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March 20 2010 | AUSTRALIA


New laws: death penalty never again

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Brisbane Times

Canberra :Death penalty dead and buried

The death penalty has been forever abolished in Australia after the federal parliament passed laws ensuring it can never be reinstated in any jurisdiction.

While no Australian state or territory uses the death penalty, the laws were needed to ensure the situation could never be reintroduced.

Both sides of politics supported the move which is largely seen as symbolic.

ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries said the abolition of the death penalty was a "hallmark of a civilised society".

Not since the execution in 1967 of Ronald Ryan - found guilty of shooting and killing prison officer George Hodson while escaping from Pentridge Prison - had the death penalty been applied in Australian law, Senator Humphries said.

It was worth noting, however, that the death penalty had been used throughout Australia's history, he said.

"The first use of the death penalty occurred only a few days after the First Fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788."

"It is to me a matter of great satisfaction that today the federal parliament on behalf of all Australian jurisdictions is in the position to close the door finally and I think irrevocably on this particular, rather dreary aspect of the Australian criminal justice system."

Fellow Liberal George Brandis said it was an appropriate measure for the commonwealth to legislate.

"And of course it is hardly necessary to add that it is many years since any of the states or territories had the death penalty," Senator Brandis told the Senate.

"Given that torture and the death penalty are already prohibited the effect of the bill is therefore in this respect largely symbolic."

The new laws also replace the existing offence of torture in a 1988 act with a new offence in the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009 passed the Senate without amendments. News

Legislation to prohibit torture and the death penalty

Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, today welcomed the passage of legislation through Parliament which prohibits the use of torture and ensures that the death penalty cannot be reintroduced anywhere in Australia in the future.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009 implements a specific Commonwealth offence of torture into the Commonwealth Criminal Code which will operate concurrently with existing State and Territory offences.

“Introducing a specific Commonwealth offence of torture will fulfil Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture to ban all acts of torture, wherever they occur,” Mr McClelland said.

The Bill also amends the Commonwealth Death Penalty Abolition Act 1973 to extend the application of the current Commonwealth prohibition on the death penalty to State laws.

This amendment will safeguard Australia’s ongoing compliance with the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires all necessary measures be taken to ensure that no one is subject to the death penalty.

“Successive Australian Governments have maintained a long-standing policy of opposition to the death penalty. The passage of this Bill will ensure that the death penalty cannot be reintroduced anywhere in Australia in the future.”

These reforms demonstrate the Australian Parliament’s fundamental opposition to acts that are contrary to basic human values and underline the Rudd Government’s ongoing commitment to meeting our international human rights obligations.

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