Doorstop - Canberra, Australian Capital Territory - 27/06/2024

27 June 2024



Subjects: Julian Assange’s return to Australia; Qatar Airways; Senate urgency motion.

PENNY WONG, FOREIGN MINISTER: Okay. Thanks very much for being here. Obviously, we're really pleased. Overnight we've seen Mr Assange back in Australia, reunited with Stella and the rest of his family, and we wish him well. As the Prime Minister made clear, we believe this matter had dragged on for too long. We're really pleased that a combination of the deliberate advocacy, continued advocacy from the Prime Minister down alongside the pathway of the plea arrangement between the Department of Justice and Mister Assange's legal team, has enabled him to come home. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Will you work with the US government to push for Julian Assange to be pardoned?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Look, I have been asked about that this morning. That is a matter for Mr Assange and his legal team, and the decision on that is a matter for the United States. What we are pleased about is that he is home. We did think his incarceration had dragged on - nothing was to be served by his further incarceration, and that the matter had dragged on too long.

JOURNALIST: You just met Stella. How was that? Was she grateful?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, it's a private conversation, but I was pleased to meet with her and I really hope that she and the children and Julian Assange can spend time together now. As she said, he had to find freedom last night. I understood what she was talking about.

JOURNALIST: We've seen the reaction from the Opposition today about it, about the government's advocacy for it. Do you feel that when the Coalition was in government that they weren't doing enough for it, that they were very passive or actively not engaged in this issue at all?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, what I can say is that this government engages in persistent, determined advocacy on behalf of Australians, and we did so on this occasion.

JOURNALIST: And what would you say to those who aren't welcoming Julian Assange home as a hero, but a convicted felon this morning?

FOREIGN MINISTER: I think that there are many views, a range of views about Mr Assange's actions. We've seen them on display in the last 24 hours. People do have different views. Our view as a government was that this Australian citizen was involved in a matter that had dragged on too long. Our view as a government was that there was nothing to be served by him continuing to be incarcerated. The Prime Minister made that very clear. We engaged in a strategy of advocacy. The pathway to his release is obviously the decision of the court yesterday, and we're pleased that he has returned.

JOURNALIST: Just on Qatar-

JOURNALIST: Do you think, sorry, this idea that being put out again by the Opposition that this damages the alliance somehow, I mean, does that have any traction at all?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, you know, then Senator Birmingham should answer whether or not Senator Canavan's outspoken support for Mister Assange has damaged the alliance. I mean, I think we know what the Opposition is playing at. We made clear our views to our friends and allies in the United States. The pathway to this is obviously the court decision.

JOURNALIST: On Qatar. Is it in the national interest for Qatar Airways to take a stake in Virgin?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Look, I've been doing media this morning. I haven't seen that story. Obviously, in relation to Qatar. You know my views about the particular incident that occurred. And I worked both in Opposition and in government to support the women concerned.

JOURNALIST: Just one more in your field, if that's okay, the Senate motion to recognise Palestine, can you, given it's in the Labor platform and the Senate motion was an urgency motion, it didn't bind the government to do anything. Why not support that if that's in the platform?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I would ask you to look at the motion that I actually put, which supports recognition as part of a peace process towards a two-state solution. The fact that the Greens voted against that demonstrates everything about their intention. It was all about politics, not about change. You don't change policy through Senate motions. Thank you very much.


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Authorised by Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia.