- The Guardian
- Issue #2011
Julian Assange is still awaiting extradition to the US, which, as of the time of writing, is awaiting approval from UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
When Anthony Albanese and the ALP won the 2022 Australian federal election, many of Assange’s supporters had renewed hope that an Albanese government would intervene and attempt to bring him home.
The optimism was not unfounded. According to the ABC, it was reported that before the election, at a February 2021 caucus meeting Albanese expressed “enough was enough” and he “can’t see what’s served by keeping [Assange] incarcerated.” However, while the optimism is still there, it has since been tempered.
Last month during a press conference, when asked whether his stance on Assange was still the same, Albanese stated, “my position is that not all foreign affairs is best done with the loud hailer,” leaving some MPs – including those on Albanese’s backbench – underwhelmed.
ALP MP Julian Hill, a member of the bipartisan Bring Julian Assange Home parliamentary group, hopes that the rhetoric isn’t an indication of a change in stance. Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Hill expressed he wasn’t concerned about how Assange was brought home but that he comes home, stating, “diplomacy may be quiet or loud but in this case, it’s the results that matter – Assange’s life is at stake. He should not be deported and the charges should be dropped. […] I’d hope our new government will have something clear and firm to say regarding the principles of press freedom.”
Assange’s team have also pleaded for the new Albanese government to intervene. Assange’s Australian human rights lawyer in London, Jennifer Robinson has said “we call on the Albanese government to do what previous Australian governments have not: to do the right thing for free speech, for human rights and for this Australian citizen. […] To protect Julian Assange and let him come home.”
Patel is set to make a decision within the next month. The clock is ticking on the Albanese’s government ability to intervene. It is obvious that Albanese wants to tread a careful line between public opinion and Australia’s allies in UK and the US. However, these are the moments that define legacies. Albanese has made bold promises to ensure he leaves behind a better and more equitable Australia. He has promised a federal ICAC and to enshrine the Uluru Statement from the Heart into the Australian constitution, along with a number of other policies. Failure to bring Assange home would be a stain on the Albanese government’s record and an indication that when it comes to foreign policy, Albanese isn’t interested in breaking ranks with the West just like governments before him.