Introduction by Croakey: Recently we have been inundated with images of United States President Joe Biden, United Kingdom Prime Minister and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese coming together, at close quarters, to announce the AUKUS submarine deal.
The deal brought together the three key people from the three key jurisdictions with the authority to act to secure the freedom of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is being held in London’s high security Belmarsh Prison, facing extradition to the US.
Yet, there has been ongoing silence, effectively also from the mainstream media despite concerted efforts by Assange’s supporters to put his case high on the Federal Government’s agenda.
It is amazing, writes Lawrence Apps, a freelance writer and former journalism educator at Curtin, Queensland and Edith Cowan universities, that the three leaders could negotiate such a complex three country agreement but not the release of a man whose case raises such critical issues on human rights and press freedom.
Lawrence Apps writes:
The Albanese Government says it wants to avoid the megaphone diplomacy practised by its predecessors concerning China, but China in turn has made it plain that the AUKUS announcement on Australia’s nuclear submarines is an ultra-megaphone lacking any diplomacy.
So much for the softly, softly approach.
Similarly, our Government’s approach to the imprisonment of Julian Assange comprises gentle criticism of our British and American allies. In the meantime, however, Assange’s physical and mental health continues to decline in Britain’s Belmarsh Prison in conditions criticised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
Croakey’s Marie McInerney has provided an excellent backgrounder, incorporating a report on the Belmarsh Tribunal held on 4 March, on the need for concerted action to effect Assange’s freedom. This was followed by a pull-no-punches attack by John Pilger on what he describes as the betrayal of Assange by Prime Minister Albanese and the Australian Government.
Pilger contrasts the actions taken by the Government on AUKUS with the lack of action on Assange.
It is laudable that the Parliamentary group ‘Bring Julian Assange Home’ comprising 41 Parliamentarians provides a ‘non-partisan forum for Senators and Members to meet and interact with each other and relevant stakeholders on matters relating to having the extradition of Julian Assange dropped and him being allowed to return to Australia’.
Co-chairs Bridget Archer, Josh Wilson and David Shoebridge spoke strongly in support of Assange at the Belmarsh Tribunal as did independent Dr Monique Ryan. Andrew Wilkie, the other co-chair, has also been a strong Assange advocate.
Their actions contrast with the marshmallow approach taken by the Prime Minister despite his being a signatory to the free Julian Assange petition along with more than 700,000 others.
We know that the Prime Minister is on the record as saying “enough is enough” concerning the imprisonment and torture of Assange, but it seems that statement was not backed up with strong intercession for Assange by the Prime Minister when he had the opportunity to do so in his San Diego meetings with President Biden and Prime Minister Sunak.
And despite the best efforts of the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary group, they seem unable to cut through with the Prime Minister.
Perhaps we need to see more of the approach taken by Fremantle MP Josh Wilson in the Parliament on Tuesday when he expressed reservations on the Government’s nuclear submarines decision.
Wilson is the first Labor MP to distance himself from the Government’s AUKUS submarines agreement with his not being convinced that it is in the best interest of Australia.
As we have seen since the agreement was announced, there is no shortage of distinguished and highly qualified critics who agree with the Wilson assessment, not least of which is former Prime Minister Paul Keating.
Wilson told Parliament it was the job of parliamentarians . . . “to look closely and ask questions in order to guard against risk”.
It’s certainly time the 41 parliamentarians in the Julian Assange parliamentary group started asking some hard questions to guard against the risk of his dying in prison.
The ‘enough is enough’ mantra cited by the Prime Minister and other senior ministers is demonstrably not enough.
See previous Croakey articles on public interest journalism
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