The difficulty for the Australian Labor government in deciding how to respond to the Julian Assange case is that once a prosecution is characterised as a political prosecution then, by its nature, there can be no expectation of due process. The U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty forbids extradition in the case of “political offences.” Former Australian High Commissioner to the U.K. George Brandis — who was commissioner for almost the entirety of Assange’s Belmarsh imprisonment since 2019 — doesn’t agree that Assange is a political prisoner. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and its new Minister Penny Wong have consistently stated a view that the case is not political but purely a legal matter:
In September 2021 Australia, the UK and the U.S. announced AUKUS, a new alliance under which Australia would buy nuclear submarines from either the U.S. or UK and ditch its contract for French diesel driven u-boats. I spelled out the details and the negative consequence of the deal: To Protect Itself From U.S. Hostility Australia Decides To Buy U.S. Submarines This is a huge but short term win for the U.S. with an also-ran booby price for Britain and a strategic loss of sovereignty and budget control for Australia. It is another U.S. slap into the face of France and the European Union. The deal will piss off New Zealand, Indonesia and of course China. It will upset the international nuclear non proliferation regime and may lead to the further military nuclearization of South Korea and Japan. It was easy to predict that the deal would screw up the development schedule of the Australian navy. It would obviously also cost much more money than its budget can provide.
Two years ago, at my local Australian Labor Party branch, I moved a motion urging the ALP to support dropping extradition proceedings against Julian Assange. Maroubra ALP is not inner city. It might be regarded as a bastion of the right. The motion was carried, near unanimously. After the debate, one member came up and said: “I think Assange is probably a narcissistic bastard but he’s ours.” That is, he’s an Australian. It was the Trump administration — probably at the insistence of then-C.I.A. chief Mike Pompeo — that pursued Assange’s extradition. The Morrison government declined even the faintest whinny of protest. It was as if we were not a sovereign government but some category of U.S. territory like Puerto Rico and an Australian passport holder didn’t rate protection from the vengeful anger of one corner of the American security apparatus.
The federal election saw voters’ growing concern about Australia’s laggardly response to climate change finally addressed, with teal independents garnering seats in Liberal heartland and record votes for Greens candidates. But what caused this seismic shift in Australia’s political landscape? And why now? We believe the rapid growth and diversification of Australia’s environmental movement since 2015 played an important role. For example, almost a million Australians volunteered for an environmental charity in 2019, whether by planting trees, organizing candidate forums or joining a climate strike. The environmental movement is also increasingly crossing into traditionally conservative areas, with the emergence of groups such as the Coalition for Conservation and Farmers for Climate Action, which has united 7,000 farmers and 1,200 agriculture industry supporters.
As China and South Pacific island countries are going to strengthen their cooperation to better serve local people’s demand for development, some voices from the West or Western media have started to distort the cooperation and hype the fear of a new “Cold War.” Chinese experts said the US and Australia always see the island countries as their puppets. So when China help them to become independent and prosperous, the West will definitely feel anxious. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will pay an official visit to the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor upon invitation from May 26 to June 4, and will also visit Micronesia via video and have a virtual meeting with leaders of Cook Islands and Niue.
The United States and its Pacific allies have sounded alarm bells over a security cooperation deal signed between Solomon Islands and China, with threats directed at China. On Sunday, April 24, the Chinese embassy in Solomon Islands hit back at the comments made by the US delegation that visited the Pacific nation last week, calling it a “blatant threat.” The Chinese embassy’s spokesperson stated that the comments “again exposed the hegemony mindset and bullying behavior,” reported Global Times. The spokesperson also added that “any attempt to stir up trouble, tension and opposition in Pacific island countries doesn’t conform to the common interest of regional states and won’t work.”
Culturally significant Aboriginal heritage sites continue to be put at risk in Australia, despite the international outcry following Rio Tinto’s destruction of the 46,000-year-old caves at Juukan Gorge. The culprit this time is the Australian Defense Force, which undertakes live-fire training exercises and weapons testing at the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA). Within range of falling missiles and mortars there is evidence of sequential spiritual engagement spanning centuries in rock engravings, heritage artefacts, tool-making sites, and also sites of mythological importance for Indigenous people. Andrew and Robert Starkey, Kokatha Badu (respected senior figures, or lore men) from the Western Desert region of South Australia, have spent decades registering and protecting heritage sites on their land.
Just hours before it is set to begin, dozens of acts are withdrawing from the prestigious Sydney Festival in protest of the event’s sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy. One group that has chosen to do so are Melbourne-based musicians Karate Boogaloo, who explained that: Boycotts and divestments have a strong track record of holding governments and corporations accountable for their actions, which is why Karate Boogaloo is standing in solidarity with Palestinian people and boycotting the Sydney Festival, as a result of it accepting money from the human rights-abusing regime that is the Israeli Government. The boycott has proven to be a public-relations disaster for Israel, which attempts to use the arts as a way to launder its image across much of the developed world. Today, Lowkey sits down to talk to two of the boycott’s organizers, Sara Saleh and Jennine Khalik.
In a scathing condemnation of the Scott Morrison government, Australian trade unions criticized its inability to make testing for COVID-19 freely available for all. The country’s largest apex trade union body, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), released a statement on Thursday, January 13, criticizing the failure to make Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) free and accessible for all. “The ACTU condemns in the strongest possible terms the Prime Minister’s failure at National Cabinet to ensure Rapid Antigen Tests be made free and accessible for all to protect worker and community safety and get the economy moving again,” reads the ACTU statement. The statement also criticized the announcement made on Thursday to relax quarantine rules for close contact workers in transport, education and emergency services.
I wrote a piece for Australian online publisher Crikey just before Julian Assange’s extradition hearings resumed in September 2020 in which I regurgitated a slur that has done enormous harm to his reputation. Australian journalists should stop using the WikiLeaks treasure trove in their stories if they wouldn’t speak up for Assange, I’d written. Journalists like to think they’d go to jail to protect a source. Well, their source was suffering in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison, I said. The problem was I also wrote that Assange dumped the Iraq and Afghan war logs on the internet without redacting names. I was wrong and lazy in repeating that slur which appeared whenever you Googled Assange’s name.
At least 30 major artists, performers and organizations have pulled out of the Sydney Festival in Australia over a $20,000 sponsorship deal with the Israeli embassy. Comedian Tom Ballard stated that “I love the Festival and I love telling jokes, but standing up for human rights and standing against a system of apartheid is more important.”
Whistleblower David McBride faces life in prison for revealing war crimes in Afghanistan to the media. Watch his story here. David McBride, a former Australian military lawyer, tells journalist Michael West about alleged war crimes and a cover-up in Afghanistan. He faces trial for leaking hundreds of pages of defense force information to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (whose offices were then raided by federal police), offering insight on clandestine operations of Australia’s elite special forces, including incidents of troops killing unarmed men and children.
Until we see a text, if any, of the executive agreement for the AUKUS thing-a-ma-gig, the only real meat of it seems to be the Australian purchase of nuclear US or UK subs rather than the “conventionally” (not really) powered French design. The more I look over the submarine alternatives for the Australians, the less sense their decision to go nuclear makes. Australia has no nuclear power infrastructure; they will be dependent on the US or UK to provide same for any nuclear powered Australian attack subs. For Australia to develop same on their homeland just to support these subs would be cost-insane. The cost of the 12 French subs has been variously described as $40, $60 and $90 billion with the $90 being the most likely but it is not at all clear what beyond just the hulls is accounted for (weapons, services, R&D, and more).
People who just started paying attention to Australian authoritarianism during Covid often get the impression that it's entirely about the virus, but as we discussed previously the actual fundamental problem is that Australia is the only so-called democracy without any kind of statute or bill of rights to protect the citizenry from these kinds of abuses. This is why Australia is looked upon as so freakish by the rest of the western world right now: because, in this sense, it is. People call it a "free country", but there has never been any reason to do so. Covid has certainly played a major role in the exacerbation of Australian authoritarianism, but it's a problem that was well underway long before the outbreak.
Britain's peace movement condemned the government today over the “serious escalation” of the new cold war against China marked by the new “Aukus” pact. Under the agreement, Britain, Australia and the United States will co-operate on the development of a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian navy and on a range of other military projects in the Far East. The move follows the US’s enrollment of India, Japan and Australia into a “quad” to contain China, whose economic and technological development is perceived as a threat to Washington’s global supremacy. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson increased the cap on the number of nuclear warheads owned by the British government by 44 per cent and raised military spending by the highest percentage since the Korean war.