|Is this the sort of guy you really want |
to be making decisions for us?
After listening to Liberal Party MP, Bernie Finn, you may be forgiven if you hear banjo music playing around in your head. If ever there was a reminder about the Movie, Deliverance, Bernie Finn is it.
Last week in the Victorian parliament, Finn said he believed there should be capital punishment for major drug dealers and drug lords. He was backing a call from fellow party member, Andrew Elsbury who - during his maiden parliamentary speech - said the death penalty was warranted in some circumstances including drug trafficking.
I believe there are some crimes so abhorrent that the death penalty is justified. These include acts of murder, drug trafficking or production in commercial quantities, and terrorism.
The premier, Ted Baillieu rejected the call from Finn and stood firm on his opposition to the death penalty. As expected, readers of the Murdoch press was full of adulation for Finn’s request to snuff out the evil druggies but others in the community were not as convinced. Law Institute of Victoria president Caroline Counsel, Greens MP Colleen Hartland, Family Drug Society chief executive Tony Trimingham and Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre director Prof. Dan Lubman all dismissed the idea. Even People Against Lenient Sentencing president Steve Medcraft said he didn’t think the death penalty for drug traffickers was a good idea.
I’m in favour of the death penalty but only for people like convicted murders or child killers. I don’t know if you could apply it to drug dealers
But Steve Medcraft’s fellow crusader for silly causes, Noel McNamara (president of Crime Victims Support Association) was much more supportive.
I think the death penalty should be brought back for anyone who takes a life or causes a (loss of) life like happens with drug traffickers
Of course there’s nothing like permanent rehabilitation on the end of a rope
Whether we have a right to sanction the death of a criminal is a contentious issue. Personally, I have struggled with this subject and often change my mind for reasons which seem logical at the time. But hey, who knows how a recently single junkie with clinical depression, diabetics and pain issues conducts logical conclusions in a sometimes, drug fucked mind? I certainly don’t. My current stance is that certain crimes do indeed deserve the ultimate punishment but drug dealing is not one of them. If drug dealers and traffickers deserve to die then so do the CEO’s of The Fosters Group, Purdue Pharma and Philip Morris. Supplying goods that can be dangerous or misused is not a reason to have your life terminated, no matter how opposed you are to the product. Should arms dealers, motorcycle salespeople and knife manufacturers also be executed?
One group of people that should be totally opposed to capital punishment are Christians. As far as I know, most mainstream religions argue that life is sacred and only God himself can make the ultimate decision. Unless of course, you’re a fundamentalist or a right-wing crackpot operating under the cover of religious fervour.
It seems that out spoken Evangelist, “Wobbly” Bill Muehlenberg, not only thinks the death penalty is a good idea but he is more upset with the Greens for calling it a “form of state-sanctioned murder” than Finn’s suggestion crossing any religious boundaries. I’m quite sure that Moses and his list of mortal sins insist that “Thou Shall Not Kill”. And I hear that even Jesus himself was pretty vocal on the subject of retribution and killing your fellow man.
Predictably the Greens went apoplectic about such a suggestion – one that sounds quite sensible to me.
But since when has the teachings of Jesus stopped hypocrites like Muehlenberg from pushing their own, self righteous agenda? In his attack on the Greens, Wobbly Bill bends the truth just enough to make his right wing claptrap sound plausible to his gullible audience.
Murder, as any law court knows, or any dictionary can inform us, has to do with the intentional killing of any innocent person. That is why murder is illegal, because it is always wrong to deliberately snuff out the life of an innocent person. But of course there are plenty of cases of killing which are not murder.
There is justified killing in other words. Such killing is neither immoral, nor – normally – illegal. The obvious candidates are self-defence, just war, and the death penalty. In all three cases the taking of a life is not murder and is not morally unjustifiable. In all three cases the person being killed is not innocent, and has warranted the forfeiture of his life.
Er, sorry Wobbly Bill but you’re definition of murder is your own interpretation. No dictionary I checked referred to an innocent victim.
the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another
--Various Dictionary Definitions
Wobbly Bill’s attempt to discredit the Greens is plainly deceitful. Emphasising that the victim has be innocent for it to classified as murder is the basis for his whole argument and really just a poor excuse to attack the Greens.
The real focus of this article though is not some self appointed moral watchdog or who agrees or disagrees with capital punishment but Liberal MP, Bernie Finn. I mean, who the hell is he anyway and why does his opinion matter so much? Let’s have a closer look.
This website is about drugs, drug policy and those who influence the law. Elected officials and politicians are given the task to decide how we, as a society deal with issues like drugs. These elected leaders have a responsibility to seek out the facts and evidence about issues like drugs and implement appropriate policies. Since the laws greatly affect our lives, elected officials have an obligation to take on expert advice and scientific data to determine what’s in our best interests. But what happens when some politicians ignore the best available data and instead, decide to base decisions on their own ignorant views or even their ideology?
You would hope that by producing enough conclusive research and carefully studying the history of drug prohibition, our leaders would be rational enough to take the evidence on board … even if it clashes with their own personal views. Any other complex issue would focus on the facts and only a few, rare politicians would reject the findings of quantified research. Even many climate change denialists had to eventually change their minds as the research came pouring in. So why does the issue of drugs produce so many unsubstantiated opinions? Why do so many of our elected leaders choose to reject the scientific evidence and advice from experts? Why do they persist so adamantly that their own views are superior to that of scientists and health professionals who spend their whole lives studying the issue? Sometimes, you only have to listen to their own unique brand of logic to realise how far they have strayed from the facts.
One of the great mysteries of our time concerns those who advocate the legalisation of such drugs as an answer. To give these drugs the parliamentary seal of approval would be in itself a crime. A greater mystery is the proposition that legal heroin injecting rooms with taxpayer-funded heroin would somehow stem the tide of this virulent disease in our society. Perhaps next we can expect to cure alcoholism by distributing cans of Victoria Bitter or bottles of Johnnie Walker courtesy of the taxpayer. It is a ludicrous proposition and one deserving of total contempt by this Parliament.
Although he will tell us otherwise, Bernie Finn is completely ignorant about the issue of drugs. Yes, he may see the damaging effects of drug abuse in Melbourne’s western suburbs but his reasoning is stooped in myths, a century of propaganda and masses of misinformation. Since 1997, Finn has regularly made false and misinformed comments in Victoria’s parliament about drug issues. Nearly every remark or speech concerning drugs has been totally void of facts and based on popular misconceptions which have been dismissed by health professionals and experts alike.
I could talk about the alcohol problem, which I think actually has more to do with the drug problem on our streets and in our nightclubs and so forth.
When I was a lad -- and I can still remember it -- a few of us had a sip from time to time, but we did not go on the rampage. We did not try to go and rip off somebody's head. We did not try to kick them to death. There was none of that sort of thing, but then again we did not take some of the drugs that are prevalent in our nightclubs now. Until such time as we embark on a campaign of deliberately cracking down -- of zero tolerance -- on the people who manufacture and sell these drugs to our young people the problem we have is not going to be solved and it will only get worse. I say to the government that as a society we need to get fair dinkum about this, to crack down on these drug dealers and to show them that we will not tolerate their behaviour here in Melbourne or in Victoria. It is just not on.
--Bernie Finn. Response to Government Enquiry on Street Violence
Finn is an alcohol apologist and will never concede that booze causes more health issues and violence than illicit drugs. It doesn’t matter how many studies prove this, Finn is unrelenting in his crusade.
As for Ms Hartland, I am perhaps not quite as enthusiastic about her contribution, given that she was very antagonistic towards those who enjoy a sip from time to time. She was almost getting to the prohibitionist stage, which is quite extraordinary for a member of a party which has from time to time supported -- and perhaps still does support -- the legalisation of marijuana, heroin and every other drug you can get your hands on. I just cannot work out the logic of that one, but perhaps it will come to me during a dream or something like that.
When I get into town and see some of the goings-on on the streets of Melbourne after dark on a Friday or Saturday night, it absolutely horrifies me. I cannot believe we have this mass of drunks just wandering around. I have to say that despite what Ms Hartland and some of the other speakers have said, it is not just alcohol that is the problem. In fact it is far from just alcohol that is the problem. It is drugs that are causing many of these young people to be completely out of their minds.
Basically this bill does not address the problem we have. The only way we can address the problem we have is to give the police in this state the authority and the resources to do their job. That is the only way we are going to attack -- and successfully attack -- this problem. But of course the government once again shows that it does not like police. That has been shown yet again by the fact that it has come up with something called 'compliance officers' to terrorise licensees.
--Handard(2009) - Liquor Control Reform Amendment (Enforcement) Bill
Like all good anti-drug zealots, Finn thinks that zero tolerance is the only solution. The problem is that it has never worked … ever. People like Finn hate harm minimisation and fail to grasp what’s it really about. If Bernie Finn had actually researched harm minimisation instead of just publicly slamming it, he would have realised that the programs he hates (safe injecting rooms etc.) are just a part of a bigger strategy including demand reduction and supply reduction. Research would have also taught him that the policies he is so adamant about has not deterred or reduced drug use. Instead, Finn appears to just make it up as he speaks. For example, Finn claims that illegal drug use has been the cause of “mental health problems reaching epidemic proportions”. The problem with this is that mental health disorders have not increased in line with growing drug use over the last three decades. There is no “mental health epidemic” especially related to drug use. Most of the drug related problems we are experiencing are largely caused by prohibition and the drug laws championed by Finn.
The politically correct brigade are probably at their most dangerous when they advocate harm-minimisation policies on illicit drugs. No tolerance is clearly the only effective policy to accept in combating illegal drugs. The enormous damage done to generations of our young people by supposedly harmless, recreational drugs is now becoming apparent. Too many have died from the scourge of drugs, and now we are seeing the long-term effects of illegal drug use with mental health problems reaching epidemic proportions. Too large a percentage of two generations have literally fried their brains.
Finn’s anti-drug rhetoric is often typical of the usual tactics employed by anti-drug groups. Exaggeration, myths, urban legends, junk science and personal views are common place. But sometimes, his arguments are so silly that any rational person must shake their head in disbelief.
These rave parties that we hear about are nothing but an excuse to take drugs. The police know that, the hospitals know that and even the promoters know that. I will give you an example. My wife, who is a nurse, worked for many years at St Vincent's Hospital in the emergency department, and she will testify quite happily that the promoters of these rave parties would ring the hospitals in the days leading up to a rave party and say, 'We've got a rave party on Saturday night. You'd better get ready'. These people would ring the emergency wards and say, 'We've got a party on Saturday night. You'd better get ready!'.
Remember the 1970s and 1980s when some ultra conservative religious groups tried to tell us that heavy metal music contained messages from Satan? Some of them said that Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, The Beatles and even Dolly Parton had such a detrimental affect on our youth that pop music should be banned. According to Finn, rap music is now threatening society and causing our kids to use illegal drugs, abuse women and join in on gang violence.
My understanding is that there are various forms of rap music and some are quite innocent and indeed respectable. But there is also a violent form of rap music that is a major threat, I believe, to the safety of women in particular and other law-abiding citizens within society. It encourages violence against women and law enforcement officers.
It encourages illicit, illegal drug use and gang violence. Music, as I am sure the President would be aware, has influenced many in society over many, many years for good and perhaps not so good reasons at times, but this form of music has had a profound deleterious effect on many especially young people.
Poking fun at rednecks like Finn might be entertaining but there is a serious side to all this. Bernie Finn is an elected official and has enormous powers at his discretion. He has the potential to create even more draconian laws and policies whilst never even having to produce a shred of evidence to support his agenda. This is a major concern for any community that wants government decisions based on something tangible like scientific data or extensive research. Unfortunately, Finn considers drug use a moral issue and something that can be prevented by tough law enforcement. This comes at a time when many nations are repealing their harsh drug laws because they have completely failed to curtail crime and drug use.
It is extremely important that we have a moral education program in this area. We must reinforce the fact that taking drugs, whether heroin or anything else, is wrong because they harm you and in many instances can kill. We must not allow education programs to be hijacked by special interest groups, as has occurred with education programs on other issues.
Changes are necessary for the treatment of offenders, and penalties for offenders and drug traffickers should also be changed. First offenders should receive a mandatory referral to a drug support agency for education and rehabilitation. If that does not work, on the second offence the offender should be fined. If there is a further offence, a heavy gaol sentence should be imposed. People should be made aware of what they are up against.
Drug dealers and pushers are the scum of the earth and they deserve to be treated with the contempt with which they treat our society.
Maximum sentences should be doubled from 25 to 50 years. Those who handle large quantities of drugs should receive a mandatory life sentence. People should be aware that if they deal in drugs they will have to pay the price.
Since the 1980s, harsh legal penalties for drug related offences like mandatory sentencing, longer prison terms and increased police powers have created massive problems for society whilst never achieving their goals. Our jails are over flowing, organised crime is rampant and drug use has grown exponentially. Why then, would people like Bernie Finn want these strategies extended? The evidence is freely available to anyone who wants it but it seems, Bernie Finn isn’t interested. He has his own strong views and while they are popular with his constituents, he has no reason to change his agenda.
Liberal Mp Bernie Finn Wants Death Penalty For Drug Lords But Victims Say Don't Execute
By Stephen McMahon and Amelia Harris
Western suburbs MP Bernie Finn wants the death penalty brought back for drug lords. Source: Herald Sun
FAMILIES who lost loved ones to drug overdoses have slammed a Victorian MP's call for dealers to face the death penalty.
Brian Butcher, whose daughter Kobie, 34, died in 2008, said he didn’t think the death penalty would work, but welcomed the debate.
It comes after Liberal MP Bernie Finn called for capital punishment to be brought back as the ultimate punishment for drug lords.
"I would definitely consider it because they are causing a lot misery to a lot of people," Mr Butcher said.
"Would the death penalty work? Probably not. Someone else would pop up. They’re all willing to take their chance for the big dollars.
"I would like one of them to come and sit down and watch my wife at night or watch my 10-year-old granddaughter crying because she just misses mummy."
Mr Butcher, 56, said he thought there would be always be someone willing to deal and traffic drugs.
"It doesn’t seem to be very much of a deterrent for the ones trafficking overseas," he said.
Should drug dealers get the death penalty? Have your say below
Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre director Prof Dan Lubman said he didn’t think the death penalty alone would solve the drug problem.
He said a wide ranging informed debate was needed.
Premier Ted Baillieu said he stood by his long term position of opposing the death penalty.
"It would be a conscience vote and the chances of that happening are next to none," Mr Baillieu said on radio station 3AW today.
In arguing for capital punishment, Mr Finn said drug runner and gangster Carl Williams was a merchant of death who should have been executed rather than left to die in prison.
Opponents of the death penalty said the reintroduction of capital punishment would make Australia a pariah in the eyes of the world.
But the outspoken western suburbs MP said the only way to keep children safe from the scourge of drugs was to bring back capital punishment.
Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara this morning backed Mr Finn's calls.
"I think the death penalty should be brought back for anyone who takes a life or causes a (loss of) life like happens with drug traffickers," Mr McNamara said.
"Of course there’s nothing like permanent rehabilitation on the end of a rope."
People Against Lenient Sentencing president Steve Medcraft said he didn’t think the death penalty for drug traffickers would solve the problem because it was so widespread.
"I’m in favour of the death penalty but only for people like convicted murders or child killers. I don’t know if you could apply it to drug dealers," Mr Medcraft said.
"How do you draw the line? What do you call a drug dealer? You can’t get hung for growing a dozen marijuana plants."
Mr Finn wants Premier Ted Baillieu to make the reintroduction of the death penalty a government policy.
The death penalty was outlawed in Australia in 1967 after the execution of Ronald Ryan at Pentridge Prison.
"These drug lords don't deserve to breathe the same air as us," Mr Finn told Parliament.
"I believe if we were to adopt it we would send a very clear message to these people who deal in death and misery."
Mr Medcraft said he thought drug traffikers should be "locked up forever".
Mr Finn was backing up the maiden speech by fellow Liberal MP Andrew Elsbury in support of capital punishment.
"I believe there are some crimes so abhorrent that the death penalty is justified. These include acts of murder, drug trafficking or production in commercial quantities, and terrorism," Mr Elsbury told the Parliament.
Law Institute of Victoria president Caroline Counsel said there was no going back to the dark days of capital punishment.
"We value all human life, born or unborn, and are fundamentally opposed to the death penalty in any circumstances," Ms Counsel said.
She warned these sorts of debates could inflame an irrational response from some in the community.
Shadow Attorney-General Martin Pakula called on the Premier to clarify if Mr Finn's remarks reflected official government policy or whether he had slipped the leash again.
Greens MP Colleen Hartland was also appalled by her fellow parliamentarians' call.
"I don't support any form of state-sanctioned murder, no matter what the crime," Ms Hartland said.