Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Australian Journo Grills Foreign Minister on Assange Case

Transcript of exchange between a Canberra journalist* and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop:

Journo: Ms Bishop, do you have any comment on the latest news about Julian Assange?

Julie Bishop: No. Next question.

Journo: But Ms Bishop, it's been five years since accusations of so-called "minor rape" were levelled against Mr Assange - an Australian citizen - and the Swedish prosecutor has failed to pursue the case before the legal statute of limitations expired. She previously insisted it was against Swedish law to question Mr Assange in the UK, and yet Sweden questioned 44 other suspects in Britain over the past 5 years. Have you raised this lack of due process with your Swedish counterpart?

Julie Bishop: As I understand, there were two women involved. And the statute of limitations is only expiring on one woman's allegations. It therefore remains a legal case between the Swedish government and Mr Assange, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

Journo: So does the Australian government plan to keep doing and saying nothing for another five years? Seriously?

Julie Bishop: We have given Mr Assange the same level of consular support that we give to other Australian citizens in similar situations.

Journo: That's not true. For example, you personally intervened to speak up for an Australian woman who was detained in the Middle East. And former Foreign Minister Bob Carr joked in his book about how he had upset Mr Assange's mother by ignoring the case. He lied on national TV a week before the last election when he said he had no idea about the US Grand Jury investigating WikiLeaks -

Julie Bishop: Let me just repeat myself once again. This is a consular matter. It's up to the High Commissioner in London to provide whatever assistance he thinks is necessary.

Journo: But the High Commissioner in London is Alexander Downer, who was complicit in the "supreme crime" of invading Iraq as part of the US-lead "Coalition Of The Willing". He was also complicit in the cover-up of Australian Wheat Board sales to Saddam Hussein. He's hardly a fitting person to trust when it comes to protecting an Australian whistle-blowing journalist from the US government, is he?

Julie Bishop: That's an outrageous thing to say. Who let this person in here?

Journo: Ms Bishop, can we just go back to the latest news from Sweden? Will you at least consider expelling the Swedish Ambassador to Australia?

Julie Bishop: What? Why on earth would I do that?

Journo: Well, for starters, he has misrepresented the case and tried to intimidate Australian journalists into silence.

Julie Bishop: Well, that sounds like a very good idea.

Journo: Expelling the ambassador?

Julie Bishop: No, silencing journalists. Security! Remove this man!

(* not an actual journalist, nor - sadly - an actual conversation. Of course no journalist prepared to question the Foreign Minister in this way would even be allowed access. But it would be nice if they could at least try.)