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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5560

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«Assange» , Mr Julian

Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (14:20): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr. Minister, in response to several carloads of metropolitan police entering the building that houses the Ecuadorian embassy in the middle of the night London time, cordoning off the street and threatening to break the door down and threatening to rezone the embassy, have you or the High Commissioner in London made representations to the United Kingdom to not violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by entering the premises of the Ecuadorian embassy without the consent of the head of mission? I am interested to know whether we have made any representations to the British government in this regard?

Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:20): Australia, of course, is not a party to this decision. It is a matter between Mr «Assange» and the governments of Ecuador and the United Kingdom. The court case that led to this affair arising in this fashion is between Mr «Assange» and the government of Sweden. I am advised that Mr «Assange» remains in the Ecuadorian embassy where he has been since mid-June. This morning the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister did announce a decision would be made on his asylum claim at 10 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. The outcome of Mr Assange's asylum claim, of course, is a matter for the Ecuadorian and United Kingdom governments. The Australian government cannot intervene in the UK legal process. We have no standing in the British courts, but the government does not take up the case—

Senator Ludlam: Mr President, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. I appreciate the minister is reading from a prepared brief, but it is not a brief for the question that I asked. The question I asked was whether we have made representations to the British government on the occupation of the embassy building by Metropolitan Police. That is a yes or no question, Minister.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The minister is answering the question.

Senator BOB CARR: Mr President, the senator's question is based on the assumption the building is being occupied by Metropolitan Police. I have not been advised of that. To date there have been 62 representations made by the Australian government about the consulate contact with Mr «Assange» or his legal representatives since legal proceedings commenced in 2010. According to advice I have from the department, no Australian has received more attention in a comparable space of time in terms of consulate representation than Mr «Assange» . This includes representations on his behalf to the government of the United Kingdom and the government of Sweden to obtain assurances of due process in current and future legal proceedings.

Senator Bernardi: Have you spoken to Henry Kissinger about it?

Senator BOB CARR: I do not think it would be of the remotest interest to Henry Kissinger. (Time expired)

Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (14:23): Minister, I am going to take it that your answer to my question is, 'No, representations were not made'. If you feel like you need to correct the record, then please do. My supplementary question is—

Senator Chris Evans interjecting

Senator LUDLAM: Because the embassy is being interfered with, Senator Evans. Minister, despite the attempts to obviously threaten and intimidate made by the UK government, will the Australian government respect the decision by—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Just wait, Senator Ludlam. I will give you the call when there is a silence. You are entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator LUDLAM: Ecuadorian authorities at 10 pm tonight if they grant asylum to Australian citizen Julian «Assange» ?

Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:25): Mr President, the question of whether the Ecuadorian government grants Mr «Assange» asylum is a matter for them. We will seek information on it, but we will not make representations to them one way or the other. It is not a matter for us; it is a matter between the asylum seeker and the government of Ecuador. We have no status in the UK court system, and we do not intervene in courts where Australian citizens outside the country are engaged in any case. But I can tell the senator that we made representations to the government of Sweden seeking assurances that, were they to succeed in their extradition of Mr «Assange» , he would be treated according to due process—in other words, he would be treated as any citizen of Sweden would be treated—and they gave us that assurance. In other words, if he came to be detained in that country, he would have access to his lawyers and to his family. (Time expired)

Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (14:26): Mr President, I thank the minister for his answer and I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister tell the Senate what the government will do beyond providing basic consular assistance to protect Mr «Assange» if there is evidence that he is being subjected to political persecution by the United States government or its allies? If so, can the minister describe how this intervention would differ from basic consular assistance?

Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:26): Mr President, first, might I say that that is entirely hypothetical. There is no evidence of interest in him from the United States government. If extradition of Mr «Assange were sought on a charge to which capital punishment would apply, we would oppose it. We would oppose it on principle; we would oppose it strongly. We have no evidence, however, that the United States are seeking to extradite him and, in any case, over the past two years they had every opportunity to seek his extradition from the United Kingdom, with which the US have a robust extradition arrangement and about which they have probably got more ease in seeking extradition than they would have were he in Sweden. But they have not sought it. In two years they have not sought it, and it would be easier for them to seek extradition of him from the United Kingdom than it would be from Sweden. Any application for Mr Assange's extradition from Sweden— (Time expired)