impact that drug trafficking and drug use has on communities around the world and respects the strong stance by Singapore in its policies to combat this illegal trade and its worst effects;

(7)   re-affirms Australia’s opposition to capital punishment;

(8)   believes that there are mitigating circumstances arising from this case that warrant consideration of clemency for Mr Nguyen;

(9)   respectfully calls on the Singapore Prime Minister and Cabinet to reconsider the plea by the Australian Government for clemency in the case of Mr Nguyen Tuong Van; and

(10)   asks the Singapore Government to overturn the death sentence imposed on Mr Nguyen and replace it with an appropriate prison term.

We are now at the eleventh hour in seeking clemency for Mr Nguyen and our leadership in this House has been unanimous in their call on behalf of Mr Nguyen for clemency. This call has been led by the Prime Minister. I notice that on at least three separate occasions the Prime Minister has made a personal plea for clemency: in a letter that he wrote to the Singapore Prime Minister, Mr Lee, on 17 May; during his visit on 1 February to Singapore, where he sought clemency on behalf of Mr Nguyen, raising the matter with Senior Minister Goh; and when he attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting last November. I know our Prime Minister’s work to seek clemency for Mr Nguyen continues. Many others from both government and opposition have joined in what, as I said, has been a unanimous call for clemency.

The basis on which we have made our call for clemency is clearly provided for in the Singapore constitution, which I will outline in a moment. Before I do so, I thank all members who have supported this motion today and who will speak on it. The member for Fowler was the deputy leader of the delegation when we visited Singapore recently, and I appreciated her unequivocal support in writing to the Prime Minister on behalf of the delegation and also in visiting senior members of the Singapore parliament during the course of our visit. The member for Riverina, one of my coalition colleagues, was also extremely concerned and very strongly supportive of action in the call for clemency. I also thank the member for Canberra. But I would like to particularly acknowledge the work of the member for Cook because for some time now he has been the chair of Amnesty International in this parliament, and I know he has worked tirelessly behind the scenes, both on a personal level and through his role as chair of Amnesty International, to seek clemency on behalf of Mr Nguyen.

As I said, the provisions of Singapore’s constitution do allow for this. For those who might be critical, we are not asking for Mr Nguyen to be given clemency just because he is an Australian, although I believe we are perfectly entitled to put in a plea on behalf of one of our citizens. We are asking for clemency to be granted because the Singapore constitution specifically allows for this to happen. Article 22P(1) provides that the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister and cabinet, may:

(a) grant a pardon to any accomplice in any offence who gives information which leads to the conviction of the principal offender or any one of the principal offenders, if more than one;

Mr Nguyen has fully cooperated with the Singapore authorities and the Australian Federal Police in this respect. So I think that on (a) alone there is good reason for a call for clemency under the Singapore constitution. However, the constitution goes on to provide for the President, with the advice of cabinet, to:

(b) grant to any offender convicted of any offence in any court in Singapore, a pardon, free or subject to lawful conditions, or any reprieve or respite, either indefinite or for such period as the President may think fit, of the execution of any sentence pronounced on such offender; or

(c) remit the whole or any part of such sentence or of any penalty or forfeiture imposed by law.

So we do have a good case to put to the Singapore government. We do so with respect for their system of government, but we believe that this young man’s circumstances do allow us to put in a strong plea for clemency. It would be a sad day if this young man’s life were lost. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Is the motion seconded?