Rebuttal of Frequent Misrepresentations by the Australian Government

On the 30th April 2023, the editors collated a list of frequent misrepresentations by the Australian Government as reported through feedback from our active supporter base with 50,000 registrations

  1. The Australian Government has been clear in our view that enough is enough. It is time for Mr Assange’s case to be brought to a close.

Rebuttal: While we appreciate the sentiment, we urge the Australian Government to provide more specific details on what they mean by “bringing the case to a close”. A clear timeline or plan of action would demonstrate a stronger commitment to advocating for Mr Assange’s rights and wellbeing. This case needs an urgent and robust strategy to ensure the best outcome in the quickest of timelines. It can not be an open ended statement.

  1. The Foreign Minister has raised Mr Assange’s case at the highest levels and the Australian Government will continue to express its view to the governments of the UK and US.

Rebuttal: In March 2023 former senator Mr Rex Patrick received evidence from a freedom of information request that revealed that the Australian Government has not sent any formal letters to the UK or US governments regarding Mr Assange’s case. Not one letter has been sent from Anthony Albanese or Penny Wong in regard to Julian Assange. This raises fundamental questions about the level of commitment, integrity and action taken by the Australian Government in advocating for their citizen’s legal rights and wellbeing. We urge the Australian Government to take more concrete, transparent steps in supporting Mr Assange’s case.

  1. Anthony Albanese has indicated he would pursue quiet diplomacy saying: ‘My position is that not all foreign affairs is best done with the loudhailer.”

Rebuttal: It is important for any government to engage in diplomacy and seek to resolve issues through peaceful means. However, in the case of Julian Assange, quiet diplomacy has not been effective in securing his release or ensuring his legal rights are protected. In fact, many believe that a more public and assertive approach is necessary to address the violations of Mr. Assange’s human rights and to bring attention to the implications of his case for press freedom and the right to information.
Furthermore, the use of “quiet diplomacy” can often result in a lack of transparency and accountability, allowing governments to act with impunity and without proper scrutiny. It is important for the Australian Government to demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accountability in its approach to Mr. Assange’s case, and to ensure that it is advocating for the legal rights and wellbeing of its citizen in a manner that is consistent with democratic principles and international law.

  1. In 2019 Mr Assange had withdrawn consent for Consular Support. Since that time, the Department of Foreign Affairs has written 45 times to offer to visit.

Rebuttal: It is important to note that Mr Assange’s has never rejected, refused or rescinded consular support. It is true however that in 2019 Mr Assange withdrew his consent for the Australian Government to have access to his medical records. It was not Assange that rejected consular support but the Australia Government withdrew it and then blamed Mr Assange. We urge the Australian Government to take a more proactive and committed approach in advocating for Mr Assange’s case.

  1. The Australian Government recognises the sovereignty of other nations and their legal systems. We cannot interfere with court proceedings in other countries.

While we acknowledge the importance of respecting the sovereignty of other nations, we urge the Australian Government to take a more active role in advocating for Mr Assange’s legal rights and wellbeing, as they have done in the past for other Australians in trouble abroad. The Australian government has through diplomatic intervention won the release of six Australian citizens from foreign jails since 2007: David Hicks (U.S./Guantanamo), Melinda Taylor (Libya), James Ricketson (Cambodia), Sean Turnell (Myanmar), Kylie Moore-Gilbert (Iran), and Peter Greste (Egypt). In the case of Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian academic who was imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage, the Australian Government intervened diplomatically and provided legal support for her case. Similarly, in the case of David Hicks, an Australian citizen who was detained at Guantanamo Bay, the Australian Government provided legal assistance and advocated for his repatriation. He was never put on trial by the U.S. after years in Guantanamo. Yet Australia intervened to free him while that legal process played out. Hicks was never put on trial after years spent in Guantanamo. The legal process in Turnell’s case was still ongoing as, like Assange, he had only been charged, but not convicted.
We believe that the Australian Government should take a similar approach in the case of Mr Assange, which can include diplomatic efforts, public statements, and legal interventions in support of his case.

  1. The US has a separation of power and President Biden cannot interfere with the Department of Justice – judicial process in Mr Assange’s case.

Rebuttal: While it is true that the US has a separation of powers, it is important to note that the US government holds significant influence and power in the outcome of Mr Assange’s case. We urge the US government to ensure that Mr Assange receives a fair and just legal process, in accordance with international law and human rights standards. The Australian Government must also continue to advocate for their citizen’s legal rights and wellbeing in the face of potential human rights violations.
One example of a president using their influence to drop alleged charges is the case of President Obama and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In 2013, Snowden was charged with multiple violations of the Espionage Act after he leaked classified information about the US government’s surveillance activities. However, in 2016, President Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who had also leaked classified information and commuted her sentence. This led some to speculate that President Obama may have been considering a similar pardon or commutation for Snowden.
Another example is the case of President Trump and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 election, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) moved to drop the charges against him in 2020. This move was criticised by some as a politically motivated decision influenced by President Trump.
While these examples may not be directly applicable to the case of Mr Assange, they demonstrate the potential for presidential influence in the legal process. It is important for the US government to ensure that justice is served fairly and impartially, regardless of any political considerations.