Silent collaboratorMar 11, 2023
Exclusive new Declassified Australia report details Australia’s official neglect of detained WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, revealed in Federal Government files obtained under FOI legislation.
The following is a transcript of a speech delivered at the Belmarsh Tribunal, Sydney, 4 Marsh. Read the full declassified Australia report here and watch the recording of the Belmarsh Tribunal here.
I begin tonight by recognising the significance of this Tribunal to Julian and his family. It is also very timely as we have reached a critical point in history for press freedom, and for all human rights intertwined with it.
Julian once said:
“I understood this a few years ago. And my view became that we should understand that Australia is part of the US. It is part of this English speaking Christian empire, the centre of gravity (of) which is the United States, the second centre of which is the UK, and Australia is a suburb in that arrangement and therefore we shouldn’t go, “it’s completely hopeless, its completely lost…we can’t control the big regulatory structure which we’re involved in in terms of strategic alliances, mass surveillance” and so on. No, we just have to understand that our capital is Washington. The capital of Australia is DC. That’s the reality. So when we’re engaging in campaigns just engage directly with DC because that’s where the decisions are made and that’s what I do and that’s what Wikileaks does. We engage directly with DC, we engage directly with Washington and that’s what Australians should do.”
That is to say, our relationship with the United States has long ceased to be an alliance as opposed to an amalgamation with an inferior status.
Julian’s proposition is validated by the Freedom of Information documents I’ve obtained and examined over almost a decade.
Unfortunately our intelligence agencies, whose records would be of great interest, are exempt from the FOI legislation.
When I started preparing for tonight I ended up with a story too long to tell here. It will be published on Declassified Australia and I would invite you to read it there.
It tells a story – not the whole story – of institutionalised prejudgment, “perceived” rather than “actual” risks, and complicity through silence. My inference from the records I’ve examined is that our Government’s real policy on Julian’s persecution is complicit inactivity in deferring to the US: inaction is the policy.
An example is Julian withdrawing his consent for the use and disclosure of his personal information on 13 June 2019. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade has always been aware of the reasons: his lawyers wrote to the Australian High Commission on 24 October 2019 pointing out his general entitlement to confidentiality for medical information and explaining why he didn’t want Belmarsh to disclose it. That letter is discussed on Julian’s consular file.
At no stage did Julian block or refuse consular assistance. In fact, during a visit by consular officers on 1 November 2019 – after he withdrew his consent – Julian raised his concerns about false reports from DFAT in the media that he had rejected offers of consular visits. They told him the issue of consular visits was raised during Senate Estimates and the department responded that four offers of consular visits had been made and not been responded to, but the media reported that he had blocked consular visits.
Four years later, in Senate Estimates on 16 February 2023, our Foreign Minister is perpetuating this mistruth by saying that Julian “does not want consular representation at this stage from the Australian Government.” The record shows this is wrong: there’s no impediment to consular officers visiting Julian in prison, they have done so after he withdrew consent for medical information disclosure and they’ve also contacted prison authorities about his health and well-being. The documents prove the misrepresentation, whether careless or deliberate.
Individuals direct a State. For every reasonable request that has been disregarded, for chairs that have remained empty when they required the presence of active observers, for every international law finding ignored, for every record that remains uncorrected, for turning away when an Australian life has been threatened and for the silence that has descended in the face of injustice I say to many former and current senior public servants and Ministers across many departments that you have no shame now but history will hold you accountable.
Dealing with Julian’s “case” – his very life – through the prism of international policy considerations and strategic alliances rather than objective considerations of truth, justice and actual circumstances is what the FOI documents suggest, and it’s a continuing institutionalised mistake. A primary precept of good government is justice for its citizens, but because our government has ignored every injustice in his case, injustice now threatens us all with a precedent whereby the US can seek to capture by any means, incarcerate and extradite anyone, including journalists or publishers, of any nationality from most places in the world, for disclosing shockingly reprehensible US secrets.
By courageously publishing the truth Julian terrified with the threat of personal responsibility and accountability those who had been operating beyond reach. He knew they’d come for him, we knew they’d come for him, and they did. It’s not a hard story to understand.
Julian is a moral innovator. He made moral gains which had an immense effect on human life. He did what lay in his power to make people less cruel to others and was rewarded with nothing but personal pain. Posterity will pay Julian the highest honour for putting into the world the things that we most value: truth, transparency and justice. History will look back on Julian as a particularly important person, and on his persecution – the details of which undoubtedly will be further filled out over time, and preserved forever – as an appalling politico-legal abomination.
Read the FOI disclosures in the new report, Silent Collaborator, at Declassified Australia.