Assange is currently held in a high-security prison in Belmarsh in the UK, after a hearing to decide whether he would be extradited to the US ended last month. A decision is expected to be announced in January 2021.
He faces criminal charges for publishing classified information that was leaked to WikiLeaks by an American soldier, then known as Bradley Manning, but now, after gender reassignment surgery, known as Chelsea Manning.
Until now, Australia has done the bare minimum to help Assange because it did not want to annoy its American protector. But Barack Obama, while president, had decided that he could not sue Assange without also suing some of the world's major newspapers, and hence abandoned the idea. Biden was Obama's vice-president at the time.
Assange, one of Australia's best known hackers, was involved in attacks on several American government organisations in the 1980s, at a time when he went by the moniker Mendax.
WikiLeaks exposed the cynicism and savagery that Washington displays in combat areas, when it released a video titled Collateral Murder that showed unarmed Iraqi civilians being gunned down by an American helicopter in Iraq.
Assange was arrested by British police on 11 April 2019 and removed from the Ecuador embassy where he had taken refuge. His asylum was withdrawn shortly before he was arrested and he appeared in court shortly thereafter. The US made a formal request for his extradition on 6 June 2019.
Whenever Australian authorities have been asked about Assange, their stock response has been that he is being provided the same consular assistance as any other citizen would be. Now, given the circumstances, it is time for Canberra to stir itself and push for saving his life.
He has done nothing more than any journalist would and no journalist has been imprisoned in Australia for publishing stories based on leaked information. The same applies in the US.
The last time Australia approached the US seeking clemency for someone, it was in the case of David Hicks who had been arrested in Afghanistan on alleged charges of terrorism. John Howard made a personal appeal to Dick Cheney, telling the then US vice-president that Hicks had become an election issue for him.
Cheney pushed for a plea bargain and Hicks was sent back to Australia within a few months.
It is time for Morrison to use any credits he has in Washington DC and ask for Assange to be released. The man is still an Australian citizen and deserves his freedom.