23rd November 2019
On Monday afternoon, an unlikely group of federal politicians will meet for the first time in Parliament House to strategise how they can bring home a man most of them concede is arrogant, deeply unlikeable and perhaps even worse.
The Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home Group is a strange collection of sometime adversaries. Founded by Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, it is co-chaired by both him and regional Queensland MP George Christensen. Wilkie describes their coming together as almost cosmic.
“It sort of happened organically; it was a bit like the Big Bang,” he says.
“Regrettably, Julian’s case has not been so much about the law, as it has become a political football. But this also provides an opportunity for a political solution.”
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Joyce, Wilkie and Christensen will be joined at the table on Monday by independent Zali Steggall, Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie and Rex Patrick, Labor’s Julian Hill and Steve Georganas, and Greens MPs Peter Whish-Wilson and Adam Bandt. They will be briefed by Julian Assange’s London-based lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Australian barrister Greg Barns.
“The Australian government faces a very stark choice. Are they prepared to see an Australian citizen hunted down by the Trump administration to face 175 years in prison? Or are we prepared to do what we did in the David Hicks case, which is to say, ‘No, he is one of ours’ and stand up to them,” Barns tells The Saturday Paper.
What the group doesn’t have yet, as far as membership, is anyone from the Liberal Party. While Barns is set to meet with some Liberal MPs next week, he won’t name names.
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Barns thinks this is starting to change. “Like the Hicks case, these issues often take time to develop and I think there is increasing concern now in the Australian community that Julian is effectively facing the death penalty,” he says.
“The most immediate issue for us is Julian’s mental and physical health and his inability to prepare properly for his case. He is being held in an inhumane environment.”
A bright spot, says Barns, is that Assange has now received consular assistance from the Australian government.
Read full article in The Saturday Paper