Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 November 2005) . . Page.. 4233 ..
However, we must understand, in this case and other related South East Asian cases, that these states are struggling with very serious drug trafficking and dispersion problems with deeply serious impacts on those societies. Those states have chosen harsh regimes that we consider to be unacceptable. We need to understand the deeply challenging social backgrounds to the decisions that have been taken by those states. We must also aggressively campaign against the appalling circumstances we see in northern Nigeria, to take another example, where under sharia law we recently saw the condemnation to death by stoning of a woman who, incidentally, was with child. This is surely barbarity in the extreme. If one can put shades of difference on these different examples, I suppose one might determine those sorts of differences.
When considering these examples and when considering some of the cases closer to home, to say that we should criticise the AFP—as some here have done—for embarking on investigations into drug trafficking in cooperation with our Asian neighbours because there may be a risk of Australians being arrested and condemned to death I think is entirely unacceptable. I do not believe for one moment that Commissioner Keelty, or any government, deliberately sets out to ensure that young, naive and stupid Australians are ensnared to their possible deaths. Yes, there may be some risk but please do not forget that the trafficking of drugs to this country, on the known statistics, has resulted and will continue to result in a significant death rate of young Australians. What do you do? Do you perhaps save more lives by heading off the trafficking of drugs, or do you simply take no action at all because you are concerned about other issues, important though those issues may be?
Turning to home, while I do not support the death penalty, I am deeply concerned that our judicial system is so lax that we do not have substantial sentencing to deal with those who it might otherwise be argued qualify for the death penalty under the old standards. We must ensure that we have in place a regime of life sentencing, where life means incarceration for the rest of one’s natural life. I decry the weakness of most state and territory governments who are not willing to ensure substantial sentencing for the most heinous crimes and ensure that our courts hand out the severest penalties where the severest penalties are justified.
While standing in solidarity with you on the issue of rejecting the death penalty, my challenge to the Stanhope government here today is that it put in place, or at least ensure that we have in place, meaningful penalties of life imprisonment and that the government demonstrates its strength and leadership to ensure high standards and more consistency in our courts for dealing with the ultimate crimes which justify the ultimate penalty—in this case, life sentencing. Surely we are relying too much on the strength of judges to exercise the protocol of marking papers “never to be released” for the most heinous of offenders. Are our laws benchmarked with a clear enough standard of what must constitute life imprisonment? How concerned are our judges to meet the community’s expectations for the ultimate offenders? How satisfied are the families of victims of extreme crimes that justice is going to be achieved, or has been achieved in the past?
I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that, right across this nation and to no lesser extent here in the ACT, the community has a waning faith in the meting out of justice at all levels of crime generally but particularly with the most horrendous crimes. Our citizens know that those amongst us who have a disdain for human life, who refuse to live a civilised