Television interview, Today Show

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

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26 June 2024

SUBJECTS: Julian Assange, Senator Payman

SARAH ABO, HOST: Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, live from Canberra. Deputy PM, good to see you this morning. Thanks for your time. Now, the Government, of course, lobbied for this release for a long time. The US judge is expected to sign off on that deal. When can we expect Assange to return to Aussie soil? And then what happens after that?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's a little difficult for me to comment on this, Sarah, and that we are expecting Julian Assange to be in front of a US court in Saipan this morning. From there, it really is a matter for the American legal process to run its course, and I shouldn't comment about that. But you're right that we have been advocating on behalf of Mr Assange now for many years, or really since we've come to power. I mean, irrespective of what one's view of what Mr Assange originally did, he's been incarcerated for a very long period of time and this is obviously a situation which needed legal resolution, and that's why we've been advocating on his behalf, as we would in relation to any Australian incarcerated and needing advocacy from our nation, and we're very pleased to see that this issue is now moving.

ABO: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's been tireless lobbying, as you know, for the past decade from all around the world. Have you managed to speak to his family at all these past 24 hours?

MARLES: Look, I haven't personally spoken with his family, but his family have been updated with all the efforts that we've been putting in in relation to this matter, and again, it's difficult to go into that publicly, but we have been working tirelessly on Mr Assange's behalf over the last couple of years and as I say, we're very pleased that this issue is now moving and it will be in front of the us courts this morning and we need to let that process run its course.

ABO: I mean, given everything that Assange has been through and given the reason for his rise to prominence, he's unlikely to come back to Australia and just sit on a farm and not say a word. Are you expecting him to be quite outspoken? I mean, there might be further leaks. Are you expecting anything damaging to come out again?

MARLES: I'm not going to speculate on that, Sarah. I mean, we're pleased that this issue is moving. We have been advocating tirelessly on his behalf. Now, since we've come to government, we're at a point now where this matter will be heard in a United States court this morning and we'll see what happens from there.

ABO: All right. Well, let's move on to some other news. Deputy Premier, Labor Senator Fatima Payman crossed the floor, as you know, yesterday to vote against her own party on a motion related to Palestinian recognition. Will she be expelled from labor as per your rules?

MARLES: No, she won't be. And I think, Sarah, the point to make here is, since the events of October 7 and the tragedy that we have seen play out in the Middle East, what we've also seen is social cohesion in this country come under enormous pressure. All of us need to be doing everything we can to try and bring people together. Now is not the time to be going around expelling people for having particular views on this issue, and we're not going to be doing that. Senator Payman has made clear that she continues, she wants to continue to represent the people of Western Australia in the Australian Senate as a Labor Senator, as she was elected, and she continues to assert labor values and views, and so that's what she will continue to do. And we're not about to expel her for having particular views on, on this issue. Of course, the Government took a different position in the Senate yesterday, but really we need to be focused on bringing Australians together in this moment, not dividing us, and that's what will guide us in terms of how we deal with this issue.

ABO: Maybe we need to hear more about how politicians actually think and feel about things. Deputy Prime Minister, really appreciate your time this morning. Thank you. 


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