While in the U.K. capital, the Australian prime minister can indeed do more that just make his frustration known, writes Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has told the ABC that he is frustrated with the U.S. because it won’t listen to his appeals to end the ordeal of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
“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.”
But there is more that he can do than just making his position very clear.
Albanese spoke to the ABC in London where he is attending this weekend’s coronation of Charles III.
The prime minister apparently is not willing to use his leverage with the U.S. regarding Assange when it comes to Australia’s reckless assistance to Washington’s preparations for war with China. As many people have pointed out, the U.S. needs Australia a lot more than Australia needs the U.S. in this regard.
And the point Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong made about Australia not interfering in the ongoing legal processes of another country has been rubbished by the fact that Australia has done just that in two cases to free their citizens from foreign jails.
Assange is sitting in Belmarsh prison just miles from where Albanese is staying in London. The prime minister can go see his jailed citizen, as suggested by Consortium News reader Randal Marlin.
Albanese could do so by presenting it on humanitarian grounds. He told the ABC he is concerned about 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. This then is an opportunity to visit an ill countryman.
One must assume that Assange would receive a psychological and emotional boost from a supportive visit by the prime minister of his country.
Couching it as a humanitarian visit will not of course hide the seismic political message such a visit would send to both the British and U.S. authorities who want Assange put away forever. The press conference Albanese could give on the prison grounds as he leaves would draw maximum attention to Assange’s case and put Britain and the U.S. on the spot.
And that’s why Albanese probably hasn’t even considered such a visit. He has demonstrated extreme deference to the United States and to Britain.
These are the kinds of decisions that define character and a politician’s legacy.
Does Albanese want to be remembered as a leader who stood up to powerful nations bullying one of his citizens while violating a sacred principle that is supposed to define Western democracies?
Or be remembered as a man who overlooked the threat to free speech while acting as a great facilitator for U.S. imperial designs?
Albanese shouldn’t upstage Charles. He can go on Monday.
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