Monday, November 18, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Bring Assange Home: MPs
The US extradition case against the Australian journalist sets a dangerous precedent

Source: Twitter

Pressure is mounting on the Morrison government to intervene on behalf of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is being held in isolation in the medical ward of maximum-security Belmarsh prison in London. A February court hearing could see the Australian citizen extradited to the United States to face unprecedented espionage charges and a possible 175 years in prison. Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who is co-chair of a new parliamentary friendship group called Bring Julian Assange Home, has called on the prime minister to use his personal relationship with US President Donald Trump to intervene and try to have the extradition process halted. “It’s a long shot that the Australian government will change its position,” says Wilkie, “but it’s worth taking.”

The Bring Julian Assange Home group has the requisite 10 members from across the political spectrum, including co-chair George Christensen from the LNP, Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce, crossbencher Zali Steggall, and Labor’s Julian Hill and Steve Georganas. Senator Peter Whish-Wilson is one of four Greens in the group, and on Friday he presented a petition with more than 200,000 signatures to the Senate calling on the government to intervene and ensure Assange’s safe passage to Australia or another location of his choosing, and to use its influence to ensure he is not extradited. There is no Liberal Party member of the group. The group is scheduled to have its first meeting next Monday, coinciding with a visit to the federal parliament by Assange supporter and former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson. Hopefully, says Wilkie, Anderson will meet with the group, as is being organised by South Australian independent Rebekha Sharkie, who is also a member. Anderson has previously written to the PM seeking a meeting but reportedly [$] has yet to receive a reply.

Wilkie tells me that, as the name suggests, the group wants Assange to return to Australia. “That is the constant, that everyone can agree on. We all have different views about Assange personally, and what he’s done over the years. But everyone is of one mind that he should be allowed to return to Australia, and that he should not be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges. We all agree that it’s a terrible injustice that he called out war crimes by the US, and it’s that very country that is seeking to extradite him.”

Wilkie says Assange has become a political pawn. “You’ve got Boris Johnson wanting to kowtow to Trump, you’ve got Scott Morrison wanting to kowtow to Trump … Assange really has become a political plaything for Johnson, Morrison and Trump. It’s totally outside of Australia’s jurisdiction, but what’s the point of ScoMo having an apparently pretty reasonable personal relationship with Trump … if he’s not prepared to use it, and pick up the phone? Trump’s always asking foreign leaders for favours, apparently, so why doesn’t Morrison ring Trump and ask him to do the right thing by this Australian? He should be able to ask if the US could let Assange come to Australia and not be extradited.”

On Friday night, Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, spoke at a University of Technology Sydney event hosted by global writers’ association PEN International. “This is the first time in US history that the Espionage Act has been used to charge a publisher, let alone to then seek the extradition of a foreign publisher to the United States,” she said. “We have had Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, all kinds of free speech groups coming forward to say that this [is] basically criminalising journalism … It is placing a massive chill on national security journalism.”

Robinson said that, if the extradition process is appealed all the way to the UK Supreme Court, it could take as long as three years to be resolved. Two weeks ago Wilkie and Christensen wrote to the British High Commission seeking access to Assange, after UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer said that Assange’s health was deteriorating, he was showing acute signs of psychological torture, and could die in prison. They have yet to receive any response. At a meeting in the European parliament last week, Melzer and former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr explained why Assange must not be extradited.

First and foremost, said Carr, “the present condition of Julian Assange needs to be addressed. I think it’s as brutally simple as this. If he were, God prevent, to die in prison, then the finger will be pointed with total justification at the political leaders who’ve allowed him to be in maximum security, with intermittent access to his legal representatives … and denied access to the papers he wants to prepare his defence. I want to send a message to my friends in London to think carefully about holding a political prisoner, like this, in maximum security, and think of how you might be held responsible, should the worst happen.” 


“China will be, and is, the predominant economic power in Asia … The question for us is how does Australia respond to this. [Do we] help define and construct a set of arrangements which engages China but which prevents China from dominating the region? Or do we seek to insulate or remove ourselves from this enormous shift in world economic power by allowing our singular focus on the United States and our alliance with it to mark out our international personality? My concern is [that] what passes for Australian foreign policy lacks any sense of strategic realism and that the whispered word ‘communism’ of old is now being replaced by ‘China’.”

Former prime minister Paul Keating at The Australian’s Strategic Forum event in Sydney today.

“The events that have happened here in Australia, in the last couple of years – God’s word says for a man and a woman to be together … they’ve come and changed this law. Abortion, it’s okay now to murder, kill infants, unborn children. Look how rapid these bushfires, these droughts, all these things have come in a short period of time. Do you think it’s a coincidence or not? God is speaking to you guys. Australia, you need to repent and take these laws and turn it back to what is right.”

Sacked Wallabies player Israel Folau in a video sermon posted to the Truth of Jesus Christ Church Sydney.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough
Last week, a million hectares of eastern Australia were burnt in catastrophic bushfires. In the main, politicians refused to acknowledge the science that links these fires to climate change.

The ratio of household debt to income in Australia, which, in the first of a four-part series on the economy on ABC’s 7.30, economist Gerard Minack describes as a “massive macro risk”.

“I want to develop a series of state deals with my counterparts on their specific issues [regarding the electricity grid] … Each state is different and each deal will focus on the particular challenges of that jurisdiction. Each state deal will focus on key elements and will involve the commonwealth partnering on joint projects.”

Energy Minister Angus Taylor in a speech to a UBS conference in Sydney today, ahead of Friday’s meeting with his state and territory counterparts.

The list

“The name ‘dingo’ comes from the Dharawal language … ‘Wild dog’, at least in Australia, is more recent and far more loaded. To some, it’s nothing more than a useful catch-all; a linguistic bucket into which all disputed scientific permutations of Canis + lupus + familiaris + dingo that refer to wild-living canines, along with feral domestic dogs and hybrids of the two, can be dumped. To others, it signals deceit.”

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison is further stamping his authority on the government, overhauling decision-making processes so individual ministers have less autonomy and cabinet’s powerful budget committee is more engaged.”

“In April 2018, an Instagram follower of Israel Folau asked the international rugby star what was ‘God’s plan for homosexuals’. Folau’s views on homosexuality were already known. The previous year, before the same-sex marriage postal vote, in response to Rugby Australia’s support for the Yes case, Folau wrote on Twitter, ‘I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. But personally, I will not support gay marriage.’ Folau’s language had changed by April 2018.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


The Monthly Today

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Images via ABC News

Morrison’s mandate

Barnaby Joyce acknowledges that a net-zero target is cabinet’s call. But what exactly is their mandate?

Image of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in Question Time today. Image via ABC News

Rush hour

The Nationals have had far more than four hours to figure out their position on net zero

Composite image of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (images via ABC News)

Border farce

So much for the national plan

Image of Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud, leader Barnaby Joyce and leader in the Senate Bridget McKenzie, June 21, 2021. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Image

Fear and showboating

The Nationals are worried about a net-zero backlash of their own making

From the front page

Image of ‘Scary Monsters’

‘Scary Monsters’ by Michelle de Kretser

Two satirical stories about fitting in, from the two-time Miles Franklin–winner

Image of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in Question Time today. Image via ABC News

Rush hour

The Nationals have had far more than four hours to figure out their position on net zero

Image of Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy in HBO’s Succession season 3. Photograph by David Russell/HBO

Ties that bind: ‘Succession’ season three

Jeremy Strong’s performance in the HBO drama’s third season is masterful

Image of a tampon and a sanitary pad viewed from above

A bloody shame: Paid period leave should be law

Australia’s workplace laws must better accommodate the reproductive body