John Pilger: The Betrayers of Julian Assange

The day dream about Anthony Albanese doing the right thing has reached its limits. As prime minister he has not fought to bring home an Australian who is both the embodiment of courage and the victim of a great, vindictive injustice.  

Official portrait of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, February 2022. (Australian Government/CC-BY-4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By John Pilger

I have known Julian Assange since I first interviewed him in London in 2010. I immediately liked his dry, dark sense of humour, often dispensed with an infectious giggle. He is a proud outsider: sharp and thoughtful. We have become friends and I have sat in many courtrooms listening to the tribunes of the state try to silence him and his moral revolution in journalism. 

My own high point was when a judge in the Royal Courts of Justice leaned across his bench and growled at me: “You are just a peripatetic Australian like Assange.” My name was on a list of volunteers to stand bail for Julian, and this judge spotted me as the one who had reported his role in the notorious case of the expelled Chagos Islanders. Unintentionally, he delivered me a compliment.

I saw Julian in Belmarsh prison not long ago. We talked about books and the oppressive idiocy of the prison: the happy-clappy slogans on the walls, the petty punishments; they still won’t let him use the gym. He must exercise alone in a cage-like area where there is sign that warns about keeping off the grass. But there is no grass. We laughed; for a brief moment, some things didn’t seem too bad.

The laughter is a shield, of course. When the prison guards began to jangle their keys, as they like to do, indicating our time was up, he fell quiet. As I left the room, he held his fist high and clenched as he always does. He is the embodiment of courage. 

Those who are the antithesis of Julian: in whom courage is unheard of, along with principle and honour, stand between him and freedom. I am not referring to the Mafia regime in Washington whose pursuit of a good man is meant as a warning to us all, but rather to those who still claim to run a just democracy in Australia.

Anthony Albanese was mouthing his favourite platitude, “enough is enough” long before he was elected prime minister of Australia last year. He gave many of us precious hope, including Julian’s family. As prime minister he added weasel words about “not sympathizing” with what Julian had done. Apparently we had to understand his need to cover his appropriated posteria in case Washington called him to order.

We knew it would take exceptional political if not moral courage for Albanese to stand up in the Australian Parliament — the same Parliament that will disport itself before Joe Biden in May — and say: 

“As prime minister, it is my government’s responsibility to bring home an Australian citizen who is clearly the victim of a great, vindictive injustice: a man who has been persecuted for the kind of journalism that is a true public service, a man who has not lied, or deceived — like so many of his counterfeit in the media, but has told people the truth about how the world is run.”

Protester in Melbourne, Australia, on Nov. 27, 2020. (Matt Hrkac, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

“I call on the United States,” a courageous and moral Prime Minister Albanese might say, “to withdraw its extradition application: to end the malign farce that has stained Britain’s once-admired courts of justice and to allow the release of Julian Assange unconditionally to his family. For Julian to remain in his cell at Belmarsh is an act of torture, as the United Nations rapporteur has called it. It is how a dictatorship behaves.” 

Alas, my daydream about Australia doing right by Julian has reached its limits. The teasing of hope by Albanese is now close to a betrayal for which the historical memory will not forget him, and many will not forgive him. What, then, is he waiting for? 

[Related: Australia Has Not Written to US on Assange For 6 Months]

Remember that Julian was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorian government in 2013 largely because his own government had abandoned him. That alone ought to bring shame on those responsible: namely the Labor government of Julia Gillard. 

So eager was Gillard to collude with the Americans in shutting down WikiLeaks for its truth telling that she wanted the Australian Federal Police to arrest Assange and take away his passport for what she called his “illegal” publishing. The AFP pointed out that they had no such powers: Assange had committed no crime.

It is as if you can measure Australia’s extraordinary surrender of sovereignty by the way it treats Julian Assange. Gillard’s pantomime groveling to both houses of the U.S. Congress is cringing theatre on YouTube. Australia, she repeated, was America’s “great mate.” Or was it “little mate”?

Her foreign minister was Bob Carr, another Labor machine politician whom WikiLeaks exposed as an American informant, one of Washington’s useful boys in Australia. In his published diaries, Carr boasted knowing Henry Kissinger; indeed the Great Warmonger invited the foreign minister to go camping in the California woods, we learn.  

Australian governments have repeatedly claimed that Julian has received full consular support, which is his right. When his lawyer Gareth Peirce and I met the Australian consul general in London, Ken Pascoe, I asked him, “What do you know of the Assange case?” 

“Just what I read in the papers,” he replied with a laugh. 

Deranged Servility 

Today, Prime Minister Albanese is preparing this country for a ridiculous American-led war with China. Billions of dollars are to be spent on a war machine of submarines, fighter jets and missiles that can reach China. Salivating war mongering by “experts” on the country’s oldest newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, and the Melbourne Age is a national embarrassment, or ought to be. Australia is a country with no enemies and China is its biggest trading partner.

[Related: Caitlin Johnstone: Spreading War Fever in Australia]

This deranged servility to aggression is laid out in an extraordinary document called the U.S.-Australia Force Posture Agreement. This states that American troops have “exclusive control over the access to [and] use of” armaments and material that can be used in Australia in an aggressive war. 

Patch commemorating Australian, New Zealand and U.S. —ANZUS — exercises in 1984. (U.S. National Archives)

This almost certainly includes nuclear weapons. Albanese’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, “respects” America on this, but clearly has no respect for Australians’ right to know. 

Such obsequiousness was always there — not untypical of a settler nation that still has not made peace with the Indigenous origins and owners of where they live — but now it is dangerous.

China as the Yellow Peril fits Australia’s history of racism like a glove.  However, there is another enemy they don’t talk about. It is us, the public. It is our right to know. And our right to say no.

Since 2001, some 82 laws have been enacted in Australia to take away tenuous rights of expression and dissent and protect the Cold War paranoia of an increasingly secret state, in which the head of the main intelligence agency, ASIO [Australian Security Intelligence Organisation], lectures on the disciplines of “Australian values.” There are secret courts and secret evidence and secret miscarriages of justice. Australia is said to be an inspiration for the master across the Pacific.

Bernard Collaery, David McBride and Julian Assange — deeply moral men who told the truth — are the enemies and victims of this paranoia. They, not Edwardian soldiers who marched for the King, are our true national heroes.

On Julian Assange, the prime minister has two faces. One face teases us with hope of his intervention with Biden that will lead to Julian’s freedom. The other face ingratiates itself with “POTUS” and allows the Americans to do what they want with its vassal: to lay down targets that could result in catastrophe for all of us.

Will Albanese back Australia or Washington on Julian Assange? If he is “sincere,” as the more doe-eyed Labor Party supporters say, what is he waiting for? If he fails to secure Julian’s release, Australia will cease to be sovereign. We will be little Americans. Official.

This is not about the survival of a free press. There is no longer a free press. There are refuges in the samizdat, such as this site. The paramount issue is justice and our most precious human right: to be free. 

This is an abridged version of an address by John Pilger in Sydney on Saturday, March 10 to mark the launch in Australia of Davide Dormino’s sculpture of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, “figures of courage.”  Watch the speech here:

John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist and filmmaker based in London. Pilger’s Web site is: In 2017, the British Library announced a John Pilger Archive of all his written and filmed work. The British Film Institute includes his 1979 film, “Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,” among the 10 most important documentaries of the 20thcentury. Some of his previous contributions to Consortium News can be found here.  

33 comments for “John Pilger: The Betrayers of Julian Assange

  1. Barbara
    March 12, 2023 at 21:54

    As a US citizen, I am beyond disgusted with the US government. They are nothing more than tyrants who do not like it when someone says something they do not like. We have had to many presidents who do this. The government incarcerates its own citizens and citizens of other countries. Sounds like a dictatorship does it not. He is no way a traitor as he is not a US citizen. Assange did not reveal secrets of any kind. He merely printed facts the prove what we have suspected for a very long time.

    England for not returning Mr. Assange to his home country.

    Australian people for not demanding their fellow citizen be returned to his home, a free man.

    England and Australia will survive thumbing their nose at Biden. He is a traitor to the US and to the constitution.

  2. Cerena
    March 11, 2023 at 23:30

    Julia Gillard belongs to the worst scum of this century: she is on a par with other female genociders like Madeleine Albright, H.Clinton, and Samantha Power, who love bloviating platitudes about “freedom and democracy” but are only interested in getting money and priveledges – by any means, however dishonorable.

  3. Graeme
    March 11, 2023 at 22:58

    Sadly, and I suspect it was due to the desperation of many of Julian’s supporters, let alone Julian himself, that with the demise of the Morrison conservative government an ALP government would do better by Julian.
    Hence the over-expectation that Albanese’s platitude, “enough is enough” meant that Albanese would get Julian freed.

    What Albanese has done in stating that “enough is enough” is left considerable margin for whatever the outcome may be.

    These are not words of hope, nor even a promise to get Julian home to Australia; Albanese’s comments merely mean that Julian’s situation needs to change: these words could be used to justify Julian being locked away in the US forever, or at the other polarity getting Julian reunited with his family in a place they want to call home.
    Albanese is covering his own butt here.

    Julia Gillard – who has been one of Australia’s better PMs – continued the traditional Australian policy of accommodating US demands. Her fawning over Obama when he visited Australia was embarrassing. hxxps://
    Gillard’s thought-bubble to take away Julian’s passport echoes a similar action taken by a conservative Australian government against Wilfred Burchett, another outspoken Australian journalist who exposed US foreign policy lies and Australia’s complicity.
    It was the ALP Whitlam government that restored Burchett’s passport. So much for PM Gillard honouring the memory of her predecessors actions.

    Thank goodness for journalists of the stature and tenacity of John Pilger.

    I will be interested to see how much coverage the installation of the Manning, Snowden & Assange statues receives in the Australian corporate media.

  4. Korey Dykstra
    March 11, 2023 at 18:32

    While Anthony Albanese may have the desire to bring Assange home, as he should, I doubt he has the courage to stand up to America, With some exceptions most politicians ( western Europe comes to mind ) are cowards and sadly he is no exception

    • Mikael Andersson
      March 11, 2023 at 22:54

      Albanese is the PM for the USA. He does not have, and never had, any intention of freeing Julian Assange. Julian once said:

      “I understood this a few years ago. And my view became that we should understand that Australia is part of the United States. It is part of this English-speaking Christian empire, the centre of gravity of which is the United States, the second centre of which is the United Kingdom, and Australia is a suburb in that arrangement.

      And therefore we shouldn’t go, ‘It’s completely hopeless, its completely lost. Australian sovereignty, we are never going to get that back. We can’t control the big regulatory structure which we’re involved in in terms of strategic alliances, mass surveillance, and so on.’

      No, we just have to understand that our capital is Washington. The capital of Australia is D.C. That’s the reality. So when you’re engaging in campaigns, just engage directly with D.C., because that’s where the decisions are made.

      And that’s what I do, and that’s what WikiLeaks does. We engage directly with D.C. We engage directly with Washington, and that’s what Australians should do.”

      There’s the answer. The capital of Australia is DC and the letters ADF are an acronym for the American Deference Force.

    • Jack Stephen Hepburn Flanigan Flanigan
      March 12, 2023 at 00:53

      Albanese has the one desire and one only ie to remain in power after the next election. All politicians of both major political groups in Australia. Gutless traitors. Words fail me, I cannot express the degree of my hatred and disgust that I feel towards the major parties.


  5. Robyn
    March 11, 2023 at 17:40

    I encourage Australians to write to their Federal MP about Julian. I’ve been doing it for years – at best you get a ‘consular assistance’ boilerplate response but at least it lets the cowards know you’re not a silent collaborator.

    • Mikael Andersson
      March 11, 2023 at 22:57

      You’re doing well Robyn. I get replies that tell me I’m wrong. The arrogance of these people. I write to my “democratic” representative and am told my views and requests are wrong. I write back – by putting them at number 100 on my ballot paper.

      • Graeme Drysdale
        March 12, 2023 at 00:59

        Mikael, I get similar responses to you.
        And that’s from ALP MPs.
        I am told that the rule of law must apply; the rule of UK law and US law.

        Funny (not) how the ‘rule of law’ does not apply to those who have committed the war-crimes exposed by Wikileaks.

  6. RomfordRob
    March 11, 2023 at 14:54

    Could someone please explain what exactly is the power of the US over the leadership of the “western world”. How is it that Germany, France and Australia, for example, can throw any semblance of rationality, morality, common sense and decency out the window in the name of toeing the US/NATO “rules based” (eh??? What??) world order? Are the leaders physically threatened? Why can’t Albanese tell Bidet to “get stuffed”?

    • Valerie
      March 12, 2023 at 03:58

      Simple answer: MONEY AND POWER.

      But i just read this in the Guardian:

      “Rishi Sunak will fly to San Diego on Sunday to unveil plans for supplying Australia with nuclear-powered submarines under the Aukus scheme amid concerns about the growing threat from China.

      A major announcement 18 months in the making is expected when the UK prime minister meets his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese, and US president Joe Biden.”

      So the three, it appears will meet. A perfect opportunity for Albanese to do his “patriotic” and conscientous duty.

    • March 12, 2023 at 11:03

      The answer lies in the economic model. The west (USA, Canada, Australia, NZ, UK, EU along with Israel) has set up a economic model that benefits them at the expense of every other nation in the world. China and Russia are a threat right now. If you notice, any nation that commits atrocities against it’s own people are not held to account but if you challenge the economic model, you are the target. Cuba, Venezuela, Libya and many others come to mind.

      • RomfordRob
        March 13, 2023 at 07:55

        I suppose that is a big part of it. In the eyes of the US the biggest crime any nation can commit is showing any desire for real independence. And I further suppose that one role of the western intelligence services is to ensure that the “democratic” systems of vassals never cough up people that will present any challenge. Assange himself has described the various pressures the US can exert on a nation. However, the recent past seems to me to have lain this bare to an amazing extent. I’m thinking of Scholtz’s actual presence at the press conference where Bidet actually boasts openly about ending Nordstream, while Scholtz has absolutely nothing to say. How can a once proud nation be reduced to leadership like that? Amazing!

    • Rafael
      March 13, 2023 at 16:20

      The EXTENT of the subservience is a mystery to me too. (And you can add Japan to your list. ) If you ever figure it out, please let us all in on the explanation.

  7. Jack Siler
    March 11, 2023 at 14:01

    Thanks for your persistant courage, John.

    I also read the MSM media news and even from that it is clear that the Australian government, like the British one, is just an American puppy dog. Ecuador stood up as long as they could, but I have little hope that the Australian government will find the courage and the honor to take their citizen home. Hope, however, is hard to execute.

  8. Sherlock
    March 11, 2023 at 13:05

    Please write an article to explain why voters/taxpayers are on their knees–(to multinationals mostly foreign) -they read, hear, and in many cases see the carnage of innocent civilians dying by the millions (starting with Iraq -1 million -a razed country–much like Viet Nam—for phony regime changes that Libya proved beyond a shadow—why wait until every buy is used against you?). Why are taxpayers paying for what they never wanted and was not even hinted at during election campaigns? Why are they acting as though their brains have stopped working? Each notice of declining protective means found in democracy is being acid burned out of existence -by every punishment without cause and the wrap-around-use of everything we pay taxes for —used not only against us as people but to incrementally reduce our means of health-education-the right to know to make clear judgements-and a militarily backed force for the ‘rule of law’–and all that any country’s Constitution was enacted to firm an absolute foundation for ….why even bother if all are now simply ad props?

    • Mikael Andersson
      March 11, 2023 at 23:21

      Sorry Sherlock. Taxpayers don’t get a say in what “their” (hahahaha) government does with their tax after they pay. There’s no reason to hint in an election campaign. That’s like hinting at gravity. Both parties believe in gravity and there’s no debate. You get no say in 12 nuclear submarines that will “defend” you – not at all. They are named Virginia Class ATTACK submarines. The name is a kind of give away, but nobody will ask you for your input. This is a “democracy” and you don’t get to decide. When it comes to a war with China, both parties recently agreed (with each other) that your Parliament won’t get to decide. Only Albo decides. A “democracy” of one person.

  9. paul metcalf
    March 11, 2023 at 10:14

    that photo of albanese has traitorous twat written all over it.the truth will out.

  10. Claudio Pompili
    March 11, 2023 at 03:29

    Thank you John but, given Labor’s track record, I’ve held out little hope that PM Albo will bring Julian home. He’s an ALP machine man and my sister in Sydney can vouch for that. There is disappointment but not surprise, when one considers their actions, that the warmongers Albo, Marles, Wong are at the very least consistent. They have made careers out of being the leaders of the ALP. Not the same ALP that was the Dunstan and Whitlam governments when I first began to vote. They are now waiting for Assange to die…I hope with all my heart that he doesn’t and remains a thorn in their sides…however, ur Coming War with China, that I thought then was a little alarmist, is now prescient…Australia is low-hanging fruit and our children are cannon-fodder. One can bet that our leaders and their families will be ushered to safety….they are all too foolish to realise that their survival will be temporary in an uninhabitable planet. Amen

    • Valerie
      March 11, 2023 at 09:46

      I wonder what fanatical twisted logic makes them think they will not be victims.
      They are living in a false sense of security.

  11. Eric
    March 11, 2023 at 02:12

    After he took a public position on Assange, Albanese’s subsequent subservience
    indicates that Washington has laid down the law. That Biden will publicly
    humiliate the Australian prime minister in this fashion indicates that
    his regime will not budge in its vicious pursuit of Assange.

    Biden’s stubbornness bodes ill for the Ukrainian and China conflicts.

  12. March 11, 2023 at 01:47

    The real betrayers of Julian Assange are the public, in whose name justice is abused. Assange has become a symbol of their narcissism.The media cannot not “manufacture” consent, if the public is not willing to accept it. The public worshiops the status quo and hate those who shake that status quo with inconvenient truths.

  13. Johnny
    March 10, 2023 at 17:58

    “Prime Minister, it’s the Director of the CIA on the line”
    “Put him through immediately”
    “My name is Anthony”
    “Whatever. You’ve got to pull your head in Tony. NOW”
    “Pull it in? On what?”

  14. Kiwiantz62
    March 10, 2023 at 17:41

    Australia & it’s quizzling Leaders will do whatever the Americans tell them to do, Australia is a vassal State of the US! Just like Germany is, with very little Olaf Sholtz being summoned to the Principals White house Office by Biden who told him that the US destroyed their Pipelines & stole their Businesses & there’s nothing Scholtz can do about it, that’s what’s going to happen to Australia! So Albanese will be summoned to see the angry Grandpa in the Oval Office & told that, Australians, your next up on the Proxy War Ladder to fight on behalf of Biden in Taiwan to die & sacrifice your sons & daughters for the US Empire like Julian Assange has already been tortured as a living, human sacrifice! Batter up Australia, your next to be the suckers to die on behalf of Joe Biden & his deathcult Regime, like the Ukrainians!

  15. ray Peterson
    March 10, 2023 at 16:34

    John, from your documentary, “Palestine is still the Issue” to
    your forewarnings on American preparations for war
    with China, you’ve proven yourself to be a modern prophet.
    Unfortunately, as in ancient times, ruling power elite today
    serve their same master: “. . . and the whole world
    is in the power of the evil one” (John 5.19).

    • Andres Haverbeck
      March 11, 2023 at 16:05

      Well it is said Aussie Land is the 53 or so state of Uncle Sam?

  16. Rex Williams
    March 10, 2023 at 16:30

    Thanks John Pilger. One can always rely on your continued support for worthy causes and justice, in this case Julian Assange.

    You would know better than most that we have a weak country, subservient until 1945 to the British and now taken over by the USA as our controllers. Are we naive enough to consider that any attack on our country would have the USA coming in to bat for us? Rubbish. The USA is for the USA, nothing more. Show me any document that has that in print. So if the US is not our protector and as a result worthy therefore of total support and obedience to their warlike causes, what the hell are they?
    They see Australia as a convenient land mass in the Asia Pacific, suitable for bases, nuclear storage facilities and a country that does as it is told. Sadly, the vassal state requires subservience across the board, all parties and that’s the real crime.

    Albanese, a weak Prime Minister hasn’t even made a single effort to have Julian Assange sent home. He is weak, his party is just as weak. I am ashamed of them all.

    • WillD
      March 10, 2023 at 21:25

      Albanese = milquetoast = gutless and subservient.

    • Jack Stephen HepburnFlanigan
      March 12, 2023 at 21:53

      Agree, the Yanks are setting us up as useful (useless) idiots, purely to serve their ends, as they have done with the Ukraine.


  17. JonT
    March 10, 2023 at 16:25

    Will the full version of this address be available?

  18. Billy Field
    March 10, 2023 at 16:05

    Brilliant work yet again John Pilger. Will share and others please do. Thankyou.

  19. David Verrall
    March 10, 2023 at 16:04

    I live beneath the single voice of Media rhetoric in Australia. The War Flags rigidly wave in a suffocated nation of complaint atrophy. No voice except the MSM voice is permitted or heard. Assertions segue into hypnosis, as if foretold, and proud Australians fall into line; obedient, reliable idiots questioning nothing. An obsequious MSM tells nothing more or less than what the war machine dictates. Football, Movie ads and New product marketing remain the only thing an obedient Zombie mass see. Australia: the successful experiment for how mass indoctrination and single voice propaganda works. Australia: A proud cloned and obedient tool of Empire Asks no questions. Has no answers. Anthony Albanese is invisible.

  20. Valerie
    March 10, 2023 at 13:33

    Not a lot to add to Mr. Pilger’s address. We all know who the guilty parties are.
    This is the first i’ve heard of the sculptures. They are well travelled:

    “Anything To Say’ is a travelling tribute to the courage of freedom of information and free speech. Three bronze life-size sculptures represent Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, controversial contemporary heroes who chose to challenge power structures.”


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