This is a matter of unclear polling and the politics of advantage. Nothing more.
ABC’s youth radio station Triple J has been implicated in the decision to execute Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myruan Sukumaran.
And many are asking whether the radio station has acted irresponsibly.
Last week, Triple J’s Hack program ran a story to gauge the public’s opinion on whether or not convicted Bali 9 drug smugglers Chan and Sukumaran should be executed for bringing heroin into Indonesia.
I was listening in that afternoon. It was a powerful program.
Host Tom Tilley and guest Ben Quilty did an excellent job at humanising both Chan and Sukumaran for the audience. They managed to change the minds of many listeners. Minds certain the pair should pay the ultimate price for their crime.
Now in an opportunistic grab by Indonesian ministers and diplomats, a poll that Tilley referenced at the start of the program has been used to justify denying the pair clemency.
Attorney General H.M Prasetyo said: “We have heard that many Australians support the execution and it is one of the things that pushes us to feel we are not making a mistake.”
Both the poll itself and the way it was reported in the media have been rather misleading.
Those surveyed for the poll were asked, “in your opinion if an Australian is convicted of drug trafficking in another country and sentenced to death, should the penalty be carried out?”
Tilley said 61% of those polled answered yes, penalties should be carried out.
Only 2123 Aussies were involved in the poll.
The poll was conducted by Roy Morgan “exclusively” for Triple J’s Hack program, Tilley announced on air, and Roy Morgan released the research with a headline directly linking the results to public sympathy for Chan and Sukumaran.
So, should Triple J have used the poll?
With hindsight you could say “no”, but that would be incredibly unfair because, quite simply, the poll and Triple J had nothing to do with the decision to end the life of Chan and Sukumaran.
Indonesian authorities had already announced the imminent death of the Australian pair before the program was aired. That’s why Hack chose to run the discussion.
Sure, the poll represented a slim majority but it certainly did reflected the current mood in Australia. You could gauge that from listener comments and calls throughout the program. (You can listen to the podcast here.)