Mr Peter Tesch
Australian Ambassador to Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein
Australian Consulate General
Main Tower – 28th Floor
Neue Mainzer Strasse 52-58
Thursday 29th March 2012
Re: Australia’s tradition of ‘standing up for a mate’
Dear Mr Tesch
Since Australia’s Federation in 1901, Australian men and women have earned a worldwide reputation for incredible bravery in the name of justice, in the face of extreme peril and hardship and in particular, as agents of liberty, democracy and peace.
This reputation is something that all Australians should be proud of. Not many countries can boast of such a wonderful record on the world stage. In this sense, Europeans think very highly of Australia and the Australian people, who continue to be exemplars of this fine tradition abroad, maintaining Australia’s reputation for decency, strength, and honesty.
So it come as no surprise to us in Europe that the Australian Government describes Australia’s history, way of life and values with the pride expressed in your Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s publication ‘Life in Australia’ (1).
You describe Australia’s strong traditions of ‘mateship’ and ‘a fair go’ and how these traditions ‘grew out of the often tough battle for survival by Australia’s early settlers against a strange, harsh and often hostile environment’, and how these traditions ‘were reinforced by later generations of men and women in the Australian bush who relied on and supported each other through ﬂoods, ﬁre and drought.’
You define your tradition of ‘mateship’ as being, ‘where people provide help to others voluntarily, especially those in difﬁculty’ and go on to explain how one of Australia’s most enduring values: the Anzac ethos of courage, spirit and mateship emerged out of a brave but ultimately disastrous battle fought at Gallipoli in 1915.
It is right, then, that you have your citizens pledge their loyalty to Australia and its people, and that you expect all Australians to uphold the shared principles and values that underpin Australian society, which include:
- respect for the equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual,
- freedom of speech,
- freedom of association,
- support for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law,
- equality under the law,
- peacefulness, and
- a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces fair play, mutual respect, tolerance, and compassion for those in need.
The Australian journalist and documentary maker John Pilger recently described growing up in Australia and having impressed upon him ‘That we were a brave country… we stood up to authority, we stood up for good things and justice’ (2). He continues, ‘If we are to talk of brave Australians, Australians who have given something to the rest of humanity, then Julian Assange is that person. He deserves at the very least, the support of ordinary people… what they must do is bring that message of support to the Australian Government so that the Government will give him the right that he has and that is the right to be protected as an Australian citizen by his Government because he faces great peril at the moment… we won’t have this happen to our fellow Australian who has served us and the world with such distinction and bravery.’
In Europe, we understand that the Australian people believe in the principle of giving others a fair go and that you “stand up for your mates”, protect the disadvantaged and as our Aussie mates put it, “root for the underdog.” We understand that these values and traditions have been embedded in both Australian history and the Australian psyche.
Australian values are certainly firmly embedded in the psyche of the most influential Australian of the present time, Julian Assange, whose brave actions have won him international awards and global renown. As well as extraordinarily powerful and ruthless enemies who have made no secret of their intention to kill him, and to disrupt WikiLeaks’s activities.
Those whose crimes he has exposed want him dead or imprisoned. The Swedish extradition case presents as a cartoon-like parody of a classic “set-up job”, an abuse of the legal process to punish Assange for facilitating the exposure of illegal and atrocious activity on the part of extremely powerful and corrupt individuals, corporate entities and states.
Written on the first page of every Australian passports is:
“The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, being the representative in Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, requests that all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand to need.” (3)
Julian Assange, international exemplar par excellence of Australian virtues of decency, honesty and devotion to open democratic justice, currently stands in need of every assistance and protection that it is possible for all those whom it may concern to give.
Why then, has the Australian Government not afforded Assange, an Australian citizen, the privilege of full consular assistance from Australian diplomatic representatives as stated in ‘Life in Australia’?
Something appears to be amiss.
Either Australian Passports and Commonwealth of Australia publications are being over optimistic or Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and her Government are acting contrary to the spirit of Australian values.
We in Europe assume your Prime Minister and her Government have also pledged their loyalty to Australia and to its people, and to uphold the shared principles and values that underpin Australian society.
We assumed that you were “fair dinkum”.
So when will we see you displaying the Anzac ethos of courage, spirit and mateship?
When will you stand up for a mate?
Frankfurt Friends of WikiLeaks
(1) ‘Life in Australia’, Aust Government, Dept of Immigration and Citizenship,Commonwealth of Australia 2007 , ISBN 978 1 921446 30 6, http://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/values/book/english/lia_english_full.pdf
(2) John Pilger, Australian journalist and documentary maker, https://wlfriends.org/static/video/2.html
(3) Australian Passport