Interview with Narelda Jacobs, 10 First:Midday

  • Joint transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Release of Julian Assange, Donna Nelson trial, Hamas-Israel Conflict, COP Summit 2026.

Narelda Jacobs, Host: The legal team who fought to free Julian Assange has heaped praise on Anthony Albanese and his Government for their advocacy, with the WikiLeaks founder telling the PM he saved his life. But Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham says it's inappropriate for the Government to support a convicted felon for committing acts of espionage against one of our closest allies. Foreign Minister Penny Wong joins us now.

Minister, by securing the freedom of Julian Assange, are you undermining support for the US?

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Absolutely not. And let's remember that the resolution of this case has been possible - the pathway to that has been possible because there has been a resolution to the legal action which culminated in the decision of the court yesterday. What I would say is that the Prime Minister has been very clear that this has dragged on too long. He has led the advocacy. I have made representations, as has the Attorney-General. We're really pleased that Mr Assange has been reunited with his family. We believe that this matter has dragged on for too long.

Jacobs: The Prime Minister said he brought it up whenever he was in, you know, important rooms with world leaders. Did you do the same?

Foreign Minister: Yes, and have done so for a very long time. We have raised this matter with both the United States and the United Kingdom at my level, as well as at the Prime Minister's level. What I would say is that the pathway to this was obviously the arrangement which was entered into between the US Department of Justice and Mr Assange's legal team that enabled the return to Australia. I'm really pleased that that has occurred, and I hope that Mr Assange and his family can spend some time together.

Jacobs: Was it a matter of life or death, as Julian has told the Prime Minister?

Foreign Minister: Look, I'm not going to discuss Mr Assange's personal condition. That's a matter for him. I think he's entitled to some privacy.

Jacobs: Minister, to another Australian behind bars overseas. Perth grandmother, Donna Nelson, was meant to stand trial today in Japan for allegedly drug smuggling, but it's been delayed at least another six months. She says she's the tragic, innocent victim of a romance scam. Now, Donna has spent the last 18 months in a cell for 23 and a half hours a day. She's been denied direct contact with her family. Is the Australian Government doing all it can to facilitate Ms Nelson's release from the Japanese prison so she too can return home?

Foreign Minister: I'm keenly aware of Ms Nelson's case. We are engaging with Ms Nelson and we will continue to make representations to the Japanese Government. Obviously, as you said, the case - the trial has been deferred for a range of reasons, but I would say we will continue to make representations about her welfare and about the legal proceedings.

Jacobs: Alright, on to other matters now. And you've previously said Australia will recognise the state of Palestine when you think the time is right, acknowledging it could occur as part of a peace process. When will the time be right?

Foreign Minister: Well, I think we have to look at when recognition contributes to the cause of peace. This is not a symbolic act. What is important, as I've outlined very clearly, is we have this catastrophic situation in Gaza. We have a conflict which is still on foot, we have hostages to return, we have a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. We need to see a ceasefire with hostages released and aid flowing, and we need to give the Palestinian people a horizon to enable the two-state solution. That is the only path to peace.

Jacobs: Minister, 145 of the 193 UN member states have recognised the state of Palestine. Will Australia do the same?

Foreign Minister: Look, I think it's a matter of when, not if. But what we do want to see is a process which ensures security for the state of Israel as well as security for Palestinians. We want to see a ceasefire now. We want to see humanitarian aid flow. So, I think the focus at the moment is on what can we all do to try and end this conflict. And I again reiterate my call for all parties to observe the ceasefire which the UN Security Council has endorsed.

Jacobs: The Australia Pacific bid to host UN climate conference COP in 2026 is being blocked by a counter bid from Türkiye. Are you negotiating to lock in Australia's bid by the end of the year?

Foreign Minister: Obviously, we've got our candidacy out there. We think it would be a really good thing for Australia and the Pacific to host the Conference of the Parties in relation to climate change. The COP is important and it's an important opportunity to elevate the experience of the Pacific. And it just reminds us again, in the face of Peter Dutton going back to his position of now nuclear, but also pushing back on any action on climate change, that every time an Australian leader steps back from action on climate change, it's not only bad for Australia, it's also bad for the countries of the Pacific, and they feel that keenly.

Jacobs: Thank you very much for your time, Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

Foreign Minister: Good to speak with you, Narelda.

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