Sentencing Schapelle A Drug-Induced Discussion on the Differences between Australia and Southeast Asia
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The spate of high-profile drug trafficking cases involving Australians provided an avenue of expression for the thinly veiled feelings of superiority of some Australian media commentators over our Southeast Asian neighbours. The Australian public heard repeated expressions of outrage at the severity of the sentences and, particularly in the case of Shapelle Corby, comparisons to Abu Bakar Bashir's three year jail term, which was then reduced to eighteen months, for immigration offences connected with terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiah. One of the more outlandish criticisms was from 2GB radio commentator Malcolm T. Elliott who stated that the Indonesian judges presiding over the Corby case were "straight out of the trees" and that they "look like the three wise monkeys". The underlying assumption of such commentary was that the Indonesian legal system was flawed and inferior to the Australian legal system. In comparison to the hyperbole, there were relatively few attempts in the mainstream media to understand the underlying reasons for the differences in handling drug cases. Exploring the issue of sentencing offers a window on historical differences between Australia and Southeast Asia that have been mistaken, and in some cases lauded, as backwardness.
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