Tuesday, October 9, 2007

McClelland Shows Integrity, Is Quickly Reprimanded

When I checked the news this morning, I was delighted to hear that the Labor Party not only opposes capital punishment - that much, we knew - but was willing to say so this close to the election. Public opinion on the death penalty is decidedly mixed at the best of times. The spoof website Values Australia summed it up as follows:

1. Australians do not support the death penalty.

1.1 At least, not for Australians, especially in other countries.

1.2 However, Australians do support the death penalty for non-Australians in other countries.

1.2.1 After all, they're just ignorant, uncivilised nig-nogs...

1.3 ...although Australians do not support the death penalty for non-Australians within Australia....

1.3.1 ...because that would make us just like the ignorant, uncivilised nig-nogs.

I needn't have been too excited. It was only a matter of hours before the iron fist of Kevin Rudd made itself known: Yes, he opposes the death penalty, but it's insensitive to say so right now. I say he's right. Questions of morality involving life and death should always be considered secondary to people's possible hurt feelings.

Never mind that McClelland made the statement on Monday, in a speech delivered to a human rights group, or that the anniversary of the Bali bombings is not til Friday. In Kevin's sunshiny new world, reiterations of existing ALP policy should never be made within five days of the anniversary of any terror attack. In fact, Rudd went one step further: he now retroactively supports the death penalty of Hussein and Amrozi, and even indulged in a little hypothetical condemnation of Osama bin Laden to the gallows.

In this matter, as in life, Kevin is merely falling in line with his supposed adversary: John Howard has said he doesn't support the reintroduction of the death penalty in Australia. But the rationale for Howard's stance is utterly utilitarian: he doesn't want to see any irreversible miscarriages of justice, at least not on his watch. This allows him to be oddly equivocal about the application of the death penalty; hence his confounding statement, in 2003, that despite not supporting capital punishment in Australia, the matter is really for the states to decide. Hence, also, his ambivalent response to Van Nguyen's hanging in Singapore. And hence his refusal to oppose the death penalty when applied to foreigners in foreign jurisdictions - Amrozi in Indonesia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq. "Different people have different views", says Howard, sometime States' rights advocate and cultural relativist.

Kevin Rudd has no such excuse. His objection to capital punishment is a priori and based on his Christian faith. He's always been consistent in the past, having previously opposed the execution of Saddam Hussein. As he outlined in the Monthly magazine in 2006:

“The Christian belief in the sanctity of life should cause us to conclude that capital punishment is unacceptable in all circumstances and in all jurisdictions.”

In all circumstances except the leadup to an election, that is. Or, as Mr Rudd would have it, in all circumstances except within five days of the Bali bombings anniversary.


diego luego said...

What a load of hypocrisy. Alexander Downer is even worse, using painfully twisted logic to prove that McClelland was right and Rudd wrong.

Christians (like George Bush) are clearly told by the ten commandments "Thou shalt not kill". This is an absolute command, without exceptions. It does not say except when sanctioned by state... or religion....or when it is someone we don't like....or a foreigner.

(The Koran gives a little more room commanding "Do not kill unjustly".)

Lucy said...

Agreed. Downer is the WORST, what with the faux concern for McClelland and lauding McClelland's principled stance vis-a-vis Rudd's flip-flop. Please. Downer is hardly one to talkabout principle. The only thing he stands for is hating Kevin Rudd.

It annoys me that McClelland's speech is being reported as a "gaffe", too. It's not a gaffe, it's their POLICY. They should own it and defend it. People can be persuaded if you're right and you hold your ground. Is that too much to ask?