No death penalty, no shades of grey

George Williams; 2/3/10

The Death Penalty Abolition Bill debated in Federal Parliament last week is the most important initiative on the death penalty for decades. If passed, it will block any state attempt to bring back capital punishment. In so doing, the law would be a clear and principled statement that Australia renounces the death penalty now and into the future. Although the death penalty has been absent from the statute book for 25 years – NSW was the last to eradicate it in 1985 – the new law is needed. The silence in federal law on capital punishment means the death penalty could be reintroduced by any state at any time. This is not only a legal but a political possibility due to statements made over many years by our leaders. The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, is the latest to try to have it both ways. He said recently he had ”always been against the death penalty”, but went on to say that, in the case of someone ”who cold-bloodedly brought about the deaths of hundreds or thousands of innocent people”, you ”start to think that maybe the only appropriate punishment is death”.