Albanese ‘Frustrated’ With US Over Assange

The Australian prime minister told ABC, “I share the frustration. I can’t do more than make very clear what my position is,” that a diplomatic solution to Assange’s case must be found.

Albanese spoke about Assange with the ABC while in London for the coronation of King Charles III. (ABC News/Adrian Wilson)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he has unequivocally stated his position to the United States that a diplomatic resolution of the case of Julian Assange must be made.

In his clearest statement yet about the fate of the imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher, Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in an interview in London that he has told the U.S. Justice Department that Assange’s case must come to an end.

“I continue to say in private what I said publicly as Labor leader and what I’ve said as Prime Minister, that enough is enough,” Albanese  told the ABC. “This needs to be brought to a conclusion.”

“It needs to be worked through,” Albanese went on. “We’re working through diplomatic channels, we’re making very clear what our position is on Mr Assange’s case.”

But so far the Justice Department has not yielded in its pursuit of Assange on espionage charges that could land him in a U.S. prison for up to 175 years if he is extradited from Britain and convicted in the U.S. 

“I know it’s frustrating. I share the frustration. I can’t do more than make very clear what my position is,” he said. “And the U.S. administration is certainly very aware of what the Australian government’s position is.”  

Asked whether he would raise Assange directly with Joe Biden when the U.S. president visits Australia later this month, Albanese said: “The way that diplomacy works is probably not to forecast the discussions that you will have or have had with leaders of other nations.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meeting with President Joe Biden at East Asia Summit, November 2022. (Office of U.S. President)

Albanese appears not to have looked deeply into the facts of the case against Assange, when he asserted in the interview that he understood U.S. concerns that confidential information could “lead to consequences for people who are engaged in an activity.”

Assange’s legal team laid out during extradition proceedings in London that Assange did not release the un-redacted version of the U.S. diplomatic cables containing some names of U.S. informants until after two Guardian journalists provided the password to those files in a book that they wrote and only after a German publication and published the un-redacted files first.  

Additionally, upon cross examination in the court martial trial of former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning for leaking the cables to Assange, U.S. Gen. Robert Carr admitted there was no evidence that any informant had been harmed by the disclosures.

Albanese cited Manning’s case when discussing Assange’s fate. “I think that when Australians look at the circumstances, look at the fact that the person who released the information (Chelsea Manning) is walking freely now, having served some time in incarceration but is now released for a long period of time, then they’ll see that there is a disconnect there,” he said in the interview.  

Asked whether other leaders in the West were speaking out for the principles of free speech involved in Assange’s case, Albanese told the ABC:

“We do value freedom of expression, but we also have, in today’s uncertain world, legitimate concerns about our national security.

I’m not going to sit here as someone who chairs our National Security Committee and say it’s fine if you publish all of the details about our National Security Committee deliberations, because if you did that, Australian lives would be put in danger.

There are real consequences for that … I’m a big supporter of freedom of the press, but with that also comes a responsibility to take into account the consequences of whether information which is not available to the public, what the consequences would be if we had just a free for all.”

In the extensive interview, Albanese said he was concerned for Assange’s health. “There was a court decision here in the United Kingdom that was then overturned on appeal that went to Mr Assange’s health as well, and I am concerned for him,” he said.  

Until now, Albanese has kept largely quiet about his dealings with the U.S. regarding Assange.  That he spoke so openly about it in this interview is an indication not only of his frustration but that he’s decided going public could bring more pressure on the U.S. to act. It also shows that the public pressure Albanese has faced to up the ante may have had an effect.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe   

34 comments for “Albanese ‘Frustrated’ With US Over Assange

  1. Renate
    May 7, 2023 at 00:54

    Biden is a man who knows no mercy, a man without a sense of justice, and no integrity.

  2. Eddy
    May 6, 2023 at 02:51

    Easy solution. The nuclear sub deal is on hold, until Assange is released and returned to Australia. End of story. Nothing difficult about it at all.

  3. Elsa Collins
    May 5, 2023 at 18:31

    Thank you! Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for demanding the US, to release of Julian Assange, please use your expertise, influence
    and assertive actions to make things happen and free Julian Assange to free the truth, this is history in the making.
    We need the truth, we need Julian Assange!

    • Mikael Andersson
      May 5, 2023 at 21:55

      Dear Elsa, the point here is that Albanese has “demanded” nothing of the sort. He has copped out. Wong has copped out. Marles has copped out. Nobody has “demanded”. Joe’s article makes this abundantly clear.

      • Carollyn Smith
        May 7, 2023 at 04:59

        Correct, Albanese is dancing around this as is Wong and Marles. Not once have they said free Julian, it’s just “ it has to come to and end”. Which means nothing for Julian’s Freedom.

  4. Billy Field
    May 5, 2023 at 18:15

    “I know it’s frustrating. I share the frustration. I can’t do more than make very clear what my position is,” he said. Sincerely thanks Albo, nice chat but it is not all you can do because we all know if you are not putting pressure on USA they will ignore you…that is all they understand, is your dirty, and the people know about the issue and are watching you,…there are countless ways we can”diplomatically” do this eg suggest trade deals might be “delayed”…just tell the truth “Albo has a political problem they need to help with”.. how about offering to downsize Military equipment purchases…that will get their “tits in the wringer”. For the sake of our National Sovereignty, independence, credible Justice, Human Rights, human decency…and the rights of people all over the globe for all this (including USA folks) Albo must put pressure onto USA to effect an urgent resolution. Assange has done no wrong we know of, and if taken to USA they will “force him” by threats of death penalty, or prison in solitary “never to be released” to “plead guilty” to cover up their own crimes & silence whistle blowers globally. Last, the notion Assange, as an Australian (where no evidence of wrongdoing) be subject to USA domestic laws is a danger to all nations & ridiculous.

  5. CaseyG
    May 5, 2023 at 17:45

    Julian Assange is a truth teller.

    So why Biden —-are you calling Julian Assange a criminal? Your son seems to be quite criminal—as do so many in Congress. Trump is certainly a criminal along with some military people too.
    And Congress—-oh my—lots of liars there.
    Freeing Julian Assange seems like the only human thing to do for this nation that is said to be a democracy. I am also amazed that you, Biden , can function without a soul. This Democrat is not about to vote for a deceiver like you—ever!

  6. lester
    May 5, 2023 at 17:16

    Are Australia’s politicians really that afraid of the USA? Have various presidents threatened to invade? Or are they all eaten up with “colonial mentality” and can’t imagine acting like they run an independent country?

    • Mikael Andersson
      May 5, 2023 at 21:52

      It’s the ALP Lester. They never recovered from the Whitlam coup, and don’t want it ever to happen again. There can never be another Dismissal.

    • WillD
      May 6, 2023 at 01:16

      Yes, they are afraid, and most likely have been ‘threatened’ in many ways, some subtle and others not so subtle. The US is well known for its threats to individuals and countries it wants to control.

      But Albanese is not a courageous man, far from it. He is weak and cowardly. He is hiding his cowardice behind feeble statements about having raised the concern – not asked for, or demanded anything, just mentioned it meekly and mildly! He probably apologised for it in advanced not wanting to risk the wrath of his US government puppet masters, and using Australian public demand as his excuse.

      No, we can’t expect anything from Albanese or his government. They are firmly under the US’ boot.

  7. lester
    May 5, 2023 at 16:41

    “Bring to a conclusion” sounds fishy; shooting Assange would bring the case to a conclusion. :-(

  8. Tim N
    May 5, 2023 at 16:15

    Albanese reminds me of Zelly Zelensky a bit. Both of them go-fers and useful tools of the US, both of whom think they actually have some independence from their masters in Washington.

    • Dianne Foster
      May 5, 2023 at 17:50

      Exactly. They are both vassal states.

      • Mikael Andersson
        May 5, 2023 at 21:49

        Not vassals Dianne. Vassals have at least a little self-determination. We in Australia are serfs and perhaps slaves. We can only aspire to being vassals.

    May 5, 2023 at 12:53

    There will be huge crowd in London tomorrow for the Coronation. HIS Majesty’s Prison, Belmarsh, is not that far away!

  10. May 5, 2023 at 12:25

    Yes, Albanese is still reiterating the tired old USA argument that damage could have been done to troops in the field, he obviously has NOT read the detailed findings which show NObody was harmed as a result of the Wikileaks publication. Yet, Seth Rich is dead. Need we say more? Albanese could put sanctions against the USA, this is a very serious matter indeed! Gutless wonder, Albanese!

  11. Vera Gottlieb
    May 5, 2023 at 11:25

    I am sick and tired of the constant provocations coming from the US. Sick and tired!!! The country that always brags to the world yet can’t set a proper moral example. One day there’ll be a price to pay for all this. When??? The sooner, the better.

  12. Randal Marlin
    May 5, 2023 at 11:14

    Can we assume Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be making a well-publicized visit to Belmarsh while in London? Actions can speak louder than words.
    Diplomacy takes time. For the incarcerated, freedom is a matter of urgency.
    He should be released now, with palaver later.

    • blimbax
      May 5, 2023 at 13:23

      Albanese visiting Assange is an excellent suggestion.

      Raising the issue as a condition to the recent submarine deal might have worked, as well, putting aside how bad the deal itself is for Australia.

      Finally, Albanese looks like an assistant director of some human resources department. Maybe that’s why he won’t visit Assange in prison or use leverage to get Assange released.

      • Eddy Schmid
        May 6, 2023 at 02:55

        Totaly agree. This should have been addressed at the time. I’d put good money down, he’d be free on the streets right now, if our politicians had any back bone.

    • lester
      May 5, 2023 at 16:43

      I wouldn’t count on it.

  13. Vincent
    May 5, 2023 at 10:54

    “Any PM with an ounce of decency, compassion, courage, or morality would be”…

    … removed by the appointed royal governor upon the command of the King who rules the empire where the sun never sets. Its called ‘democracy’.

  14. Joni Birdsong
    May 5, 2023 at 10:49

    In the US, (D) is for Deceit
    In Australia, the dialect is different, and thus its (L) is for Liar.

    None of these people give a damn about the world’s most prominent dissident journalist. Its all fake. Its all for show. These are both parties of big business and the oligarchs, and the only thing they want is for you to pay for and die in their world war to make the rich even richer.

  15. Maerwydd
    May 5, 2023 at 10:46

    Albo is just tired of getting relentlessly trashed on Twitter and other social media. He looks like a wimp in the face of US arrogance and injustice because he isn’t standing up for his own citizen. If Assange succeeds in getting free from this relentless persecution, it will be due to the many many people and organizations who have been unwavering in their support (and plenty loud) for Assange and press freedom. The US doesn’t do diplomacy any more, in case the PM of Australia hasn’t noticed. It takes a harsher, uncompromising and even threatening approach to grab the attention of a major bully. Looks like Albanese may be playing out of his league.

  16. Valerie
    May 5, 2023 at 10:42

    I see Albanese is attending the coronation tomorrow. He could ask Charlie to issue a royal decree to free Julian. (Being as Biden hasn’t come up with the goods.)

  17. Paul Citro
    May 5, 2023 at 08:24

    Good words are a good start. But they must be followed by good actions. Otherwise they are meaningless.

    • Mikael Andersson
      May 5, 2023 at 10:53

      Paul, they are weasel words. ” I think that when Australians look at the circumstances, look at the fact that the person who released the information (Chelsea Manning) is walking freely now, having served some time in incarceration but is now released for a long period of time, then they’ll see that there is a disconnect there.” OMG! A disconnect. Shock! How hard hitting. How harsh. As Keating once said, “like being flogged with a warm lettuce.” Albanese is spineless and not a leader’s smelly socks. Sad.

  18. Andrew Nichols
    May 4, 2023 at 23:24

    Dear God. What weasel words compared to the outrage and demands they make whenever a journo of theirs is held by a designated western enemy. Resolved as soon as possible? Will spineless vassal Albo be happy then when its’s all over and he’s in a Supermax?

    • Mikael Andersson
      May 5, 2023 at 10:56

      Sorry Andrew, I wrote my comment before I read yours. We agree on spineless Albanese and his weasel words.

      • Tim N
        May 5, 2023 at 16:11

        Yes. My God, what a lying weasel with his phony concern.

  19. Robyn
    May 4, 2023 at 21:13

    An Australian citizen (hero in the opinion of many) is being murdered by torture at the behest of the US and the Prime Minister is ‘frustrated’. This ranks with the most egregious cases in world history of shoot the messenger. Any PM with an ounce of decency, compassion, courage, or morality would be flaming furious and would have put his foot down the minute he became PM. But no, like all his predecessors, he’s All The Way With The USA. What he a shameless coward.

  20. Ken Bonetti
    May 4, 2023 at 19:56

    It’s clear that the Australian PM is not serious about getting Assange released. When someone in his position says “I can’t do more than make very clear what my position is,” you immediately know he hasn’t done nearly enough and isn’t willing to try. Soon, he will be off signing another arms deal with the US and consent to Australia’s continued vassalage to the US.

    • Jack Stephen HepburnFlanigan
      May 4, 2023 at 22:17

      I agree with you Ken but I think you are being diplomatic and too kind to the PM


      • Renate
        May 5, 2023 at 11:14

        Just another politician is talking. Used car salesmen are more trustworthy than politicians. NATO is a killing machine, the heads of states are killers, starting with President Biden.

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