Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Justice Minister Michael Keenan. Photo: Alex EllinghausenBipartisanship breaks down over executionsBali nine executions were ‘more perfect’Analysis: Australia may have to ride out JokoNewspapers caught out by reprieveAFP to face grilling over Bali nine role
The Abbott government quietly scrapped an instruction to the Australian Federal Police last year requiring it to take Australia’s opposition to the death penalty into account when co-operating with overseas law enforcement agencies.
In 2010, Labor’s then minister for home affairs, Brendan O’Connor, included Australia’s opposition to the death penalty in his official ministerial direction to the AFP.
The 2010 ministerial direction said the minister expected the AFP to “take account of the government’s long-standing opposition to the application of the death penalty, in performing its international liaison functions”.
This was the first time such an instruction had been included in a ministerial direction to the AFP.
In May 2014, Justice Minister Michael Keenan issued a new ministerial direction that removed the instruction. The 2014 ministerial direction includes no reference to the death penalty.
In a letter sent to Mr Keenan on Wednesday, opposition justice spokesman David Feeney said the instruction should be included in the ministerial direction as a “matter of urgency”.
The omission “raises concerns that protecting Australians from the risk of being subject to the death penalty in a foreign jurisdiction is no longer to be considered a critical priority for the AFP,” Mr Feeney wrote.
“In light of the the devastating loss of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran overnight, and the national outpouring of grief which has followed, it is more important than ever that … Australia’s political leaders do all we can to protect Australians from the threat of the death penalty, and to campaign for the global abolition of this cruel punishment.”
Mr Feeney asked for clarification whether the omission was deliberate or an oversight.
When Labor introduced the instruction in 2010, Philip Ruddock – who was attorney general at the time of the Bali nine arrests – said it was “very problematic” and could stop the AFP co-operating with Indonesian police to prevent potential terrorist attacks.
The AFP also has a set of internal guidelines, developed in 2009 following the Bali nine arrests in Indonesia, titled AFP National Guideline on International Police-to-Police Assistance in Death Penalty Situations. The guidelines require the AFP to consider “the degree of risk to the person in providing the information, including the likelihood the death penalty will be imposed” when co-operating with overseas agencies.
Mr Keenan on Thursday accused Labor of playing politics with the deaths of two men and said the party was creating confusion by referring to the high-level ministerial direction rather than the AFP’s internal guidelines.
“I might say that I’m pretty outraged and offended that the Labor Party would use the tragedy of two Australians being executed to make what is an incredibly cheap and invalid point,” he said. “I think they should take a long hard look at themselves if they think this is the sort of time to be politicking in a way that is completely inaccurate. The [AFP] guidelines are the same as when they were this in office and applied in the same way by this government.”
Speaking after the execution of drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that she believed the AFP’s guidelines relating to the death penalty were sufficient.
The AFP is set to break its silence on its role in delivering Chan and Sukumaran to Indonesian authorities in 2005 after previously declining to comment in detail because the mens’ case was being heard before the courts.
The AFP has said it will hold a press conference in coming days while independent senator Nick Xenophon has said he will pursue the matter with the AFP at upcoming Senate hearings.
Senator Xenophon said the removal of any mention of the death penalty from the ministerial directive was “disturbing”.
It – and the AFP’s role in Chan and Sukumaran’s arrests – should be examined urgently by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, he said.
“There are legitimate questions to be asked about whether Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan would be alive if not for the actions of the AFP,” he said.Australian Politics – Fairfax