Tom Cowie – Tuesday, 10 January 2012
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains frustrated by the lack of assistance from the Australian federal government over his prolonged overseas legal plight, three weeks ahead of his appeal against extradition in the UK Supreme Court.
In an exclusive interview with The Power Index, the platinum-haired whistleblower revealed Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s office had been in contact with his lawyers in the past month but with “no results”.
When asked if he had been receiving adequate assistance from the federal government over his potential extradition from Britain to Sweden, Assange replied: “Of course not”.
“Almost no Australian who is involved in trouble overseas receives the assistance they should,” he said. “Australia is famous for its lack of assistance to its people who enter into difficulty overseas.”
A clearly-discouraged Assange said Prime Minister Julia Gillard, former Attorney-General Robert McClelland and other members of the ALP had “risen above their population and developed network connections with elites in other countries”.
“That is their game … and in doing so they develop a base outside their own country and are no longer political accountable to the people of their country,” he told The Power Index.
“[They] have been working their international connections, yes at my expense, but also at the expense of the Australian people.”
Assange is currently awaiting a hearing in the Supreme Court to be held early in February, where a panel of seven judges will consider his appeal against extradition on accusations of rape and sexual assault of two women.
If Assange loses the appeal he could face extradition within weeks. There is another option of appeal which could see him take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
The 40-year-old Australian said the prime minister, who has denounced the actions of WikiLeaks as “illegal” in the past, had not been in contact recently.
A spokesperson for foreign minister Kevin Rudd told The Power Index that consular officers have been in touch with Assange’s lawyers and were “closely monitoring” his case.
“The Australian government cannot interfere in the judicial processes of other governments but Australia’s ambassador to Stockholm has sought and obtained assurances from Swedish authorities that Mr Assange’s case will proceed in accordance with due process,” the spokesperson said.
“Such assurances have also been sought and obtained from the relevant UK authorities.”
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said he believed the government had not done enough to assist Assange, who has been under house arrest for more than a year.
“I think it would be much better for the Australian government to pull out all the stops and that means not just consular assistance, it means diplomatic activity and it means political statements,” he told The Power Index.
“We need to hear the prime minister and the attorney-general quite clearly advocating to the US that they would not support onward extradition of an Australian journalist to face trumped up charges in the United States.”
Assange has said on multiple occasions his expulsion to Sweden could lead to his handing over to authorities in the United States, where WikiLeaks is being investigated for publishing thousands of secret state cables.
Last month a group of high-profile Australians urged Rudd in an open letter to protect Assange from the possibility of rendition to the United States.
Rudd’s spokesperson said it was “premature to speculate” on the actions of the United States and what further representations Australia may make.
Ludlam rejected those statements, saying it was “highly disingenuous” of the government to be claiming that onward extradition was a hypothetical.
“And there is no doubt at all which way public opinion will swing if it comes to that,” he added.
Assange spoke to The Power Index ahead of the upcoming Thinkers power list, of which he is a contender.
When asked about the effect of the financial embargo enacted by Visa, PayPal and others on WikiLeaks’ operations, Assange said donations had recovered “to a degree” but 95% of the organisation’s revenue stream had been wiped out.
The financial blockade has forced WikiLeaks to focus primarily on fundraising rather than any substantial new releases.
“We hear that it is likely in January that the European Commission will make its decision on whether to engage in a full-scale investigation into the behaviour of the card companies,” he said.
On the signing into law of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act by US President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve, Assange said the bill was a “reflection of the military industrial complex having greater political power”.
“That patronage network, the military, is strengthening and become more pyramidical. So it’s pulling in other points of power within the United States into it,” he added.
Civil liberties groups have raised concerns about the NDAA and some of its key components, including the provision for the military to indefinitely detain US citizens without charge.
Assange also spoke about the recent Occupy Wall Street protests, saying we “shouldn’t necessarily say that they are a great and hopeful sign”.
“If you saw someone’s leg off they will scream and that’s what’s happening to a number of populations. They are acting against the pressure that is being applied to them,” he said.
He also said that crowd control techniques and weapons had “leapt forward over the past year” but so had the ability of people to “see the abuses that are occurring”.
“When you look at Occupy Wall Street we shouldn’t think that this is merely the result of politically educated youth, educated as a result of the internet, or as a result of mobile phone calls or WikiLeaks or YouTube, all these things are factors,” he said.
“It is also a back reaction to the degree of wealth inequality and oppression that is occurring.”
The Power Index asked the attorney-general’s office for comment on what actions the government would take should Assange be extradited but did not receive a response by deadline.