Sunday, September 10, 2006

Howard is a hypocrite, if you don't know what "hypocrite" means

I was a little worried when I read Michelle Grattan’s column a few days ago. Worried that I didn’t understand the meaning of the word hypocrisy any more. So I decided to look it up.

Hypocrisy: insincerity of virtue by pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you don’t really have. Or, an expression of agreement that is not supported by a real conviction.

Nope, that’s what I thought it meant.

Grattan seems to think it means to consistently hold the same position:

It is very hard for the Australian Government to ask for clemency except on straight special pleading grounds. Australia would be better armed in such situations if internationally it argued the general anti-capital punishment case more robustly.

In a recent Lowy Institute paper, Capital Punishment and Australian Foreign Policy, Michael Fullilove observes that while Australia "engages in modest advocacy" against the death penalty, most of Canberra's work is on behalf of individual Australians.

The PM's selectivity has made Australia appear hypocritical. Howard, while declaring himself an opponent of capital punishment, has made it clear he's happy enough for the death penalty to be applied to the Bali bombers. He declared in early 2003 that there "won't be any protest from Australia" against the death sentence. (This dichotomy could be increasingly awkward, as the Bali bombers and Bali drug traffickers move concurrently towards executions.)

Sorry? If Howard doesn't actively protest against the death penalty being applied to non-Australian mass murderers (who murdered Australians), he'll seem hypocritical when he seeks clemency for Australian drug runners? And it's an "awkward dichotomy"? I'll try not to use big words to explain (what I thought would be self-evident) the difference between the two cases for people as slow as Grattan. If you are reading this post to one of these people (they couldn't read it for themselves, obviously), pause once in a while so you can wipe up their drool.

As I said last time Howard was accused of hypocrisy wrt the death penalty, the Bali bombers are Indonesian and drug traffickers such as the "Bali Nine" are Australian. He is obligated to seek clemency for Australian citizens... That's his job.

And further to this, the Bali bombers attacked and killed over 200 unsuspecting innocents. People do overdose on drugs, but they have made that choice somewhere along the way. The victims of the bali bombers only made the mistake of being on Kuta beach that night. These two cases are not Morally Equivalent.

Howard has been consistent with his stance on the death penalty. He's against it. And in his job as Prime Minister, he fulfils his obligation to Australian citizens who are facing it. Anti-death penalty advocates might want him to come out more forcefully in his opposition; to condemn every case, everywhere, but that’s not his job and it is an unrealistic expectation for anyone who is continually engaged in international diplomacy.