THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THURSDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2015
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.