In general, Australia doesn’t “give a damn” about the death penalty, says
Professor Tim Lindsey, director of the Asian Law Centre at the
University of Melbourne. In fact, in some cases – like that of the Bali bombers – “we
applaud it.”

We live in a region that includes some
of the “most enthusiastic” countries when it comes to the death penalty. “Every
single ASEAN country has the death penalty. All apply it to
narcotics.” (although the Philippines doesn’t practise it, he
qualifies). In China, it’s believed as many as 10,000 people were put to death last year, according to Amnesty International, Vietnam is a “very aggressive executor” (at least 64 people were killed last year) and Singapore has the highest per capita execution rate in the world.

The Australian government knows about this but “we’re not
interested. We don’t care.” And yet when the death penalty is
“measured out to an Australian citizen, we instantly call it barbaric.”

So when a case like Nguyen’s comes up we’re in a bind. Meanwhile,
this issue will raise its head again – it’s almost certain that if the
Bali Nine is convicted “many of them will see the death penalty,” says

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls says that the death penalty
diminishes us all, but it seems we’re “only diminished when it’s
Australian citizens who get the death penalty.” But the death penalty
is “morally wrong for every human being.”

And when the government changes its approach to the death penalty based
on what seems politically – rather than morally – right, its clout is

We’ve got to “be consistent,” says Lindsey. And we “have to start
thinking more internationally and not in this Fortess Australia
mentality.” Moreover, we “have to engage with south-east Asia as equals
not as countries
where we have little interest until our citizens our affected.”