TV Interview with Natalie Barr and Matt Shirvington, Sunrise

  • Transcript E&OE
Subjects: Julian Assange’s return to Australia.

Matt Shirvington, Host: Joining us now is Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Good morning to you. Well, Assange told the Prime Minister that he had saved his life when they spoke on the phone. Why was it so important for the government to bring him home?

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Good morning. Well, you know, I just think, as the Prime Minister has said, this matter had dragged on too long, and we made that clear when we came to government. There's been persistent, deliberate advocacy over a very long period of time led by the Prime Minister. And I'm pleased that we have the result where we see Julian Assange returned home to Australia, and I hope he gets the opportunity to spend some time with his family, and particularly his wife and his two children.

Natalie Barr, Host: Yeah, his wife said he wants to go to the beach, he wants to collect crabs with his kids, do normal stuff. Can he give speeches, write books now for money? Or will the AFP stop, stop him profiting from his story?

Foreign Minister: Look, we have laws about the disclosure of national security information that they remain in place. We also have a principle of freedom of the press, and that's a very important principle. So, obviously, we expect all Australians to respect both of those principles. But I would say here, whatever, you know, people have a range of different views about Mr Assange's activities. Quite different views. My view and the Prime Minister's view was that nothing was to be served by him continuing to be incarcerated. We advocated for him. I want to acknowledge the work of Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith and many others, and I'm pleased that we saw him returning home to Australia and to his family last night.

Shirvington: What sort of restrictions are in place for him as a. Well, he pled guilty to espionage. He comes here to Australia as a convicted felon, obviously not incarcerated now, but what restrictions are there? Are you worried that he'll continue to agitate?

Foreign Minister: As I said, two principles. We have freedom of speech and freedom of the press in this country. That's part of our democracy. Secondly, we have laws about protecting national security information, and that matters. So, those two principles continue to apply. Our view on this matter, as I said, people have different views, but, you know, the case had dragged on too long, and we're pleased that we saw the plea bargain endorsed by the court which enabled him to return home.

Barr: There's speculation that he may try and seek a pardon from the US. Would your government support that?

Foreign Minister: Look, I saw that that was raised yesterday in the media and by I think Mrs Assange. What I would say is that's a matter for Mister Assange and his legal team.

Barr: And would your government support that?

Foreign Minister: Well, that would be a matter for their legal team and for the US government.

Barr: And if they brought that up, would your government support that?

Foreign Minister: Well, I think we would respect US processes as we have here. I've made clear when I've been asked about this that the legal process, the best way for this matter to resolve is for the legal process to conclude. And I'm pleased that eventually it has concluded. It's obviously taken a very long time.

Shirvington: Okay. Thank you for your time, Minister. Appreciate it.

Foreign Minister: Good to speak with you.

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