Page 4558 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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At 6.00 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the debate was interrupted and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for the next sitting. The motion for the adjournment of the Assembly was put.


Nguyen Tuong Van

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (6.00): Time, as we know, is running out for Van Nguyen. His execution has been scheduled for 6.00 am on Friday, 2 December, in just 10 days. Van, who is only 25 years old, could be killed, all for a stupid mistake he made when he was just 22.

I would like to state right here and now that I am not condoning what Van did. Yes, he certainly should receive punishment for the trafficking of drugs. But the question is: should he have to pay with his life? When he was first arrested, Van was only 22. He comes from a tightly knit Vietnamese family and, as a twin, would do anything for his brother. He was in a vulnerable position, a position that others took advantage of for their own gain.

Last week we successfully passed an anti-death penalty motion. I am proud to say that it was an historic moment for the Assembly, with all 17 members officially recording their abhorrence of the use of the death penalty in any circumstance. During the debate on Mr Mulcahy’s motion this morning, I noted that Mr Seselja used my motion and the subsequent media event as an example of the ACT government’s supposed personal vendetta against the Howard government.

I would like to remind members that I have been supportive of the actions of Mr Howard and, in fact, the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, in this instance. They have been vocal in their support for Van Nguyen and have pursued numerous avenues in an attempt to save Van from execution. However, to be taken seriously, it is important to remain consistent. Unfortunately, Mr Howard, Mr Downer and other Liberal politicians have not been consistent in their opposition to the death penalty.

For years after Australia acceded to the second optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1990, the federal government more or less advanced the spirit of the protocol by maintaining a principled opposition to the use of the death penalty. However, recent comments from prominent Australian politicians have demonstrated a shift away from these commitments, with many refusing to condemn the death penalty for terrorists and dictators. That is what is of concern.

How can Singapore take Mr Howard and Mr Downer seriously when they have made comments in support of the death penalty in other circumstances? On more than one occasion, the Prime Minister has stated that he would not protest the death penalty under Indonesian law for the Bali bombers. In March 2003, on US television, the Prime Minister further stated that everybody would welcome the death penalty for Osama Bin Laden, a statement supported by the foreign minister, Alexander Downer.

This selective opposition not only is hypocritical but also completely undermines any principled opposition our country was once recognised for. Effectively, Mr Howard is

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