The SMH reported yesterday that
LAWS prohibiting states and territories from reintroducing the death penalty are being seriously considered by the Rudd Government and could be introduced this parliamentary term.
Even for a government as hyperactive as the Rudd government this proposal seems excessive. After all, nobody has actually received capital punishment since 1967, and according to the SMH article the last state formally removed it from the statute books in 1985. The 2007 Australian Election Survey suggests that, for the first time, capital punishment has minority support. Neither regular appalling murders, nor the introduction of tough anti-terrorist measures, has seen any serious attempt to get the death penalty reintroduced. The issue is as dead as Ronald Ryan, the last man to go the gallows. For good reason, the Australian political class has lost the will to kill.
So why this proposal? According to an accompanying article
The move is intended in part to reinforce with Asia Australia’s opposition to the death penalty – given concern at the fate of three Bali Nine members on Indonesia’s death row.
But this proposal relies for its significance on a distinction between state and federal law that is barely understood within Australia, much less within Asia. I fail to see how an obscure constitutional point adds anything to our international advocacy, much less to the substantive debates within Asia about the advantages and disadvantages of the death penalty.
Double banning capital punishment seems to me to be soft left symbolic politics at its most ridiculous.