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March 1, 2021

Local Labor MP dodges Assange return question

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With Wikileaks founder Julian Assange facing UK courts this week, what’s Labor’s position regarding his release? 

In 2010, Wikileaks released a trove of classified military documents, including footage of US marines killing ‘a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff’.

Federal Member for Richmond, Justine Elliot. Photo supplied.

A number of cross-party MPs are lobbying to have Assange returned to Australia. They include two Nationals MPs, two Labor MPs and members of the Greens and the cross bench, according to The SMH (Nine). 

The Echo asked local federal MP Justine Elliot if she would be joining the cross-party MP group, and if not, why? The Echo also asked whether Ms Elliot considers the treatment of Assange by UK, US and Australian governments justifiable, given his alleged crimes resulted in no deaths, yet the crimes he revealed, did.

Ms Elliot did not say whether she would join the cross-party group that supports Assange. Instead, she repeated her party’s position. 

She said, ‘As Julian Assange’s arrest and any legal proceedings are a matter of current consideration in accordance with the British justice system, I feel it would be inappropriate to comment publicly while that process is underway.

‘As Julian is an Australian citizen, he, like any Australian citizen facing legal difficulties overseas, is entitled to consular assistance provided through Australia’s overseas missions. I understand this assistance has been offered to Julian through the Australian High Commission in London, and this will continue to be the case.

‘Labor is also concerned about reports that Julian’s health has been deteriorating while in custody. The shadow Attorney-General and shadow foreign minister have written to the Australian government requesting that Australia press the UK government to ensure that Julian receives appropriate medical care.’

MP Elliot criticised 

Local activist Dean Jefferys says that Justine Elliot’s position of not wanting to interrupt the legal proceedings of another country ‘is pure hypocrisy’. 

‘Just last year, there was intense diplomatic intervention from the highest level, to stop Australia’s famous soccer player Mr al-Araibi from being extradited back to Bahrain, from Bangkok, to face charges.

‘The prime minister and foreign affairs minister released a joint statement commending the Thai government for its decision not to allow extradition and noted the ‘constructive dialogue that we have had with Bahrain in helping to resolve this issue.’

Dean Jefferys said, ‘So we know intervention is possible when there is political will to do so. We can now see clearly that most of our politicians, including prime ministers Morrison, Gillard and Turnbull have all betrayed Julian Assange. By betraying Julian, they have also endangered a free press worldwide, and may cause our Aussie hero to die in an American jail’.

 The Australians for Assange Facebook page said on February 21 that ‘Moreland City Council in Melbourne have joined Darebin and Yarra Melbourne councils in passing an official motion in support of Julian Assange.’ 

Byron Council also have a similar motion, penned by Cr Sarah Ndiaye, before this Thursday’s meeting. 

A group of Assange supporters delivered a letter and message to the UK Consular General in Brisbane on Monday to say that, ‘A great miscarriage of justice will occur if Assange is extradited.’ 

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  1. I wrote to Justine Elliot asking her to represent her electorate who I am sure overwhelmingly don’t want America to suppress more truth. And to help a fellow Australian. Abandoning Assange to the corruption he exposed is unacceptable acquiescence of tyranny.

  2. A free press is essential in the coming years as we change from fossil-fuel orientation to a rational society that could be a model throughout the world. The fight for Assange’s rights is a fight for all of us and a fight for our future, whether we know it or not. Byron and Ballina, above all others, should follow suit.

  3. So what is the problem with Justin’s position?

    Let’s just face it he hid from the courts until the Swedes withdrew their charges as the time limits of their case had expired( no less than sexual assault), despite his earlier good work then supported the trumpsta hoping for a pardon.
    Betrayed press freedom, he is not a journalist and he did a lot for press freedom by cooperating with that renowned beacon of democracy Russia.

  4. The award winning Assange has been betrayed
    & it’s as simple as that. It just so happens that
    it took a great deal of guts to release the truth
    behind all the super powers. Justine’s no stance
    is typically Labor & LNP. I often wonder what we
    pay them for.

  5. The Labor Party has always been a very strong supporter of international law and of using diplomacy rather than military action to resolve conflicts. The actions Assange is alleged to have committed were an assault on diplomacy, the most serious breach of the principles of the Vienna Convention protecting the secrecy of diplomatic communication since its principles were first applied in the middle ages. As such the Labor Party, Justine Elliot and all others who prefer diplomacy to conflict would want Assange to stand trial.

    I would also note that there are many offences that are about risk of harm rather than harm, itself. That a no one was killed is not a defence for drink driving; we arrest drink drivers because they put others at risk. As it happens Assange did do harm , for example to the relationship between Indonesia and Obama. But the US laws Assange broke are like drink driving laws. They about preventing a risk of harm to US interests and those of its allies including Australia. It is enough to show he committed offence. If he is tried and found guilty of espionage, whether in doing so he served some public interest by a very small part of the material he released and whether any harm was done, might be matters for a sentencing judge to consider, to be balanced against the 250,000 cables he published and so the enormity of his alleged crime.

  6. @Peter Hatfield: Assange made no more transgression of diplomatic communication than have any number of other journalists and publishers who have published leaked material of acute public interest in the past. You are constructing a ground that simply does not exist.

    Assange has been accused by the prosecution of actually causing harm, so the fact that he hasn’t is acutely relevant to that charge at least. Again you are building straw men. Is that what the ALP does these days? Remember when it was a real political party with real grass-roots membership that actually had influence and, consequently, a genuine commitment to social justice? Clearly it has now been corporatised, neutered and house-trained.

  7. Forgot to say.. it has this underlying reminiscence of a scene from a corrupt trial by the Ministry of Magic in a Harry Potter chapter.

    It’s a shock!

  8. What was different about the accusations against Assange is the sheer scale of what he is alleged to conspire to obtain . It would be extraordinary if 250,000 cables would not have caused harm and they certainly would have risked harm. In Australia and like minded countries cables are classified by those creating them according to the risk of harm to our countries, and Assange released a large quantity of Australian material. It is because of the risk of harm that we have laws that protect secret communication and the US has similar laws. I note that the indictment for the conspiracy to commit computer crime does not concern itself with the harm caused; it is enough that he did it. Of course in putting a persuasive case to the UK Courts the US can raise what it sees fit.
    I have no association with it the ALP so I cannot respond to your question.. Social justice is furthered in a peaceful and prosperous world, and that in turn depends in part on a diplomatic system and respect for the laws of other countries that help protect diplomatic material, including material we share with the US. We should allow Assange to be tried to determine if he did or did not break those US laws.

  9. Rod says:
    February 26, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    So what is the problem with Justin’s position?

    Let’s just face it he hid from the courts until the Swedes withdrew their charges as the time limits of their case had expired( no less than sexual assault), despite his earlier good work then supported the trumpsta hoping for a pardon.
    Betrayed press freedom, he is not a journalist and he did a lot for press freedom by cooperating with that renowned beacon of democracy Russia.

    Rod you are wrong, a broken condom is rape in Sweden…you are too political which is what the problem is…Assange IS a journalist of the highest order. He should be given a Nobel Peace Prize for exposing state sanctioned murder. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/dec/17/julian-assange-sweden

  10. Truth is treason in the politicians empires of lies. They will be coming after the Echo next. The USA butt licking Labour Prime Minister Prime Julia Gillard proposed illegally cancelling Assanges Australian passport. And if you ever believed that our governments actually acts for justice and a publicly open government, then the recent attacks on Journalists, that reported the unlawful killings in Afganistan, the secret progress of getting our spy agencies to start spying on Australians, and the reporting of the morally repugnant Government secret recordings of a gas deal with Timor, proves that they dont.
    He is a political prisoner – none of the publications that reprinted the leaks has been charged, so this is nothing to do with the content of his leaks, but everything to do with someone who reveals the truth.

  11. Exactly, John. Truth is a 5 letter word & Labor
    has lost its ‘lid’ [I’m sure of that] because I was
    a party member 51 years ago. And Assange
    should be awarded the Nobel for exposing
    what was being kept from the public. Still
    going on now, too. Aussie troops & US

  12. Weak, Justine. By doing nothing you are joining those in the ALP who think that by staying just a millimetre away from the COALition you will get re-elected one day. Wrong. Now is the time to carve out a clear, principled position. Julian should be given sanctuary in his home country.


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