Eleven federal MPs have joined forces to agitate for the Morrison government to intervene in the United States’ attempts to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Britain to stand trial on espionage charges.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said the cross-party group, which includes two Nationals MPs, two Labor MPs and members of The Greens and the cross bench, would provide a forum to “discuss matters” relating to Mr Assange returning to Australia.
Mr Assange told a London judge on Monday he was in an inequitable fight against a superpower, which had been spying on his “interior life” and on confidential meetings with his legal team.
Queensland MP George Christensen will co-chair the group along with Mr Wilkie, a long-time supporter of the Australian.
Labor MPs Julian Hill and Steve Georganas have signed onto the group despite strong hesitance within the ALP’s leadership to advocate on his behalf.
“Whatever people may think of him, Julian Assange is an Australian and deserves consular assistance and support from the Australian government,” Mr Hill said.
“At the very least extradition to any country where there is any possibility of him facing the death penalty must be strenuously opposed, whether the USA or anywhere else.”
Centre Alliance MPs Rebekha Sharkie and Rex Patrick, Greens leader Richard Di Natale, his deputy Adam Bandt and senator Peter Whish-Wilson have also joined the group along with independent Zali Steggall, who won the seat of Warringah in May from former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week legal processes “should run their course” and he believed Mr Assange should “face the music”.
Mr Wilkie said Mr Assange looked “a broken man” and “not fit to stand trial”.
“The UK, US and Australian governments have done their best to break him and it looks like they’ve almost succeeded,” Mr Wilkie said.
“Clearly Assange is too ill to prepare a case against his extradition, let alone to be shipped off to a foreign country to be secretly tried for exposing war crimes.”
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, the first Coalition MP to speak out over Mr Assange’s plight, joined former foreign minister Bob Carr earlier this month to voice concerns over US attempts to have the 48-year-old Australian stand trial in America, where he faces a sentence of 175 years in jail if found guilty of computer fraud and obtaining and disclosing national defence information.
Mr Joyce revealed this week he has discussed the matter with his colleagues in the Nationals party room and spoke with federal Attorney-General Christian Porter last week.
“I come at this purely from a legal principle way,” he told ABC.
“I’ve seen this debate before, because neither did I give a character endorsement of David Hicks, but I supported him because people much wiser than me said: ‘This is about habeas corpus, not about David Hicks’.”