Historic vote in Australian parliament on Julian Assange

Feb 16, 2024
Journalism Is Not A Crime - The Assange Extradition Case, / The Left

Wednesday, February 14, turned out to be an unanticipated Happy Valentine’s Day for Julian Assange supporters. The Australian House of Representatives passed a motion introduced by Tasmanian Independent, Andrew Wilkie on behalf of the Parliamentary Friends of Julian Assange, urging the US and the UK to bring their prosecution of Julian Assange to a close, and allow him to return to his family and home in Australia.

The vote was Yes, 86 (ALP, Greens and Independents), No, 42 (mostly Liberal and National).

In an unprecedented show of parliamentary support for Assange, two-thirds of the lower house voted for the motion. It was not unanimous because coalition members overwhelmingly chose to support the US and UK in what the former UN Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, described as the torture of an Australian journalist.

Greens leader Adam Bandt appealed to the coalition to support the motion. Assange has become symbolic of journalists around the world who face attacks on press freedom, he argued, ranging from political prosecutions through to murder.

Assange’s prosecution set a chilling precedent for journalists about their ability to hold governments to account and to tell the truth without facing imprisonment and without facing a risk to your own life.

“For those who think that participation in this AUKUS agreement and alliance is so critical, then surely, surely part of that should be the insistence on human rights and the treatment, proper treatment, of our citizens and of Australian citizens.

“If we’re sitting around the table with these governments, then we should be able to insist that Julian Assange is brought home.”

His appeal fell on deaf ears: it remained AUKUS regardless of any cost.

For Assange, the situation is still perilous. He remains incarcerated in HMP Belmarsh in the UK, where he has spent the last five years, locked down for 23 hours each day in a three metre by two metre cell, unconvicted of any charges, an innocent man in a living hell, like Dylan’s Hurricane. Like Nelson Mandella, he walks his long walk to freedom around that tiny cell every day.

In one week’s time, the UK High Court will decide whether he has exhausted all his legal appeals to prevent being extradited to the USA where he would face charges that could see him imprisoned for 175 years under their notorious 1917 Espionage Act for publishing material, which revealed shocking evidence of misconduct by US forces.

As David Shoebridge told the Senate the day before the vote: “There are real concerns that if Julian loses next week he will be immediately extradited.”

In this epic David versus Goliath mismatch, one lone Australian journalist pitted against the world’s greatest empire, it was rare good news, and members and supporters of the Parliamentary Friends of Julian Assange tweeted happily.

Andrew Wilkie: Convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Assange 
“I successfully moved a motion to recognise the importance of bringing Julian Assange’s extradition to an end. The Govt voted for it in an unprecedented show of political support for Julian. The US must heed these calls & drop the extradition. #FreeAssangeNOW #auspol #politas.”

Adam Bandt: Leader of the Greens:
“Today – for the first time – the House voted to call on the UK & the USA to bring Julian Assange home. His family, the people, and this Parliament want him home.
PM – it’s time we make this a reality.”

Dr Monique Ryan: Independent member, Kooyong:
A powerful moment. Today the government and crossbench called on the United States and the United Kingdom to stop prosecuting Julian Assange so he can come home. This is the ultimate test of our nations’ friendship, and I sincerely hope it is heard.

David Shoebridge: Greens, Senate
Today the House of Representatives has voted in favour of a motion from my Parliamentary Friends of Assange colleague @WilkieMP on the need to bring Julian home. This is a genuinely historic moment and a testament to the work of so many for so many years. 86-42 vote.

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