Saturday, October 28, 2006

Values, laws and Sheik al-Hilaly

There has been much debate about values in recent times with both Howard and Beazley weighing in with their versions of the need for immigrants to adopt the values of Australians. I suggest this is nonsense. I don’t believe there is a unique set of Australian values. Rather there are beliefs that are common to most people around the world, which are reasonably approximated by the Americans respect for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But running in parallel with those essentially secular beliefs are religious beliefs that are not necessarily compatible with common secular beliefs and in some instances are markedly different from the values of the majority. An example is the recently controversial sermon by Sheik al-Hilaly which, for all his subsequent efforts to ‘reinterpret’ his message, essentially blamed the victims of sexual assault rather than the perpetrators if the victims were scantily clad.

But you don’t need to look at Muslims to see such incompatibility of values. There are many Christians in Australia that believe that life is sacred from the moment of conception and that any abortion is murder. There are others that believe that the only Godly response to intentional murder is capital punishment. And there are other religions that would regard eating pork or beef to be mortal sins.

The truth is that for all the shared values of people around the world, and in Australia, there are areas of passionately held differences of opinion.

My view is that we should forget all about values. What matters is that people are prepared to accept the law of the country in which they live. In some ways it is a remarkable thing that the hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Australia have co-existed peacefully with a culture of bikinis, underage sex, over-indulgence in alcohol and lack of punishment for religious offences such as adultery. It is equally remarkable that Fundamentalist Christians have managed to co-exist with abortion clinics, non-observance of the Sabbath and disparagement of their God on television. What has made that peaceful coexistence possible is respect for the laws of our country, NOT shared values!

So my concern with the controversial sermon of Sheik al-Hilaly is not that he has different values to mainstream Australia. My concern is that the obvious interpretation that his faithful followers will place on his words is that if a female is scantily clad, then it is OK to break the law and commit a rape. If there isn’t a law against telling your ‘flock’ that it is OK to break the law then there damn well ought to be. Because ultimately it is our laws that make it possible for Australia’s crazy melting pot of humanity and it’s different values to continue in peace and harmony.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Schapelle - EDD and the new regulations

In my previous post, I estimated that with maximum normal remissions, Schapelle Corby could be released on parole near the end of 2013. About the time that I completed that analysis, The Age published this article about new regulations that would require terrorists and Australian drug offenders to spend more years in jail with Indonesia deciding to curtail their sentence remissions.
Indonesia lengthen Jail Terms

The article makes the following points:

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has approved regulations forcing prisoners convicted of serious crimes to serve at least two-thirds of their original sentences.

They will not be eligible for regular remissions issued to other prisoners until they have served at least a third of their jail terms.

Until now, all prisoners have automatically received sentence reductions at least twice a year, which can halve their jail terms.
The new guidelines are likely to apply to convicted marijuana smuggler Schapelle Corby.

1. I think the change is wrong and have written to SBY and our PM to say so. The remission system is fair and sensible, and never more so than for long term prisoners.

2. It is not clear that the new regulations would apply to Schapelle since the article also states that the regulations will not apply to prisoners who have already received remissions (which includes Schapelle). It is also possible that that quote from the Indon Justice Minister means only that those prisoners will not lose the remissions they have already received but will not be eligible for more until one third of the original sentence has been served. Who knows.

3. Although the article indicates that the new regulations will require prisoners to serve at least two thirds of their sentence that statement is not consistent with the paragraph that follows it and in my view is an incorrect assumption by the journalist.

So, I've redone my analysis, using the same methodology as in my previous blog.

So under the new regulations, Schapelle would be released in mid 2015 just 16 months later than I had estimated previously. The reason is that although Schapelle would lose 36 months from 2007 to 2010, she gets back an additional 12 months in the first extra year of sentence. The net increase of 24 months is further reduced by the conditional release formula down to 16 months.

A bad result, no doubt. But could be worse.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Schapelle - estimated date of departure

For some time I’ve been trying to work out when Schapelle might be released from prison if some sort of special deal isn’t done for her.

The reason that the answer isn’t 20 years from the date of her arrest is because of two elements of the Indonesian prison system; twice annual sentence remissions and a form of parole called conditional release.

Unfortunately there is no reliable information on the Internet about the application of these concepts. I’ve even tried translating from Indonesian sources without much luck. But I’ve put together whatever pitiful gleanings I could gather into a summary of what I think the answer would have been. I say would have been because there has been a news story indicating changes in the remissions system that might affect Schapelle – more on that in a future post – but ignoring that, my best guess is that:

Conditional release is available when well-behaved prisoners have completed two thirds of their remission reduced sentence. How that would affect a foreign prisoner such as Schapelle isn’t clear, particularly since foreign prisoners convicted of drug offences are no longer allowed to visit Indonesia. My best guess is that a reasonable lawyer would be able to have her sent home at that point.

The other sentence reducer is the remission system, whereby on each of two annual remission holidays, sentence remissions are granted to well behaved prisoners up to a month's remission for every year or partial year served to a maximum of 6 months each holiday. So:

- In the first year, 2 months max remissions (but Schapelle got 0 because she was appealing her sentence)
- In the second year, 4 months max remissions (Schapelle got 2)
- In the 6th year, and thereafter, 12 months max remissions.

It’s more complicated than that with some special remissions being available for being ‘extra good’; stuff like giving blood, helping the guards and one suspects the paying of bribes.

Anyway, ignoring the special remissions but assuming Schapelle’s behaviour is consistently excellent, this chart shows what might happen. And the spot when the two lines intercept is when I expect Schapelle to be released.

The complicating factors are the reported changes to the remission system which I’ll discuss later and the possibility of some form of clemency or a better outcome from the judicial review process.

So many guesses and assumptions, it’d drive you nuts, but my guess is end of 2013.