Page 1431 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

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I should emphasise that the offence at this stage is an alleged offence and that the suspect retains the right under Australian law to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty. The alleged offence, however, is the most serious one, murder, and the approach to the commonwealth to request extradition was made on the principle that alleged offences against Australian law should be dealt with where they occur—in Australia.

I have yet to be officially advised by the commonwealth of its response to my request but, I have to say, I was surprised and bitterly disappointed last night to be advised by a representative of the Canberra Times and via inquiries made by my own office that the federal minister for justice does not plan to make a formal request to the People’s Republic of China for the extradition of the national in question.

I read in this morning’s media that Senator Ellison’s office believes it would be inappropriate for Australia to seek the extradition as China does not extradite its nationals. Senator Ellison has today issued a press statement in which he says that, while he raised the matter in discussions with Chinese authorities, it would be futile—in his words—to make a formal extradition request and that the federal government would not do so.

I have to say that I do not accept that. While I acknowledge that there is no extradition treaty currently in force between China and Australia, I do not believe that this ought to be the end of the matter. Extraditions can and do take place in the absence of extradition treaties. Australia’s own extradition act does not require a treaty to be in place. That act simply provides that the commonwealth Attorney-General can request or authorise a request for the surrender of a person from a country in relation to an offence against the law of Australia punishable by more than 12 months imprisonment.

Whether or not such a request is granted is, of course, a different issue. That is a decision for China to make. But the very least that Australia could do is lodge the formal request for extradition. It should pursue every means at its disposal to ensure that an alleged and exceptionally serious breach of Australian law is investigated and resolved here in Australia by Australian courts according to Australian rules of evidence and Australian notions of justice and punishment.

The Canberra community needs to have confidence that alleged crimes committed in the ACT will be investigated and resolved here in the ACT. The community needs to have confidence that those processes will occur unhindered and free of fear or favour. The people of the ACT are entitled to know, and to have a full explanation from the federal government, whether there are any reasons why Australia should not pursue this extradition request to the extent that it is legally able to do so. They have a right to know why the commonwealth government will not lodge a formal request with the People’s Republic of China to extradite to the ACT a person wanted in connection with a brutal and aimless crime—the murder of a young woman in Belconnen. The victim of this alleged crime deserves no less.

I will conclude by saying that I will not let the matter simply rest. The federal minister for justice, in his press release of today, while describing the prospects of lodging a formal request as a futile exercise, adds by way of explanation that, because the matter involved two Chinese nationals, the valid interest that China had in pursuing the matter

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