Parliamentary motion: Chan and Sukumaran

  • Speech, E&OE

Colleagues, this motion goes to the heart of what we believe will be a grave injustice against two Australian citizens facing execution in Indonesia.

Whatever one's views of the rights and wrongs of this situation, after speaking to the mothers of Australian citizens Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, I ask others to place themselves – just for a moment – in the shoes of these young men and their families. Sons, brothers, facing death by firing squad for shocking actions, for shocking mistakes, made over a decade ago.

Australia's strong opposition to the death penalty at home and abroad is reflected in the Government's determination to do all possible to seek a stay of execution and clemency for Andrew and Myuran. At the same time that we seek clemency, we acknowledge the serious drug smuggling crimes for which Andrew and Myuran were convicted. We are not understating the gravity of the nature of these crimes.

Assessed as low to mid-level drug syndicate members, Andrew and Myuran were sentenced to death two days short of nine years ago on the 14 February 2006 - on the charge of masterminding the trafficking of over 8 kilograms of heroin out of Indonesia into Australia.

Such an amount of heroin would have brought untold misery - and possibly death - to drug-addicted Australians and their families.

Some tell me that Andrew and Myuran knew the risks and possible consequences of their actions. For it is well-known that Indonesia has long imposed the death penalty for drugs offences. This fact has been ever-present in Australia's travel advice for those travelling to Indonesia.

In all of our travel advisories – and in our Consular Services Charter, which sets out what the Government can and can't do for Australians in difficulty overseas – we emphasise that we can't get people out of jail. We can't interfere with a sovereign country's judicial processes, just as we wouldn't countenance it here, and many legal systems are very different to ours.

Of the 14,500 Australians who needed consular assistance last year, there were an extraordinary 1200 arrest cases, and 339 Australians in prison. On any given day, there are around 1300 active consular cases. I pay tribute to the tireless and dedicated consular officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, indeed for whom Andrew and Myuran's case is one.

I know there are some recent poll results that suggest a slim majority of Australians are in favour of the death penalty. However, serious doubts have been cast about the legitimacy of this poll and I do not believe it represents accurately the views of the Australian public.

Unfortunately, these results have been misused, I suggest, irresponsibly in some quarters, in application to Andrew and Myuran. It is deeply discomforting to me to think that this out-of-context polling might be relied upon by authorities in Jakarta.

Without doubt, Andrew and Myuran need to pay for their crimes with lengthy jail sentences. But they should not need to pay with their lives.

Literally hundreds of emails from concerned Australians have flooded my inbox, many from Australians who say they have never written to a politician before. There have been well-attended rallies and vigils. More than 30,000 Australians have written to the Indonesian President and members of the Indonesian Government, respectfully calling for the planning of these executions to be halted.

Our shared hope is that the Indonesian Government, and its people, will show mercy to Andrew and Myuran.

Both men are deeply, sincerely remorseful for their actions. Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate.

Andrew and Myuran are the model of what penal systems the world over long to achieve.

Successive Governors of Kerobokan Prison in Bali - whose prison has given Andrew and Myuran the opportunity to reflect and change - have testified to their remarkable transformation.

A decade on from their crimes, Andrew and Myuran are changed men. They are deeply committed to a new path.

Both men are paying their debt to society. With dedication and unwavering commitment, they are improving and enriching the lives of their fellow prisoners.

Andrew has completed a theology degree in prison. As a pastor, he now provides religious counselling and guidance to fellow inmates. On the day he received the President's rejection of his clemency application, Andrew's Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said he was nowhere to be found, for even at this moment of undeniable personal anguish, Andrew had taken time out to comfort a fellow inmate who was seriously ill.

Myuran – referred to by many as the 'gentle giant' - has nearly completed a fine arts degree in jail. He has had the opportunity to become an accomplished artist; his raw talent recognised and fostered by his friend and mentor, renowned artist Ben Quilty.

In prison, Andrew and Myuran sought permission from prison authorities and began an array of courses to benefit fellow inmates, and to prepare them for their return to society.

They have led extensive and varied arts, cultural and vocational courses. Some of their courses are aimed directly at drug addicts, equipping them with the skills to beat their addiction, saving their lives and giving them real prospects in the future.

Andrew and Myuran have raised money for fellow inmates' medical procedures; for victims of Typhoon Haiyan; for Indonesia National Day festivities.

Indeed, such is the profound effect of Andrew and Myuran's inspiring humility and service, their fellow prisoners have come forward to lend support, even offering to take their place in execution to President Widodo.

Both families have told me they are proud of the men their sons have become. And while I'm sure that in their hearts they'd like nothing better than to see them come home, Andrew and Myuran's home now is prison. As Michael Chan told me, in Kerobokan they have a quality of life – not one that we would choose – but they have so much more that they can contribute through their work in this prison.

I believe it is Indonesia that will lose the most from executing these two young men.

Their remarkable rehabilitation, and the circumstances of their arrest, has prompted five successive Australian Prime Ministers to make representations in their name.

This Government has implemented a sustained, high-level advocacy campaign to try to stay Andrew and Myuran's executions. Eleven written representations have been sent to Indonesian counterparts since the 7th of January – from the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, the Attorney-General, the Minister for Justice and me as Foreign Minister. Both the Prime Minister and I have written joint letters with our colleagues from the Opposition and the Greens and I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition for their support as well as the Leader of the Greens. Well over one hundred parliamentarians have conveyed their position in a joint letter to the Indonesian Ambassador.

In those representations, we reiterate our respect for Indonesia's sovereignty, while pointing out the special circumstances that warrant mercy. Indonesia can be in no doubt about our position.

I have spoken to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marsudi many times on this case. In fact, since Andrew and Myuran were convicted, over fifty-five personal representations at Ministerial and Prime Ministerial level have been made. High profile Australian officials and members of the business community have made discreet overtures to their influential Indonesian contacts.

And our officials in Jakarta have made – and are continuing to make – respectful, tireless and targeted diplomatic representations at the highest levels.

In response to our representations, the Indonesian Government has pointed to its determination to deal firmly with drugs offenders. We by no means underestimate the problem of drugs, and drug-related crimes, in Indonesia. In Australia, we too face these challenges.

That is why Australia and Indonesia share a commitment to reducing the scourge of illegal narcotics and their destructive impact on our countries, on our societies, the impact of which falls disproportionately on the poorest and the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Australia and Indonesia work in partnership to address drug-related crime at all levels. No country has done as much as Australia to support Indonesia in this area. Not only is there cooperation between our police and law enforcement authorities, but Australia also supports drug rehabilitation and harm reduction programs in Indonesia. These programs have saved Indonesian lives.

Through the effectiveness of the Australia-Indonesia anti-narcotics cooperation, a number of Indonesian nationals have served or are currently serving lengthy prison sentences in Australia for drug crimes.

Some of these Indonesian nationals were arrested attempting to import illegal drugs into Australia. These Indonesian prisoners will have the opportunity to make amends for their crimes and to re-enter society as reformed citizens, and return to their families.

The families of these two young Australian men have spoken openly and in heartbreaking terms of their hopes for a stay of execution.

When I met both families in January, they told me of the excruciating daily burden they bear, knowing their children, their siblings, face an untimely and violent end. Raji Sukumaran and her other children, Chintu and Brinta, spoke of the devastation Myuran's fate had wrought on their family. Helen and Michael Chan pleaded for Andrew to be given a second chance.

When I spoke to the families, who were in Jakarta, by phone this week, they told me how it was virtually impossible to be strong for each other. How it was unbearable for them to see their sons, their brothers, not knowing if it would be their last time. How could anyone not be moved by their heartbreaking pleas for mercy?

The Government stands resolutely with both families. After all, Australia is only doing what Indonesia is doing: making representations on behalf of Indonesian families, in support of Indonesian death row prisoners abroad.

There was the famous case of Ibu Satinah, whom the previous Indonesian Government saved from beheading in Saudi Arabia after she had been convicted of murdering her elderly employer.

The new Widodo Government has signalled it will do the same. This week, the Jakarta Post reported on a Cabinet meeting in which it is said the President instructed his ministers to seek clemency for Indonesian migrant workers abroad on death row.

My friend, my colleague Ibu Retno, Foreign Minister Marsudi was quoted as saying the Government was committed to helping release over 200 Indonesians currently facing the death penalty abroad, stating "the President has instructed that the state be involved in every legal case (involving Indonesian nationals abroad)".

According to Indonesian NGO Migrant Care, representatives of whom met with Andrew and Myuran's families this week in Jakarta, up to 360 Indonesians face the death penalty overseas, including around 230 on drug charges. Migrant Care and other reputable Indonesian institutions, including the National Commission on Human Rights, have said that Indonesia's current policy of proceeding with executions at home would risk undermining its representations abroad.

Madame Speaker, the Australian Government will continue to seek clemency for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. We urge the Indonesian Government to show the same mercy to Andrew and Myuran that it seeks for its citizens in the same situation abroad.

Madame Speaker, colleagues, we must not give up hope, and we will continue with our efforts to save the lives of Australian citizens Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

- Ends -

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