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Wednesday, 16 October 2019
Page: 4404

Mr WILKIE (Clark) (10:12): Australians are proud of the fact that our society is democratic, that we are committed to justice for all and that every citizen should be treated equally in the eyes of the law, but that's simply not the case for Australian citizen Julian Assange. In essence, Assange reported on war crimes in Iraq, and normally when an Australian citizen speaks out about war crimes they would be seen as patriotic and treated as a hero. But this hasn't happened to Assange. Instead, he's facing 175 years in a US jail—effectively a death sentence—simply for reporting war crimes. Compounding this injustice is that the war crimes were committed by soldiers from the very country that now wants to jail him, the United States of America.

So I rise today to ask all federal parliamentarians: are we really going to betray this Australian citizen in this way? Yes, Julian Assange is a controversial man. But he's also an Australian and he deserves to be treated like any other Australian. Remember: Assange was not in the US when he provided evidence of US war crimes in Iraq, so he can't possibly have broken their laws. But there he is, languishing in Belmarsh prison, where he's been in isolation since August, despite the fact that two independent medical experts have determined he's suffering from serious psychological and physical ill health, consistent with psychological torture.

If Assange is indeed extradited to the US, he faces serious human rights violations, including exposure to torture and a dodgy trial. This has serious implications for freedom of speech and freedom of the press here in Australia, because if we allow a foreign country to charge an Australian citizen for revealing war crimes then no Australian journalist or publisher can ever be confident that the same thing won't happen to them. I wonder what we'd all be saying if China were seeking to extradite an Australian reporter in order to imprison them for their work. Surely our response to the US should be the same as how we'd respond to China.

Assange has suffered enough and so has his family. It's time to end this geopolitical madness. The man's an Australian. He's not an American, and he wasn't in the US when he spoke out about the war crimes. Put simply, he must be allowed to return to Australia. To assist parliamentarians, I seek leave to table a fact sheet on Julian Assange dispelling many of the myths surrounding him and his legal situation. I also seek leave to table the report of the UN special rapporteur on torture, Professor Nils Melzer, which outlines Assange's status as a victim of psychological torture after being assessed under the Istanbul Protocol.

Leave granted.