news Most Australians are unsure whether the Federal Government has provided enough support to Australian citizen and Internet activist Julian Assange during his ongoing legal battles in Europe, a new poll has shown, as the Greens continue to call for further assistance for the Wikileaks founder.
Assange is currently seeking asylum with the South American country of Ecuador, and is located in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that Assange could be extradited to Sweden to face accusations of sex offences. Assange’s supporters have regularly highlighted the danger of the Wikileaks founder being extradited from Sweden to the United States, where the leaked emails from US private intelligence firm Stratfor have suggested a grand jury has already been drawn up to indict Assange over his Wikileaks activities. Assange has two weeks to appeal the UK case.
The Australian Government, as represented by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Foreign Minister Bob Carr, have repeatedly stated over the past few months that they have provided all possible assistance to Assange, in the face of complaints from the Greens and the Wikileaks founder himself that the Australian Government wasn’t protecting one of its own citizens. The debate over Assange’s future has also come despite the fact that US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich has publicly stated that the US has no interest in extraditing Assange from Sweden to the US. “I think it’s one of those narratives that has been made up. There is nothing to it,” said Bleich in June.
New poll results released by Essential Media in coalition with Your Source this week (PDF of the results here, thanks to Crikey) asked Australians whether they believed the Australian Government had provided appropriate support to Assange in the context of the sexual assault allegations in Sweden and possible extradition to the US.
28 percent of the 1,000-odd Australian respondents to the survey stated that they believed the Australian Government had provided appropriate support — up from 22 percent in March this year. 33 percent believed the Government had not provided appropriate support — down from 36 percent in March this year. However, the largest percentage of Australians, 38 percent, said they didn’t know. That figure was down slightly from 41 percent in March this year. Women, in particular, were unsure, with some 47 percent stating they didn’t know whether appropriate support had been provided. 39 percent of men didn’t think appropriate support had been provided.
Essential Media also asked a further question regarding what respondents thought the Australian Government should do, if the US did decide to commence legal proceedings against Assange. 34 percent of those polled said the Australian Government should call for the US to observe due process and offer consular support, which the Australian Government has already publicly done in Assange’s case. The next highest percentage, 24 percent, said that the Australian Government should offer Assange protection from extradition and prosecution.
9 percent said the Australian Government should support US Government attempts to prosecute Assange, while 13 percent said it should do nothing, and a large percentage — 20 percent — said they didn’t know what the Australian Government should do. “Support for offering Assange protection was highest amongst older respondents.
Despite the Government’s protestations that it has done all it can for Assange, Greens Senator and Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam, who has taken an enduring interest in the case, has repeatedly attacked the Government’s response to the issue in the Senate over the past few months. Ludlam is currently seeking information from the Federal Government on its knowledge of any legal action against Assange in the US. You can see a video typical of Ludlam’s approach in the Senate here.
“What we are seeking—and let me be completely clear—is not consular assistance as though this were some form of regular case,” said Ludlam in the Senate last month. “We are seeking for the Australian government to establish whether such a prosecution and extradition to the United States is afoot or not. It is deadly simple. It is an unambiguous ask for the Australian government to simply establish whether there will be a prosecution or not and, if it turns out that there is, to stick up for the guy.”
“For once, can we look after one of our own and not leave him exposed to the kinds of danger that he clearly is exposed to?”
Ludlam added: “There is evidence on the record that a grand jury was empanelled in late 2010 and then spent at least a year working on prosecutions potentially for espionage, for treason and for computer-hacking offences that could potentially lead to Mr Assange spending his life in a supermax prison in the United States.”
The Greens MP pointed out that some US figures had called for Assange to be assassinated or prosecuted for endangering national security through Wikileaks’ actions of leaking a huge cache of US diplomatic cables. “These are extremely serious charges that are potentially about to be levelled by the US government against an Australian citizen. He is not, I believe—given the enormously prejudicial comments that have permeated the media environment in the United States—guaranteed of anything like a fair trial or even fair incarceration,” said Ludlam.
Personally I think the waters are extremely muddy with respect to Julian Assange at the moment. I don’t think anyone involved in the situation — Assange, Ludlam and the Greens or the Australian Government — really knows enough at the moment to make a judgement call on what should happen here. The US Government has clearly said it has no interest in Assange just now. Given the Stratfor leaks that outed the possibility of a grand jury against Assange, was that claim a lie? Or was it simply a case of the left arm not knowing what the right is up to?
The whole situation needs to be cleared up and brought into the open air of transparency. And I think that’s what Essential Media’s poll is showing. Right now, Australians are unsure about the US’s intentions towards Assange, unsure whether the Australian Government is doing enough for him or not, and unsure whether Assange himself is a legitimate actor in the process of democracy or not. We all need more information on this issue to make a judgement call.