Page 4235 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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for the term of your natural life. In Australia, papers have been marked “never to be released”.

Mr Pratt made a very important point in terms of the importance of having the most severe penalty available for those most horrendous crimes for the civilised Western society in which we live in the first decade of the 21st century. He is right in saying there is some commonality there across Australian jurisdictions. I think that it is important that courts right throughout the country, including in the ACT, are able to mark papers “never to be released” or that there be some mechanism in the law whereby people who commit horrendous crimes are not going to be released. That is very important and is a natural corollary of where society is at present and what community expectations are.

It is probably hard to say that there is anything like a common murder, but for normal murders, whether they be a crime of passion or perhaps even where someone intended to kill someone else but there was nothing particularly brutal or extraordinary about the situation, society expects a lengthy term of imprisonment but not necessarily imprisonment for the term of one’s natural life. But where you have horrendous murders—for example, those by Martin Bryant—society certainly expects the papers to be marked “never to be released”.

I am not certain whether that applies across all Australian jurisdictions. I cannot recall whether the ACT has provision for that or that it has ever occurred. Maybe, thankfully, it has never occurred that someone has been sentenced to imprisonment for the term of his or her natural life. If anyone has figures on that, I would be interested in having them get back to me, but I cannot recall it. Maybe that is a good thing. Maybe it means that we have not had particularly horrendous murders. We have had some pretty nasty ones here, and the territory courts have been operating since the 1930s. But it is important, I think, that we do have consistent laws across the country. Perhaps that is something the model criminal code could take up for the most horrendous of crimes in this country. I think that victims, law enforcement agencies and most people in the general public would welcome such a move.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (4.14), in reply: As I ran out of time earlier, I will finish the speech that I was making before I address the comments that have been made, but I will go back a little bit. 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. Whilst it is true that statistics cannot ever tell the whole story, the current trend in studies coming out of the US demonstrates that, at least statistically, no deterrence is achieved by imposing the death penalty.

The majority of homicides throughout the world are spontaneous rather than premeditated and are fuelled by drugs, alcohol and the availability of lethal weapons. That has been argued and statistically backed for many years and it is important to keep these facts at the forefront of our minds. With that in mind, it is even more difficult to make any sense of the federal government’s actions and words over the past few years and to understand why it has selectively endorsed and acquiesced in the execution of human beings overseas. For terrorist Amrozi, this is perhaps retribution; but for Zhang Long and the Bali Nine, it appears to come down to a basic disregard for human rights.

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