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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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26 June 2024

SUBJECTS: Julian Assange, Senator Payman

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's go to Canberra, though, bringing the Deputy Prime Minister and the Defence Minister Richard Marles. Good to see you, Richard. Thanks for your time this morning. Yep. Still no movement at the airport where Assange has arrived. Anyway, we'll show you that when it happens. But are you expecting any kind of issues at court this morning for Julian Assange, or should it be smooth sailing?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, I shouldn't comment on it. I mean, he is expected to be in a US court this morning in Saipan, and it'll be a matter for the court as to how that proceeds. I think the point that I would make is that, as an Australian citizen, we've been advocating on behalf of Julian Assange, as we would on behalf of all Australian citizens who are in these circumstances around the world for many years now, and this is in both the United Kingdom and the United States. And whatever one's view is of what Julian Assange did, this is obviously a matter which has been going on for a very long period of time, and we look forward to its resolution.

STEFANOVIC: No, it's very good diplomatic work by the Government. No doubt about that. Can you take us behind the scenes at all of when this was all squared away? What the conditions were even?

MARLES No, I can't take you behind the scenes, and that's not an advisable thing to do.

STEFANOVIC: Well, the dance, you know, I mean, the delicate dance of it all. I mean, is there anything you can share with our viewers this morning?

MARLES: I can't and one shouldn't talk about these sort of cases publicly, other than to say that we've been consistently advocating on behalf of Mr Assange for a long period of time now. And that's because as an Australian citizen who's been incarcerated overseas for a protracted period of time, it was very much the view of the Government that this was a matter which required resolution.

STEFANOVIC: Were you expecting difficulties if Donald Trump were to be re-elected as president towards the end of this year?

MARLES: Oh, it's not really about what is happening in America in terms of their electoral process, it's simply advocating.

STEFANOVIC: Well, I mean, might this not have happened, though? We saw the comments from Mike Pence overnight, you know, same party as Donald Trump. Might this have been so easy? Not saying it was easy, but maybe this would have been more difficult if Donald Trump would have been re-elected.

MARLES: Well, again, I don't think it serves to speculate about what is absolutely hypothetical in the sense that what's playing out is playing out now. I mean, look, all we've done and all we would do, all we do all the time in respect of every Australian citizen who is overseas, who is in incarcerated, is to advocate on their behalf. In the case of Mr Assange, he had been incarcerated for a very long period of time. It was a legal situation which required resolution. That was the point that we were making to both the United Kingdom and the United States, and we are pleased to see that this matter is now moving.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, just one more here. Given the Americans won't pursue Assange anymore, does that make it harder for, say, a Daniel Duggan to fight extradition to the US?

MARLES: Again, I don't think it is correct for me to be, or appropriate, rather, for me to be commenting about those sorts of cases. I come back to what I've said, Pete, this is pure and simple, advocating on behalf of an Australian who has been in a difficult circumstance, who needed the support of the Australian government and that's what we do for all our citizens overseas.

STEFANOVIC: Ok. Will Fatima Payman face any sort of sanction or punishment for crossing the floor of the Senate last night?

MARLES: Look, I mean, there's not going to be any expulsion or anything of that kind. Fatima Payman has made very clear that she continues to maintain Labor values and that she wants to represent the people of Western Australia as a Senator elected under with the Labor Party, and that's how things will proceed. We get that this as a very difficult issue and clearly Fatima has strong views about it. But I think the point here, Pete, is that as we've been watching this history play out over the last few months, one thing which has become very apparent is the whole question of social cohesion in this country. And we're at a point where we need to be doing everything we can as a government but in fact, beyond the Government, people need to be doing everything they can to bring others together. This is not a time to be walking around expelling people for particular views. It's a matter, it’s a time where we seek to be bringing Australians together. We will, in a sense, live those values in terms of how we approach this.

STEFANOVIC: It's been, according to reports, more than 30 years, though, since a member of the Labor Party has crossed the floor. So, without any kind of sanction or penalty here, might this move encourage more Labor members to cross the floor again. 

MARLES: Well, I don't actually think that the fact that you've quoted then, is true, but no is the answer to your question. I think the members of the Labor Caucus understand what comes with being as a part of a team. I don't think there's any question about that. But we also understand the pressures and the difficulty of this issue and in this moment, we want to walk down a path of bringing Australians together and to be at this moment suggesting that we're going to expel people for a particular view would be doing precisely the opposite. And ultimately, Fatima Payman is a person who is making a real contribution in the Senate on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. She wants to continue to do that, and she will.

STEFANOVIC: Are you disappointed with her comments, though, in the past?

MARLES: Look, again, I'm not, I mean, her comments are her comments. The position of the Government has been very clear in relation to this issue from the start, and we will continue to advocate for the position of the government, as we did in the Senate yesterday when the Government took a position in respect of amending that motion, which was essentially supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state, but doing so in the context of a peace process which leads to a two state solution.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, Richard Marles, appreciate it. We'll leave it there. Thank you. We will talk to you again soon. 


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