It is good to see a fellow regional MP in the chair!
I am no fan of Julian Assange. My position on Assange and the charge that he faces has been, like most others in this House, that he deserves the same protections that any Australian deserves—no more and no less. But it has become increasingly clear that Assange has not been treated like any other Australian in trouble overseas. He is a man who has been targeted with extraordinary ruthlessness and single-mindedness by the United States military, intelligence and political apparatus.
The speech delivered to the House yesterday by my colleague the member for Bruce brought the manifest injustice facing Assange into stark relief, and I urge all in this place to read it. In a nutshell, Assange ran WikiLeaks, a website that, as its name suggests, revelled in publishing secret material. This included classified documents detailing activities by the United States military. WikiLeaks' publishing of this material was highly embarrassing to the US military and intelligence services.
It's important to note that WikiLeaks is not run from the US, that Assange was not and is not a US citizen, and that he did not and does not live there. Unsurprisingly, the US authorities brought legal proceedings against him, including extradition. Of course to be extradited, normally you have to commit a crime in the place that is seeking the extradition. That didn't happen in this case. But if the United States succeeds in having Assange extradited from the UK it will set a new and frightening precedent. It will mean that an Australian journalist, perhaps writing for The Age or The Daily Telegraph, or a commentator for Nine or the ABC, who says things that US lawmakers consider unlawful under US law, could find themselves the subject of a warrant from the US seeking their extradition to the US to face charges. And if the US can successfully seek to extradite foreigners for breaking their laws, what is to stop other countries with whom we have extradition treaties from doing the same?
As much as this is an issue of individual injustice against Assange, it is an issue of our national sovereignty. An Australian citizen deserves the full protection of their government. Any supposed faith in the United States commitment to due process is misplaced. There is ample evidence, as the member for Bruce outlined, of US activities that run counter to due process. The pursuit of Julian Assange has been political, not judicial, and if he is extradited his future will be in the hands of the Trump administration, not an independent and impartial judiciary. If he is extradited, he faces dying in prison for publishing secrets.
I am no fan of Julian Assange, but, as the member for Bruce said, it doesn't matter if you agree with him, it doesn't matter if you like him and it doesn't matter if you dislike him. He's an Australian, with the same rights as you or me, and he is entitled to the protection of his government.