By Crikey reporter Lucy Morieson

Despite prominent campaigns for the life of convicted Australian
drug smuggler, Nguyen Tuong Van, Australians appear evenly divided on whether he
should face the gallows in Singapore. According to the latest Morgan Poll taken last night, 47% of Australians agreed Nguyen’s death penalty should be
carried out, 46% said it shouldn’t, while 7% were undecided.

The results reflect the broader support for the death
penalty when it’s applied abroad, with 57% of Australians saying they believe
it should be carried out when a fellow Australian is convicted of trafficking
drugs in a country where the death penalty applies – while 36% believe it shouldn’t
be carried out and again, 7% are undecided.

But Nguyen’s execution comes at a time when Australian
opposition to the death penalty for murder is the highest ever recorded since
Roy Morgan began polling the issue in 1947, says Gary Morgan. In fact, with
only 27% of Australians supporting the death penalty for murder – and 66%
supporting imprisonment for the crime instead – it’s fair to say “support for
the death penalty has collapsed,” says Morgan.

Those in favour of Nguyen’s death sentence gave familiar
reasons for their support: many suggesting that he should suffer for
“all the
misery these people cause to Australian families.” Of this 47%, the
view seemed to be that Nguyen, as a drug trafficker, was an “indirect
murderer,” for the possible death inflicted from the doses of heroin he
was bringing into the country. Equally prominent was the view that as
visitors to foreign nations, Australians
should expect the full force of the law, which
one respondent summed up by saying: “He knew the laws of the country,
I feel
desperately sorry for his mother, but he knew what he was doing and
have done it.”

Opponents to the death penalty made their argument on
humanitarian grounds, with one respondent saying that “killing human beings is
inhumane in any situation, I don’t think any action or any crime warrants it.”
There was also the argument that Australians should be tried under Australian
laws, and that rehabilitation – rather than punishment – should be the first aim of the justice system.