A wake-up call from political Lala land

You have to hand it to Clive Palmer, he’s like a rat up a drainpipe when it comes to jumping on the bandwagon of a popular issue:

Police officers who endanger Australians’ lives by tipping off their counterparts in countries where the death penalty is used would face up to 15 years’ jail under legislation to be introduced into Parliament by Clive Palmer.

 Clive Palmer: another day, another headline
Clive Palmer: another day, another headline

This looks attractive at a superficial level. There is justifiable outrage at the revelation that the AFP may have contributed evidence that led to the conviction of the Bali 9.  And Clive has got his name up in lights tapping into this outrage.

But the issue is a slightly more complex one.

If Australia has a prohibition on providing information to countries about crimes for which that country has the death penalty, then members of the AFP are likely not to provide it. However, they will provide information for other (presumably lesser) crimes that do not carry the the death penalty.

Is this a “get out of jail free” card for drug traffickers?  Well, it certainly looks like it.

The other difficulty is that police forces regularly exchange information with international colleagues. This helps local authorities deal with international crime rings, some of which are becoming particularly influential in Australia.

If we decide to limit the flow of information to the Indonesian authorities (And other countries that carry the death penalty), then it is likely that they will return the compliment.

If the principle is widely applied then the number of countries with whom Australia co-operates will be slightly smaller.

It’s a bit like withdrawing the Australian ambassador to Indonesia. Good for public consumption at home, not much use in a practical sense.

And as an afterthought and in the light of all the protestations from the Abbott Government there is this:

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”.

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.

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