It’s a discussion that has never been so important.
There aren’t a lot of days when I agree with Barnaby Joyce. Today is that day. He’s got it spot on.
Barnaby Joyce told Lateline last night that we should have a discussion about bringing back the death penalty in Australia: “I think that the discussion we’re having about others we should also be carrying out domestically.”
And he’s absolutely correct – now is the perfect time for us to have that conversation.
Exactly what the death penalty means has never been so real to all Australians.
As the body of two men have the bullets removed from their hearts and are sown up to be returned to their families.
As a woman started this week as a newlywed and ended it as a widow.
As family, friends and millions who never knew Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran mourn their loss.
Now is the perfect time to talk about the barbarity of the death penalty. Now is the time to discuss how pointless it is. Now is the time for us to say as Australians we will never again see this happen in our country.
Now is the time to say to people who support the death penalty: What is it that you think our justice system is for? Why do we send people to prisons? Why do we sentence them? What is it for?
If it’s to rehabilitate criminals, that opportunity is lost.
If it’s to deter other criminals from committing the same crime, we know that doesn’t work.
If it is to give justice to a victim’s family, nothing that is done to a criminal will reduce a victim’s pain or the pain of their family. It will just create pain for another family.
If it’s to punish criminals, it is certainly a cruel way to die, which may give satisfaction to some people. But ask yourself this: with the number of cases that we know a person has been wrongly convicted, is that a risk we’re prepared to take? And even if we are confident we have the right person, how is death more punishing than a life in prison? Now that most states have legislation that means we can keep the worst serial offenders in prison indefinitely, what is easier? Twenty minutes of agony as the criminal dies or a lifetime of incarceration? An eye for an eye is a very short-sighted view for even the most bloody-minded of us.