Prime Minister Julia Gillard has confounded left and right wing critics alike by coming out in strong support of Wikileaks and its Australian editor in chief, Julian Assange. ‘Our legal advice is that Wikileaks has broken no laws of Australia or the United States’, she said, and further that ‘Australia and the Labor government have nothing to fear from, and in fact welcome, an emerging era of openness in government’. Her statements echo those of US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who said earlier today that Wikileaks ‘was merely practising journalism as it was meant to be practised’. ‘A free press’, she said, ‘is fundamental to the workings of a sound democracy’.
US President Obama, who was widely expected to project muscular disapproval of recent leaks, set the surprising tone yesterday, arguing that, while some of the leaks were clearly embarrassing for the government, the US would not be ‘shooting the messenger’ and would instead focus on repairing damaged relationships and forging more honest and open dialogue in international relations.
Australia’s Attorney General, Robert McClelland, issued a statement this afternoon advising Assange will receive full consular support with regard to Sweden’s prosecution of charges of sexual misconduct against him and that the Australian government has no intention of prosecuting Assange itself. ‘He’d have to have done something illegal’, he said, adding that ‘personally he was very proud of Assange,’ and that he ‘was sick of governments treating their citizens like children’. Regarding the Swedish charges, he said it was a travesty that Assange’s name had been blackened by the media’s reporting of supposed ‘rape’ charges. ‘The charges don’t appear to be for rape at all’, he said, ‘but rather “sex by surprise”, which I’m sure most Australian men would consider a regular part of the arsenal’. He later apologised for his ‘insensitive and stupid’ remarks.