The Albanese government has been using quiet diplomacy with the United States to influence the case of Julian Assange, according to the WikliLeaks co-founder’s father.

In an exclusive interview  with Central News John Shipton said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had conveyed through third parties that the government was “working on” his son’s case.

If so, it would be the first acknowledgment that the Australian government is actively in discussion with the US government about the matter.

“The solution to Julian rests entirely upon the shoulders of Anthony Albanese,” Shipton said.

“It’s not the AUKUS submarine agreement… Compared to those sorts of arrangements between the United States and Australia, negotiating for Julian to return home is quite small, easily accomplished.

“Anthony Albanese has stated that he was moved to bring Julian home. He’s sort of on a promise on it. He’s sent messages to me via third parties that he’s working on it, and so we expect to have Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to hold to his promise and we will continue in that vein.”

He’s sent messages to me via third parties that he’s working on it, and so we expect to have Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to hold to his promise.

The Prime Minister’s Office, when contacted by Central News, would neither confirm nor deny conversations with Shipton through third parties had taken place or that there had been discussions with the US government, instead referring to previous statements made by the Prime Minister that he would not be commenting publicly on the matter.

In a June radio interview on ABC Melbourne Drive the PM told host Rafael Epstein: “These issues are sometimes, of course, best dealt with diplomatically and I intend to do that.”

On the same day, during a press conference and in response to criticism he had not been vocal enough about the matter since becoming prime minister, he noted: “There are some people who think that if you put things in capital letters on Twitter and put an exclamation mark, then that somehow makes it more important.”

In a wide-ranging interview with Central News Shipton also said his son’s work had served as a “super forum” for “continuing analysis” of political, corporate and journalistic practice.

Speaking about Assange and WikiLeaks’ global impact, 12 years after the organisation leaked classified war logs from the United States’ military, Shipton said that although WikiLeaks was best known for its political leaks, its publications also included cases of corporate misconduct and environmental degradation.

“It wasn’t only governments and their policies, you know,” he said. “It was a whole range – a magnificent range – of news held in searchable form.”

Assange co-founded WikiLeaks in October 2006, and the organisation has since published over 60 leaked document sets. The most infamous of these, which the US is attempting to extradite Assange for, is the Afghan and Iraq War logs, leaked in 2010.

Provided by military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, the logs detailed, among other things, war crimes committed by the US military and other nations in Afghanistan and Iraq in the mid-2000s.

The Guardian, The New York Times and German magazine Der Spiegel all worked with WikiLeaks to publish stories using the information Manning provided. However, Assange continues to be the only publisher facing charges related to the leak. Currently imprisoned in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison he is awaiting a final decision on his extradition.

If extradited to the US, where he faces 17 espionage charges, Assange could be sentenced to a maximum of 175 years in prison.

If they obeyed their own laws, Julian would be sitting alongside me here today, free to have dinner with me and his kids.

But Shipton said his son simply exposed the West’s  “abandonment” of human rights treaties they helped construct, such as the Geneva Conventions.

“If they obeyed their own laws, Julian would be sitting alongside me here today, free to have dinner with me and his kids,” he said.

While groups such as Amnesty International and The Walkley Foundation have expressed support for him, Assange continues to be a controversial figure worldwide.

Andrew Wilkie MP, Chair of the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Friendship Group, said Assange discussed a similar ‘forum’ for whistleblowers when they first met in 2004.

“When I was getting a presentation [at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival] about a book I’d written about my own whistleblowing experience… he came up to me afterwards and started picking my brain about how would you create a safe space for whistleblowers or some sort of platform where whistleblowers can safely publish information and bring it to the public’s attention?” he said.

WikiLeaks received criticism for publishing the personal details of private individuals (including rape victims). But Wilkie said the “facts” of Assange’s case tended to get lost in misinformation and there is currently significant support in Australia for his charges to be dropped.

“When people learn the facts of the matter, they often get in behind Julian,” he said. 

“Even a lot of [his critics] have come to the stage of saying , ‘It’s just gone on long enough. Let the poor man come home.’ “

Support in Federal Parliament has also increased. Wilkie said his parliamentary group, established in 2019, counts 26 members across political parties.

They include One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, Liberal MP Bridget Archer and Peter Khalil, Chair of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

Wilkie added that several members of parliament who were not members of the group also privately expressed their interest in the case.

“The Government and Opposition Leader need to be careful here, because there’s actually a lot more support for Assange than they might think,” he said.

Parliamentary groups supporting Assange are also present across Europe and in South America. On 15 September, Shipton and his son Gabriel accepted the keys to Mexico City on Assange’s behalf.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also voiced his support for Assange shortly after a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Mexico. Though this support is vital to Assange’s case, Shipton said the Australian government can easily lobby the US at any time to drop his charges.

While US authorities prepare to counter Assange’s appeal against extradition, Shipton will be in Melbourne from October 3-8 for Whistleblowers and WikiLeaks Week.

Over six days, the public is invited to a barbecue celebration of WikiLeaks’ 16th birthday, picket outside Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ offices and attend a screening of the film David McBride: Declassified about military whistleblower David McBride.

The main event will be a human chain in Southbank, Melbourne, in solidarity with Assange supporters doing the same around the UK parliament. 

Shipton, Gabriel and McBride will speak at the event, aiming to bring awareness to the importance of whistleblower journalism to society.

“There’s only one path to freedom and that’s knowledge,” Shipton said.

Main image by Caitlin Johnstone/pixabay.