Prominent defamation lawyer Stuart Littlemore, QC, has labelled attempts by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange to find ways of suing Prime Minister Julia Gillard for defamation as nothing more than a stunt.
Mr Littlemore and other legal experts say that defamation claims generally must be made within 12 months of the comments.
Assange looking to sue Julia Gillard
Interviewed by the activist organisation GetUp inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Julian Assange talks of suing Julia Gillard, the lack of consular assistance he has received from Australia and the toll his current situation is taking on his family.
Mr Assange has hired lawyers to find a way of suing Prime Minister Julia Gillard for defamation over the claim that WikiLeaks acted illegally in releasing a quarter of a million US diplomatic cables.
In an interview from Ecuador's embassy in London, Assange said Ms Gillard's comment, made in late 2010, influenced MasterCard Australia to join an online financial blockade of the organisation.
Mr Littlemore toldthe National Times: ‘‘I can’t see that it is anything else but a stunt.
‘‘For the life of me I cannot imagine that there is a cause of action that Wikileaks could ever bring, least of all if it had done it within time.
‘‘Nobody can sue for something that is statute-barred – they would need the leave of the court, and I can’t see why that would be granted.’’
Since November 2010, WikiLeaks has released more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables.
The White House and the Gillard government denounced the release.
''I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website,'' Ms Gillard said several days after WikiLeaks began releasing the cables.
''It's a grossly irresponsible thing to do, and an illegal thing to do.''
Australian activist group GetUp! recently interviewed Assange in his makeshift home inside Ecuador's embassy. He has been sheltering at the embassy since June 19 as part of a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations.
Assange said he would be vulnerable to arrest in Sweden by the United States Justice Department, which is examining the possibility of charging people associated with WikiLeaks with espionage over the online publication of the classified cables.
He told GetUp! that WikiLeaks' work had been stymied by Ms Gillard's comments.
''MasterCard Australia, in justifying why it has made a blockade preventing any Australian MasterCard holder from donating to WikiLeaks, used that statement by Julia Gillard as justification,'' he said.
''So the effects of the statement are ongoing and they directly affect the financial viability of WikiLeaks. We are considering suing for defamation. So I have hired lawyers in Sydney and they are investigating the different ways in which we can sue Gillard over that statement.''
Assange said the comments were particularly damaging because they ''licensed'' other forms of attack on him and WikiLeaks.
During the interview, he also spoke of the impact of the past two years on his family, saying his children - a boy and a girl, of whom no details are known- have had to move homes and change their names.
The Age reported last month that declassified US counter-espionage reports revealed the US military considers Assange and WikiLeaks to be enemies of the United States under the terms of American military law.
GetUp! national director Sam McLean said the interview was the first step in a campaign calling on the Australian government to seek a commitment from American authorities that they will not attempt to extradite Assange over WikiLeaks.
''For too long the Prime Minister and the foreign ministers have put the interests of the US government ahead of Australian citizens. That is not good enough,'' Mr McLean said.
''Our government must demand a binding agreement from the US that they will not seek the extradition of this Australian citizen for his work as a journalist and publisher.''
with Jane Lee