Julian Assange should be free

Published on Sat 18 June 2022 1:36pm

We only guard against the misuse of power through fundamental freedoms, like the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, and we must protect those things. And Julian Assange’s case is an example of the importance of protecting those kinds of freedoms.

RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC NEWSRADIO – SATURDAY 18 JUNE 2022

HOST: Julian Assange’s wife has called on the new Australian government to do whatever it takes to get the Wikileaks founder home after the British government ordered his extradition to the United States to face spying charges. Stella Morris says the new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has supported Mr Assange in the past. And she’s called on him to take action.

STELLA MORRIS: The Australian Government, the new government, has broken with previous governments since 2010. The elected Prime Minister stated that its time for Julian to come home, enough is enough, that he couldn’t see what was served by Julian remaining in prison. Our expectation of the family are that the Australian government will do whatever it takes to get him home.

HOST: Well, Josh Wilson is a federal Labour MP. He’s been talking to us here at ABC NewsRadio, because he’s a member of the Parliamentary Friends of Julian Assange, a bipartisan group that believes the WikiLeaks founders should be returned to Australia. He says this is an issue of free speech, freedom of the press and whistle-blower protection.

JOSH WILSON: Well, it’s hugely disappointing. I don’t think that there’s any good sense or justice or purpose in the extradition going forward or the prosecution going forward. You know, we have to have a strong presumption in favour of free speech and whistle-blower protection. That is part of liberal democracy in the United States, under their First Amendment, and it is similarly important here in Australia. Free speech and freedom of the press are one of the critical checks against the misuse of power, and when you think of Julian’s circumstances, whatever people think about Julian Assange as a person, they don’t necessarily need to agree with everything and anything that he’s ever done. But when you when you think of his circumstances, I don’t see how you can see that there is common sense or justice in him being persecuted or prosecuted any further.

REPORTER: When you look at the parties involved here, we’ve got the United States, the United Kingdom, he’s an Australian, as you say, there’s the three democracies. And the issue here is the release of what the US says is classified information. Do you find it disappointing?

WILSON: Well, it’s disappointing because it runs against that presumption in favour of free speech and a free press. And one of the ways that people can understand that is that there are publications in the United States, like the Washington Post in the New York Times that published material identical to that released by Wikileaks, but are not subject to the kind of prosecution that’s been levelled against him, and why is that the case? What frame of reference, or what sense of justice, or what purpose is served by the further prosecution and persecution of this man? I don’t think there is any, and it’s very disappointing. He’s effectively been incarcerated in the Ecuadorian Embassy for seven years, and now in Belmarsh High Security Prison for the last three years of his life; he’s been incarcerated for the last 10 years. Enough is enough, it’s time for this to end.

REPORTER: Is it incumbent upon Australia to do something here in your view?

WILSON: Well, the Australian Government should always vigorously advocate on behalf of its citizens. And I think the statement from the Attorney General and the Minister of Foreign Affairs reiterates that point and that commitment, and that’s a good thing.

REPORTER: There has been obviously a change in government. A few weeks ago, you were a Federal Opposition MP; you’re now a federal government MP. Is it incumbent on you and other Labor MPs to speak up and try and raise what you see is the plight of Julian Assange within a new Albanese government?

WILSON: Well, I’m a member of the Parliamentary Friends of Julian Assange, it’s a cross-party group, and I will continue as a matter of principle and as a member of parliament to express my view, and that is that the prosecution of Julian Assange shouldn’t continue, and the extradition of Julian Assange shouldn’t occur. I’ve done that in my time in Parliament, and I’ll continue to do that. I think it’s right that the Prime Minister has said that these things shouldn’t be done at the level of the Prime Minister or the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Attorney General by loud hailer. I think that’s quite right. But I think the statement by the Attorney General and the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the matter should be brought to an end is an indication of the view of the government. And that’s a view I support, that, essentially, the ongoing incarceration prosecution persecution extradition of Julian Assange should not go forward.

REPORTER: Do you have confidence that Australia might be able to intervene in some way?

WILSON: Well, look, I don’t know why, considering the circumstances that Julian has experienced, why anyone would express confidence. I would hope that he can be free. I think he’s suffered a great deal. And I think that, aside from his personal circumstances, I’d come back to what I said at the beginning – freedom of speech and freedom of the press are critical pillars of liberal democracy. I mean, there are times when any country, good countries and great countries like Australia, and the United Kingdom and the United States – strong liberal democracies – get things wrong and make mistakes. And the misuse of power is possible in our country, in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, and we only guard against the misuse of power through fundamental freedoms, like the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, and we must protect those things. And Julian Assange’s case is an example of the importance of protecting those kinds of freedoms.

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