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Voices of Concern: Aussies for Assange’s Return

With Julian Assange now fighting the next stage of efforts to extradite him to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 of which are based on the brutal, archaic Espionage Act, some Australian politicians have found their voice. It might be said that a few have even found their conscience.

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was sufficiently exercised by the High Court judgment overturning the lower court ruling against extradition to demand an end to the matter. In his opinion piece for the Nine newspaper group on December 14, he argued that rights were “not created in some legal sonic boom at one undefined point of our existence nor switched off like the power to a fridge because of a fear or a confusion as to the worth of their contents.”

The deputy PM proved mature enough to admit that “whether you like him or despise him”, the importance of the case transcended his situation. “So we must hope for the British courts to do so, and we will judge its society accordingly.” (They have not and, accordingly, should be judged.)

The Nationals leader has little time for the role of whistleblowing or disclosing egregious misconduct by a State; less time for Assange as the publisher in history, the exposer of crimes by a great power. “They are a separate matter to the key issue: where was this individual when he was allegedly breaking US law for which the US is now seeking his extradition from London?”

Joyce’s reasoning, while jejune on the historical contributions of WikiLeaks, has the merit of unusual clarity. He argues that the UK “should try him there for any crime he is alleged to have committed on British soil or send him back to Australia, where he is a citizen.” Assange never pilfered any US secret files; did not breach Australian laws and was not in the US when “the event being deliberated in the court now in London occurred.” To extradite him to the US would not only be unjust but bizarre. “If he insulted the Koran, would he be extradited to Saudi Arabia?”

The move by the Nationals leader also brought a few voices of support from the woodwork. Liberal backbenchers Jason Falinski and Bridget Archer are encouraging diplomatic intervention. Falinski suggested that the Morrison government “do what it can to get an Australian citizen back to Australia as quickly as possible” though he refused to entertain “a public spat with America.” Archer believed that “he should be released and returned to Australia.”

The announcement that Caroline Kennedy would be heading Down Under as the new US ambassador to Australia was also seen as an opportunity. Former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr suggested that Prime Minister Scott Morrison take the chance to discuss the Assange case with Kennedy. (This, from a man who once claimed that Assange “has had more consular support in a comparable time than any other Australian” while admitting that he did not “know whether this is the case.”)

Morrison might, suggests Carr, point out that Australia had its own challenges in facing war crimes allegations, notably “war crimes trials pending for Australian troops in Afghanistan who might have done the very things Assange exposed in Iraq.” Washington’s treatment of the publisher could well “turn this guy into a martyr.”

Carr sees such advice as part of the capital of trust between allies. It was a “small transaction under the architecture of what each sees as a mutually beneficial relationship.” It might even show that Australia was capable of behaving “like a sovereign nation” in “one tiny corner of our alliance partnership.” If Canberra were unable to “take up the cause of an Australian passport holder, what scope for any independent action do we allow ourselves?”

The former foreign minister shows, at stages, flashes of ignorance about aspects of the proceedings (the US prosecution, for instance, made a special point in not mentioning the Collateral Murder video in its proceedings), he is at least cognisant of the monstrous defects in the case, not least the fact that a good deal of the indictment is based on falsified accounts from former WikiLeaks volunteer, Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson.

The latest stirring of principled awareness in Australia should be treated warily. Australian governments tend to protect their citizens with a begrudging reluctance, except in the rarest of cases. They are notorious in playing the game of surrender and capitulation. In the context of the US-Australian alliance, one given an even more solid filling with the AUKUS security pact, the hope that Australia would ever be able to exercise sovereign choices on any issue that affects US security is almost inconceivable.

The lamentable behaviour from Canberra regarding Assange’s welfare has also been brought to light by the tireless exploits of lawyer Kellie Tranter. Using Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, Tranter developed a timeline revealing how Australian officials were updated on Assange’s condition (legal and physical) yet did little in the way of addressing it. Kit Klarenberg, making use of Tranter’s findings, also discusses the extent Australian officials knew about Assange’s plight.

In April 2019, for instance, the lawyer Gareth Pierce, acting for Assange, wrote to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) warning that the publisher’s possessions were being held by the Ecuadorian authorities. These included a stash of privileged legal documents. DFAT, while claiming it would chase the matter up, concluded in May 2019 that Assange’s possessions were “under the authority and jurisdiction of the Judicial System of the Republic of Ecuador.” Australian diplomats, it followed, were unable to intervene. The result: Assange’s documents, held by the Ecuadorians, were seized by the FBI.

As extradition proceedings were taking place, Peirce wrote to the Australian High Commission that consular representatives would have “undoubtedly noted what was clear for everyone present in court to observe” – that the publisher was “in shockingly poor condition … struggling not only to cope but to articulate what he wishes to articulate.” DFAT’s report of those proceedings, intentionally or otherwise, was stonily silent on the issue.

Throughout, DFAT maintained that Assange had refused consular assistance or support. This was a point the publisher took up in a meeting at Belmarsh prison with consular officials on November 1, 2019, claiming that to be misguided nonsense. He also noted concerns by the prison doctor about his state, being “so bad that his mind was shutting down,” the appalling state of isolation which made it impossible for him “to think or to prepare his defence.”

Little then, can be expected from the compliant minions in Canberra desperately keen not to soil or sour relations with Washington. But it is at least mildly heartening that a few members of the Morrison government have woken up to the fact that this grotesque act of persecution against a publisher should end.

 

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7 comments

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  1. Ai Khan Singh

    I was chatting to an American woman last week (I have frequently acknowledged that I have never met an American I didn’t like) and I told her that although I held dual nationality I was -currently – deeply ashamed of both. She admitted despising her own country for much the same reasons but was absolutely unaware of the most blatant US crimes which were known to just about everyone else.
    Chile has just elected a left-leaning government. No doubt the boffins at Langley are feverishly deleting China, Venezuela, Iran, Russia etc and substituting Chile.
    Get ready for ‘democracy now’ riots in 2022…

  2. Ken

    Another excellent article Mr Kampmark.

  3. Andrew J. Smith

    Good article, and on Assange’s lack of support from Australia whether the PM, Ministers, MPs, media etc. is helped along by media presentation that he is probably treasonous, plus politically and/or ideologically centre or left, hence, does not warrant Australian support or induces antipathy?

    Meanwhile some radical right low life on the streets have been demanding cartoonish Kochian ‘freedom & liberty’ and been platformed by our Fox type media in support?

    Australian society and especially politicised media, have some very strange priorities in our rush, like the UK, to become loyal Anglospherists following the US lead…… to where?

  4. Jon Chesterson

    MORRISON GET OFF YOUR SORRY USELESS ARROGANT FOSSIL ENTROCHUS AND TELL THE BRITISH AND US GOVERNMENTS ENOUGH’S ENOUGH, BRING HIM HOME

    ‘Warning of Dangerous Deterioration Following Assange’s Reported Stroke – Over 300 doctors from around the world have today written to the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Barnaby Joyce, imploring him to seek Julian Assange’s immediate release from prison in the UK [just] on medical grounds’.

    For once in your life Morrison do something to protect Australian citizens from torture and injustice perpetrated against us, from those who consider themselves to be our closest allies, when clearly they behave with such total disregard for truth, justice and respect for fellow Australians.

    Julian Assange has never pilfered any US secret files; has not breached any Australian laws and was not even in the US when the event for which he has been falsely alleged to have committed by the US government in a court in London, took place. The court in London and US have no just cause or jurisdiction, they are bogan kangaroo courts protecting secret US and British crimes against humanity conducted by both States, for which both governments should be on trial, not the postman, not our Australian citizen and fellow human being.

    For once Morrison do something before you make him a martyr and all Australia the shameful country that in the eyes of the world abandoned justice and reason, and which refused to defend its own.

    Merry Christmas Morrison
    Do nothing, hear no evil, fossil rear end
    Prime Minister of Australia

  5. Phil Pryor

    The P M, Mr. S Faecal-Extrusion, does NOT represent the fair go, legality, decency, honesty, integrity. He is a floating egofixated stellar object, aiming to solidify into a giant glow and not the reality of a black hole. May he meet his “maker” mighty soon, for our sake.

  6. Caz

    Hi Scott, how about asking Jen what she would do if this was one of her family? Or a member of Hillsong? Or a neighbour in the shire? She can’t do any worse than this government has done to turn a blind eye to an Australian citizen. Both US and UK are basket cases in the eyes of the world. it’s time to step back and make decisions in our best interests, rather than tie ourselves to a couple of hasbeens. Biden is a great disappointment Johnson never showed any promise of being more than what we knew him to be…a scruffy buffoon. You Scott are seen as a hanger on, ignorant of world politics and history. As an Australian I am embarrassed by your shortsightedness. Obviously you don’t seem to care how you will be portrayed in the history of Australia. You are one of those dimwits who live only for the moment. Well your moment is almost over.
    .

  7. skip

    “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”

    ― Mahatma Gandhi

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