The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
THURSDAY, 12 FEBRURARY 2015
Subject/s: Clemency for MR Chan and mr sukumaran.
RICHARD GLOVER, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is on the line, hello Tanya.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Hi Richard how are you?
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.