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Julian Assange: Australia Turned its Back on him; Time Made him a Matter

There was little sympathy for Assange in Canberra, so much so that he famously said the Prime Minister of the day had “betrayed” him.

When Julian Assange stepped onto Australian soil for the first time in 14 years, he emotionally embraced his wife and raised his fist in triumph.

A handful of supporters waved and cheered as he drove away from the air base.

But this was no hero’s welcome – there were no large crowds or champagne in sight.

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Look closely though, and you will see signs of just how hard Australia’s government has worked to get the WikiLeaks founder back.

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Out of shots of the cameras, he was followed off the plane by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who is now the country’s ambassador to the US, and Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK, Stephen Smith – who was Rudd’s foreign minister between 2007 and 2010.

Minutes after Assange landed, the current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed the nation, giving him a subdued welcome back.

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“I am very pleased that this saga is over, and earlier tonight, I was pleased to speak with Mr Assange to welcome him home,” he said.

This is a far cry from the mood back in 2010 when Assange first found himself in hot water.

He had released thousands of unredacted US documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – including footage of a US helicopter firing on civilians – embarrassing Washington and allegedly endangering their informants and operatives.

Shortly afterwards Swedish authorities began chasing him over allegations he sexually assaulted two women – claims he said were politically motivated.

There was little sympathy for Assange in Canberra, so much so that he famously said the Prime Minister of the day had “betrayed” him.

“Let’s not try and put any glosses on this… information would not be on WikiLeaks if there had not been an illegal act undertaken,” Julia Gillard had said.

“And then we’ve got the common sense test about the gross irresponsibility of this conduct.”

Far from offering to advocate on his behalf, her government said it was providing ”every assistance” to US authorities and asked Australian officials to investigate whether he had broken any of the country’s laws as well.

They would later temper their language, but Gillard maintained “there’s not anything we can, or indeed, should do”.


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