TRANSCRIPT - Weekend Sunrise, Saturday 14 February 2015

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SUBJECT: Bali Nine. 


ANDREW O’KEEFE, PRESENTER: Time is running out for the Bali Nine pair on death row. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran clinging to the hope that Indonesia's President may grant clemency.

MONIQUE WRIGHT, PRESENTER: Now both Australian political parties put aside their differences this week to appeal for mercy. Including Deputy Labor Leader, Tanya Plibersek, who knows first-hand what a difference a second chance can make.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION [footage]: I perhaps have a particular view on remorse and redemption because of experiences in my own life. In 1988, my husband left prison after being charged and convicted of a similar crime to these young men. I imagine what would have happened if he had been caught in Thailand, instead of in Australia where that crime was committed - where he was coming back to Australia. I think about - I didn't know him at the time, this is 30 years ago. What would the world have missed out on? Well, they would have missed out on the three beautiful children that we have had together, they would have missed out on a man who spent the rest of his life making amends for the crime that he committed.

O’KEEFE: Tanya Plibersek joins us now. Morning to you, Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: Good morning.

O’KEEFE: You’ll be far too modest to say this but knowing your husband, Michael, just a little bit, he is an incredibly dedicated public servant and just a beautiful man. Can you tell us a little bit about his road to redemption?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I wouldn't normally have talked about my personal life in Parliament in this way but I thought it was important to share this story at this time because he made a terrible mistake 30 years ago. He did a really bad thing. He acknowledges that. But he has actually spent three decades trying to serve our community to make up for it. I thought about these young men, that they should have that second chance too, to - I am not saying that they shouldn't be punished, of course they should be. They have done something really seriously wrong, and in fact punishment has to be part of it. But to have a second opportunity to reform themselves and to return something to society, I think that that is something that everyone should be granted, that opportunity for a second chance.

WRIGHT: And in fact, they have been given the chance to rehabilitate in prison which they have done. Yet, it almost seems as if that's not being rewarded. You also have another personal perspective on this. This is through your brother, Philip's murder.

PLIBERSEK: Well, the reason this is relevant is because we need to - we don't live in a society where we take an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth any more. We don't see gaol as retribution. It's punishment so that people can improve themselves and turn their lives around. I mentioned Philip's death because if you had let me make the decision then, I could not have thought of a punishment bad enough. But I am glad that we live in a society where we make decisions about punishment based on universal rules, rules that apply - you think through the rules and then you apply them without fear or favour to anyone. I think that's a really important principle in our justice system today. We don't let emotion run away with us. We apply the rules consistently.

O’KEEFE: I mean, some people would say that that's what the Indonesian government are doing. They are not letting the personal stories of Andrew and Myuran get in the way of the application of their universal principle of capital punishment. So...

PLIBERSEK: I understand, Andrew, why people say they are in Indonesia, they are under Indonesian law. I think a lot of Australians have said that. I understand why people say that. But the truth is, that there have been a range of sentences given to drug dealers in Indonesia and I would also say that the Indonesian government is lobbying around the world for its own people. They have got around 300 people on death row in other countries. They are lobbying for their own people not to be put to death. So I am sure the Indonesian government understands how Australians feel about Australians being put to death in Indonesia. No one is saying these young men shouldn't be punished. They’ve clearly done the wrong thing. It's the type of punishment. Because this isn't just a punishment for these two men, it is a punishment for their families too. Taking these young men away from their families, that is forever for their poor mothers and their parents. This is forever. I think it really weakens the Indonesian argument for their own citizens on death row in other countries if they are applying the death penalty in Indonesia.

WRIGHT: You stood in solidarity this week with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. She has said that there is a risk Australians will boycott Bali in particular, us being their largest tourist dollar.

O’KEEFE: There seems to be an online movement towards that already.

WRIGHT: What do you think about that? That people are feeling like this may be the only way that they can show- they have signed the petition. Nothing seeming to work. Well, we are going to show with our dollars.

PLIBERSEK: I understand why people want to do that but I actually think the stronger argument with the Indonesian government is if you want your own people off death row in other countries, then you have to show mercy at home. I've been to Bali a few times, probably like most Australians. I always found that the Balinese people were incredibly warm and welcoming of Australians. Bali is a long way from Jakarta. I am really not sure that boycotting Bali is going to make much of a difference to attitudes in Jakarta.

O’KEEFE: Yeah, you would imagine it would cause the Balinese economy to collapse as well, given that a million Australians went there last year.

PLIBERSEK: And when you have been there, you see that Balinese culture is quite unique in Indonesia. It's not the same as Javanese culture. I think my sense was always for example, after the Bali bombings, after the Marriott Hotel bombings in Jakarta, the Balinese people stood in solidarity with Australians. In fact I was in Bali when the Marriott Hotel bombings occurred and I remember sitting on Jimbaran beach and seeing some young Balinese man flying a kite that had a tail hanging off the back of it that said, I better not say the word on television, but "mm Terrorism". You know, just wanting to express that they were so against the attack on the Westin hotel, the targeting of Australians.

WRIGHT: It's an awful thought to think that Balinese people would suffer. I also understand how Australians might be feeling, that they just are powerless, this is might be the only way they can do something.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah that’s right, it's easy to understand the point of view but I am not really sure that boycotting Bali makes a difference in Jakarta unfortunately.

O’KEEFE: Ultimately though, this is a question of what a person can do to redeem themselves and to contribute to society when we don't apply the death penalty, in the way that your husband has done so admirably. Tanya, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - 4BC, Friday 13 February 2015

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SUBJECT: Bali Nine. 


LORETTA RYAN, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition joins us now. Tanya, that must have been a pretty hard and emotional time for you in Parliament yesterday. Why did you decide to share your story?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well I don’t normally talk about my personal life at work. But I think these two young men, Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran, in Indonesia, I feel so sorry for them. You know, they’ve absolutely done the wrong thing and I think it’s quite proper that they serve a very long gaol sentence and maybe even the rest of their lives if that’s what Indonesia law says. But the reason I shared my story yesterday was because thirty years ago my husband did something very wrong, but he’s managed to turn his life around and more importantly he makes a really strong contribution to our community now as a father, as a husband and through his work as well. And I just wish for these young men that they have the same opportunity to repay their debt to society. No one’s saying they haven’t done the wrong thing, of course they’ve done the wrong thing, they’ve done something very seriously wrong. But taking away their lives doesn’t help our society in any way, it just means that they can’t repay the debt.

SKIPPEN: You’re right, Tanya. I thought it was brave of you yesterday,  and I know you’ve never shirked that- I knew your story and your husband’s story before, but to share it in the public forum now on record in the Federal Parliament, I thought it was a very, very brave move by you. Do you get disappointed by the, I guess it’s a red neck attitude from elements of our society here, when they say ‘well they’ve done the crime, they knew what could’ve happened to them, so it’s going to happen now, so suck it up’?

PLIBERSEK: I actually do understand that point of view. It is true that if you are in another country, you abide by the laws of that country. I completely respect the Indonesian government’s right to set harsh penalties to what they see as a huge problem. They’ve got a lot of people dying from drug abuse in Indonesia so I’m not surprised that they’re trying to tackle it in a tough way. I understand people saying ‘you’re in Indonesia, you abide by Indonesia laws’, that’s true. I’m not arguing that Indonesian laws shouldn’t be applied, what I’m asking for is mercy and the opportunity for these two young men to repay their debt to society. Nobody’s saying they shouldn’t have been caught, they shouldn’t have been convicted. I completely accept all of that.

The point is, if you take their lives, does it really teach anyone not to do the same crime? There’s a lot of evidence that says the death penalty is not a deterrent. If it was a deterrent, you wouldn’t have countries like the United States that have very tough applications of the death penalty, you’d have less crime there but it hasn’t shown up as less crime in the United States. So I guess the question is, are you just punishing these young men as an act of retribution or is it a genuine - I mean, they can’t reform themselves if this punishment is carried out. The other thing, I guess, I really think about a lot is, if Michael had been in this situation thirty years ago, if he had been caught in a country with the death penalty, his mother would’ve - that would’ve been the end of her. As it is now, she suffered through a lot when he went to gaol, as these young men’s families are suffering with them, but to have their lives taken away, that’s a life sentence for their families too.

RYAN: Tanya, we’re trying to save them at the eleventh hour, was enough done before this years ago? Couldn’t we have done something to plead for their mercy then?

PLIBERSEK: A lot of work has been going on over very many years. Every Prime Minister, the last five Prime Ministers have raised this at a presidential level each time they’ve met with the Indonesian President. Most of this work is being done behind the scenes. All of our diplomatic advice has been that making a big scene and a carry on is really counterproductive. So at a Prime Ministerial to a Presidential level, Foreign Minister to Foreign Minister, when I met the previous Foreign Minister in Indonesia, every time, the case of these young men has been raised. And we’ve even used in more recent times a whole lot of other Australian business people working in Indonesia, former Ambassadors, all sorts of people who might have some influence. But that’s all been done behind the scenes because all of our advice has been that making an issue of it would be counterproductive.

SKIPPEN: Looks like at the moment we have a new President who wants to make a mark. We appreciate your time this morning and thank you so much for sharing your story on the Federal floor yesterday.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you for inviting me onto the show.


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2UE, Thursday 12 February 2015

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SUBJECT:  Bali Nine.


JUSTIN SMITH, PRESENTER: Ms Plibersek, thank you for your time.


SMITH: Again, I thought you both did a terrific job in trying to get this across. The fear is that this is going to fall on deaf ears, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think we can give up yet. I think it’s very important that we continue to use all of our relationships with Indonesia, the formal relationships, informal relationships to contact the Indonesian Government and say that we understand that these young men have done something wrong, we accept that they will be in gaol for a very long time, but we plead for their lives.

SMITH: You, I believe, have only in the last few minutes received an updated briefing. Are you able to give us any more detail?

PLIBERSEK: I spoke to the Foreign Minister during Question Time but I believe that you’ll be speaking to her after 4 o’clock so I think it’s better if she talks through those things. We have been in constant contact but I’ve been very careful not to speak publicly in any way that might jeopardise the fate of these boys.

SMITH: No, look, I think that’s a testimony to the way that you’ve both behaved on this and I congratulate you for it. I’ll get that detail off her at 4 o’clock. And as I mentioned before, I played part of what you said in the House today, this is personal for you, isn’t it? Your husband in 1986 received a nine year sentence for, I think it is conspiracy, to import narcotics and I- as I said before, I’ve not met your husband but, I think you’ll back me up on this one, I heard that he’s a ripping bloke but also he is a terrific public servant and has spent the rest of his life trying to be a good father, husband and do good deeds but he could have been put to death as well, couldn’t he?

PLIBERSEK: And I guess that’s why it was- I mean, I’ve always opposed the death penalty and my opposition to it is based on the principle that governments shouldn’t kill its citizens or citizens of other nations, that it’s not the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, I don’t agree with it. But personally, of course it made me think what would have happened if Michael had been picked up leaving Thailand, that was the place that he was coming from, instead of coming into Australia, or if he had been coming from some other nation, of course I think that and I would never had met him and I wouldn’t know what I was missing out on. But his poor mother would have suffered the rest of her life and we wouldn’t have had the three beautiful children that we’ve got. He wouldn’t have been able to repay his debt to society which he tries to do every day.

SMITH: He is a person that you can hold up and say ‘hey, people do stupid things, they even do evil things, and drugs is an evil business and let’s not dance around it, but they can become good people’. And I think Chris Bowen, your colleague, said on Q&A the other night, I thought it was a terrific sentiment which is that these guys, the ringleaders of the Bali Nine should actually be poster people for rehabilitation.

PLIBERSEK: And I think that’s an important thing to say. The person who has committed the crime has to genuinely be contrite. They have to genuinely accept that they have done the wrong thing, that they deserve to be punished and they have a debt to society that they need to repay. These two young men, Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran, by all accounts, including the gaol governor, they’ve made a huge effort to rehabilitate themselves and to help other prisoners, to improve- to raise money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, improve the conditions of the gaol, teach English, improve the quality of life for the other prisoners. So, I think- I’m not saying that they don’t deserve to be punished. I think it’s very important that we have strong laws and drug importation is a terrible crime because it hurts a lot of people. But if someone has genuinely- they genuinely accept that they have done the wrong thing, they are being punished, I’m not sure how the death penalty actually benefits anyone in that situation.

SMITH: Brazil and the Netherlands withdrew their ambassadors. Would you support something like that? I mean, do we need to start looking at something like that?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s very important that while we’re advocating for the lives of these two young men, that’s what we focus on. I think it’s very important that all of our conversations at the moment are specifically about these boys and we don’t start getting into those kind of hypotheticals. I think it’s quite a dangerous thing to do at this stage.

SMITH: But to withdraw them, our Ambassador now, would be dangerous? I’m not talking about a protest, Tanya, I’m not talking about a protest afterwards, I’m talking about one right now.

PLIBERSEK: Actually we’ve got an acting ambassador in Indonesia at the moment, our permanent ambassador- we’re just between ambassadors at the moment. So the one who’s gone there now hasn’t been sworn in yet, of course he’s doing the job that he’s supposed to be doing. But it’s a little bit of a complicated diplomatic situation. And I think, Justin, we really need to focus, the thing right in the middle of our minds is what will help these boys best. We are taking a lot of diplomatic advice from our Department of Foreign Affairs, from former diplomats, from senior business people, Australians who are working in Indonesia and I think it’s important to follow their advice because they will understand what will be most effective with the Indonesian Government.

SMITH: Is there a- I’m not suggesting that people in the Australian government don’t know what they’re doing, or our diplomats don’t know what they’re doing, but is there something here that we’re not getting? Is there some connection between Australia and Indonesia that is not there? We think we understand the Indonesian Government, we think we understand the new president, but in a way we just don’t, we just simply don’t.

PLIBERSEK: I think we understand them but we have a fundamental disagreement because Australia dispensed of the death penalty many decades ago. We signed international conventions that urge other countries to also move away from the death penalty. We are opposed to the death penalty not just in Indonesia, but with our ally the United States, with China, our major trading partner. We oppose it whenever and wherever. And the Indonesians, they haven’t used it often, particularly in the last decade, but they think that the death penalty is an important part of the range of punishments that they can use. So we’ve got quite a fundamental different approach.

SMITH: Well, again, well done on the way you spoke today. You sounded upset there. The Foreign Minister sounded also very, very emotional. This is an awful thing that is going to happen.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the Foreign Minister was particularly upset when she was talking about the family of Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran and I think it’s hard not be moved by the great loss you can see their mothers, sisters and so on anticipating. They are beside themselves because of course it’s every parent’s horror scenario that their child might die. It’s hard not be moved by that, I think all of us have seen it on TV. And I guess it’s a real feature of this punishment, it’s not just a punishment for the criminal, it’s a punishment for everyone who loves them.

SMITH: Thank you very much for talking to me, I appreciate it.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Justin.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC 702, Thursday 12 February 2015

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development





ABC 702



Subject/s: Clemency for MR Chan and mr sukumaran.


RICHARD GLOVER, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is on the line, hello Tanya.


GLOVER: Good we just listened to both Julie Bishop’s speech and your speech. They were both very powerful, very emotional, connected into things you’d experienced, in her case meeting the family. But in your family I imagine there was part of you that never wants to mention your husband’s dark past yet you did so today.

PLIBERSEK: Richard I don’t normally talk about it. I spoke about that 30 years ago my husband was charged and convicted of a similar crime to these two young men, and I don’t normally talk about it but I felt so strongly that a story of a person able to redeem themselves and lead a productive life and repay at least part of their debt to society is an important one to tell.

GLOVER: Redemption is possible you’ve seen it with your own eyes.

PLIBERSEK: It’s not about me today Richard, there are so many examples of people around us who have done something wrong and they should be punished, they should suffer the consequences of their actions. I’m certainly not arguing these young men shouldn’t be in gaol. But the point is people do go on to live productive lives where they can help other people and perhaps contribute something back to society and if they lose their lives they lose that opportunity.

GLOVER: You made the point that had he committed a similar crime in Indonesia or Malaysia a lot of things wouldn’t have happened for you or anyone else, he’d be dead.

PLIBERSEK: Well Michael was picked up coming back from Thailand to Australia. If he had been picked up in Thailand he would have had a very different experience. If he’d been picked up in Indonesia or many other countries he would have had a different experience. He went to rehab and he went to gaol. And it was quite right that he went to gaol. In fact I think he’d be the first person to say it was important that he face the consequences of his actions but thirty years later he’s a very productive member of society. We’ve got three beautiful children and I think that as a community it’s very important to know that people should face the consequences of their crimes, should be punished but also should have an opportunity to repay through their living service to their community.

GLOVER: Prison often ends up with more drugs, more crime back in prison. It’s a revolving door. Do you understand what it was about him that managed to produce a different outcome to that?

PLIBERSEK: You’d have to talk to him. Look I think he had a loving family I think that certainly helps. I think he genuinely experience contrition. I think that genuinely helps. I think to face the fact that you’ve done something deeply wrong, you really want to change your behaviour. And I guess the background to his story is that he was using and addicted to drugs when he became involved in a conspiracy to import drugs and he was able to stop using drugs with the help of the Salvation Army rehab and of course that makes a world of difference too.

GLOVER: And he says, I think you say this too, that every day he tries to make amends. He’s conscious of it every day.

PLIBERSEK: And I think every day he does.

GLOVER: That’s amazing isn’t it.

PLIBERSEK: Yes it is.

GLOVER: You’re obviously proud of him.

PLIBERSEK: Yes I am and I think about the families of these two young men and I think about Michael’s mother and she would have suffered the last thirty years if she’d lost her son, as these young men are facing. The punishment is not just for the offender it’s for everyone who loves them, whatever their faults and failings. When I talk about these things I don’t mean to minimise the seriousness of the crime that they are charged with. The crime, had they been allowed to complete it, would have done a lot of damage to people. I think it’s important to acknowledge that and say that our sympathy for people facing the death penalty doesn’t absolve them of responsibility for what they’ve done wrong. But as I said in my speech today about three and a half thousand years ago our first codified laws were written down on the Stela of Hammurabi which included an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I’m not sure that that really serves us well today.

GLOVER: You mentioned your three children as an outcome of his continuing life today, was it hard to tell them about what dad had done?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah it was actually really hard but they have kind of accepted it in their stride because it’s like it happened to a different person it’s so far removed from the man they know. I mean anyone telling their kids what they were like as a teenager, your kids kind of roll their eyes and don’t really believe you anyway because they only think of you as the boring parent they see every day. Yeah it was awkward and I wondered… there’s two things I want my kids to learn from it, the idea of redemption and forgiveness but there’s also the idea that if you do something wrong you have to face the consequences and sometimes that involves facing up to punishments too.

GLOVER: And contrition has to be genuine.

PLIBERSEK: Well of course, it’s not contrition if it’s not.

GLOVER: He told you on the first date, that’s a bit of a date spoiler isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: It was not quite the conversation I thought we’d be having at the end of the Thai meal on Oxford Street. I had no idea when I met him about any of this and his history and it came as quite a surprise. I think the stranger thing was not that I was prepared to look beyond it and accept him as he was then, but that my parents were able to do that. When I introduced him to my parents a couple of weeks later I told them about Michael’s background and they were always just kind and loving to him and treated him in the way that they were raised to treat people which is with generosity.

GLOVER: Well you either believe in redemption and the possibility of paying for your crimes and then moving on. We either believe in that or we don’t. And if we do believe in it… and it’s quite interesting a few years ago that Melbourne criminal who wrote the children’s book, I’ve forgotten the name right now. Chopper Reid. I was a bit conflicted about it, a bit confused about it because he’s on the publicity circuit and I said to people right here, should we have him on? Because he’d done pretty serious crime but he’s written, he’s out of prison and he’s written this book and I was always surprised by the reaction which was ‘he’s done his time.’  That was the reaction, he’s done his time, of course if the book's any good interview him about the book. It’s no good saying to someone who’s done their time ‘you can never have a proper job again you can never make a contribution again. It’s not only unfit, it’s a recipe for disaster.

PLIBERSEK: But there is the responsibility on the person who’s done the crime to never behave like that again. That’s the important part of his story too, that you do have a debt to pay. That you do foreswear the behaviour that got you into trouble in the first place. You have to be as I said earlier, genuinely contrite. And these two young men in the Indonesian gaol Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran are by all accounts, they are model prisoners. The Governor of the gaol in Indonesia says that they are model prisoners and that they set a good example for other prisoners. They’ve done charity work, improving the conditions of the gaol, raising money for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. They should have the opportunity to dedicate the rest of their lives to making things better for the people around them.

GLOVER: And as Julie Bishop said in her speech to Parliament how amazing it is that other prisoners are offering to go to the execution in their stead they feel so strongly about these two.

PLIBERSEK: Well they’ve got a lot of supporters in the gaol, in the system there, the authorities and by all reports they are not just contrite but trying to do something good with the rest of their lives and I’m not really sure what purpose it serves to take away that opportunity to repay their debt.

GLOVER: Thank you for talking to me. It must be hard to talk here but also talk to parliament about such personal things. Thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Richard.


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TRANSCRIPT - 3AW, Thursday 12 February

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SUBJECT:  Bali Nine.


TOM ELLIOTT, PRESENTER: Ms Plibersek, good afternoon.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you, Tom. Thank you for inviting me on.

ELLIOTT: Well look, I saw your speech, I didn’t see it live, but I watched it on television and it was a very powerful speech, and I also watched what the Foreign Minister did. Tell us why this issue touches you so personally.

PLIBERSEK: Well the first thing to say is that I’m always opposed to the death penalty, whoever, wherever, I think it’s always wrong. But today in the Parliament I spoke about one of the reasons I feel that way. About thirty years ago, before I knew him, my husband was charged and convicted of a similar crime to these two young men and of course it makes me think what would have happened if he faced the same penalty that they’re facing. He went to gaol, he was caught in Australia but he went to gaol and he served his time in gaol and he’s spent the rest of his life repaying his debt to society. And by all accounts, these two young men are also doing their very best to redeem themselves, to reform their behaviour, to help other prisoners and I hope they have the same opportunity. I think there’s no question they’ve done the wrong thing, they should have a very long time in gaol. I’m not arguing that they haven’t done the wrong thing. But I think the problem with the death penalty is you never have an opportunity to repay your debt to society.

ELLIOTT: Did your husband tell you that the gaol reformed him, I’ve read that he spent I think it was three years in places like Long Bay and other gaols in NSW. Did it have a reforming effect on him?

PLIBERSEK: I think in a way it saved his life. He spent a year in rehab before he went to gaol and then in gaol and facing the consequences of what he did, you know, cutting off drugs, that was very hard, but facing the hurt that he’d caused to society, facing the hurt that he’d caused to his family and the people that loved him was very important in him changing his life completely.

ELLIOTT: The Indonesian President Widodo has said he will not give in to pressure from Australia and change his government’s policy on carrying out death sentences. Do you think it helps Chan and Sukumaran when the Foreign Minister makes speeches like the one that she made and you make speeches like the one you made or do you think that might even make this situation a bit worse?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Tom, we’ve been working together for a long time now behind the scenes. There has been many bipartisan efforts on behalf of these young men and we’ve been taking the advice of our diplomats that it wasn’t the right time to make our pleas public. We’ve received advice now that it is the right time to be more public in our pleas so we’ve done that. But this is not the first time that Julie Bishop and I have worked together on this, it’s been some months now. We’ve written together to the Indonesian Foreign Minister and we’ve worked together to use all of our diplomatic channels, all of our informal connections to plead for the lives of these young men.

ELLIOTT: Do you think it might work? I mean, do you think there’s a chance the Indonesians might at the very last moment say ‘look, we’ve changed our minds, we’ve heard what the Australian Government has to say and we’re going to commute your sentence’?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Tom, of course we respect the Indonesian law and the right of the Indonesian government to apply their own laws. But we also understand that the Indonesian government have hundreds of their own people on death row in countries around the world and they plead for the lives of their citizens too. I think it makes it much more difficult for the Indonesian government to plead for mercy or clemency for their own people if they’re not showing it in situations like the one we’re talking about with Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran.

ELLIOTT: I’ve had a lot of calls on this program and another program on 3AW as I’m sure radio stations around Australia have, saying ‘well, look, my child has been badly affected by drugs, our family has been affected by drugs, stuff Chan and Sukumaran, they deserve what’s coming to them’. What would you say to people who think like that?

PLIBERSEK: I understand why people think like that. Anybody who’s watched someone they love face drug addiction knows that it is terrible, it is devastating, it robs you of the person you love and leaves you with a shell of a person. I understand why families feel hurt and I understand the terrible things that drug addicted people do. And the reason my husband, he doesn’t use this as an excuse, but the reason he committed the crime he committed was because he was a drug addicted teenager. So I don’t make any excuses for drug dealers. What I say is taking someone’s life away means that they never have the opportunity to repay their debt to society. I don’t think it stops other people committing similar crimes, all it does is take away someone’s opportunity to make amends for what they did.

ELLIOTT: Tanya Plibersek, thank you so much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you very much for inviting me on the show.


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SPEECH - 2015 Australasian Aid Conference

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Every now and then, an image, a story, a funny cat video goes viral on the internet.

A couple of weeks ago, a news story originally from the BBC achieved that status. It was – you’ve probably seen it – about a 90 year old great-grandmother attending primary school in Kenya. Born when Kenya was still British occupied, never having had the opportunity for formal education, this remarkable woman [Priscilla Sitienei] has worked as a midwife for more than 65 years, and in fact delivered many of her classmates.

She enrolled in school to be an example to other women, particularly young mothers who had dropped out of school, by proving that you are never too old for an education – saying: "I want to say to the children of the world, especially girls, that education will be your wealth, don't look back and run to your father."

It’s a great story with lots of feel-good factors, and you can see why it was shared so widely, especially when you get to the bit about how she still practices as a midwife out of school hours – in the dormitory she shares with one of her great-grandchildren.

And it reminded everyone who read it of the power of education, to create opportunities, ignite aspirations, to transform lives – and of the hunger for education among those who have been denied it.

That transformative power of education, to create the preconditions for individuals and nations to rise from poverty, is why the second Millennium Development Goal is to achieve universal primary education.

And the not-so-feel good part of that BBC story is that while in many places, that goal is almost achieved, sub-Saharan Africa is falling behind.

And what hasn’t gone viral, but has instead sunk without a trace, is that the Abbott Government has cut the aid to sub-Saharan Africa by more than half – cut $118m out of what had been a $224m budget under Labor.

Plan International estimates that the aid cuts mean that in the next year alone, 220,000 girls will be denied the chance to enrol in school. We have been told just in the last few days that a program to allow young women to attend school in Uganda has ended, and that programs to support youth livelihood, so critical to economic growth, in Timor and Bangladesh can’t continue. The Fred Hollows Foundation was forced to axe programs in Indonesia, China, Vietnam and within Africa .

Australians are a generous people, as the overwhelming public response to disasters and crises shows. By May 2005, Australian individuals and businesses had donated $313 million in response to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. That was a high point – but even in 2013, funding raised in Australia by humanitarian appeals in response to disasters around the world was more than $98 million.

Even in countries where foreign aid has become a hotly contested political football between parties, a large majority of people support the idea of bringing food to the hungry, medicine to the sick, education to those denied it and hope to those who otherwise have none.

Our fellow Australians are not the only ones to have an inherent understanding of a truth the current government seems unable to grasp: in a globalised world we are all connected: not merely in an abstract, ‘no man is an island’ sense but by a complex web of economic links, by trade, travel and cultural exchange.

When vaccination programs eliminate communicable diseases, we are all more healthy; when nations become markets for our goods and suppliers of their own, we are all more wealthy; and when education levels  rise and skills expand, we may not all be more wise but we all reap the benefits of innovation, invention and creativity.

However, while support for aiding others is and remains strong, support for “foreign aid” as an abstract concept, divorced from specific crises, needs and goals, is far more tenuous.

For a period, the “Make Poverty History” campaign successfully drew a direct connection between government investment in foreign aid and addressing the ills that people care about, and built a powerful consensus between citizens, NGOs, and governments.

But, as with everything, consensus must be renewed and rebuilt on a constant basis. If there is one thing politics has taught me, it is that no victory is final, no cause is ever over, and public support for any policy can never be assumed.

When it comes to foreign aid, we have seen old caricatures about waste and bureaucracy, inefficiency and corruption, once again exploited for base political gain both here and overseas – as that clear connection between our aid and the good it does slid out of the public eye and faded from people’s minds.

And in Australia, with the destruction of the bipartisan approach to aid since the Abbott Government’s election, we have seen that consensus dwindle.

When Labor was in government we nearly doubled the aid budget and worked toward the reaching the 0.5 per cent target by 2017-18. The Liberals have slashed $11.2 billion dollars from the Australian aid program, a cut at every budget and financial update since they were elected, and they have walked away from the previously bipartisan agreement on the aid program. They have now cut more money from aid than was budgeted for by Labor in our forward estimates.  In the last budget, 20% of all cuts, one dollar in every five cut, came from this one area – the biggest cut to any program was to aid. 

These cuts aren’t just a headline statistic. They mean:


  • 1,424,796 children could be born without a birth attendant
  • 2,237,280 children may not get to enrol in school
  • 3,775,052 children may not be vaccinated
  • 4,710,642 people may not get access to safe water
  • 21,944,521 people in emergency situations may go unassisted.


In the next year alone, as Plan International has calculated, the latest cuts to foreign aid could mean:


  • 220,000 fewer girls will be enrolled in school, and;
  • 400,000 fewer girls will be immunised, and;
  • 3,153 fewer classrooms where girls can learn will be renovated or built, and;
  • 157,000 fewer girls will get better access to safe drinking water, and;
  • 750,000 fewer textbooks will be made available for girls.


To retain public support, aid must be effective, it must be efficient, and it must be argued for.

Now, in the 18 months since the Abbott Government was elected, we have heard a lot about aid effectiveness, as if it were some kind of new discovery.

In fact Australia has over many years built a highly effective aid program through our NGOs and our specialist aid agency AusAID:


  • Look at Timor-Leste where we helped more than 30,000 farmers improve their yield, in some cases by as much as 80 per cent, or helped 67,000 people get access to basic sanitation.
  • Look at the mobile courtrooms in Indonesia helping disadvantaged women get marriage and birth certificates, so they could enrol their children in school.
  • Look at the women in Papua New Guinea who were able to trade their goods in the local markets because the ablution blocks our aid program had built meant they did not have to use the nearby bushes and risk being robbed or raped.

    Positive findings in our own independent reviews were backed up by the most recent Peer Review from the OECD last year, which highlighted some of the strengths of our aid program:

  • We were increasing funding in line with our target to reach 0.5 per cent of GNI, our areas of good practice were increasing and the overall degree of fragmentation was decreasing.
  • AusAID was singled out for praise for its strategic planning and the coherence it brought to key policy areas.

Our focus on gender and support of UN Women was among the best in the world, as was our expertise in disability-inclusive aid.


Aid effectiveness is not a new concept. Australia had a highly effective aid program.

It was the Abbott Government which has made Australian aid less efficient and less effective.

Abolishing Ausaid saw the loss of a tremendous reserve of expertise in aid delivery. As you all know, delivering aid programs takes a different set of skills to consular and diplomatic work – and as Australia’s record shows, the expertise, knowledge and experience of Ausaid staff enabled Australian aid to be more effective and more efficient. It was a force multiplier.

Australia needs specialists to design, run, measure and assess aid programs and to build effective partnerships on the ground.

Expertise allows us to go further than the simple platitudes so beloved by this Government, such as ‘give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime’.

Expertise leads us to ask questions like –

  • who is going to build and staff the school that provides the vocational training to teach that man to fish?
  • Who owns the cannery where he sells his excess catch?
  • Does the cannery owner pay their fair share of tax so that the government can fund education for the next generation to learn to fish? Or will different training, for different jobs, be necessary?
  • What about the downstream industries?
  • How sustainable is fishing in that area – will emphasis on fishing as a preferred trade lead to overfishing, fish stock exhaustion, and the collapse of the industry?
  • Does the fisherman get a fair price? And what role does technology have in that – for example, can he, as fishermen in Nigeria do, use his mobile phone to check prices before deciding which market to put in to?

Proverbs and platitudes fail as aid programs negotiate the challenges of tax justice, of strong governance, of inclusive and sustainable development.

Of course every dollar counts.

Labor wants to be sure our aid programs, our NGOs and private sector partners have the expertise, the skills and the professionalism needed to achieve maximum value from our investment.

We have seen – just in our own lifetimes – that goals once believed unachievable, like a polio-free India, can be attained, with methodical and targeted efforts. I believe that with focus, with application, with the appropriate expertise, other seemingly impossible tasks are within the international aid community’s capacity.

But I also know that when Australia once again has a government committed to taking aid seriously, a Labor Government, we will be trying to plant in fields sown with salt.

Australia’s government agencies have lost skilled personnel - lost expertise and experience. Successful projects have closed. We have lost skilled activists in the community and we have lost the critical community consensus.

It will not be a simple matter of pressing the restart button. Australia will have to concentrate on what we can do well, where our investment will do most good, as we rebuild an Australian aid program.

It is important to be clear about what the purpose of our aid program is: it is to attack poverty.

Aid cannot by itself lift a nation out of poverty; but it can create the preconditions for individuals and nations to lift themselves. The idea of a basic level of food, shelter and support necessary to live rather than merely exist, contains within it the understanding that no-one can innovate, can thrive, can work to reform their government and institutions, if all their energy must be ceaselessly bent to surviving each day. It is hard to learn if you don’t have enough to eat; it is hard to work if you have malaria.

Without addressing the crippling effects of poverty, other aid goals cannot be as effective as they ought to be.

I cannot understand a government which removes poverty alleviation as an objective of our aid program, as the Abbott Government did.

While trade is important for developing countries, the Abbott Government seems untroubled by the prospect that the gains flowing from increased “aid for trade” may only trickle down unevenly with no guarantee of helping those most in need.

As we know, economic growth does not necessarily reduce inequality. Countries like Cambodia and Indonesia have seen growth and income inequality rise together – and the IMF has even found that inequality ultimately threatens long-term growth.

So it’s vital that we maintain clarity about the purpose of our aid program – growth is good, not for its own sake, but to help people and countries overcome poverty.

The Abbott Government has neither clarity about aid’s purpose nor clarity about the role of government.

The partnership between government, NGOs and the private sector only works when it is built on predictability, respect and transparency. But since the change of government, our ranking on the Aid Transparency Index – an independent measure of how much and how frequently aid information is made available, crucial to avoiding overlap and enabling long term planning – has dropped.

The adoption of the Open Government Partnership - an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens - has stalled. And while the Abbott Government says that they will redirect resources to NGOs which are effective on the ground, so far there is little to no information about how that effectiveness will be evaluated.

As you know, it is estimated that the value of aid is reduced by up to 20 per cent when funding is unpredictable and volatile. So the Government’s approach not only means ongoing uncertainty for NGOs who don’t know whether their funding will be cut, but decreased effectiveness for our aid program more broadly. Organisations can’t commit to the long term initiatives that may be necessary for real change, and they spend too much of their time chasing funding rather than doing their core work.

In fact, NGOs have described signing contracts with the Australian Government, contracting with local partners for delivery and then being told funding is no longer available. Successive waves of cuts mean just as new budgets, cutting staff and programs are settled, new cuts from the government require more retrenchment.

Ladies and gentlemen, I began by talking about the benefits that we receive from the foreign aid we invest in health, education and economic development. Australia cannot be secure in an insecure world, and poverty and inequality have been a cause of insecurity throughout recorded history. 

But there is another reason why we aid those in need – the reason giving remains popular even when ‘foreign aid’ is not.

Our fellow Australians know well the voices of what Abraham Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. We all know the names of those angels: empathy, understanding, compassion, generosity.

We hear those angels most clearly when it is people close to us in need: when our own child is sick, when our own friend is ill; when our own family is in hardship. But we also hear those angels when they speak on behalf of the stranger, the foreigner, the dweller in a distant land.

We aid those who need it not only because of what it gives to us, but because of what it does for us: show us that despite our differences we are all share similar needs and aspirations, we all feel similar fears and loves. To turn our back on that is to accept a narrower, cramped soul.

Those of us who understand the importance of foreign aid – the importance of the role that government alone can play, the effect that foreign aid has on alleviating and preventing suffering, uplifting horizons, and opening opportunities – have an obligation to build and to ceaselessly rebuild that bridge between public understanding of the good of giving and our own understanding of the good of aid. No consensus is ever permanent, and the consensus for foreign aid is no different. It is, I know, a tiring task to make and make again the argument for something which we know to be good policy. But to turn away from that responsibility is to accept a narrower, cramped Australia.


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TRANSCRIPT - Sky AM Agenda, Thursday, 12 February 2015

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SUBJECTS:  Submarines; Report into children in detention; Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran; Abbott Government’s foreign aid cuts.


KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: Joining me first this morning on the program, the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek. It’s another disturbing reminder of the level of this threat at the moment, of course as if we needed it after December.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well it’s reassuring of course to know that our security and intelligence and policing forces are able to protect us in this way. We are of course expecting further briefings on the two men who have been arrested and the information that led to their arrest.

GILBERT: Sure, let’s, I want to discuss a number of issues with you this morning. The submarine issue, what is Labor concerned about here in terms of the process? Yesterday David Feeney asked the Prime Minister had he done a deal, or anyone on his behalf, with the Japanese leadership. Is that your suspicion as to what’s going on here?

PLIBERSEK: So there’s two things. It’s important to remember that the Government promised to build twelve submarines in Adelaide, before the election they said very clearly they’d build all twelve subs in Adelaide. What’s happened since then is a great deal of confusion about whether a deal has already been made with Japan, to buy the submarines in Japan. The proper thing to do when you’re spending tens of billions of taxpayers’ money is do a properly funded evaluation of what we need in our future submarines, the exact capacity that we need in those submarines, and then to go out to a competitive tender process where companies that believe they could supply that sort of capacity in submarines are able to tender. It was extraordinary that the Australian Submarine Corporation seemed locked out of the ability to bid for tens of billions of dollars of work to be done in South Australia.

GILBERT: Well they’re now back in though, they’re back into the process

PLIBERSEK: Here’s the thing. What a shambles of a process. It looks like, as Senator Edwards has said, it looks like on Friday, last Friday, they weren’t allowed to bid, and by Monday they were allowed to bid. How did that decision get made over the weekend when all these phone calls were going around about leadership challenges? It looks like the Prime Minister may have made a commitment to the Japanese but because his job was under threat in the leadership challenge he’s made a commitment to Senator Edwards. He’s now broken that commitment to Senator Edwards it seems. This kind of confusion is unacceptable when we’re talking about tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds and even more importantly, the defence of our nation.

GILBERT: And my understanding is from the National Security Committee, sources within the Government told me that no decision has been made on this so while the Prime Minister might have had a hand shake with the Japanese Prime Minister, no final decision from the NSC has been made on the submarine acquisition, any part of it.

PLIBERSEK: Is that how we make decisions about our defence equipment now? We do handshake deals at the side of international meetings? If it is the case that there is a handshake deal, that’s appalling. You actually need a proper, methodical process. We’ve got a defence white paper underway, you need to do a funded study that looks at exactly what we need from our submarines. The sort of distances they need to go, speeds, noise profiles, how they are able to operate with submarines and other defence equipment from other nations that are our allies - and none of that is being done. It is just an extraordinary shambles of a process.

GILBERT: Have you heard any, obviously you have connections with the diplomatic corps in Canberra, have you heard concerns from the Japanese, Germans, French or anyone else personally about the way that this is being managed?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely.

GILBERT: Or is Labor whipping this up?

PLIBERSEK: No. Absolutely, I’ve had a number of representations by other nations that believe that they could make submarines that would meet our requirements. But none of this should be decided on the basis of lobbying or our diplomatic relations with other nations - or hope that we will make friends with other nations because we’re buying their submarines-

GILBERT: Have the Japanese been in touch?

PLIBERSEK: I’m not going to talk about individual approaches or discussions I’ve had, but what I would say is that when you’re making a decision about the defence of our nation worth tens of billions of dollars that these submarines will be one of our most important defences for the next three or four decades, you don’t just make it up as you go along.

GILBERT: The Bali Nine, this looks like a terrible situation, Jokowi, the Indonesian President, has again said he’s not going to show any clemency, he’s taken a very hard line. He’s in a very difficult position politically early on in his presidency, it looks like sadly this is inevitable, that the two young men will be put to death.

PLIBERSEK: I don’t accept that it’s inevitable. I think it’s very important that we continue to use all of our connections and all of our diplomatic efforts to plead for clemency for these two young men. Nobody thinks that they don’t deserve to be punished for what they did, what they did is very wrong and very serious. But we always oppose the death penalty and it’s been very important that Australia opposes the death penalty, not just for our citizens in other nations, but that we say in a principled way that we speak to our allies about the death penalty and say that it’s never right. We also of course want to give all our support to the two young men and their families. It looks like they’ve made efforts to reform themselves and we urge the Indonesian Government to take that into account.

GILBERT: It looks like hypocrisy from the Indonesia authorities as well given they lobby other countries to declare clemency, or give clemency, to their citizens when they’re on death row, and yet there’s no such clemency here.

PLIBERSEK: I think it shows that it’s important that Australia has a principled opposition to the death penalty wherever and for whoever it’s applied to.

GILBERT: Let’s finish up on the immigration detention report. Well, actually I want to ask you about aid as well. But on the immigration issue, this Human Rights Commission report has found some really concerning findings here, and largely around the time that Labor was in office, some 2000 children were in detention, now the Government’s got that number under 200, so that’s a good outcome isn’t it? The humanitarian dividend from their tough line on boats.

PLIBERSEK: There should be as few children or no children in detention. I think unfortunately we haven’t had an opportunity to read the report in its entirety. We’ve only just received it. The Government’s had it for several months but we’ve only just received it. But from the reports that I’ve read, and from my own understanding on this issue, I know that children shouldn’t be in detention, it’s bad for them and we should in the first instance make sure that we process people as quickly as possible, to determine their refugee status as quickly as possible. But I don’t think you need a report to tell you it’s not good for kids to be in detention.

GILBERT: But I guess the question is, the Government cops a lot of flak from some quarters for their hard lines, but when you look at the end result, there are less than 200 children in detention now, there was nearly 2000 in detention in July 2013 under Labor.

PLIBERSEK: And one of the very difficult decisions we made to reduce to number of adults and children in detention was the arrangement that we sought with Malaysia where people could live in the community, they could work, their children could go to school, they could receive medical treatment. Can you understand why the Liberals blocked that arrangement? I have never had it explained to me in any credible way why the Liberals stopped that arrangement with Malaysia that would have let kids live in the community and go to school.

GILBERT: Today you’re going to be giving a speech on the issue of foreign aid. Will Labor commit to reinstate the aid cuts that have been made over the last couple of years?

PLIBERSEK: There’s no way that we can replace everything that’s been cut in the short term. We’ll have to look at the medium term to repair the aid budget. This Government’s cut $11.2 billion now from the aid budget. At every mid-year economic update and the Budget last May, more cuts were made. In the Budget last May, $1 of every $5 of all the cuts that were made came from this one program, the aid budget. This means, say 2 million kids who won’t get to go to school, or 3 ¾ million kids who won’t be vaccinated. These are cuts beyond the- the magnitude of the cuts are really beyond imagining. So $11.2 billion in one go? That’s going to be next to impossible-

GILBERT: But didn’t Kevin Rudd give the Government political cover by delaying the increase when Labor was in government? You delayed the trajectory to meet the millennium development goals and that’s given the Government political cover?

PLIBERSEK: So while we were in government we doubled the aid budget and the growth slowed slightly during the Global Financial Crisis. We would’ve reached 0.5 per cent, the target, the bipartisan target that John Howard started, of 0.5 per cent of our Gross National Income going to the aid budget. We would’ve reached that in 2017/18, so very shortly we would’ve gotten to 0.5 per cent of GNI. Under the growth projections for the Liberal Government, we will never get to 0.5 per cent and in fact the share of our national income is the lowest that it’s been since records were kept.

GILBERT: But some of the goals that Labor had set were unrealistic, weren’t they? Because our aid spend was not the quality, how do you sustain the quality and our apparatus to shovel out the money, it was growing at that big of a rate?

PLIBERSEK: I think that’s a problem that our non-government organisations would be very happy to help with. The fact that we were putting money into aid and it was growing quickly is a much better problem to have than the problem they’ve got at the moment where they’ve contracted with partners on the ground and they’re having to cancel programs. Kids aren’t going to go to school, kids aren’t being vaccinated, babies will be born without skilled birth attendants, girls won’t be going to school because of these cuts. They will have a very serious impact on the real lives of people. I think that’s the bigger problem.

GILBERT: Tanya Plibersek, thanks very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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SPEECH - Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran

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Thank you Madam Speaker and I rise to second the motion.

Over the last several months the Government and Opposition have worked closely and very hard on diplomatic efforts calling on the Indonesian Government to show these two men clemency. Our consular staff, as the Foreign Minister said, many private individuals, business leaders, people with long connections to Indonesia have been part of that diplomatic effort behind the scenes to urge clemency.

Of course these two young men know that they have done the wrong thing.

They know they have broken the law and they deserve to be punished, and indeed they should be.

But reports suggest that they have made significant and successful efforts to rehabilitate themselves.

The head of Kerobokan Prison has attested that both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran have made exemplary efforts to rehabilitate themselves.

They have by all reports become model prisoners and taken a leadership role within the prison, facilitating educational courses for others prisoners including English language classes, painting classes, drawing, music, dance, fitness and basic computer skills.

They have helped coordinate fundraising activities both to improve the prison facilities and also to support the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran have demonstrated genuine remorse.

About 3,800 years ago, the Stela of Hammurabi was erected. It was the first written codification of law. It appeared in Babylon thousands of years ago and it includes a section that says ‘if a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye; if one breaks a man’s bone, they shall break his bone; if one destroys the eye of a freeman or break the bone of a freeman, he shall pay one mana of silver; and if they do that to a slave, they shall pay half that price’.

That’s the basic eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth law that has influenced the Old Testament and earlier legal codes in countries around the world.

But that’s 3,700 years ago. We’ve moved on a great deal from an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

And one of the reasons we’ve done that is we’ve understood that the people who are most hurt by crimes should not be the ones making the decisions about the punishment.

We need to have a principled and methodical approach to punishments of serious crimes.

I perhaps have a particular view on remorse and redemption because of experiences in my own life.

In 1988, my husband left prison after being charged and convicted of a similar crime to these young men.

I imagine what would have happened if he had been caught in Thailand, instead of in Australia, where that crime was committed, when he was coming back to Australia.

I think about – I didn’t know him at the time, this was thirty years ago, what the world would have missed out on.

They would have missed out on the three beautiful children that we’ve had together. They would have missed out on a man who spent the rest of his life making amends for the crime that he committed.

I have another perspective on this too.

In 1997, I lost my brother to a violent crime in Port Moresby. And I know that if I had been the one making the decision about the punishment of the person who did that crime, I couldn’t have thought of a punishment bad enough.

That’s why we don’t make decisions about punishment on the basis of how we feel, but on the basis of universal consistently applied rules.

I think it’s important to say that when it comes to the death penalty, there has been for many years in Australia a bipartisan rejection of the death penalty.

Our former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said:

Capital punishment is just as barbaric and inexcusable in the hands of States as it is in the hands of individuals. As we know, it barbarises and unsettles the executioners themselves.”

And that’s why in 1973 the Whitlam Government abolished the death penalty under Federal Law.

That was one step. There have been successive steps by both sides of the House in reducing Australia’s exposure to the death penalty.

I was part of the Labor Government that passed the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Act in 2010 which prevented the death penalty from being reintroduced by any State or Territory Government now and into the future.

The former Justice Michael Kirby said:

The death penalty brutalises the State that carries it out… [it] is left over from an earlier and more barbaric time.”

I think that these words are just as important today as they were when Gough Whitlam and Michael Kirby uttered them.

Our opposition to the death penalty and the legal changes we’ve made over time are based on that simple respect for the sanctity of human life and a rejection of that code of thousands of years, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

This belief is a moral one; it reflects the kind of world we want to live in.

It is a belief that all people should have inherent dignity simply by virtue of being human.

"To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice." said Desmond Tutu.

He was talking about the power of restorative justice, the possibility that offenders can be rehabilitated.

A justice that punishes, but can restore offenders to be productive members of society.

This is the kind of justice Australia advocates, for everyone, everywhere.

Regardless of where an offence occurs, regardless of whether they are Australian citizens, we oppose the death penalty.

And this opposition has been bipartisan for many years now.

The best expression of that recently has been this letter signed by so many Members of Parliament on both sides.

The letter to the Indonesian ambassador to Australia says:


We do not seek to minimise the serious nature of their crimes, given the damaging effects of illicit drugs on our societies.

We do believe Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan should be punished. Indeed, we have the highest respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty and political independence.

Australia abolished the death penalty some years ago and opposition to the death penalty has strong bipartisan and broad public support.

We note that the international trend is overwhelmingly away from capital punishment and towards the imposition of lengthy prison sentences for serious crimes, where prisoners can reflect on their mistakes and endeavour to demonstrate remorse and make amends through rehabilitation and community service.

Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan have demonstrated genuine remorse and have become model prisoners, working constructively at Kerobokan not only on their own rehabilitation and reform, but also for that of other prisoners.

By reason of their good behaviour, demonstrated rehabilitation and education of other prisoners, both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran come within the Constitutional Court’s recommendation.

Also, we believe it is significant that both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran were only apprehended as a result of the Australian Federal Police providing information to Indonesian Police.

Their crime, serious as it was, was intended to impact on Australians in Australia, not Indonesia.

Over many years now Indonesian and Australian Federal Police have exchanged intelligence and engaged with each other to address international crime and terrorism.

We are committed to ensuring that international police cooperation and intelligence sharing continues in the interests of Indonesia, Australia, and all other nations in the region.

The fact is that the 2010 legislation preventing the reintroduction of the death penalty was supported by both sides of politics, Madam Speaker.

This letter, that bipartisan support then, the bipartisan support for the consular efforts that have gone to help Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan show that Australia is united in renouncing the death penalty.

Now, here in Australia and around the world.

Our strong stance is also reflected in our international obligations.

Australia has ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is aimed at eliminating the death penalty.

Our view is reflected in the preamble:

The abolition of the death penalty “contributes to enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights.”

As a nation we should continue to use our diplomatic powers and efforts to constructively engage with other nations to help eradicate the death penalty.

We have a particular challenge in this area.

We must continue to build our agency to agency links wherever we have those established with other nations.

The work that the Australian Federal Police does with the Indonesian Police is vital for both countries and our cooperation should remain strong. 

It is important that we work with all other nations to prevent serious transnational crimes, such as the crime that these young men have been convicted of.

However, we must also make sure we take a principled approach to the “death penalty to ensure that [we] are not involved in the imposition of the sentences in other nations.” [George Williams, UNSW Law Professor]

Building the capacity to cooperate to prevent transnational crime while ensuring that we do not become a party to the imposition of the death penalty needs to be a focus of our engagement with other nations.

Progress requires long-term constructive engagement through our diplomatic channels and through our agency to agency cooperation.

Of course this process won’t happen overnight, but I believe it is important that we continue both our work to prevent transnational crimes but without compromising our stance on the death penalty.

I remain hopeful even in these difficult times that the Indonesian Government and the Indonesian President will show clemency to these young men and provide them with a stay of execution.

I think that all Australians would join with me in calling on the Indonesian Government to show that mercy.




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STATEMENT - Anwar Ibrahim

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Labor expresses our grave concern that Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has lost his final appeal against a conviction on the charge of sodomy.

It is understood Mr Anwar was sentenced to five years jail, which Labor believes is particularly harsh.

Malaysia is a good friend of Australia.  On that basis we respectfully request that consideration be given to the human rights implications of cases like Mr Anwar's.



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TRANSCRIPT - ABC News Breakfast, Tuesday, 10 February 2015

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SUBJECT/S:  Liberal leadership chaos; Liberal’s unfair budget; NSW Election; Broken Promise on Submarines; Bali 9 Death Sentences 


MICHAEL ROWLAND, PRESENTER: I am joined by the Deputy Labor Leader Plibersek. Good morning to you, thanks for your time.


ROWLAND: How do you see it ending for the Liberal Party?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's only a matter of time. The reason is – I've been out talking to ordinary Australians in Queensland and Victoria and NSW in particular in recent months, nobody says to me that after 17 months of an Abbott Government they feel better off.  And the problem of course is not the leader.  It doesn't matter whether it's Malcolm Turnbull, whether it's Julie Bishop, Scott Morrison, any of the alternatives. The problem is the policies. We've got Tony Abbott of course hanging on yesterday. I think the numbers show that probably two-thirds of his backbench voted against him, that is not a good sign for any leader. But I still say the problem is not Tony Abbott the person, the problem is $100,000 university degrees, the broken promise on Gonski school education funding, cuts to hospital funding, the GP Tax. All of these things are seen as deeply unfair by ordinary Australians and that's why they're rejecting the agenda of this Liberal Government.

ROWLAND: Lots of happy faces among Labor MPs in Question Time yesterday. Isn't it the case that you escaped your worst nightmare yesterday, a Malcolm Turnbull prime ministership?

PLIBERSEK: Our worst nightmare is the fact that country is not being governed properly at the moment. Seventeen months of a Liberal Government, the deficit has doubled, debt is unlimited, unemployment is some of the highest we have seen in 12 years, our worst nightmare is a country that is not being stewarded properly, an agenda signed up to by all of the potential leadership aspirants that is all about unfairness.

ROWLAND: Voters could say the same thing during the circus of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd leadership as well - the country not being governed.

PLIBERSEK: And we have learned our lessons from that. We are a united, focused team and it would be good to have a united focused Government.

ROWLAND: Isn’t it the case though and Newspoll confirmed yesterday that a lot of Labor voters really like Malcolm Turnbull. He is the last person the Opposition wants to see as its opponent.

PLIBERSEK: I think when Malcolm Turnbull says like he did to 2GB's Ray Hadley that he supports every single measure in the current Budget, it will be interesting to see how long they like him for. Malcolm Turnbull has done a good job of trying to distance himself from the unfair decisions made by Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and all of the Cabinet at Budget time. He hasn't been campaigning out there enthusiastically for the Government agenda. Unless Malcolm Turnbull is prepared to say what he repudiates in the Budget in May and actually makes some serious changes, then he will go the same way. It's the policies that people are rejecting.

ROWLAND: Bill Shorten says this will be the year of policy advancement and announcement by the Labor Party. When will we see some real policies from the Opposition?

PLIBERSEK: We have already made a number of very important policy announcements, like Labor continues to be committed to real action on climate change. We have said that we will cooperate with the Government on areas where we agree with them. We have supported $20 billion worth of measures in the last Budget that provide savings and revenue over time. So the idea we are not being positive and cooperative is absolutely not right. What we won't cooperate with is the negative attacks on Medicare, on GP services, against the livelihoods of GPs, the broken promises on the Gonski school education funding reform, $100,000 degrees and so on.

ROWLAND: But there is more to come, policies on job creation, sustaining economic growth. When can we see those?

PLIBERSEK: Of course you will see them. We have at least all of this year, we hope, before a Federal election. And Labor will be making policy announcements all through the course of the year.

ROWLAND: Now, the next big contest is the NSW election. Still a lot of concern within Liberal ranks about Tony Abbott being a drag on the Liberal Party vote there. Isn't it the case Tanya Plibersek that it's a long, long time before NSW voters will be prepared to forgive NSW Labor?

PLIBERSEK: I think that is a bit rich. The Liberal Party have got close to a dozen people that have been named in ICAC and they've got people sitting on the crossbench now have that have had to resign from the Liberal Party because of matters that they were involved in, particularly on the Central Coast. I think it's important to acknowledge that we absolutely have had some very bad apples in the Labor Party and they have been cut down from the Labor Party. They have been - they have had their membership removed and that is quite right. In fact I think if people do the wrong thing, they are robbing the taxpayers of NSW but they're also betraying their comrades in the Labor Party too because we have got branch members out there working hard to deliver great services to the people of NSW - they shouldn't be let down by people in elected positions. But it certainly applies to the Liberal Party as well. I will tell you one thing, Mike Baird is not Campbell Newman. He doesn’t have the same aggressive style. What is missing from Mike Baird is the ability to stand up to Tony Abbott. When Tony Abbott cuts $10 billion from hospital funding over NSW, over the coming years, shouldn't Mike Baird say something about that? Shouldn't he stand up and say ‘Tony Abbott you need to pay the last two years of the Gonski school education funding to our schools’? We have heard nothing from Mike Baird in defence of the people of NSW when his good mate, Tony Abbott, goes after the services that they need.

ROWLAND: A couple of other issues this morning - what do you make of that promise made by the Prime Minister to South Australian Liberal MPs about that submarine project going forward?

PLIBERSEK: This whole process has been absolutely wrong headed. The way you make a major multibillion-dollar defence purchase is you work out what we need. What is it?  What kind of equipment do we need based on the threats to Australia in the future, potential threats to Australia in the future? So you decide what you need and then you go to an open tender process to see who can provide that equipment at the best possible price. Making an announcement about buying submarines from any one company or any one country without having gone through that process, particularly when there is a defence white paper being written was muddle headed and worse from the very beginning. Of course South Australians should be allowed to tender for this. It’s extraordinary that it's taken so long to come to this position.

ROWLAND: And in your capacity as foreign affairs spokeswoman, the families of the Bali Nine ring leaders are in Indonesia making a personal plea to the President there to have those death sentences commuted. Do you fear that all hope is now lost?

PLIBERSEK: I don't fear that all hope is lost. I still hope that the Indonesian Government will give these young men a stay of execution. There is a lot of diplomatic effort going on behind the scenes and I don't want to speak too publicly about that because it can compromise our diplomatic efforts. But all Australians I believe would hope that the these execution will not proceed. Labor has always been firmly opposed to the death penalty, wherever it happens, to whomever it happens.

ROWLAND: Tanya Plibersek, thank you for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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