Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (21:22): The former President of Poland, the late Lech Kaczynski, once a fighter against the repressive Soviet puppet government in his country through the trade union movement, warned that countries that give up the death penalty award an unimaginable advantage to the criminal over his victim—the advantage of life over death. In Australia in 1973, the death penalty was abolished for federal offences and, in 2010, the former Rudd government passed laws that prevented the death penalty from being reintroduced by any state or territory in Australia.
I know that the death penalty has not been used as a punishment in this country since 1967 but, in effectively removing the capability for the nation or any of the states to reintroduce that penalty, I say that this parliament gave an unimaginable advantage to the criminal over the victim. I also say that this House of Representatives, in doing that and in supporting a motion such as the one before us today, fails to live up to its name. To be truly representative on this issue we would adhere to the views of the general public on this issue instead of the views of Amnesty International or the United Nations.
One poll I found on the question of support or opposition to the death penalty was conducted less than a decade ago and was specifically regarding terrorism. In August 2003, Newspoll conducted an extensive survey in which respondents were asked whether they were in favour or against the introduction of the death penalty in Australia for people who were found guilty of committing major acts of terrorism. The result was that 56 per cent of respondents supported the death penalty in those circumstances, as opposed to only 36 per cent against.
I may be a minority in this place when I say that I too support the death penalty for terrorists and for those found guilty of the most heinous of crimes—the murder of a child, particularly when it involves rape or the murder of an elderly person or a person with disabilities, again particularly when it involves rape. I may be a minority in this place when I say that, but I can tell you that it is not a minority view in the electorate at large. That fact is acknowledged by even the Australian Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which admits on its website that there are recent polls showing that 70 per cent of Australians support capital punishment for heinous crimes.
I turn now to one case that I believe fully warrants the death penalty: the vicious murder of Zahra Baker, a young girl originally from Giru in my electorate of Dawson. According to a staff member at a Giru day care centre: 'Zahra seemed very happy. She always came in with a smile on her face. She was at preschool then and was diagnosed with cancer. She went away for treatment. She was a very happy, determined little girl. She was willing to give anything a go.' She was a little girl struck down with cancer at a young age. She went through chemotherapy and all the horrors that that involves, and she lost a leg to that terrible disease. Zahra moved with her father and stepmother to America—a terrible move given what transpired. But, in the darkness, the shining light may be that true justice can be served, given that the crime occurred in North Carolina, where the death penalty is still an option.
The tiny body of Zahra Baker now lies scattered across the woodlands and in the creeks in a small North Carolina town. The autopsy on her remains found that two different cutting instruments were used to dismember this little girl's body, and her skull has never been found. I will not speak about that matter in greater detail and I will not point out potential suspects, although that is something that is readily available through the media. What I will say, though, is that if the police are able to find her killer and prove guilt in a court of law, and all the information is pointing to that conclusion, then I say that the death penalty would be the only just penalty to fit the seriousness of that crime against that young girl.
Some people may reel from that statement but, in our protected world here in Canberra, we are not exposed to the great evils out there, and I suppose it would be the same for a Hollywood actor. In his book Mindhunter, a former FBI serial profiler, John Douglas, talked about the actor Scott Glenn coming to see him to do research for a character he played in Silence of the Lambs. Douglas recounted: 'Glenn was a pretty liberal guy who had strong feelings on rehabilitation, redemption and the fundamental goodness of people.' Douglas showed him crime scene photos and let him listen to recordings of killers torturing their victims. Douglas wrote: 'I made him listen to one of two teenage girls in Los Angeles being tortured to death in the back of a van by two thrill-seeking killers who had recently been let out of prison. Glenn said that after seeing and hearing what he did in my office that he could no longer oppose the death penalty.'
I want to talk about deterrence. Repeated empirical evidence suggests that capital punishment has had a deterrent effect. That is proven. I make no apologies for supporting the victim over the criminal.