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Friday, February 20, 2015

Shooting the messenger

It's no secret that the current Australian government has a responsibility problem. Every interview, every soundbite is scripted to blame others, and Labor in particular. Recently, Queensland and Victoria's LNP governments went down in history as one-termers. Outgoing Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, unable to take responsibility for the loss, turned on his colleagues, claiming it was their fault. Just after the election he blamed Labor and Unions as if there was something wrong with them campaigning against his attacks on workers.

This blame game, apparently in the DNA of the LNP, has now morphed into shooting the messenger ... the whistle-blower.

Freya Newman blew the whistle on Prime Minister Abbott's daughter, Frances, being granted a $60,000 scholarship for a Bachelor of Design course. The revelations were published on New Matilda (1). While the Abbott government was planning to deregulate university fees that would drive up the cost of degrees, Freya Newman revealed that a secret deal was done in 2011 while Abbott was Opposition leader, with the Whitehouse Institute of Design which granted the scholarship. This was at a time when the Whitehouse Institute claimed on its website that it didn't provide scholarships. Abbott failed to disclose the gift which he was required to do as an MP.  Freya Newman worked in the Institute's library and had illegally accessed files through the college's computer network to reveal the gift. The Whitehouse Institute is chaired by Les Taylor, a Liberal Party donor and long-term friend of Tony Abbott (2). It raises the question of lobbying and whether the Whitehouse Institute was expecting benefits to flow their way. The Whitehouse Institute, like many private colleges, is a recipient of government funding (3). Abbott claims that the college didn't lobby for funds ... then again, he also said he complied with the rules of disclosure (4).

How did Abbott respond to this allegation of an undeclared personal gift? He attacked the whistleblower and Freya Newman was subsequently charged. After five harrowing months, Freya Newman faced court and pleaded guilty. The Magistrate sentenced her to a two year bond but did not record a conviction as Newman's actions were not 'driven by greed or any desire to embarrass Ms Abbott'. (5)

Prime Minister Abbott has attacked the ABC on a number of occasions for blowing the whistle. For instance, when the ABC reported allegations of abuse of asylum seekers by Royal Australian Navy personnel. Surely it would have been prudent to investigate the matter rather than shoot the piano player.

Of course, this isn't the only report that Abbott and his government have criticised the ABC for. It seems any report that criticises the government is 'biased' according to the government. The ABC may be funded by the Australian government but it isn't Pravda ... it isn't the mouthpiece of the government.

The ABC reported, along with the Guardian, a phone hacking scandal in which the Australian government under former Prime Minister Rudd had been monitoring phone calls from senior Indonesian government officials, including the wife of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono(6). The report was based on National Security Agency documents that were leaked by Edward Snowden, former computer contractor with the NSA.

In relation to both of these events, Abbott accused the ABC of being unpatriotic and stated that the ABC was on 'everybody's side but Australia's'. He accused Edward Snowden of being a traitor for revealing illegal behaviour by the Australian and American governments. Ironically, Abbott also stated that the ABC should give the Navy the 'benefit of the doubt'(7). Ironic because Abbott declared that Australia had to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to asylum seekers (8). So, based on this logic it's ok to give benefit of the doubt for allegations of abuse by military personnel but not to give the benefit of the doubt to people fleeing persecution and abuse.

Recently, the Australian Human Rights Commission released its 'Forgotten Children' report which blew the whistle on systemic abuse of asylum seekers, particularly children, in immigration detention on Nauru and Manus Island. The report documented serious issues of abuse that had resulted in physical and mental illness in children. It reported suicide attempts, deteriorating mental and physical health and a basic lack of human rights by the Australian government. The report called for a Royal Commission into the treatment of children in immigration detention. Instead of acting on the report to ensure children were not abused, that their human rights were respected and a Royal Commission held, Abbott tried to have the President of Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, sacked for the report (9). He accused the report of being partisan even though the abuse it documented commenced under the previous Labor government. Triggs revealed the information while Abbott and his then Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, perpetuated the abuse.

On 16 February 2015, ABC's Four Corners program revealed wide-spread incidence of live-baiting within the greyhound racing industry. Live-baiting includes the use of live animals, such as rabbits, piglets and possums, to train greyhounds who run them down and kill them. It is illegal and it is cruel. The report resulted in the entire board of Greyhound Racing NSW being stood down (10). Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, attacked the ABC and the whistle-blowers who had trespassed in order to gain the evidence(11). Of course, had they not trespassed the scandal wouldn't have been exposed.

Contrast this to when Four Corners revealed allegations of the brutal slaughter of live exports to Indonesia. Then Prime Minister Gillard banned live exports until Indonesia could prove animal welfare safeguards were in place (12). Although she eventually gave into agriculturalists and resumed live trade, she didn't shoot the messenger.

Former Prime Minister Howard had a record of attacking whistle-blowers too. He attacked and attempted to discredit intelligence analyst, Andrew Wilkie, who blew the whistle over the false 'weapons of mass destruction' claims being used to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 (13). Wilkie quit his job and entered politics, initially as a Greens candidate and then as an independent member.

Attorney-General George Brandis has called for the jailing of an ASIS officer who revealed that Australia had been spying on East Timor Cabinet during negotiations for the Timor Sea Treaty (14).

These are not facetious or trivial claims, so why is the government attacking the whistle-blower instead of taking action on the claims. The Abbott government is introducing legislation to jail journalists who publish Snowden-style leaks(15). The government is clearly opposed to freedom of speech and particularly opposed to those who reveal the misconduct, or the possibility of misconduct, by the government or its agencies.

In 2014 the government changed the rules for whistle-blowing which made it an offence for a whistle-blower to go public rather than keep the matter internal(16). This means that those within an agency, or even the Minister, could try to shut down the whistle-blowing without ever acting on it. Given the government's history of shooting the messenger, federal public servants may be more inclined to 'leak' the information rather than come out as the whistle-blower.

Gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson said, 'There are always risks in challenging excessive police power, but the risks of not challenging it are more dangerous, even fatal'. This quote doesn't just apply to police powers, but to government power, behaviour, policy ... and those things they government wants suppressed or hidden.

What ever happened to transparency and good government?

Surely good government includes doing the right thing, caring for people and acting on allegations of impropriety.

Rather than shooting the messenger, the government should heed the message.

Update 9 March 2015

The United Nations has released a report into Australia's detention centres and found that they breach the international convention on torture. Abbott's response? Shoot the messenger! Instead of being horrified by the report, Abbott stated that Australians are 'sick of being lectured by the United Nations' (17).

The report found a number of breaches of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, including the indefinite detention of children and the deportation of Sri Lankan asylum seekers. It's no surprise that Abbott has shot the messenger. After all, Abbott and his government unleashed an unprecedented attack on Gillian Triggs, President of the Human Rights Commission for reporting the systemic physical and mental abuse of children in Australia's detention centres.

Abbott's behaviour clearly shows that he has no concern with child abuse or torture. Instead, he is genuinely horrified that someone would dare call him out on it. His behaviour, and that of his minister's, condones child abuse, condones torture, condones human rights abuses.

What sort of amoral human being ignores abuse and torture, ignores the perpetrators of it, ignores the role his government and government policies have played, but attacks the whistle-blower.

Abbott provided Sri Lanka with two naval vessels to hunt down and capture anyone who dared try to escape the brutality of the Sri Lankan government. Four days before the release of the UN report, the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice reported that 84% of people in north-east Sri Lanka have experienced a family member being detained (18). The Campaign was pleading with the British Home Office not to tighten rules on asylum seekers from Sri Lanka because the situation is as dangerous as it ever was. Disturbingly, they warned of reprisal actions by Sri Lanka's paramilitary organisations. The UN has also stated serious concerns about the level of torture in this country. The same country whose torture and human rights abuses Abbott sponsors and is happy to return asylum seekers to.

Is it any wonder then, that Abbott has not grasped the gravity of the UN report into Australia's breaches of the torture convention. This is a government of cruel, fascist politicians who consolidate power through fear-mongering. They attack the most vulnerable in the world purely for political expediency.

A UN report that identifies Australia's detention policies amount to torture and human rights abuses. An Australian Human Rights Commission report that identifies ongoing abuse of children because of Australia's detention policies. For each report, the Abbott government attacked the author rather than defending the victims against the abuse and torture reported.

What next? Will the government start blaming rape victims for being raped?

Blaming the victim is the hallmark of the coward and the corrupt.

Based on the government's response to these reports, it's failure to act or take responsibility, it is clear that Abbott presides over a depraved, corrupt and criminal government.


1. New Matilda, Chris Graham and Max Chalmers, 21 May 2014, 'Leaked Documents Cast Doubt On Abbott's $60k Scholarship Claims', Accessed 19 February 2015.

2. Sydney Morning Herald, Dan Harrison and Daisy Dumas, 21 May 2014, Accessed 19 February 2015.

3. Whitehouse Institute of Design, Accessed 19 February 2015.

4. SBS, Source AAP, 'College didn't lobby for funds: Abbott', 23 May 2014, Accessed 19 February 2015.

5. SBS, Gary Cox with AAP, 'No conviction for student who leaked Frances Abbott's scholarship details', 25 November 2014, Accessed 19 February 2015.

6. ABC, Michael Brissenden, 'Australia spied on Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, leaked Edward Snowden documents reveal', 5 December 2014, Accessed 19 February 2015.

7. ABC, Latika Bourke, 'Prime Minister Tony Abbott says ABC not on Australia's side in interview with 2GB', 4 February 2014, Accessed 19 February 2015.

8. Sydney Morning Herald, Liam Mannix, 'Bad people' treating us as mugs: Abbott's national security warning, 15 February 2015, Accessed 19 February 2015.

9. Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Gordon, 'Revealed: Abbott government tried to remove Gillian Triggs as head of the Australian Human Rights Commission', 14 February 2015, Accessed 19 February 2015.

10. Sydney Morning Herald, Natalie O'Brien and Chris Roots, 'NSW Racing boss says no excuses for live baiting of greyhounds at training', 19 February 2015, Accessed 19 February 2015.

11. The Australian, Jared Owens, 'Barnaby Joyce criticises activists in greyhound live-bait expose', 17 February 2015, Accessed 19 February 2015.

12. Sydney Morning Herald, Richard Willingham and Tom Allard, 'Ban on live cattle trade to Indonesia', 8 June 2011, Accessed 19 February 2015.

13. The Age, AAP, 'Personal attacks don't explain war: Wilkie', 23 August 2003, Accessed 19 February 2015.

14. Crikey, Bernard Keane, 'Brandis moves to jail whistleblower and lawyer for revealing ASIS scandal', 1 September 2014, Accessed 19 February 2015.

15. The Guardian, Paul Farrell and Daniel Hurst, 'Journalists will face jail over spy leaks under new security laws', 16 July 2014, Accessed 19 February 2015.

16. Lowy Institute, The Interpreter, 'The silence of the lambs: The public service, leaks, and whistleblowing in Australia', 2 May 2014, Accessed 19 February 2015.

17. The Age, Lisa Cox, 'Tony Abbott: Australians 'sick of being lectured to' by the United Nations, after report finds anti-torture breach', 9 March 2015, Accessed 9 March 2015.

18. Tamil Guardian, '84% of people in North-East have had a family member detained, says Sri Lanka Campaign', 5 March 2015, Accessed 6 March 2015.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Australia's manufactured debt crisis

Treasurer Joe Hockey has been sounding the drums of economic war by proclaiming the Australian economy faces a 'budget emergency'. Key to this is his claim that Australia is borrowing $100 million a day.

The ABC, bless their hearts, fact-checked this claim and found it was true (1). In fact, they found Hockey had slightly under-stated it. Australia is borrowing $110 million a day using the Hockey formula of dividing the deficit ($40.362 billion as of December 2014) by 365 days which equals a tad over $110 million a day. At the time of the claim, the Australian Office of Financial Management reported Australia's gross debt at $350.734 billion.

These are big numbers. Big scary numbers which fit well with the LNP script to scare the bejesus out of the electorate ... you know, scare us with terrorism (Labor's fault), asylum seekers (Labor's fault), budget emergency (Labor's fault). Labor is all that is wrong with the world if you listen to the LNP MPs who sound more like Doomsday Parrots then members of parliament.

The ABC Fact Check then quotes Professor Jakob Madsen of Monash University who states, 'I think it's a bit alarmist'. You think? He then goes on to point out that measuring the deficit as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a better measure of an economy's health. The deficit is 2.5% of GDP. Scary stuff that.

That means that GDP is 40 times the deficit. Hardly an emergency.

What it indicates is that in this society of 'lifters and leaners' (to quote one of Abbott's insightful three word slogans), there are some who could lift a tad more.

Numerous economists have been pointing out that Australia does not have a spending problem, but it does have a revenue problem. And that problem isn't because of a lack of sources of revenue, but a structural problem with its tax system that sees the lifters being at the lower end of the income spectrum while the upper end shirk their responsibilities ... are in effect, leaners. ABC Fact Check quotes Richard Robinson from BIS Shrapnel who succinctly sums it up, 'In my opinion, a large chunk of the revenue problem is due to large tax benefits to already wealthy people, with the largest of these being superannuation breaks, capital gains tax breaks and negative gearing'.

Hockey has extrapolated the fear-mongering further by claiming that by 2037 Australia's debt will reach a whopping $1 trillion (2). Another huge number. But what about GDP?

Australia's economy is growing at 2.7% per annum (3). This is around average for the last 20 years in which its growth generally ranged between around 1% to 5%. Erring on the side of the conservative, let's extrapolate this to 2037 using 2.7% as average (it's actually a tad under if anything). If Australia's economy continues to grow on average over the next 22 years as it did over the last 20, GDP will be $3 trillion by 2037. Around THREE TIMES the debt. Hardly a debt crises. By comparison, the United Kingdom's debt to GDP ratio is more than 90% and the United States is 71%. Australia's debt to GDP is the lowest in the OECD (4). At 30% or so, that is an enviable position.

Imagine having a mortage of $33,000 with a $100,000 income.

Would you panic?

No, of course not. You would make sure you were paying for it, but you wouldn't slash investments (spending) if it would cut into your revenue (income). That sort of policy is what's known as austerity ... and it is economic suicide.

LNP economics is one dimensional. It gives one side of the story while failing to consider other aspects. It fails to mention what bang we get for our buck. While some money is wasted, for instance the $1 billion a year on the illegal treatment and human rights abuses of asylum seekers (5), other money is well spent ... such as on infrastructure and tax concessions for the lower paid to increase their disposable income so they can spend it in order to help keep business afloat and increase consumer confidence.

If anything, Hockey's scare-mongering confirms one thing: Australia's economy is sound, strong and resilient. It is able to weather its current debt and deficit without attacking and demonising welfare or workers.

The Australia Institute released a paper in September 2014 that categorically shot down the LNP mantra about budget emergencies and all that fluff. At that time, Australia's debt was 13.8% of GDP (6). This report was signed by 63 of Australia's leading economists warning against austerity measures that had decimated European economies and which the LNP were willing to implement.

Where is the emergency? Well, I'm glad you asked. The emergency is in touted expenditure cuts. One of the reasons for Australia's decline in revenue is because of increases in unemployment as pointed out in the Australia Institute report. Only last week, Australia's unemployment reach 6.4% (7). The highest it has been in 10 years ... ironically, the last time it was this high, Australia's now Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was Employment Minister. Coincidence? I think not.

We started with an ABC Fact Check so let's end on an ABC Fact Check. A few months after the 2013 election, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen claimed the LNP doubled the deficit within eight months of being elected. ABC checked this out and found it to be true (8). Reasons for this included:
  • axing the carbon price - $2.8 billion over four years. (Remember, 'axe the tax' - another of Abbott's mindless three word slogans which was factually incorrect as the carbon PRICE was not a tax if anyone took the time to read the legislation, particularly Section 100, subsection 11 which states, ' ... it is not a law imposing taxation within the meaning of Section 55 of the Constitution' (9). I encourage you to read it, it's a ripping good yarn).
  • giving the Reserve Bank of Australia $8.8 billion
  • immigration detention - $2.8 billion over four years (obviously understated given the later report mentioned above that found Australia is spending $1 billion per annum)
  • land transport infrastructure program - $5.6 billion over four years
  • Students First Package - $1.2 billion over four years.
There is no budget emergency in Australia. The 'emergency' is purely a work of political fiction to shore up confidence in the LNP and to discredit the Labor Party. It makes for an effective sound bite. It feeds the mindless three word slogans of Prime Minister Abbott.

There will be an emergency however, if the government fails to increase revenue by sourcing the wealthy and continues programs that cut jobs, pay and conditions for the lower paid ... those cuts will plummet Australia into recession which won't be good for the economy.


1. ABC News, 'Fact check: Hockey over-eggs 'borrowing $100 million a day' claim', 13 February 2015, Accessed 14 February 2015.

2. The Daily Telegraph, Andrew Carswell, 13 February 2015, 'Australia’s debt crisis is a staggering $1 trillion nightmare, Accessed 14 February 2015.

3. The Sydney Morning Herald, Gareth Hutchens, 4 December 2014, 'Australia's economy is still growing, so why does it feel like we're struggling?, Accessed 14 February 2015.

4. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, 'Country comparison: public debt', Accessed 14 February 2015.

5. The Sydney Morning Herald, Sarah Whyte, 20 October 2014, 'Offshore detention centres: annual costs hit $1 billion, Accessed 14 February 2015.

6. The Australia Institute, Economists’ Statement on Commonwealth Budgetary and Economic Priorities, Accessed 14 February 2015.

7. The Sydney Morning Herald, Mark Kenny, Gareth Hutchins, 13 February 2015, 'Abbott government rocked as unemployment hits highest rate since 2002', Accessed 14 February 2015.

8. ABC News, 'Fact check: Has the Government doubled the budget deficit?', 10 June 2014, Accessed 14 February 2015.

9. Australian Government, ComLaw, 'Clean Energy Act 2011 (repealed)', Accessed 14 February 2015.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The rise of ISIS - Labor's fault?

Earlier this week, two men were arrested in Sydney for allegedly plotting a terrorist attack. The allegation is that they were in position of a $12 machete and a home-made video allegedly declaring their loyalty to Islamic State (ISIS) and their intention to kill a police officer.

Almost immediately, Prime Minister Abbott made a big deal about one of the men being an Iraqi refugee who had sought asylum in Australia. Apparently, the man had flown into Australia on a false passport.

Of course, this was Labor's fault ... so Abbott claimed.

As he does. As the entire LNP does. Their mantra, their modus operandi, if you are ever able to stomach one of their repetitive interviews is to (regardless of the question), bang on about how they 'stopped the boats', 'axed the tax' and ... I don't know ... something else. Either way, they come back to blaming Labor. They're like robots. Heard one LNP MP, heard them all. It's like listening to Bart Simpson. 'I didn't do it', Bart constantly exclaims. The LNP is the Bart Simpson of politics. Constantly stuffing up and constantly blaming others while repeating the same ol' same ol' over and over again.

But I digress. The Attorney-General, George Brandis spruiked from the 'blame Labor' band-wagon that Labor's immigration policies had caused the rise in domestic terrorism. Hmm ... one or two foiled incidents and it's all Labor's fault.

Well, Labor didn't cause ISIS or other terrorist groups.

ISIS was a direct result of the Coalition of the Willing illegally invading Iraq on the basis of a lie. Remember the Weapons of Mass Distraction lie? Sorry ... Weapons of Mass Destruction lie. Prime Minister John Howard, US sycophant, couldn't wait to send Australian troops into Iraq. Not the first lie in which he was happy to commit the Australian military. Remember the 'children overboard' lie and the Tampa crisis. All lies and crises invented for his popularity.

Prior to that, the Coalition of the Willing invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban were allegedly sheltering Al Qaeda who supposedly was responsible for 9/11. Maybe so. However, it didn't justify the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Funnily enough, Saudi Arabia, good friend of the USA, was implicated in 9/11 yet they weren't invaded ... too much money and power? Let's just pick on a country with an Army that can't possibly compete with such sophisticated Western weaponry.

The invasion of Iraq and subsequent overthrow of former US-puppet, Saddam Hussein, directly gave rise to numerous sectarian groups vying for power. ISIS being one of them. Saudi Arabia also funds ISIS, yet remains a 'good friend' of the USA.

If Brandis is so concerned about terrorism, he should look at his own party. It was his party who blindly and slavishly followed simpleton US President, George W. Bush, into the illegal invasion against a country that was no threat to the US, Britain, Australia or any other member of the Coalition of the Willing. In addition, the LNP has proudly declared its support of Israel which continues its illegal occupation and war-crimes in Palestine. Both of these actions have contributed immensely to angst against the West. Brandis doesn't see this because it has to be all Labor's fault.

Apparently, if someone threatens Australia, or the US, or Britain, it's perfectly acceptable to bomb the crap out of people who had nothing to do with it. But, if said people decide they need to defend themselves against unprovoked Western aggression then its terrorism and god help their mortal souls. All bets are off as the West (USA, Israel and so on) unleashes 'shock and awe' on innocent people, killing thousands of civilians, with the obsequious LNP cravenly waving its 'Go you good thing' flag.

Then there was the LNP donation of a couple of Naval vessels to the Sri Lankan government, a known abuser of human rights, to hunt down anyone who dare escape the persecution. Go you good thing, LNP, we can't have people thinking they can run away from torture and execution now. What sort of message would that send? Well, it tells me that the LNP condones torture and execution ...

While Abbott was trying to link asylum seekers to terrorism (as his hero, John Howard, also did), the Human Rights Commission released a damning report into the human rights abuses being committed by the Australian government against asylum seekers whom they continue to imprison in the gulags of Manus Island and Nauru. Holding vulnerable, traumatised adults and children for years (without charge of any crime, mind) while depriving them of basic rights of freedom, education, decent accommodation, food and water.

Abbott, a former trainee priest and supposedly 'practicing' Christian, stated that he was proud of his treatment of asylum seekers and that the Human Rights Commission should thank Scott Morrison, another self-proclaimed Christian, for stopping the boats. Apparently that is all the policy was. Stop the boats. The ungrateful asylum seekers should be thankful they didn't drown at sea but have been left to experience the criminal abuse of the Australian government.  Praise the Lord for a Christian government! A government who is proud to physically, emotionally and spiritually abuse the world's most vulnerable while discouraging victims of war, torture and persecution to leave their persecutors and seek safety in a 'Christian' country.

It's time the LNP grew up, grew some cajones and took responsibility for their own abusive, aggressive and illegal actions instead of opportunistically exploiting world tragedy to bolster their polling by intimidating the Australian public through lies and fear campaigns ... and looking for any excuse to blame Labor or refugees. How low is it to demonise asylum seekers, the world's most vulnerable people, who have no voice and are unable to defend themselves against such lies and abuse.

The LNP is promoting Islamophobia, hate crimes and xenophobia while trying to claim they uphold family values and are defending Australia's security. Our security is not at threat. Our family values, however, are under direct threat by the immoral actions and fear-mongering of Abbott and his cronies.

Terrorism is not a result of asylum seekers ... it is a direct result of foreign policy and intervention, of backing despots, war-crimes and human rights abuses to further Western imperialism.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

State-sanctioned murder of Chan & Sukumaran

The state-sanctioned murder of Andrew Chan & Myuran Sukumaran

Indonesia inches closer to its promise to execute Australian drug traffickers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran despite their appeals, pleas for clemency, requests from the Australian government and numerous human rights groups.

Indonesia has been practicing the death penalty since 1973 and reserves it for murder, terrorism, drug trafficking and genocide. It is enforced through firing squad, in which the accused criminal is blind-folded and stands or kneels before a squad of 12 armed executioners. Three of the 12 use live bullets, the other nine fire blanks. The practice is cruel and barbaric. Prisoners don't always die immediately. If they survive, the Commander issues another bullet and the prisoner is shot in the head. The prisoner and their family are given 72 hours notice of the impending execution.

The government believes it is sending a strong message and a deterrent to would be criminals. Without doubt, there would be some who would think twice about trafficking in Indonesia, yet the country has one of the highest rates of drug abuse in Asia and claims 50 people a day die from drug abuse. Clearly, the death penalty is not the deterrent the Indonesian government believes it is.

Victorian Supreme Court judge, Justice Lex Lasry told ABC's 7.30 Report on 11 February 2015, 'I don't believe there are any circumstances at all in which governments should take men or women out and kill them. We must be surely getting past the point where governments regard killing as a legitimate punishment. There are all sorts of other punishments - life imprisonment and so on - but the idea that a government would take individuals out into the bush, as they would here, and shoot them is just something that I can never live with and never understand, and apart from anything else, from a legal point of view, no-one really claims now that it has any real deterrent value. It's just a terrible thing to do'. (1)

The legality of the death penalty was challenged in 2007 but the Indonesian Constitutional Court declared it was constitutional.

The current round of state-sanctioned murders is purely political. President Joko Widodo was only elected in October 2014 in a close fought election. It had been two years since an execution, but almost immediately after the election, Widodo proceeded with executions of prisoners on death row. Six faced the firing squad in January 2015; all had been convicted of drug crimes. Former Labor Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans summed it perfectly when he said that Widodo was 'trying to demonstrate his cajones, his testosterone'. (2)

The President is adamant that Chan and Sukumaran will be executed in February 2015 despite their pleas, despite their rehabilitation. Both men have contributed immensely to the well-being, education and rehabilitation of other inmates. Sukumaran studied art under the mentorship of Melbourne artist, Ben Quilty. He continues painting and has even sold some of his paintings to raise money for other inmates, such as Maria Cecilia Lopez who needed $4,000 for an operation on a tumour. Both Chan and Sukumaran have been actively involved in drug rehabilitation programs in prison, providing assistance, guidance and inspiration to other prisoners. Chan has become a Christian pastor and leads church services.

The Australian Federal Police are complicit in the deaths of Chan and Sukumaran. They were aware of the 2006 drug trafficking operation and could have arrested Chan, Sukumaran and the other members of the 'Bali 9' before they even left Australia. The AFP was well aware of the fate that awaited traffickers in Indonesia, yet they chose to let the nine travel to Bali for the operation before informing Indonesian authorities. The AFP has blood on its hands.

Some have argued that the men deserve to die because the drugs could have killed innocent people in Australia. A shallow argument. People aren't forced to use drugs. They use them because they choose them. No-one would have stopped using drugs because of the failed Bali 9 operation. Drug users, and their parents, need to take responsibility for their own actions and not blame others. The drug industry faces the same economic laws as every other industry. Namely, supply and demand. If the demand isn't there, there won't be supply. Contrary to what some believe, dealers are not nefariously aiming to increase supply by 'getting others hooked'. People choose to use drugs. Killing their traffickers does not stop or change this.

More importantly, killing the mules doesn't change this. The drug lords aren't the ones getting caught. They continue living in luxury looking for other mules to take the risk. This includes the man suspected of being the drug lord that Chan and Sukumaran were mules for. If reports are to be believed, he is living in luxury in Sydney (3). As we often see when it comes to the law, it's the ordinary person who pays the price while the wealthy get away scot-free.

Facing a firing squad is a high price to pay for politicians wanting popularity, to demonstrate their 'cajones', for a failed policy and for a stupid mistake the men made and admit to. They haven't denied trafficking and don't deny they should be punished. Life in prison would be preferable to death. It would also be more productive. They have touched the lives of many in prison and would have positive influence on many others over the coming years.

And it's not just about Chan and Sukumaran. No-one, regardless of the crime, should be executed. The death penalty is state-sanctioned murder, whether it's in Indonesia, the United States or any other country.


1. ABC, 7.30 Report, Leigh Sales, 11 February 2015, Supreme Court judge Lex Lasry calls for clemency for Bali 9 duo, Accessed 12 February 2015.

2. Brisbane Times, Deborah Snow, 11 February 2015, 'Bob Carr calls on AFP to explain themselves over Bali Nine'. Accessed 12 February 2015.

3. Sydney Morning Herald, Nick Mckenzie, Richard Baker, Michael Bachelard, 11 February 2015, 'Suspected Bali Nine mastermind living in luxury as Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran sit on death row', Accessed 12 February 2015.

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