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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 51

Mrs HULL (3:40 PM) —I rise today to support the motion in the name of the member for Pearce, seconded by the member for Fowler, and to support the speakers that have spoken so eloquently in this House in their support for a plea of clemency for Van Nguyen. It may appear to many Australians and Singaporeans listening to this debate or reading it in the future that this group of people speaking in this House today has had no exposure to the travesties of and the scourge that is the use of heroin and has had no exposure to the devastation that the trafficking of heroin and the use of drugs brings into the Australian community. That is quite wrong. Three of the speakers in this House today have had ample and adequate exposure and have seen the worst of the worst of substance abuse, drug abuse, the use of heroin and other drugs across the Australian community. Three of us here in this House who are speaking today have encountered tale upon tale, tragedy upon tragedy, circumstance upon circumstance of the impact and effect on family lives and the lives of those who have become victims of drugs.

It may seem strange to many that I myself would rise on this occasion and seek support for clemency for Van Nguyen. The reason is simply that I have been exposed to this issue through having been fortunate enough to chair the Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs that brought down the report called Road to recovery: report on the inquiry into substance abuse in Australian communities. That gives me the feeling that the wrong person is being hanged here—the wrong person has been convicted and sentenced to lose their life. In fact, it will make no difference to ‘Mr Big’, as we have seen and read in the Road to recovery report. I quote from the report:

The former NCA pointed out that ‘a narrow focus by law enforcement on the interdiction of drugs would not necessarily be successful in dismantling networks and prosecuting the Mr Bigs’, because major figures in organised crime usually distance themselves from high-risk illegal activity.

As the member for Canberra pointed out, we have a ‘mule’ in the name Van Nguyen, a ‘mule’ who was carrying the drugs for a Mr Big—a Mr Big who will continue to live and to inflict tragic circumstances on the lives of people right across the world. It may be thought that the use of capital punishment in Van Nguyen’s circumstance will eradicate some use of drugs, but this, unfortunately, is simply not the case.

It may be said—I have had it said to me by some of our colleagues—‘What about the lives of those people who would have been recipients of the drugs that Van Nguyen was carrying?’ Yes, we all agree those lives are extremely important and to keep those lives intact would be of great benefit to all people. However, very sadly, those lives are still in jeopardy. They will still find a source of this drug because Van Nguyen is not the Mr Big. Mr Big is still there, still using vulnerable people—and he will continue to find vulnerable people to distribute the scourge of the earth that is this form of heroin.

I am not ignorant of the world of drug trafficking and substance abuse; I know very well what takes place. I also know that Van Nguyen losing his life by hanging in a Singapore prison will not make any difference. Van Nguyen is not responsible for the drug supply; Van Nguyen is responsible only for carrying drugs. The scourge will go on and the Mr Bigs will use other people. I believe Van Nguyen’s life is worth something. It is a productive young life, it is a life that has a future and it is an Australian life. I believe we need to ask for clemency at the highest level.