Thursday, December 01, 2005

Australians and the Death Penalty

This very sad story about an Australian citizen arrested and executed in Singapore for smuggling 400 grams of heroin has a bizarre bit at the end:
A survey by Morgan Poll conducted on Wednesday night showed 47 percent of Australians believed Nguyen should be executed, 46 percent said the death penalty should not be carried out, and seven percent were undecided.

Australia abolished the death penalty decades ago.

This doesn't quite compute. If Australia reached a real consensus on capital punishment, then who do more people want to see their fellow citizen executed by a foreign government for a reasonably minor drug offense? Is the poll faulty? Do Australians actually favor the death penalty as an institution?


The Fox said...

Perhaps the 47% in favor are just dedicated cultural relativists. "Capital punishment for thee, but not for me," and all that.

Anonymous said...

To be blunt, I don't see what is so sad about this. Assuming that he actually did said deed, it seems to be me to be extraordinarily stupid.

Just a simple road trip to Canada recently reminded me of this: being on American soil means having many rights. Leave that soil and those rights are no longer guaranteed. Change American to Australian and you get this fellow's situation.

Singapore's draconian punishments are no surprise. What is sad (I might admit) is that the likely motivation for risking those punishments is 'the invincibility of youth.'

aaron said...

I wonder if this guy's last name was Atkinson instead of Nguyen whether the Australian peoople would have a different take.

Anonymous said...

Nearly a pound of heroin is a relatively minor drug offense? This guy wasn't sneaking in a few dime bags- that's alot of pretty nasty stuff.

Okay so this guy isn't running a container load of stuff in and I don't believe a pound should get the death penalty in the US but when in Rome....

However the point about a good deal of Australian support for the death penalty is well-taken


Jay D. Homnick said...

Here's your answer. Read the original poll.

The poll shows only 26 percent support for the death penalty in general. They just have a concept that if you're in another country you're subject to its laws and can't expect your home country to demand special treatment.

Bizarro Jack said...

Homnick's hit the nail on the head, and I'm irritated I didn't say it first.

It's a matter of respecting the rule of law - it may seem relativist to Australians, but if you're in Singapore, the decision making process seems pretty much absolutist.

I will add that this is a decent example of why the entire relativism vs. absolutism argument is 97% BS*. You can look at things and know they're black and white, but if you can tell it's not gray without a magnifying glass, you're just not looking very hard.

* I'm making allowances for truly unreasonable double standards, which is almost never what the "relativist vs. absolutist" arguments are framed upon.