Australia

***NEWS: Australian government has changed its extradition law and no media has reported on it.***

Contents

Without the help of his government, Mr Assange may well be in grave danger. - Gareth Peirce letter to Kevin Rudd (Foreign Minister at the time), 25 October 2011

Australians: how to take practical Action to support Julian Assange - see updates on the Action page.

The Australian Government has done the absolute bare minimum above stuff-all to help this Australian citizen in trouble. […] They’ve attempted to block and delay Freedom of Information requests, they haven’t answered straight questions, they’ve voted against motions, and to me it’s starting to look not like indifference but like hostility. - Senator Scott Ludlam

News

  • Bernard Keene, Crikey, 18 April 2012: "After dodging and delaying FOI requests about its consideration of the case of Julian Assange for months, the government has blocked the release of any material that would reveal its internal legal deliberations over Assange’s extradition to the United States."

The only document released in connection with Senator Ludlam’s FOI request has been from the Attorney General’s office. The released documents "featured extensive use of the famous black highlighter and bordered on nonsensical".

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also delayed release, under freedom of information, of sensitive Australian diplomatic cables relating to Julian Assange until after a legal challenge to the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to Sweden has been decided. The delay follows expressions of concern by United States authorities about disclosure of US-Australian discussions about WikiLeaks., Philip Dorling, SMH 31 March 2012

  • 17 March 2012: Assange announces his intention to become a candidate for the Australian Senate in 2013. Read Peter Kemp’s article on WL Central on the announcement.
  • 9 March 2012: Julian Assange interviewed on ABC’s radio Breakfast Show with Fran Kelly. Transcript and audio:

"Australian politicians enter into developing a new form of patronage network that extends overseas into Washington. Many of these politicians have been good at sort-of rising up through the ranks of power, in Australia, by sucking up to the next most powerful person. And when they get to the height of Australian power they continue that same basic methodology into the United States. And that is why Australian politicians have not stood up for Australians in the past. And that’s why they’re not standing up for WikiLeaks and it’s why they’re also not standing up for Austin Mackall."

  • 1 March 2012: Geoffrey Robertson explains why Australia should act to help Assange.

  • 22 February 2012: Kevin Rudd steps down as Australian Foreign Minister to take on Prime Minister Gillard in a ballot on 27 February 2012, half-way through an official visit to Washington.
  • Geoffrey Robertson participates via Skype in the Houston Law and Media Seminar on WikiLeaks (January), alongside Eric Schmitt from the New York Times, Lucy Dalgish from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Don DeGabrielle, a private international governmental investigations attorney, former U.S. Attorney, and former FBI Special Agent, and David Adler, federal criminal defense attorney and former CIA officer. Notes and transcript.
  • 24 November 2011: Greens Senator Ludlam speaks to the press after Government and opposition refuse to hear question to Prime Minister regarding Julian Assange. As a courtesy Senator Ludlam had advised PM Gillard’s representative, Senator Evans, of his intention and the scope of his question regarding whether the government would prevent the extradition of Assange to the US. He was prevented from asking the question from the floor due to an Opposition censure motion. He has demanded a formal written response. Hear the press conference here and read about it http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national....

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam tried to question the Prime Minister about Assange before Parliament rose for the summer break, but was blocked by an opposition censure motion. - Tony Kevin, retired Australian diplomat

The questions submitted to the PM Julia Gillard by Senator Ludlam were as follows:

1. Was the US probe into WikiLeaks and Julian Assange raised whether formally or informally with President Obama or members of his delegation to Australia? If so in what manner and by who and what assurances for information were requested and what was the US response.

2. Has the government used what was apparently known as the "Wikileaks Bill" within the AG Dept., aka the Intelligence Amendment Bill, to spy on Wikileaks or its people or has the recent MOU with the US on data sharing information on Australian Citizens who are said to have committed or will commit crimes for which there is a penalty for 4 years or above been used to this end?

3. Will the Australian Government prevent Mr. Assange being further extradited from Sweden to the United States for doing what the media have always done which is bring to light material that governments would prefer to keep secret.

So... is the Australian government protecting citizen Assange from a Politically Motivated Extradition to the United States??

What has the Australian Government done to protect Assange these past months? Almost nothing. - Tony Kevin, retired Australian diplomat

  • The government solved this by proposing what was unofficially called the ’WikiLeaks Amendment", legislation that redefined the role of the Australian Intelligence Agency ASIO. The government stated that the amendment reflected ’’the changing nature of threats to Australia, since activities undertaken by non-state actors, whether individually or as a group, can also threaten Australia’s national interest’’. In a television show Q&A, Julian Assange challenges Prime Minister Julia Gillard directly on spying on its own citizens to further the government’s perceived foreign policy goals:

Australia will have to evaluate its own extradition obligations. - US Ambassador to Australia ahead of Obama’s visit, November 2011

  • Attorney General Robert McClelland said that the Australian government was considering cancelling Julian Assange’s passport. The Attorney General decided against it because canceling it would be "counter-productive to remove the identification that would in fact trigger the law-enforcement process" (4 December 2010)

"We have also indicated that we will provide every assistance to United States law-enforcement authorities." - Robert McClelland, Australia’s Attorney General (4 December 2010)

  • Prime Minister Julia Gillard alleged that WikiLeaks had acted ’illegally’ and instructed the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to investigate whether criminal charges could be laid against Julian Assange. When the investigation concluded, after only 17 days, that WikiLeaks had not broken any Australian law, Gillard insisted that that the foundation stone of the WikiLeaks disclosures "is an illegal act that breached the laws of the United States of America", referring to the whistleblower/source.

The AFP has completed its evaluation of the material available and has not established the existence of any criminal offences where Australia would have jurisdiction. - Press Release by the Australian Federal Police 17 December 2010

Gillard was playing the same game as the US State Department who, knowing that it would be difficult or impossible to indict Julian Assange and WikiLeaks when their publishing activities are protected by the First Amendment, instead imply that publishing ’illegally obtained material’ somehow contaminates the organisation - legally, this argument is indefensible.

"In relation to the specific issue of the grand jury investigation, however, Rudd’s answer was somewhat more cryptic. "The Australian government has no formal advice of any grand jury investigation," is all he would state, leaving open the possibility the issue had been raised informally or at officials’ level. - Bernard Keane, Crikey 24 November 2011"

"I confess to holding out some hope for Rudd who, unlike the Prime Minister and Attorney General, knew he was obliged to presume Julian Assange innocent before proven guilty. [Note: Rudd is no longer Foreign Minister, the current Foreign Minister is Bob Carr]. Instead of threatening to cancel this Australian passport, the Foreign Minister said publicly that his responsibility was to attend to his legal and consular rights." - Senator Scott Ludlam, Australian Greens, Why Julian Assange Could Be You, New Matilda (3 November 2011)

Criticisms of Prime Minister Gillard’s policy on Assange

[The Gillard government has] just treated [Julian Assange’s case in Sweden] like a standard consular issue, which is really quite inappropriate given the heavy politics surrounding it. - Tony Kevin, veteran Australian Diplomat

"Gillard should have demonstrated her commitment to the rights of Australian citizens and to the independence of Australia from other jurisdictions. Instead she delivered an ill-considered and prejudiced response, devoid of independent thinking or moral compass. Both her desire to shirk responsibility and her demonstrably bad judgement have come home to roost." Haigh and Tranter, 17 December 2010


WikiLeaks won the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism on 27 November 2011. In his acceptance speech, Julian Assange criticises Julia Gillard’s role in persecuting the organisation and him personally

While the world watches events unfold in London, we have a singular responsibility here in Australia for the protection the citizenship entitlements of one of our own. The next move is squarely in the court of the Australian Government. - Senator Scott Ludlam, Australian Greens, Why Julian Assange Could Be You, New Matilda (3 November 2011)

Rudd also handpassed several matters to Attorney-General Robert McClelland, saying the issue of whether ASIO could now spy on Assange under the "WikiLeaks amendment" passed earlier this year to expand its powers, and issues to do with the possibility of Assange being extradited from Australia, were matters for McClelland. - Bernard Keane, Crikey 24 November 2011

Australia’s position in relation to Sweden

"Gillard should have sent, and still needs to send, a message to Sweden first querying the way charges were laid, investigated and dropped, only to be picked up again by a different prosecutor; second, expressing Australia’s concern that contentious Swedish action has had one of our citizens in solitary confinement in an English prison, and third, expressing Australia’s concern that as an Australian citizen Mr Assange has his case dealt with expeditiously and with due legal process." Haigh and Tranter, 17 December 2010

If Mr Assange is sent to Sweden for questioning on alleged offences unrelated to the work of WikiLeaks, the Australian Government should ensure he is not then shuttled to the United States to face concocted political charges under the draconian First World War-era Espionage Act, aimed at destroying the whistle-blowing website. - Senator Scott Ludlam, MP for the Australian Greens in Parliament

Criticisms of Australia’s position in relation to the US

Malcolm Turnbull (Member of the Australian Parliament), excerpt of Turnbull’s speech to the Sydney University School of Law, April 2011:

"The High Court was very clear in declaring that an Australian Court should not act "to protect the intelligence secrets and confidential political information" of a foreign government, even one which was a very friendly one and even in circumstances where the Australian Government requested the Court to do so.

I stress this point because it has a current relevance to the case of Julian Assange who you will remember our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, described as someone who had broken the law by publishing the contents of confidential US State Department cables.

Not only was it perfectly obvious that Julian Assange had broken no Australian law (and despite the strenuous efforts of the American authorities there is no evidence to date he has broken any American ones) but the decision of the High Court in Spycatcher makes it quite clear that any action in an Australian court to restrain Assange from publishing the State Department cables would have failed.


Jennifer Robinson - The Wikileaks Experience from CaTV on Vimeo.

(contd) These remarks by the Prime Minister which were echoed by her Attorney General were particularly regrettable, not simply because she was so obviously in error from a legal point of view, but whatever one may think of Assange he is an Australian citizen.

More importantly perhaps, at the time he was being described as breaking the law by Ms Gillard, prominent American politicians and journalists were describing him as a terrorist and in some cases calling for him to be assassinated.

Sarah Palin, possibly the next US President, called for him to be pursued "with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders". No doubt her supporters were able to read what they liked into that remark.

While Assange is no doubt quite safe from assassination, when an Australian citizen is threatened in this way, an Australian Prime Minister should respond.

Julia Gillard could have quite properly deplored his publishing of confidential information, sympathised with our embarrassed American allies, but at the same time registered our profound unhappiness that an Australian citizen is being threatened in this way by leading figures in another country whose commitment to freedom of speech and the rule of law we traditionally regard as being no less than our own.

She might even have taken the time to ask how on earth the United States security arrangements were so slack that hundreds of thousands of highly confidential documents could be copied onto a disk by a 23 year old US Army Private, Bradley Manning." (Read the whole speech here or listen to the podcast)

Criticisms of Australia’s position in relation to Britain

Haigh and Tranter:

Britain needs a nudge. Gillard has to ensure Britain resists US pressure. Haigh and Tranter, 17 December 2010

Correspondence between Assange’s lawyer and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd - October/November 2011

*Note: Rudd is no longer Foreign Minister, the current Foreign Minister is Bob Carr.*

Letter: Gareth Peirce to Minister Rudd

The problem with the "official" line is people just don’t buy that this persecution of Assange is not politically motivated. - Haigh and Tranter, 17 December 2010

Letter: Minister Rudd to Gareth Peirce

Open Letter to Julia Gillard - 7 December 2010

Dear Prime Minister,

We note with concern the increasingly violent rhetoric directed towards Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

"We should treat Mr Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him," writes conservative columnist Jeffrey T Kuhner in the Washington Times.

William Kristol, former chief of staff to vice president Dan Quayle, asks, "Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are?"

"Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?" writes the prominent US pundit Jonah Goldberg.

"The CIA should have already killed Julian Assange," says John Hawkins on the Right Wing News site.

Sarah Palin, a likely presidential candidate, compares Assange to an Al Qaeda leader; Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator and potential presidential contender, accuses Assange of "terrorism".

And so on and so forth.

Such calls cannot be dismissed as bluster. Over the last decade, we have seen the normalisation of extrajudicial measures once unthinkable, from ’extraordinary rendition’ (kidnapping) to ’enhanced interrogation’ (torture).

In that context, we now have grave concerns for Mr Assange’s wellbeing.

Irrespective of the political controversies surrounding WikiLeaks, Mr Assange remains entitled to conduct his affairs in safety, and to receive procedural fairness in any legal proceedings against him.

As is well known, Mr Assange is an Australian citizen.

We therefore call upon you to condemn, on behalf of the Australian Government, calls for physical harm to be inflicted upon Mr Assange, and to state publicly that you will ensure Mr Assange receives the rights and protections to which he is entitled, irrespective of whether the unlawful threats against him come from individuals or states.

We urge you to confirm publicly Australia’s commitment to freedom of political communication; to refrain from cancelling Mr Assange’s passport, in the absence of clear proof that such a step is warranted; to provide assistance and advocacy to Mr Assange; and do everything in your power to ensure that any legal proceedings taken against him comply fully with the principles of law and procedural fairness.

A statement by you to this effect should not be controversial - it is a simple commitment to democratic principles and the rule of law.

We believe this case represents something of a watershed, with implications that extend beyond Mr Assange and WikiLeaks. In many parts of the globe, death threats routinely silence those who would publish or disseminate controversial material. If these incitements to violence against Mr Assange, a recipient of Amnesty International’s Media Award, are allowed to stand, a disturbing new precedent will have been established in the English-speaking world.

In this crucial time, a strong statement by you and your Government can make an important difference.

We look forward to your response.

Signed (see original).

[Open Letter to Kevin Rudd, Foreign Minister until February 2012, signed by high level supporters including former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Lieutenant [Open Letter to Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, 19 December 2011>http://www.smh.com.au/technology/te...].

Swedish minister refuses Assange talks, 24 December 2011

Assange’s treatment says a lot about us, Sydney morning Herald, 19 December 2011 by Michael Pearce, SC

Question regarding consular and legal support extended to Julian Assange Scott Ludlam, Greens MP, Australian Parliament 21 October 2011

Senator Scott Ludlam from the Australian Greens’ blog, 10 December 2011

Assange Wins Another Right to Appeal, Australian Senator Asks If Obama Discussed WikiLeaks During Visit Tom Hayden, Huffington Post, 7 December 2011

Malcolm Turnbull ’Reflections on WikiLeaks, Spycatcher and Freedom of the Press’ - Lecture at the Sydney University Law School, 31 March 2011. Listen to the podcast.

’Assange’s mother hits out at Gillard’ by Michelle Grattan, The Age, 7 March 2011

Aussie Assange: has Gillard got the guts? Bruce Haigh and Kellie Tranter, The Drum (ABC) 17 December 2010

Australian Prime Minister Gillard forced to retract "illegal" charge against WikiLeaks founder Mike Head , WSWS, 21 December 2010

Open letter: To Julia Gillard, re Julian Assange 7 December 2010

1476 days under house arrest.

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