Then federal MP and now PM Anthony Albanese was one of only 36 federal parliamentarians to sign a petition in 2019, calling on the now three-year-long extradition proceedings against Australian journalist and publisher Julian Assange to be dropped and for him to be sent home.
Albanese’s act in signing was significant as Australian politicians have a long history of either condemning Assange or simply ignoring his plight as if the WikiLeaks founder isn’t being tortured by the UK and the US in a manner designed to destroy him, prior to any criminal trial taking place.
The signing of the petition, and the “enough is enough” statement made by the PM last year about the Townsville-born man’s imprisonment in London’s maximum security Belmarsh gaol since 14 April 2019, led Julian’s numerous supporters to see hope where previously all had been lost.
But these expectations began eroding when, on being asked about Assange in May, Albanese responded that quiet diplomacy was being applied, and then they were completely dashed when Greens Senator David Shoebridge ascertained in question time that this amounted to doing nothing.
“The best journalist of our time”
While its uncontroversial to state that the Albanese government is in agreement with the Biden and Truss administrations in considering that a nation like the US can reach across borders to extradite a foreigner and punish them for non-crimes committed on foreign soils, not all nations agree.
On Wednesday, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador described Assange as a fighter for freedom of speech, who was being persecuted by the US elite for exposing its bad politics, and he added that young Mexicans should look to him as a figure to aspire to.
The Mexican head of state has repeatedly extended asylum to Julian over recent years, and called on the Biden administration to drop Washington’s intention to prosecute the Australian on 17 espionage charges and one of computer hacking, which together carry a maximum of 175 years.
Prior to falling over himself in adoration for Queen Elizabeth II, Albanese came to the top ministerial role projecting a human rights focus.
So, to have the Mexican president vocally calling for the protection of an Australian citizen, whilst the Labor leader claims to be whispering for his freedom behind closed doors, is rather damning.
“Slow motion execution”
Assange’s legal team filed the final appeal against his extradition to the United States with the UK High Court of Justice on 26 August, after former UK home secretary Priti Patel signed off on it in mid-June.
Washington is pursuing Assange not because he committed any real crimes, but for the act of publishing thousands of classified US government documents leaked to him by ex-US army officer Chelsea Manning. And this was an act that major global media outlets mirrored without reprisal.
Doctors for Assange have sent multiple letters to the Australian government warning that Julian’s imprisonment has impacted his health to the point that if it continues, he could die in gaol.
Indeed, the Albanese government has been thoroughly put on notice that US extradition could spell the end for Assange.