Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 November 2005) . . Page.. 4237 ..
I would like to address some of the comments that have been made. Comments were made by a few members of the opposition about the issue of abortion in relation to certain members of the opposition being opposed to abortion and supporting life in all cases. My position on this issue is on the record, but I will summarise it. I respect the views of those opposed to abortion but do not agree with them. I think that all members of this place know of the difficult position I am often placed in with regard to being married to somebody who is pro-life while I am pro-choice. I am not one that believes that life begins upon conception, and that is the difference between us. This is a very different issue. When we talk about the death penalty, we are talking about life; unequivocally, we are talking about life.
I thank members for lending their support to this motion. A number of things were said today which I thought were of great value in contributing to the debate and I do appreciate the tripartisan support in this place for this motion. I think it is incredibly important that we do affirm our opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances.
I would say in relation to Mr Pratt’s speech that I was a bit confused by it. There are a couple of things that I do want to address about his speech. He said that he was neither for nor against this motion, but he was opposed to the death penalty. That is an interesting stance to take because this motion quite unequivocally puts forward an opposition to the death penalty. So, if you are opposed to the death penalty, you would support this motion.
There was also the comment made that it was inappropriate to hector other countries over their stance on the death penalty. How can we expect to get rid of the death penalty if we are not prepared to put to other countries our opposition and a coherent argument against why the death penalty is wrong? I do not accept that you can make a distinction between different countries on the basis of their economic or democratic status.
The fact is that the death penalty is the same, that it has the same result, whether you are in Zaire, China or Australia. It is not showing disrespect to tell another country that they are wrong to take people’s lives. Mr Pratt talked about trafficking in drugs resulting in more deaths, et cetera. That is not an argument for allowing countries to use the death penalty. The death penalty has not actually acted as a deterrent against people doing that, and that is the bottom line. The death penalty does not deter people from committing those crimes.
There was also discussions by both Mr Pratt and Mr Stefaniak about putting in place proper life sentences whereby certain people are never to be released. This argument often comes up from those people in favour of stronger, harsher sentences. I would just point to the separation of powers between this place and the judiciary and say that it is up to the judiciary to make the decisions as to what sentences are given. Obviously, we legislate but they make the distinction.
I think that it is fitting to finish with the words that Mr Stanhope quoted: “If we are to still violence, we must cherish life”. I think that is it at the end of the day. Finally, I thank Tim Goodwin from Amnesty International for coming down from Brisbane for the day.