Statement by Member: Death Penalty
(North Sydney) (13:52): Forty-four years ago this parliament passed legislation to abolish the death penalty for federal or territory offences, and it is 51 years since the last person in Australia was executed under state laws. While these reforms are longstanding domestically, we can now be even prouder of Australia’s global role in campaigning for the abolition of what is fundamentally a scourge on any justice system that purports to use that name.
This week, parliamentarians from all sides of this place joined civil society groups to participate in the launch of Australia’s new strategy for the global abolition of the death penalty. My opposition to the death penalty is founded on the view that the state should never take the lives of its own citizens. The death penalty is irrevocable, and any miscarriage of justice simply cannot be rectified. In the United States, for example, it is estimated that four per cent of Americans facing death row have subsequently been found to be innocent. As the foreign minister pointed out this week, it is used disproportionately on the poor, on minority groups and on people with mental disabilities. With this new strategy, Australia will continue to be a leading global voice for the end of the death penalty. It is never a fruitless cause, and I am very pleased that just last week Malaysia announced it would remove the death penalty from its own judicial system. I congratulate the foreign minister and her predecessor, the member for Curtin, along with Senator Dean Smith and the member for Fowler for their work on an issue I believe rightly unites us all.