Thomas Kelly Speech To The Legislative Assembly, 12 November

Mr DAVID ELLIOTT (Baulkham Hills) [12.04 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of members the recent and tragic murder of a young man who went to school in my electorate. I use the term “murder” because the offender apprehended for the death of Thomas Kelly was, until a week of active injustice, charged with the offence of murder. In July last year Thomas, who could have been the son or relative of any family represented in this Parliament, went on a night out with friends. This young man was special to me because his parents made the significant sacrifice to have him enrolled in one of the schools in my electorate of Baulkham Hills. I know many of his school mates and the families he associated with. By all accounts, Thomas Kelly was a fine young man, the type of young man any father would boast about. Thomas and his family—indeed, our entire community—had every reason to believe he could achieve anything he put his mind to.

As the father of two young boys who are also schooled in the Hills district, I cannot imagine the pain the Kelly family is going through—pain brought about because of the senseless slaying of their son and then because the New South Wales judicial system thought so little of the crime. I found the circumstances surrounding this matter so unjust that I have written to Mr and Mrs Kelly to formally apologise for the way they have been treated. I know this will have little benefit to the Kelly family and their friends, but it was important to my community that someone who is part of the system acknowledges that the system had failed. In sentencing Thomas’s killer, the court used the Aboriginality of the offender as a mitigating circumstance. I find this excuse to be abhorrent because in doing so the court is actually suggesting that Aboriginals must be excused because they may have a predisposed tendency to violence. Does this mean that Mark Ella and Neville Bonner have some genetic, predisposed inclination to this sort of behaviour?

The court also used the offender’s low socio-economic standing as an excuse. Is he saying that low-income Western Sydney families are also genetically predisposed to murder? As a working class western suburbs boy, I find that excuse horrific. I cannot imagine anyone in my social sphere suggesting that they should be excused from a crime simply because they hail from Western Sydney. The court finally suggested that the offender’s single parent upbringing is a mitigating circumstance. Does that mean that all single parent families have killers in their midst? If not, why are offenders able to use this as an excuse for their behaviour? Of course, the answer to all these questions is no. That is why the outrage of the Thomas Kelly case is unprecedented. The court handed down a ruling which was within the confines of acceptable standards according to the New South Wales judiciary.

What kind of society do we live in when those entrusted with the disposition of justice choose to hide behind the latest politically correct sociology? Nobody believes that justice should be dispensed by a lynch mob. However, it is clear from the feedback I am receiving in my own electorate that the community believes the courts have forfeited the right to use their total discretion in sentencing. For this reason, it is my opinion that this Parliament needs an honest and open debate about the need to legislate for mandatory sentences when the courts have found offenders guilty of premeditated and wilful acts of violence. In this place we often speak of rights—the right to a defence, the right to a fair trial. I ask the House: What about the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Sadly, Thomas Kelly no longer holds any of these rights, while his killer will enjoy all of these rights again in just four short years—four short years after an absolute demonstration of a lack of empathy, which is, to my mind, the very definition of evil. Edmund Burke once said that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Evil is flourishing and it is time the judiciary of our State began honouring their commitment to justice and human rights for all, not just those who come before the bench.

A young schoolboy from my electorate was killed last year. How many more schoolboys will die before the rights of victims of crime become the paramount concern of our legal system?