+++


TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP’S INTERVIEW WITH NEIL MITCHELL, RADIO 3AW, AUGUST 8

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/08/08/1060145858623.html

MITCHELL:

What is your reaction to the Democrats suggesting this would be on a par with terrorism?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well
I don’t agree with them. Neil, I don’t myself support capital
punishment in Australia. The reason I don’t support capital punishment
is pragmatic. I know that from time to time the law makes mistakes and
innocent people can go to the gallows if we have capital punishment,
and subsequently if you discover they were innocent, then there is
nothing you can do about it. It’s a purely pragmatic thing. What has
happened here is that under the law of another country people have been
tried. They are citizens of another country. Amrozi is not an
Australian citizen. He’s an Indonesian. And I find it extraordinary
that anybody can use the word barbarism in relation to this man. I just
find that extraordinary. I mean it’s the judicial process of that
country. There is a legitimate debate about capital punishment.
And I
don’t know that people, if I may say so, picking up your introduction,
I don’t know that people are dancing in the streets. I don’t feel any
sense of jubilation about this and I don’t think people do. But if you
have lost somebody, the emotional release of at least thinking that the
process of justice has been served, and I’m impressed by the fact that
amongst the families of the people who died, some are in favour of the
death penalty, some are not. They reflect the division in our community
on that matter and they are behaving in an understandable, normal
Australian way.

MITCHELL:

You dont find the popping of champagne corks and the sort of die you bastard, die as a little un-Australian?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well these people lost their kids.

MITCHELL:

Sure.

PRIME MINISTER:

And I mean I have met a lot of these people. I remember how they felt. And I just try and put myself in their situation.

MITCHELL:

I think my point is this is going to go on for years now, isn’t it? I worry about people being consumed by revenge.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look
I don’t think the Australian public is consumed by revenge. I think the
Australian public has reacted to this tragedy in a very heartfelt,
mature way. Australians know that our lives have been changed forever
by the coming of the age of terrorism. There is no doubt about that. It
started with the attack in New York and Washington in September of
2001. It came horribly close to our own country and claimed all those
lives in Bali. And again this week weve been reminded that were living
in a region that is very unstable and we can’t for a moment imagine
that it won’t happen in our own homeland, in one of our cities on the
Australian mainland. It could happen. We have to work very hard to
prevent it occurring. Now against the background of all of that, I
don’t think Australians are behaving in an un-Australian way. They
accept realistically that we have to live our lives differently, but
they’re determined to get on with their lives. They react in a very
passionate way when pain and death is inflicted on their family and
their friends, and that’s perfectly normal. I am frankly filled with
admiration at the way in which Australians have reacted and adjusted to
this new situation.

MITCHELL:

Australia has been
involved with Indonesia in helping in the investigation and the rest of
it since this happened. Presumably because of that we do have the right
to have an opinion and express a view on the death sentence.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.
Yes we have a right, and I have chosen as the elected leader of this
country to say that I will not be raising any objection to the normal
processes of Indonesian law being carried forward. I mean it would be
open to me, if I chose, to do otherwise, but I have thought about this.

MITCHELL:

So you think execution is appropriate?

PRIME MINISTER:

What I think is appropriate is that the law of Indonesia be applied.

MITCHELL:

But do you think it’s appropriate this man be executed?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think he should be dealt with in accordance with the law of Indonesia.

MITCHELL:

But I’m taking it a step further Prime Minister. Do you believe its appropriate he be executed?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil,
I’m answering your question. What I’m saying to you is if the law of
Indonesia requires that he be executed, then I regard that as
appropriate.

MITCHELL:

If he was an Australian? With an Australian citizen you’d have a different view.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well
Neil, were not dealing I mean please, this is too important and
sensitive and heartfelt an issue for us to deal in hypothetical
situations. I intend to deal with the facts and the facts are that this
man is an Indonesian citizen, he was tried in accordance with
Indonesian law, Indonesian law obliges the imposition of the death
penalty, it has been imposed and in those circumstances, I regard that
as appropriate and I do not intend, in the name of the Australian
people, to ask the Indonesian Government to refrain from the imposition
of that penalty.

MITCHELL:

Do you hold that view if the remaining five are found guilty?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well
let me hear the evidence. Let me state the principle and then say I’m
not going to hypothesise about future trials. The principle is that
these people should be brought to justice in accordance with the
processes of Indonesian law, and that is what may I just finish this is
important That is what the Australian people would demand if this crime
had been committed in Australia.

MITCHELL:

I
guess the broader point and perhaps even the more important point now
Prime Minister is the effect of the sentence. Do you believe that this
sentence will reduce the terrorism risk in this region?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s more likely that it will be neutral.

MITCHELL:

You don’t think it will increase it either?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well
I can only speculate. The more that you communicate a capacity to
apprehend, try and convict people involved in terrorism, the greater is
the warning given to the terrorists. When I answered neutral, I was
thinking more in terms of the actual verdict, as distinct from the
whole process.

MITCHELL:

Well do you think the death penalty will reduce or increase the risk of terrorism in this region?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the death penalty will have a different impact on different people, and therefore I think its probably neutral.

MITCHELL:

This man seems to seek martyrdom. Is this what were giving him?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t believe so.

MITCHELL:

Why?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well
in the long run people who decide to embark upon terrorism have already
embarked upon a fanatical mode of behaviour, and I don’t know that the
execution or the sentencing to life of somebody like that is going to
alter the original decision.

MITCHELL:

I noticed
the judges in their sentencing said they thought this would prevent a
repetition or help to prevent a repetition. You don’t agree with that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well
I hope they’re right. I think terrorism is going to be with us for a
long time. We have begun the fight against it. It’s a fight that will
involve greater emphasis on intelligence gathering and cooperation
between the agencies of different countries. It will involve also
dealing with issues that give rise to conditions that can be exploited
by terrorists. I do believe that one of the most positive things that
have come out of the Iraq war has been the renewed push for a
settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. If that settlement can
be achieved, that will remove an argument that the terrorists have
used.

MITCHELL:

Mr Howard, before we
leave the security issue, as I mentioned also, a British family one
with a Bali victim is appealing against the death sentence. They want
Amrozi to spend time in jail instead. Presumably you would hope that
appeal fails if it goes ahead?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well
I dont know that I’ve quite thought about it. I’ve expressed my view
Neil, and my view is that the law of Indonesia should be applied, and
if the law of Indonesia requires the imposition of the death penalty
and if the appeal processes within Indonesia result in the death
penalty being imposed, then that is appropriate and I’m not going to
object.

CALLER:

Yeah good morning. This
guy that they’re putting to death, I think first off that they should
be making him suffer first, I mean he wants to die a martyr and by
putting him straight to death, giving him what he wants, he should be
made to suffer first, I mean he caused so much suffering for so many
other people.

MITCHELL:

We are getting, thanks Michael, a lot of reaction like that, Prime Minister, saying torture him first. What’s your response?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m not in favour of that. I’m in favour of applying the law of Indonesia. We don’t control this process.

MITCHELL:

No, but we’ve got a right to have a say in it.

PRIME MINISTER:

No,
we’ve got a right to express an opinion and that is what I’m doing. And
I’m not reluctant to express an opinion, I know some people disagree
with me, some people say that I should be thumping the table and saying
don’t execute the man, I’m not going to do that because I do respect
the judicial processes of Indonesia, I also believe that for me to do
that would offend many Australians who lost people, who legitimately
feel as decent Australians that a death penalty is appropriate.

See
there is a division in our community on the death penalty, many
Australians who are a decent and as moderate as I hope both you and I
are actually have a different view on the death penalty and perhaps
your view and my view is different, I don’t know, but I know lots of
Australians who believe that a death penalty is appropriate and they
are not barbaric, they’re not insensitive, they’re not vindictive,
they’re not vengeful, they’re people who believe that if you take
another’s live deliberately then justice requires that your life be
taken.

Now I have a different view from that because I’ve read of
and I’ve seen the law make mistakes, and it’s a terrible thing to
judicially murder somebody and subsequently find that that person is
innocent and that’s why I have this pragmatic view so far as Australian
courts are concerned that we shouldn’t impose the death penalty.

We’re
dealing here with the citizen of another country whose murdered 88 of
our own in another country and the law of that other country says the
death penalty is appropriate. Now I am prepared to accept that, I will
not object to it and I think it is appropriate because I respect the
judicial processes of that other country. And if we are to get the
total co-operation between Australia and Indonesia in the war against
terrorism that could go on for years one of the things we have to do is
develop a code of mutual respect and co-operation between the judicial
systems of our two countries.

NEW CALLER:

Mr
Howard I might just say to you that I find the government, including
your own and other past governments, very hypocritical when it comes to
the death penalty here in this country. Quite happy to see the death
sentence carried out over there to their law, I want to know why it is
that we haven’t got the right here, why it’s not being put up as an
electoral point where we can’t vote to have the people to decide
whether or not the death sentence be reintroduced here.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well
a couple of things on that, firstly the criminal law of this country is
overwhelmingly administrated by state governments and I don’t, even if
I’m in favour of the death penalty, I couldn’t pass a law to apply the
dealt penalty for example in the state of Victoria. You can raise, and
this matter can be pursued at a state political level, you say why
haven’t you got the right? Well that’s up to the Victorian Government.

MITCHELL:

I assume from what you’re saying today that you are not supporting the reintroduction of the capital punishment in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

I
am not supporting the reintroduction, I mean my position, let me
repeat, is for reasons of pragmatic concern that the law from time to
time will make mistakes, I am against the death penalty. That is the
basis, always has been the basis of my objection. But I respect the
fact that a lot of people are in favour of the death penalty, a lot of
people who are close to me are in favour of the death penalty. It’s
just that different people have different views.

MITCHELL:

What do mean people close to you? You mean in your Cabinet?

PRIME MINISTER:

Just
generally, Cabinet, friends, etc, etc. You know more friends than
others. But I’ve had this view for a long time and it’s been debated ad
nauseam in Australia and if people want to raise it again it would be
open for example to the Victorian Opposition, if you have a different
view on this matter to promote it as an electoral issue, I’m not
encouraging them to do so but I’m just making the point that there
should be debate on it, I mean nobody’s trying to stop debate on it,
were debating it now and I’m expressing a view.