September 19, 2012
Burchett Hill City Council is to investigate the possibility of introducing beheading as a penalty for certain "more serious" offences against municipal by-laws.
"We're taking our cue from some of our Islamic ratepayers on this one," says Councillor Les Rhiannon, Mayor of the progressive inner-city municipality ("proudly twinned with Pyongyang"). "As we've clearly seen in recent days, there has been eloquently expressed support for beheading from all age groups in the Moslem community. Your council feels therefore that to incorporate beheading into our local by-laws would be a significant gesture in the direction of building greater understanding and harmony between the diverse groups that make up our shared civic community."
Councillor Rhiannon says that a committee will be set up to look into the ways that legal barriers to capital punishment can be circumvented. He said that council solicitors Finkelstein & Bromberg would bring a test case in the Supreme Court arguing the right of the municipality to determine its own rules in purely local matters where "good communal governance" is the over-riding issue.
"Let's face it," he added. "A lot of our laws are just a load of outmoded Anglocentric baloney, quite irrelevant to the administration of justice in a modern Australian municipality. They need to be made to correspond to contemporary opinion in a pluralist society. The introduction of beheading will make our local by-laws more reflective of the informed attitudes to crime and punishment held by a not insignificant and valued cultural group in Burchett Hill, a group that has its own highly developed concept of libertarianism with a weight of tradition behind it going back far beyond the so-called Magna Carta.
"Further, as a Greens-controlled municipality, Burchett Hill will be in the vanguard of progress by introducing beheading, a legal sanction that is in full and total harmony with other Greens policies that celebrate life as an experience to be subordinated to the good of the community, policies such as infant existence termination (pre- and post-birth) and compulsory elder self-disposal."
Councillor Rhiannon added that it was "still too early to say" what sort of by-law infringements would be punishable by decapitation rather than a fine. But "environmentally deleterious" offences under council's refuse collection by-laws would "almost certainly" attract a capital penalty, as would "hate speech" against Green Party officials and traffic obstruction of bicycle lanes. Refusal of celebrants to conduct a same-sex marriage would probably also qualify.
As for finding "an executions professional" to implement the penalty, the Mayor refuses to accept that there is likely to be any difficulty, even after so many years without capital punishment in Australia. "I'll be killed in the rush - ha ha - when I advertise this job," he says. "We'd have more executioners than offences if I stuck up a notice asking for volunteers in at least one community cultural centre I can think of. And don't forget we've got the Sons of the Caliphate with their scimitars. Council has been subsidising them for years as part of our "Diversity in the Arts" programme. In return, I think I can say they would do the job for free."
Of course, none of this will happen if Burchett Hill's legal challenge to existing legislation forbidding judicial execution is unsuccessful. "I wouldn't worry about that if I was you," says the Mayor. "If those judicial lackeys of the establishment on the bench chuck out our application, let's see whether a well organised riot will make them see reason. That hideous old nineteenth-century Law Courts with its silly blindfold statues and overtones of Victorian imperialist pomposity would go up like a torch."
The Quadrant Book of Poetry: 2001 - 2010
edited by Les Murray