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Federal MPs fail to demonstrate support for Julian Assange

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains locked up (Image via flickr.com/photos/espenmoe).

Australian politicians in a position to advocate for Julian Assange have, thus far, failed to do so, writes Sean O'Reilly.

ON 24 JANUARY of this year, the Brisbane Assange Action group took our campaign to free Julian Assange, to federal politicians in Brisbane.

It marked one month until the commencement of Julian’s extradition hearing in London.

If the Australian Government had taken a proactive stance over the past seven-plus years the U.S. Government might have backed off before now from trying to extradite Julian to the U.S. to face the rest of his life in prison.

The U.S. state is doing this not only to punish Julian for doing the work of a journalist for which he has numerous awards. It is also to send a message to journalists and potential whistleblowers everywhere.

Our first visit was to the office of Federal Labor MP Terri Butler, who sits on the frontbench. The office staff claimed not to know if Ms Butler was in fact in the office.

We guessed Terri was out the back somewhere and not interested in meeting us. The staff suggested we should be speaking to the Government's politicians as they had the power to do something. We would be doing that, but when the ALP was in government they had also shown deliberate neglect as Julian took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy. We requested an appointment with Terri Butler and now await a meeting. Our group then held a vigil outside, beside Old Cleveland Road, where we received positive responses.

From there it was onto the office of Larissa Waters, Greens Senator for Queensland. Unfortunately, she was not in the office but one her staff invited us in. That staff member was unaware that, although three Green parliamentarians are members of the federal cross-party Assange support group, Larissa Walters is not one of them.

We also pointed out that Walters made less than supportive comments on Q&A regarding Assange. Whilst there were excuses along the lines that each Greens Senator has their own portfolio, we asked for a public show of support from Larissa Walters and await an appointment with her.

Whilst consulting the Senator's office, we received word of an appointment with the MP for Petrie, Luke Howarth, this week so we bypassed his office and made our way directly to the Dickson Electorate office of Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs.

Dutton’s reputation is well-known and his electorate office has been targeted many times in protest on numerous issues. We arrived to find the door locked and had to speak to staff through an intercom system. They refused to come to the door or make an appointment for us as nobody present was from the Dickson Electorate. We had to leave a copy of the UN Report on Julian Assange’s treatment and a copy of the list of his journalism awards at the door. The group held a vigil on the busy Gympie Road, with again positive responses from the public, and certainly no negative ones.

We will continue to lobby federal politicians to speak out in support of Julian Assange and ask folks across the country to make representations to federal politicians in their own area. We must keep interrupting the silence from the Australian Government when one of our own citizens continues to be subjected to torture and faces extradition to the U.S., for speaking truth to power and exposing injustice.

Sean O'Reilly is a member of the Brisbane branch of the Assange Action group.

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Federal MPs fail to demonstrate support for Julian Assange

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