Like Van Tuong Nguyen – executed in Singapore last year for drug trafficking – Scott is young, admits he was naive and wrong and reflects deeply on his stupid mistake. A fatal mistake.
I oppose the death penalty. And I believe that such opposition must be consistent and not selective.
For our government to plead for the life of Scott Rush and Van Nguyen but then argue the Bali bombers should die is inconsistent.
To our neighbours it appears the height of white men’s hypocrisy.
For the Opposition to now say “me too” – that Labor would never intervene for an Indonesian terrorist’s life but only an Australian’s life – does not enhance our claim to high principle in universal support of abolishing the death penalty in our region.
Our human rights advocacy seems subject to our interests and nationalism.
Both major parties have previously called for the death penalty to be universally abolished.
Now both the Coalition and Labor will pull their punches if Australian populism demands it.
Both risk entrenching our region’s cynical judgment that Australia does not care for high principle and we will not object to the region continuing to execute its own.
Our political leaders will only express some shrill repugnance when it is an Australian life in front of the firing squad. Of course most of the executions in our region, particularly China, are not for terrorism but minor crimes like theft and fraud.
Most of the world’s executions are in the Asian region, with at least 3861 people sentenced to death in 55 countries in 2006.
Only 25 nations carried out executions in 2006, 91 per cent of them in just six: China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the US.
If the political parties are to be taken seriously then let them advance a qualified opposition for the death penalty that terrorists are the exception.
Let them argue for a special category of heinous crimes that deserve the ultimate punishment.
This would resonate with the Australian public trying to make sense of why thieves and drug mules suffer the same fate as Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, who killed 88 of our fellow citizens.
It would be the escape chute for both parties who want to look tough on terrorism and yet are signed up internationally to total opposition to the death penalty and so dance and weave according to the public’s moods.
Personally, I prefer a global ethic that says the death penalty anywhere is barbaric. It is not a deterrent and the state as executioner suffers disorientation and disrespect.
For Scott Rush and the rest of the Bali Nine, their best chance is universal, not selective, opposition to execution.
Tim Costello is World Vision Australia chief executive