Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Labor thrown into disarray by PM response to WikiLeaks



Download PDFDownload PDF

The Hon Julie Bishop, MP  Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs  Deputy Leader of the Opposition  Member for Curtin 

Labor thrown into disarray by PM response to WikiLeaks

Monday, 13 December 2010

The Gillard Government has been thrown into disarray by the Prime Minister’s response to WikiLeaks, despite desperate attempts to water down her initial statement describing the placement of the leaked cables on the WikiLeaks website as “an illegal thing to do”.

The Prime Minister has failed thus far to identify any Australian laws broken by WikiLeaks or by Julian Assange, despite ongoing comments by the Government about potential offences.

Further confusion within Government ranks was added overnight, with Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd rebuking Attorney-General Robert McClelland who had been investigating the potential cancellation of Julian Assange’s passport. Mr Rudd said, “Under law, I'm responsible for the Passports Act, therefore the decisions concerning the withdrawal or otherwise of passports rests exclusively with the Foreign Minister based on the advice of the relevant agencies.”

Mr Rudd also took a veiled swipe at Prime Minister Gillard by stating that, “First of all, in Australia we are a nation of laws and therefore the normal procedures which apply to any such matter would be first of all obtain a report and recommendations from the AFP and other Australian judicial and regulatory authorities. I am in receipt of no such advice at this stage, no such advice."

The tensions at the heart of this Government have been revealed and the question must be asked whether Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd is currently in charge?

Timeline of Government responses to WikiLeaks

29 November 2010 Attorney-General McClelland: Well, again, certainly from Australia's point of view, we think there are potentially a number of criminal laws that could have been breached by the release of this information. The Australian Federal Police are looking at that.

2 December 2010 Prime Minister Gillard: So we'll work through that and I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the Wikileaks website, it's a grossly irresponsible thing to do, and an illegal thing to do.

4 December 2010 Journalist: What about his passport? Attorney-General McClelland: That matter has been considered by the Australian authorities. In a sense it may prove to be irrelevant but there are both issues in respect of serving a notice of cancellation.

6 December 2010 Attorney-General McClelland: I’ve said previously the Australian Federal Police is investigating whether any offences have been committed in terms of Australian law.

8 December 2010 Prime Minister Gillard: Look, the foundation stone of this WikiLeaks issue is an illegal act. The foundation stone of it is an illegal act. Information was taken and that was illegal, so let's not try and

put any glosses on this. It would not happen, information would not be on WikiLeaks, if there had not been an illegal act undertaken.

9 December 2010 Attorney-General McClelland: Well again, the unauthorised obtaining of the information may well be an offence. The distribution of that information, again without knowing the United States’ law, may be an offence. Certainly to release that sort of information by an officer of the Commonwealth, if it were Australian material, may certainly involve issues of criminality, but again I can’t speak in respect to American laws.

10 December 2010 Attorney-General McClelland: It is not my job to comment on and specifically not my job to comment on, or to allege any person has been involved in criminal conduct. That is clearly a matter for the Australian Federal Police and ultimately for the discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in respect to any prosecution that would. ... Surely you would know that it is not part of my responsibilities to determine the guilt or innocence of any person.

13 December 2010 Foreign Minister Rudd: Under law, I'm responsible for the Passports Act, therefore the decisions concerning the withdrawal or otherwise of passports rests exclusively with the foreign minister based on the advice of the relevant agencies.

13 December 2010 Foreign Minister Rudd: First of all, in Australia we are a nation of laws and therefore the normal procedures which apply to any such matter would be first of all obtain a report and recommendations from the AFP and other Australian judicial and regulatory authorities. I am in receipt of no such advice at this stage, no such advice.