Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 November 2005) . . Page.. 4200 ..
I note that more than 30 years later the family of Ronald Ryan is still seeking to clear his name. There is some compelling evidence, with modern ballistics and modern science, that would indicate that he did not commit the murder which resulted in his execution. For me, that is the hub of it. When evidence comes to light, you can release from prison somebody who was wrongly convicted; you cannot release somebody from their coffin or from their cremation once they are executed. Death is permanent. Given the number of cases that have been overturned, we should not go to this position at all. That is the stance that I would have; that is the stance that I would always take.
It is interesting to look at the history of the death penalty in Australia. New South Wales was, in fact, the last state to completely abolish the death penalty. Oddly enough, New South Wales had capital punishment for certain crimes—treason and piracy—and it was not removed until 1985. In a general sense, New South Wales had removed capital punishment as early as 1955 for other criminal acts. Western Australia is then recognised as the last to abolish it in a general sense, and that was not until 1984. It was still on their statute books then.
The ACT removed it in 1973. As some of us heard at the Supreme Court the other day when Chief Justice Higgins was talking about the use of the death penalty, there were a number of people in the ACT sentenced to death but, thankfully, no executions were carried out here. My position on this is quite clear. I do not support the death penalty.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.50): It would hardly be a surprise that I support Ms MacDonald’s motion asserting the Legislative Assembly’s abhorrence of the death penalty. The Greens global charter agreed to in 2001 in Canberra by 70 Greens parties from five continents is clear in its opposition to the death penalty. The Greens party opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, even for abhorrent murderers like Saddam Hussein. The death penalty, it seems to me, is about revenge and not about justice. It degrades our humanity and should not be condoned by anyone.
If the Australian government is genuine in its opposition to the death penalty, we should be opposing it not just in Australia but overseas as well. The Australian government’s support for other countries’ use—Iraq, Indonesia, Singapore, China and the USA—of the death penalty has left the Greens questioning Australia’s real opposition to capital punishment.
Since the last man was sentenced to death and was hanged—and Mr Smyth has given us a little bit of history in regard to the fact that Australia was once a country where various states carried out the death penalty—we have taken a strong, principled stand against capital punishment. In 1986, diplomatic relations with Malaysia were strained when Australia protested the execution of two Australians, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers. The then Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, went so far as to describe the death penalty as barbaric. As we know, that did not go down very well with the Prime Minister of Malaysia at the time.
In October 1990, Australia acceded to the second optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that commits signatory nations to abolishing the death penalty within their borders. In the introduction to the second optional protocol, it is made clear that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of