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Attorney General on Julian Assange

Scott Ludlam 12 Feb 2012

(Question No. 1482)

Senator Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 5 December 2011:

(1) Has the Attorney-General ascertained whether there are any charges to be laid by the Government of the United States of America (US) against Mr Julian Assange, including under the US Espionage Act of 1917 or other statutes.

(2) Has the government ascertained, whether formally or informally, the accuracy of reports of a sealed indictment of a US Grand Jury.

(3) What steps, if any, has the Attorney-General taken to establish any facts pertaining to paragraphs (1) and (2).

(4) Does the Government define the work of Mr Assange in his capacity as Editor in Chief of Wikileaks as 'having implications for Australia's foreign relations', thereby enlivening the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

(5) Can the Attorney-General confirm that the Government would not permit the extradition of Mr Assange to the US should he return to Australia.
(6) Why has the Government failed, or refused, to supply an answer to the question asked during the 2011-12 Budget estimates hearings of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee on 2 June 2011 regarding a public interest immunity ground for a blanket refusal to answer any question arising from information in US cables made public  through Wikileaks.

Senator Ludwig: The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) I am not aware of any charges by the United States Government against Mr Assange, including under the US Espionage Act or other statutes. The decision to lay charges is a matter for the US authorities. The Australian Government would expect any charges laid against Mr Assange to be carried out in accordance with due process.

(2) No.

(3) These are matters for the US authorities. At this stage, it would be premature to speculate on what further  representations the Government may make in relation to Mr Assange's case.

(4) Consistent with longstanding practice, it is not appropriate to comment on operational matters, or to confirm or deny whether any particular person or organisation is the subject of an intelligence investigation.

(5) Australia's extradition relationship with the United States is governed by the Extradition Act 1988 (Cth) and the Treaty on Extradition between Australia and the United States of America, done at Washington on 14 May 1974, as amended by the Protocol done at Seoul on 4 September 1990. Within this framework:
 Australia can only extradite a person to the United States for prosecution or punishment for conduct that would constitute an offence that would be punishable under both Australian and United States law by more than one years' imprisonment.
 Australia will only extradite a person to the United States for an offence for which the death penalty is available if the United States undertakes not to impose or carry out the death penalty for the offence.
 Australia will not extradite a person to the United States where there is a relevant 'extradition objection'. Extradition objections include where extradition is sought in relation to a 'political offence', where it is sought for the purposes of prosecuting or punishing the person because of his or her race, religion, nationality or political opinions, or where, on surrender, the person may be prejudiced at trial or punished because of his or her race, religion, nationality or political opinions. 
 In accordance with its international obligations, Australia will not extradite a person where it has substantial grounds for believing that, on surrender, there is a real risk the person will be subject to torture, arbitrary deprivation of life or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
 A person may only be prosecuted or punished for the offences for which Australia grants his or her extradition to the United States. Australia's consent is required before the person may be prosecuted or punished for additional offences. 

It is inappropriate to make a commitment in relation to the extradition of an individual in advance of a formal determination on the merits of the case. 

(6) It is not appropriate to comment on leaked United States documents because it may cause damage to national security, defence or international relations. 

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