Contributed by Ben Wilson
Just how broad the revulsion over the decision of the British High Court to give the go ahead for Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States last Friday is proved by Barnaby Joyce’s position. He is now calling for the founder of WikiLeaks to not be sent to the United States.
This is significant. Barnaby Joyce is the current Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal Party’s coalition partner the nationals. Joyce commented in an editorial he wrote for Nine Newspapers. He said that Assange should be tried on British soil for any crime alleged to have committed. While this does not call for Assange’s freedom, it remains that if the extradition does not go through there is no case in Britain.
Photo by Matt Roberts/ABC News: Barnaby Joyce
“Assange was not in breach of any Australian laws at the time of his actions. Assange was not in the US when the event being deliberated in a court now in London occurred,” Barnaby Joyce wrote.
This is a diplomatic way to say Julian Assange has no real charges to face.
Whether the decision to go public is motivated, by wanting to see the right thing done or internal party politics remains to be seen. This is nevertheless, as boost for Julian Assange’s battle for freedom.
We do know that a growing band of parliamentarians and supporters of the coalition wants an end to the persecution of Assange. They recognise it as an abuse of legal process. This is not surprising, given that 70 percent of the Australian population shares the view that the man must be freed.
Another prominent politician who has suddenly discovered a change of heart is Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Although he has been careful to distance himself from the accused and to not call on the charges against Assange to be dropped, he has said that the current situation is untenable.
Photo by Mike Bowers: Labor leader Anthony Albanese
In effect, Anthony Albanese is saying much the same as Barnaby Joyce.
This adds pressure to the Morrison to do something. Failure to do so has already contributed to the government’s failing credibility as a goi9vernment with any form of moral compass. This can only add to it.
Scott Morrison, who has been aggressively positioning himself as Washington’s number one man in Australia, must be furious at his deputy.
The division has shown that the government is vulnerable on this issue, and that this can be taken advantage of by those campaigning to stop the extradition.
Assange’s lawyers have said that last Friday’s ruling will be appealed. This will at least buy a little time to build active support to end the case. A door to do this more effectively in Australia has been opened.
More prominent Australians must stand up to oppose this miscarriage of justice.
But it is the support of everyday Australians that is the most important. Barnaby Joyce and Anthony Albanese have just helped this along.