Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Kim Beazley

I’m a Lefty. As such, the ALP is my natural party of choice. But in recent times I’ve been raging against Kim Beazley. The problem is that Beazley never seems to make a stand on issues that really matter to me, e.g. Tampa, War in Iraq, Scott Parkin, David Hicks, Schapelle Corby, the new terrorism laws, Mick Keelty. My fury at the Beazley-led ALP’s refusal to represent me on matters of principle has actually had me contemplating casting a vote for Herr Howard and the evil empire.

Now that doesn’t mean for a moment that I can find anything to like or support in John Goose-stepper Howard. Quite the contrary. At the moment, he’s visiting the U.S. getting fawned over by the Warmonger-In-Chief and his psychopathic acolytes. The word ‘sickening’ seems so pitifully inadequate.

But it isn’t as if my vote would be the one that deprived the ALP of taking Government. My belief is that opinion-poll-chasing lefties look shallow and unprincipled, and have no chance of winning elections; (exhibit one: the lame Democrats in the U.S.). So, I thought that perhaps my vote should send the message that if the ALP wants to be nothing but a pale version of the Liberal Party, then it will do so without my support.

But voting for Liberals and the empty values of privilege, class and money goes against everything I believe in. So, I thought I’d better check my opinions about Beazley with the facts. This is what I discovered.

War on Iraq: I was wrong. It was actually Simon Crean who turned to water on this issue. Beazley was opposed to the war without the backing of the U.N. More generally he was opposed to the policy of pre-emption.

Scott Parkin: I hate it that this peace activist could have been detained, deported and billed for the process without even being informed of the charges against him. On the other hand Beazley did obtain a briefing from ASIO, and the process has been vetted and declared sound by the Inspector-General. Personally, I think the treatment of Parkin is too outrageous to be justified by anything, but given that due process was followed (however unfair) I won’t mark Beazley too harshly on this one.

Tampa: Beazley’s failure to take Howard on when he pulled the infamous Tampa stunt was unforgivable. No excuse.

Terrorism Laws: Fascist Governments around the world have discovered that fighting terrorists is a vote winner. Yep, it seems that the voters love wars on terrorism, concentration camps and draconian legal systems to protect them from the bad guys. No matter that the risk of being hit by lighting is much greater than the risk of being a victim of terrorism. This was a great chance for Beazley to show that he is a man of principle. He flubbed it. His response to laws that even Malcolm Frazer described as unfair and unnecessary was to argue that they did not go far enough. No matter that there is nothing in them that would have prevented any of the terrorist atrocities round the world. Kim’s choice was to move further to the right than Howard.

Schapelle: After saying all the right things about Schapelle Corby while public opinion was on her side, he’s had nothing to say about her, despite the reimposition of an absurd 20-year sentence for an offence that might have got her 12 months in a reasonable system. Where’s all your support gone, Kim?

Mick Keelty: I hate Mick Keelty and the AFP with a passion for disparaging Schapelle Corby’s defence during her trial and for setting up the Bali nine for a potential death sentence. Beazley and Howard refused to condemn Keelty for either act. Inexcusable.

David Hicks: Beazley has actually said some of the right things about the appalling treatment of David Hicks, but even in this area, he’s been fairly muted in the frequency and strength of his comments.

That’ll do for the moment. In summary; not happy, but not quite as bad as I had assumed. In particular his opposition to the war deserves praise.

Obviously I’m further to the left in the political spectrum than Kim Beazley and to some extent I have to live with that. But I have long believed that the electoral problems of the left, in America and here, are largely due to a failure to define principles and then sell them.

I’m still not sure how I would vote at the moment. One bulletin board poster made the point that by voting for the Libs in protest at the ALP’s betrayal, all we are doing is pushing them further and further to the right; making them want to be like John. It’s an argument worthy of reflection. The rock or the hard place. I dunno. Perhaps though, his opposition to the Iraq war might just be enough to earn Beazley my vote.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Schapelle and the death penalty

Up until the trial verdict I think it’s fair to say that Australia was concerned that Schapelle was facing a possible death sentence. Then came the anti-Schapelle backlash and a number of commentators told us that Schapelle had never really be in danger of a death sentence and that in fact her long sentence partially reflected judicial annoyance at our strident support. It was an effective tactic in reducing support for Schapelle. But I certainly believed it. After all, if experts like the Chief Editor of the Jakarta Times and ‘Indonesian expert’, Tim Lindsey were saying it, it must be true. Right?

But I’m right back where I started. I now think Schapelle was at huge risk. Here’s why:
  • Right from the start key Indonesian players were calling for the death penalty. Influential people like the Attorney General, the Bali Chief of Police and the Bali Chief Prosecutor were saying that an example must be set.
  • Despite having numerous opportunities to say it wasn’t so, and to defuse a delicate political and tourism issue, neither the judges nor SBY were even prepared to say that it was unlikely.
  • The Bali prosecutor and the Attorney General have gone on record to say that there is no legal difference between heroin and marijuana. The Indonesian Supreme Court has specifically confirmed that view.
  • The Bali Chief Prosecutor and the Attorney General both expressed disappointment with the initial 20-year sentence and petitioned appeal courts for a life sentence to be imposed. The life sentence is of course just one rung short of the death penalty, and it seems very possible to me to think that the only reason they weren’t pursuing a death sentence with similar vigour was because of the political intervention of SBY following his visit to Australia, and his promise to ensure an outcome that was “acceptable to both countries”.
  • The Bali Chief Prosecutor made it very clear in the early stages of the case that he was going after the death penalty. It’s hard to believe that he really changed his mind because she was “had no prior convictions and was polite in court”. In fact he challenged the “no prior convictions” at the appeal stage. It’s also worth noting that Schapelle shouted out that Winata was a liar during his testimony. So not only do the reasons seem insufficient, but there is no reason to think he actually believed them.
  • Bali High Court judges have now stated that they regard Schapelle’s ‘offence’ as more serious than that of the Bali Nine couriers because she was importing.
  • The judges and prosecutors have consistently indicated that Schapelle’s failure to admit guilt and express remorse entitles her to a greater sentence.
  • Bali has been facing a rapidly growing drug problem, and there have been calls from the public and from politicians for drug smugglers to be executed. A colleague told me after returning from a conference in June 2004 that he had been told by ‘an Indonesian official’ he had met that Indonesia were in a state of panic over the drug escalation and were looking to implement the Singapore solution.
So my view is now that while Schapelle was very unlucky to be found guilty, she is very lucky to have avoided a firing squad. I suspect the combination of the tsunami and our generosity, SBY’s need for Australian investment and our vocal support might be all that saved her.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Death penalty - what would it be like?

There was a stage that the fear of Schapelle facing a firing squad haunted both my days and nights.

Around that time I wrote this essay for myself as an attempt to deal with the anguish I felt. In some strange way it helped.

But it also serves as a companion piece to my earlier post on this blog about the death penalty. That was what I think. This is what I feel.


In two hours I am sentenced to stand before a firing squad on a lonely beach somewhere in Indonesia.

I have said goodbye to my Mum, my Dad, my brothers and sisters. I had wondered what we could find to say to each other. Would I plead with them to keep fighting, petitioning, protesting? Or perhaps talk of my fears, my terror? Or would we carefully talk all around the terror. Would we talk of good times, old friends, current affairs, some laughs perhaps, or maybe of their future plans.

Yet in the end it was simple and beautiful. There was nothing to speak of except love. Nothing to do but to hug. In the end nothing else mattered. For the first time in years it felt good to weep like a baby. If I must die, at least I will leave something behind, a residue of love in the hearts of a few special people.

'If I must die'? Then, it seems that still I do not accept it. Less than an hour to go. My lawyer has said that there is no further avenue of appeal. The President has confirmed that I must die.I do not understand how can they not extend mercy. How can they look on my face and not see my common humanity. How can the President calmly attach his signature to a document that means bullets will soon be tearing into my flesh? How can they find twelve men prepared to carefully take aim and shoot out the heart of somebody just like themselves?

Do their children ask them "what did you do at work today, Daddy?" Do they respond "I fired a bullet at a fellow human being today. I think I shot with great accuracy. It might have been my bullet that ended her life. I am proud to have done my job well."

My God! What will it be like? Blinding pain as the bullets rip into me? Minutes of unendurable agony as my mind shuts down? For ever! This is not a good train of thought. I feel the fear rolling in like fog across water.

The fear. 30 minutes. I repeat a litany I have been reciting in the so far futile search for some calm. 'Fear is the mind killer. I will face my fear. I will allow the fear to pass through me and over me. When the fear is gone only I shall remain.' It doesn't help. I am scared. So scared. I fear the night. I fear the pain. I feel sick. My heart pounds. Can't swallow. Can't breathe. My organs seem to be shutting down. Should I sleep? What for? Perhaps, so I could feel better and calmer. It's academic, anyway. How could I possibly sleep?

The fear continues to grow. The horror of extinction, not in the comfort of a hospital bed at an unknown time, surrounded by people that love me, but alone at the hands of men who will shoot me with not much more interest than a pest exterminator doing his job. The worst thing is that they will do it at a predetermined moment in time. My throat further constricts with every tick of the clock.

I feel a huge swell of rage against all these people. It helps. I must hold that anger. Do not forgive. I hate them. I hate them so much. With every cell in my body. I wish them leukaemia, brain tumours, torture, gangrene. I hope their children drown in their own swimming pools and their babies are congenitally deformed. Die screaming you filthy bastards. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

No I don't. I wish I could. I wish I could retain that hatred and slowly release it over my remaining minutes, to hold back the fear. But I cannot. I love this life and I love its people. All of them. They are me and I am them. If I can't understand why they must do this to me, I can at least identify with their hopes, fears, hunger, love and yes, even their hatred. And as I love them, I love me. Strangely, I am ready. Just in time. I hear them coming.

Maybe I have been reprieved. Could it be so? Could it? Could it? Please God, please. I lied before. I'll never be ready. Help me.