Federal Treasurer Peter Costello has accused the Labor Party of supporting the Bali bombers, after Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman Robert McClelland criticised Prime Minister John Howard’s approach to capital punishment.
In a speech last night Mr McClelland accused Mr Howard of supporting the death penalty for a Bali bomber, despite the Government’s anti-capital punishment stance.
Today Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has publicly reprimanded Mr McClelland for the comments saying he thinks terrorists should rot in jail. Mr Rudd also says any government he leads will not intervene in other countries executing terrorists.
Mr Costello says sympathy should be going to the families of those who died in the Bali bombings not the people who carried out the attacks. “I think it was a very strange time for the Labor Party, to come in support of the Bali bombers,” he said. “Let’s not forget, the Bali bombers killed 88 of our fellow Australian’s. Let’s have some sympathy for the 88 dead and their families, rather than sympathy for those who cruelly and cold bloodedly decided to kill them for no reason, other than they were Australians.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has told Sky television Mr McClelland was stating Labor policy and says Mr Rudd has tried to cover it up. “Mr Rudd has articulated that policy on many occasions before because it doesn’t look good in the media,” he said. “Mr Rudd now thinks he should rap Mr McClelland over the knuckles.” — ABC News
In case you can’t read that:
The Australian Government is universally and consistently opposed to the use of capital punishment in any circumstances. The death penalty is an inhumane form of punishment which violates the most fundamental human right: the right to life. If this sentence were to be carried out, it would be received with outrage in Australia and in the wider international community…
Australia consistently raises its opposition to the use of the death penalty with countries employing capital punishment…
Who’s cynical, then? It’s a question of character, isn’t it Mr Downer? Or are your apparently unambiguous words mere tokens that looked good in the media then? Does anything you ever say ever mean a damned thing? Ever? Naive of me of course to expect any better of you, Costello or Howard…
Of course there has been an equivocation on the issue in recent times: Australia’s policy on the death penalty.
Kevin Rudd has handled this badly too. Ever keen to exploit divisions, Alexander Downer is now saying that Robert McLelland has been treated shamefully by Rudd, and sadly there is an element of truth in that. But let it be remembered that the slimeball tactic here in the first place was Costello and company trying to paint opposition in principle to the death penalty as support for the Bali bombers. That is disgraceful.
Just two last questions. One here and one there.
… been critical that the Australian Government fought for the death penalty in some situations, like the Bali bomber, and not in others …
Who says that sorry?
Amnesty International, (inaudible) like Van Nguyen. Can you see Australia changing its stance on the death penalty, do you think, after this situation?
No Australia does not practice the death penalty. No State in Australia practices the death penalty, and the Federal Government does not support the death penalty. But you have got to understand this point, other countries have their own legal systems, and when you are in other countries, you become subject to their legal system. Australia does not run the legal system of Singapore, it does not run the legal system in Bali. These are sovereign countries, they decide what to do in their countries, just as we would not run our criminal system on the advice and the direction of a foreign country. These countries do not run their legal system on the advice and direction of Australia. People have got to understand this. Here is a message for tourists. When you go into Singapore you are not under Australian law, you are under Singapore law. Do not run drugs, and do not run them in Australia by the way, either. Do not run them in Singapore, and if you run drugs in Singapore, you are under Singaporean law, other than the Australian Government making representations, you are in within the province of the law, and the imprisonment system of that foreign country. Sorry, last question…
A point, speaking of sensitivity, that may have escaped all sides yesterday was made by an Indonesian lawyer:
With the fifth anniversary of the 2002 Bali bombings only days away, an Indonesian lawyer representing the Bali bombers and the Bali nine, says political wrangling over the death penalty is making it harder to save the lives of condemned Australians. Wirawan Adnan represents Bali nine drug mule Martin Stephens and the three Bali bombers awaiting execution in Indonesia. Both sides of Australian politics have now said they will never campaign to save the lives of individual terrorists. But Mr Wirawan says that position makes it harder to save the lives of the six members of the Bali nine also facing the death penalty.
“We perceive this as a little bit inconsistent with the death penalty and makes it difficult for the Bali nine to go for a lesser sentence than death,” he said.
Lateline is on the case: “a conga line of Cabinet ministers” from the PM down are batting “for” Robert McLelland! Memorable phrase, Tony Jones! Now where have I heard that before! Now the PM and company are displaying this generosity in total sincerity, aren’t they? Nothing to do with positioning Kevin Rudd as a fence-sitter or worse on the subject. Unfortunately, though, Kevin has in my view played it all wrong. He should have more clearly defended what McLelland said, even if accepting that is in a difficult issue for many, especially in contemplating those who brought about the Bali bombings. He has been right, and generally successful, in avoiding the wedge issues which the government has been using to bring him down, but this time I suspect he has helped his opponents. Their blinding hypocrisy is painfully obvious and just par for the course, but it has been damaging. (I’ll link to the exact Lateline story later.)
See a good post, The next prime minister, on The Road to Surfdom.
The real issue: Robert McLelland was NOT necessarily out of order and what he said, so far as I can see, was correct. Lex Lasry QC is making that point on Lateline right now and making it very well. Wrong move, Kevin. 😦 Ironic what International Day this has been, isn’t it?