Today’s Age leads with the story of the impending release of Schapelle Corby.
Irrespective of what one might think of the case, I believe that most fair-minded people would agree that eight years for smuggling 4.2 kilograms of cannabis into Indonesia is a penalty paid.
Of particular interest to myself is the following:
Relations between Australia and Indonesia have improved with a series of high-level visits and recent suggestions by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa that a prisoner-exchange program could be established between Australia and Indonesia.
Indonesia’s Justice Minister has also linked Corby’s case with dozens of its underage citizens in Australian detention for crewing people-smuggling vessels. Several Indonesian youths have been released in recent weeks.
The above is something which former Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd had been working hard to achieve. The background is that Australia has requested clemancy for Australian citizens imprisoned in Indonesia, with the response from Indonesia being that why should they; that Australia housed many Indonesian youths on people smuggling convictions.
Indonesia considered this somewhat hypocritical of Australia, to demand fairer treatment of our citizens whilst denying fairer treatment of under-age people smugglers.
This has been highly political with the Gillard government expecting a public backlash for “being soft on” people smugglers.
I therefore thought it an opportune moment to repost an article I wrote last year:
– these carry mandatory jail terms of up to 20 years.
In what human rights lawyers consider to be an injustice, more than 150 crewmen face charges that carry penalties as harsh as for murder.
Hence a major reason why the Federal Opposition’s claim that the Labor government is “encouraging” people smuggling, is wrong. “Encouragement” does not equate with mandatory jail sentences of up to 20 years and their livelihood, their fishing boat impounded and destroyed. The minimum sentence for first-time offenders is a five-year jail term with a three-year non-parole period.
Interviews with Indonesian people smugglers have confirmed:
The Indonesian crewmen are usually paid the equivalent of a few hundred dollars in rupiah for steering a boat into Australian waters. They are told Australian authorities will take care of them – even paying them for each day they are detained – before quickly flying them back to Indonesia.
The con is easily sold because for years that was the way Australian authorities treated the crew of illegal Indonesian fishing boats.
And this is still the way that illegal Indonesian fishermen are treated. The main job of the patrol boats out of Cairns and indeed Darwin is not the interception of people smugglers, but illegal fishermen poaching in Australian waters. It is therefore unsurprising that the above illusion has been easy to sell by the people smuggling organisers.
In Indonesia people smuggling laws do not exist, therefore nothing has ever been done to stop embarkations. Some blamed John Howard’s poor relationship with Indonesia as a cause, however Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has likewise been unsuccessful. Indonesia might agree to do “something”, but does nothing.
A recent article provides that there is a legal challenge to the prosecution of people smugglers, this being a test case under the Migration Act.
Legal Aid solicitor Gavin Green has stated that accused people smugglers are arguably entitled to bring asylum seekers here and should be acquitted. ”Under this legislation it is not unlawful to bring people to Australia who have a lawful right of entry.”
That is, should the court finds that the passengers have a lawful right to seek asylum then surely the prosecution must fail. Basically a prima facie act which is illegal becomes lawful should the result be something which is lawful. A comparison might be break and enter. Prima facie this is unlawful, but if the result for example is to rescue someone trapped, then the original act thereby becomes lawful.
There is clearly a lot of money changing hands in Indonesia over the issue of people smuggling with the victims being not only asylum seekers who have a genuine right to seek refugee status in Australia, but the impoverished fishermen/smugglers who received little more than a pittance and yet are facing years in Australian prisons. Ignorance of Australian law is not a plea one might say.