ALISON BROINOWSKI. Friends of Assange, at last.

Influential Australians are suddenly stirring in support of Julian Assange, who will face extradition to the US and several life sentences unless political intervention heads it off. Is it too late?

For several years it has been hard for Australian supporters of Julian Assange to get much air-time or OpEd space. But recent public meetings in Sydney and Melbourne have been crowded. Dick Smith, Bob Carr, Kevin Rudd, and 60 prominent doctors have spoken out for Assange. Few Federal politicians have defended him until now, but suddenly in late November a cross-party Parliamentary campaign was launched by Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie and LNP’s George Christensen, opposing Assange’s extradition from the UK to the US.

The Parliament has scores of Friendship Groups concerned with everything from rare diseases to outer space and the ABC. Under the rules, a group must have at least ten members from across the political spectrum. The Friendship Group to ‘Bring Assange Home’ surprisingly includes people with far-right reputations, Greens, and others in between. Some of them have for years accepted negative media and pejorative Ministerial statements about Assange and WikiLeaks, yet this week they have joined Wilkie’s campaign.

The reasons for supporting it range widely. They include objections to the sycophancy towards the US which Australia has displayed by not calling for Assange to be released, and arguments for Australian law to be supreme in respect of its citizens. Some are concerned not only about the effect extradition would have on media freedom, but the precedent for other countries including China to demand extradition of Australians in similar circumstances.

The Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce is a member, as are the ALP’s Julia Hill and Steve Georganas. The Greens have four members, including Peter Whish-Wilson and Adam Bandt, and Independents Zali Steggal and Rebekah Sharkie have joined. A petition put together by, and signed by 200 000 people in support of Australian government intervention, has been sent to the Senate.

No Liberal parliamentarian is a member.

The Prime Minister has other things on his mind, like the exaggeration of Clover Moore’s travel expenditure by his Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, and his own botched response to it. Having lost several votes in Parliament since the May election, the impression of Morrison’s invincibility has not lasted long. He may be wishing for the silly season to come early this year, so the politicians can all go home and pray for rain. If his political instincts are as good as his admirers claim, however, Morrison will know that leaving Assange to the tender mercies of UK and US justice could make 2020 an unhappy new year for his government.

Ministers from both major parties frequently bring pressure to bear on other governments when Australians are in trouble. Their failure to do anything for Assange is unprecedented and abject.

It will not go un-noticed. At least four men in Canberra are facing legal processes on security matters, conducted in secret. The print media are running a ‘Your Right to Know’ campaign, inspired by police raids on the ABC and on a Newscorp journalist’s home. It will look like double standards if they don’t challenge the government to respond to the Parliamentarians’ campaign for Assange.

Australia did nothing to free David Hicks for four years after the UK and Canada demanded their nationals be released from Guantanamo Bay. Howard, facing electoral defeat and a public outcry, eventually agreed to negotiate a plea-bargain to bring him home. But time is short: can it happen this time?

Parliament will rise for the summer break on 7December, and extradition is set for February. Assange is in poor mental and physical health. Morrison must realise that if Assange should die in London or Virginia, many Australians and others will hold him responsible.

The world is watching. US on-line journalist Paul Craig Roberts has circulated a petition on Assange’s behalf to the Queen, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Professor Jake Lynch of the University of Sydney, currently at Coventry University, has made an on-line appeal for his release, pointing out that it is ‘public opposition that will keep Assange out of a US federal prison, and, with him, [keep] hope alive that we can think our way through to reducing injustice and inequality.’ International lawyer Slavov Zijek, in the Spectator US, argues that Assange’s case raises the fundamental human rights of us all.

In the American Herald Tribune, a professor of international law in Geneva, Alfred de Zayas, writes that ‘as a whistleblower, Julian Assange has done what every democrat should do, namely uncover the cover-ups of our governments.’ British author Tariq Ali has co-edited a collection of articles, In Defense of Julian Assange. And the indefatigable John Pilger, in ‘The Lies about Assange must stop now’, shows how the media, and particularly the Guardian, have for years published smear, lies, and innuendo about Assange.

In recent weeks, the Guardian and others in the UK and US have become worried about the ‘Assange effect’, says Pilger. The Guardian’s editorial board has done an about-face, now declaring that Assange’s extradition is ‘a matter of press freedom and the public’s right to know’. I pitched this article to the Guardian and got no response.

Dr Alison Broinowski was a Senate candidate for the WikiLeaks Party in 2013.


Dr Alison Broinowski AM is Vice-President of Australians for War Powers Reform. She joined the Australian Foreign Service in 1963, lived in Japan for a total of six years, and for shorter periods in Burma, Iran, the Philippines, Jordan, South Korea, the United States of America and Mexico, working alternately as an author and Australian diplomat.

Since leaving the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, she has received a PhD in Asian Studies from ANU, and has continued to lecture, write, and broadcast in Australia and abroad on Asian affairs and cultural and political issues.

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10 Responses to ALISON BROINOWSKI. Friends of Assange, at last.

  1. Avatar Jim KABLE says:

    A very disappointing SMH Magazine article on Julian Assange from Amanda HOOTON essentially confusedly continuing the lies and character smears against him – playing on the so-called rapist charges without a proper analysis/dismissal – claiming paranoia because he was doing his best to avoid being redacted/extradited to the US – and specious claims about him nor being a journalist. I think Amanda Hooton is serving the US or LNP leadership kowtowing to the uglier side of US aims and vengeance for the exposure of their war crimes – not to protection of Australians being hounded by that land! She has certainly not read In Defence of Julian – edited by Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler and makes little referencer to John PILGER or Phillip ADAMS or to the many other respected contributors. This former teacher’s assessment Re-submit – check your sources – this effort – not yet to pass level.

  2. Avatar Simon Sedgley says:

    All fine and dandy of course. But, to channel our PM, where the bloody hell were they? Should Julian Assange live until February, we will see who, within this chummy little self-regarding club of show-ponies, is prepared to stand outside Belmarsh Prison in the cold and gloom of an English winter and protest the extradition hearing under the watchful eye of the no doubt lethally armed UK security and intelligence services. Can’t imagine it would be left to the Bobbies – that would be way too civilised.

  3. Avatar Lawry Herron says:

    Assange’s ‘offence’ is by any measure political. Mostly extradition treaties have a reservation as a getout for refusal of extradition for political offences. Presumably there is no getout in the UK/US treaty, or else UK has indicated that it will not invoke it. It’s all shameful, vindictive and inhumane, plus bad politics. In my book Julian is the last honourable man in this still standing. Remember too that the Oz government eventually paid substantial ex gratia payments to both David Hicks and Mandouh Habib rather than have its shameful neglect of them further exposed in court.

    • Avatar Jim KABLE says:

      I do remember that equally hideous treatment of David and Mamdouh – and that the compensation paid to both was rather large – it should have come from the personal estates of the most vindictive of the politicians toeing the US orders, though – John “Dubya” Howard and Philip Ruddock and the spy Alexander Downer – especially.

  4. Avatar Jim KABLE says:

    Thanks for this Alison – and exactly how I see the Johnny-come-latelies kinds of wake-up to what has been going on concerning Julian Assange – the award-winning journalist – and no – no “purposeful role” in Hillary’s loss to the god-awful Trump – merely bringing transparency to the whole political secrecy/skulduggery of whichever side was so engaging. Hillary as much a war-monger as Barack – as George Dubya – as most US Presidents going back 1.2 centuries, in fact. (Or as some might say – to its very foundations – as our own – those 500+ massacres and frontier wars of conquest and theft from the moment the British realised they could/should/would establish a beach-head here in the South Pacific. Alison references both Tariq Ali and John Pilger re their just published book In Defence of Julian Assange – many ethical names writing in his defence and laying out the secret US campaign to besmirch his personal reputation in order to get him into their clutches and to do to him what they have done to Chelsea MANNING and would dearly love to do to Edward SNOWDEN. And Slavov Zijek’s excellent essay, too – plus further interjections – all the way through the Defence book – from acclaimed academic and political analyst – Australian, too – Caitlin Johnstone! I remember when even Julie BISHOP stood up – in Opposition – and called for protection for Julian Assange – what happened to bring about her silence, I’d like to know – a quiet chat from the Pell-in-prison visitor?

  5. Avatar Rex Williams says:

    The Guardian and its published attitudes to Assange, yes, one could call them lies, smears and innuendo, have been the single reason why I and so many others have ignored the efforts of this organisation to establish a following in this country in spite of the quality of some of its staff members.
    Their about-face will not have the desired effect they may hoped to get in the UK where the damage they have done has been more pronounced than in his homeland where the readership is so low. The fact that he has had to endure such treatment in the UK judicial system, being as corrupt as it is, has been due to a large measure of the attitudes of this publication and others who have followed the criminal USA line for years.
    They will never recover any respect in my book.
    As for the attitudes of our politicians, Greens excepted, they should be ashamed, Labor equally as bad as the US lapdog LNP and their synthetic leader Morrison.

  6. Avatar Andrew Farran says:

    Whatever one’s view about Assange’s alleged wrongs he has his rights under international law and under domestic law as an Australian and clearly these are being denied.
    Undue the rule of law there can be no exceptions. Apparently the Australian government believes there are exceptions. Let it explain that and see how it stands up.

  7. A critical problem in the defence of Julian Assange is it is based on the flawed premise that his actions were those of a Journalist. Call him a whistle-blower and more people might be sympathetic…

  8. Avatar Don Macrae says:

    Assange’s purposeful role in Hillary Clinton’s defeat wiped away the virtue of his transparency campaign for me. But Australia should go all in to stop the US getting its vengeful hands upon him.

    • Avatar Rhys Stanley says:

      Mr. Macrae,

      It is most surprising to read that there was one person who considered that Hilary Clinton was deserving of support and in public, prepared to say it. Even against a person such as the mindless charlatan, Donald Trump, the effort given by Assange and hundreds of other journalists to make the world see what Clinton was ….and still is, was a commendable public service, deserving of the world’s thanks.
      Perhaps the single most corrupted person in history who would and did sell her soul and her country for a shekel, years ago.

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