Christian Catalano underlines the inconsistency in the Howard Government's approach to the death penalty, and how damaging this can be in seeking leniency for Australians at risk in other jurisdictions.
This government has an ambivalent attitude toward lobbying governments on the death penalty. It seems to depend on whether proactive lobbying will suit the particular political spin being run on issues around the courts' decisions. If public sentiment is running against the convicted, such as in the case of terrorists and tyrants, the Howard govt is gung ho about the death penalty. If there is unease at home they go through a hand wringing exercise that smacks of hypocrisy. Some governments (Vietnam for example) have responded to Australia's representations and granted clemency, but the current politicised approach amounts to a horrible lottery.
Melbourne University professor of Asian law Tim Lindsey said the Government had "lost its leverage" on the issue.
"You can't have it both ways — if you support the death penalty for terrorists then you can't complain when it's applied to other offenders," he said.