Page 4199 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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In Beamish’s acquitting judgment, the criminal Court of Appeal highlighted that 44 years ago the strength of the case against Beamish was very strong and that they would have agreed with much of what was said at the 1964 court in that regard. So strong was the case against Beamish that it took five previous appeals for him to receive the justice he deserved. At his acquittal, Mr Beamish is reported to have said:

All I ever wanted was truth and justice. I have just wanted everyone to know for sure that I didn’t kill anyone. Now they know.

In their concluding paragraph the Court of Appeal noted that there had been a significant miscarriage of justice for Mr Beamish. They stated:

It is indeed a miscarriage of justice where man has had to spend 15 years of his life behind bars and the rest of his life clearing his name. But we cannot compare the injustice that would have occurred if the state had executed Mr Beamish.

The second major reason against the death penalty is that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. Many academic studies have shown that murder rates do not drop when the death penalty is imposed. While it is true that statistics can never tell the whole story, the current trend in studies coming out of the US demonstrates that, at least statistically, no deterrent is achieved by imposing the death penalty.

MR SPEAKER: The member’s time has expired.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (11.46): I guess this is a timely motion, given the case of the young man in Singapore and his sit on death row; so I thank Ms MacDonald for putting the motion on the notice paper. It is interesting that it calls on the Assembly to reaffirm its abhorrence of the use of the death penalty. I am not aware that the Assembly has ever affirmed its abhorrence. Perhaps Ms MacDonald, in her closing speech, will tell us when a previous motion was passed. I asked the library and the clerks to check on that. The only debate that we have had on the death penalty was in December 1992, according to the library. The clerks are still checking for me. Ms MacDonald might like to correct that or at least tell us when the debate happened.

Traditionally in the Liberal Party, the death penalty is a conscience issue. My conscience on this is very, very clear. I am opposed to the death penalty. I do not believe in its use or that the taking of a life to make up for the loss of life of another or for some other crime brings justice or offers anything to a civilised society. I guess that is a consistent stance that I have taken and that is why I have always voted in favour of life. That is why I will vote against abortion; that is why I will vote against euthanasia; and that is why I will always vote against capital punishment.

For me, it goes back to 1967. I can remember, as a young second grade student at the school I was at in Sydney at the time, St Patrick primary school in Kogarah, the good Sister Angela made us all kneel and say the rosary when the Victorian government executed the last individual in Australia to be hanged, one Ronald Ryan, on 3 February 1967. That had a profound impact on me. I do not recall the discussion a great deal, but simply that the sister railed against the taking of any life. That has stuck with me for a long, long time.

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