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So there'll be no megaphone diplomacy when it comes to Julian Assange and his pending extradition to the United States. That is a good thing because deploying the megaphone rarely plays well when it comes to diplomacy. And, as the government has rightly said, it can't intervene in the legal proceedings of other countries. But that doesn't mean it can't try to exert some quiet, back-channel influence.
At the heart of the US pursuit of Assange is the leaking and publication en masse of unredacted classified diplomatic cables which it said put lives of people working for the Americans at risk. Several news outlets which had seen the cables but had chosen not to publish them without redacting sensitive information condemned Wikileaks for releasing the cache of cables.
Assange's defenders say the US extradition bid threatens press freedom; his detractors say responsible journalism involves applying a context to information gained by leaks and a filter to protect innocent individuals identified within it, something Wikileaks massive data dump didn't. The latter argument has been drowned out by the former but is still important. Yet, even poor journalism powered by extreme hacking shouldn't involve 170 years behind bars, which is what Assange faces if found guilty in a US court.
Prime Minister Albanese is correct when he says the case has dragged on for too long. After all, Chelsea Manning, the US Army soldier who leaked the material to Wikileaks, and was found guilty under the Espionage Act, was released in January 2017 after her sentence was commuted by outgoing President Barack Obama.
In one sense, by pursuing Assange, the US is only drawing attention to its own misdeeds - the most notable the killing of 18 Iraqi civilians by a helicopter crew. By lionising someone who has already done the damage to national security, the US is also casting itself as a danger to free speech, a position which doesn't sit well with its national narrative of being a champion of democratic values.
Whatever your views on Assange, he's been incarcerated long enough - all those years of asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he outstayed his welcome, the time in Belmarsh Prison serving a bail breach sentence and then awaiting the outcome of the extradition hearing. He will no doubt appeal the decision by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to allow the extradition the US to go ahead, which will mean more time locked up.
The world has moved on. The Iraq War is long over. The Taliban are in charge in Kabul. Russia and China are the big deal these days. And yet here we are, still talking about Julian Assange.
Surely, it's a case the US should let through to the keeper.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Should the US drop its case against Assange? Should the PM be more vigorous in trying to get Assange back to Australia? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles will meet his Indian counterpart to discuss strengthening defence and security cooperation. Mr Marles arrived in India on Monday and on Thursday will head to Rwanda for a series of high-level meetings at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
- Australia has sent the first four of 14 armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine as part of a $285 million aid package. The M113AS4s were loaded into a Ukrainian aircraft last week after the former defence minister Peter Dutton promised the personnel carriers and 20 additional Bushmaster protected infantry vehicles in May.
- ACT senator David Pocock has emerged as the key vote the Albanese government will need to pass legislation after all state and territory senators were finalised on Monday. The final count revealed Labor and the Greens will command one vote short of a combined upper-house majority.
THEY SAID IT: "A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad." - Albert Camus
YOU SAID IT: "It's become very clear that the current electricity crisis is not owing to real shortage of generation capacity. It's caused by the players in the game just gaming the system for profit. That's what you get when you privatise an essential utility. Thanks for nothing, LNP governments. Is it time to think about renationalising electricity generation?" - Oliver
"What is happening now with cooperation between premiers of the various states and the Commonwealth is a variation of the Hawke model where people actually talk to each other and share the concerns and values of all Australians, not just a select view. This is healthy, productive and economically sound. When Dominic Perrottet says the meeting was unusually productive then we know something good is happening. Peter Dutton, take note." - Veronica
"A couple of questions for those who think Australia shouldn't switch to renewable energy until China does: What have you got against lower power prices? Why don't you want Australia to be at the forefront of emerging technologies which we can sell to the rest of the world?" - Ken
"If the 'consultative' national approach continues in a positive vein then of course it will be better than the seemingly narrow minded point scoring of the Morrison government. Let's hope they can 'fix' so many areas of neglect cooperatively, effectively and efficiently in the interest of the common good! So, yes to good government. Adding another year of schooling needs to be better targeted to benefit children from poorer socio-economic groups, not just a blanket approach. Funding educational equity comes from the redistribution of resources away from those who don't need it to those who do, a la Gonski." - Chris
"Yes more government and less politics. Yeah! But I can't see the premiers and chief ministers being any different to the meetings they have had. Remember after agreeing to a certain path they go home and do their own thing - remember Queensland and WA and Covid and borders. Maybe things could be a bit different with federal Labor and only two Liberal states left, so maybe there will be a change. Schools: Our relatives' kids in the UK and Canada start school at four years and it works." - Thomas
"Totally agree that it is good to have a government that believes in doing things for the benefit of all Australians and not just for their own political gain. We haven't had that in a long time. May it last!" - David
"Hi John and team, I am so glad I signed up on The Echidna site. Your morning email is a wonderful start to the day!" - Dave
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