Barnaby Joyce is calling on the federal government to prevent the extradition of Julian Assange from the United Kingdom to the United States on espionage charges.
The outspoken Nationals backbencher wants Australia to step up its diplomatic efforts once the WikiLeaks founder serves his jail time in the UK.
“I, in no way shape or form, give a character recommendation about Mr Assange. That’s not the issue. The issue is the sovereignty of the laws,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“And the law is for those you both like or dislike, or have no opinion on.”
Mr Joyce argues if a person commits a crime in another country while they are there, they should be judged by those laws.
“If a person is residing in Australia and commits a crime in another country, I don’t believe that that is a position for extradition,” he said.
“If they weren’t actually there, if they weren’t present there, that is a question for Australian law.
“We have to follow the principle, even if we don’t have regard for the person.”
However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg appears unmoved by his Coalition colleague’s entreaty.
“He (Assange) ultimately will face the justice for what he’s been alleged to have done, but that is a legal process that will run its course,” Mr Frydenberg told ABC News on Monday.
“But we will continue, as a government, to provide him with the appropriate consular services.”
Despite the treasurer’s lukewarm response, independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie insists there are other government MPs who share Mr Joyce’s view.
Mr Wilkie said there is a group of parliamentarians who plan to band together to fight for Mr Assange’s return to Australia and “a number” of coalition members are part of it, along with crossbenchers.
“The only party I’m having to work extra hard on getting members of the group is Labor,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
Mr Joyce is among the group’s members, but Mr Wilkie won’t confirm others until an official announcement is made about its formation.
Assange, who was accused of sexual assault in Sweden and feared extradition to the US, sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 and spent seven years there until his hosts revoked his citizenship and he was arrested by British police.
The Morrison government inadvertently released its internal talking points to the media on Monday morning.
The confidential briefing notes canvass Assange and his fight against extradition from Britain to the US.
“The Australian government cannot interfere in the United Kingdom’s legal processes, just as another country cannot interfere in ours,” the talking points said.
“We appreciate that some members of the public feel very strongly about Mr Assange’s situation but it is important to remember that Australia cannot intervene in the legal processes of another country.
“Mr Assange will be entitled to due process, including legal representation, in those processes.”
The full extradition hearing to decide whether Mr Assange should be sent to the United States will take place in February next year, a London court has previously ruled.