Page 4204 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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As members would have heard in the adjournment debate last night—and it is worth reinforcing it here—it is my intention to reinstate the Amnesty International parliamentary group for this Assembly because it is through measures such as this that we, as legislators, tell our fellow legislators across the world our views and make it clear that we will not condone the inflicting of death upon people by judicial means in the same way as we do not condone the inflicting of death by non-judicial means. There is no difference. We debase ourselves if we condone the death penalty in any place. That is my firm belief. We should, as legislators, work to ensure that we live in a world where people do not feel the need for recourse to the death penalty because, in doing so, we debase our whole humanity.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (12.06): About 28 years ago, I walked into the South Carolina state penitentiary—not as an inmate, my colleagues opposite will be sorry to hear—in the company of an evangelical lay preacher who was administering pastoral care on a Sunday morning at that facility. I had the opportunity to meet a number of inmates. In fact, I sat in cells and chatted with various people.

With one exception, I did not discuss the reasons why they were in there but just spoke to them as individuals and tried to get a little bit of a picture of what they did before they were there. However, I could not enter one inmate’s cell because he was in for multiple life imprisonments and, as they do in the United States, was in for 150 years or something. He volunteered, as we chatted, that they were about to get him on another crime he had committed in another state.

I looked out the windows of that establishment and saw high-tension power lines leading into another building where the electric chair was located, which I did not see. When I left that facility, I spoke to my friend about the people I had met and chatted to. I was stunned to know that everyone that I had met was on death row.

We talk a lot about these things. I would respectfully suggest there are not probably too many people, if any, in this establishment that have been inside a US prison and met and spoken with people who are facing that potential outcome. It brings home the barbarism of this practice when you see that these are human beings who have, for whatever reasons, committed various crimes, it is assumed, but who are, at the end of the day, living human beings.

There have been some attempts earlier this year to mischievously characterise my position as either ambiguous or unclear on this issue. I want to make it very clear today that there is not now and never has been any ambiguity in my position on these matters. I do not have a selective view about the sanctity of life. Some do, or they rationalise their position. I have a very strong view about the sanctity of life, even if it is an unborn child. As a parent, having seen the movement of that unborn child prior to birth, no-one will convince me that life is not within.

I live in constant concern about where the lobby groups for euthanasia might ultimately develop in this nation, as people are constantly talking about the cost of health care and the burden of the aged and elderly as the society becomes older. I certainly have, to use the words of the mover of this motion, an abhorrence of capital punishment of any form for any reason.

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