Biden scraps Australian visit as Assange pressure mounts

The US President's Australian parliament visit postponed amid debt ceiling talks.

Biden scraps Australian visit as Assange pressure mounts
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In light of continuous debt ceiling negotiations, US President Joe Biden has postponed his scheduled address to the Australian Parliament on May 23, as well as his attendance at the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Sydney the following day.

The White House claimed that the decision does not detract from Biden's commitment to "revitalise and reinvigorate" the United States' alliances and progress partnerships.

The White House stated, "This is paramount for the promotion of global stability and prosperity and the advancement of our foreign policy goals." It also confirmed their eagerness to engage with Australia, the Quad, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands Forum leaders within the upcoming year.

Last week, as the debt ceiling discussions persisted, there was conjecture that the President would need to make a critical decision regarding his Australian visit. Biden reaffirmed his commitment to the visit but indicated that the debt ceiling issue held precedence over his agenda.

“If by chance we reach the deadline without a resolution, I would not proceed with the visit if it coincided with the due date,” Biden stated.

He also mentioned that he had mutually agreed with the Australian Prime Minister to reschedule his visit as soon as possible and expressed his anticipation for a state visit to the United States later in the year.

After the G7 Summit in Hiroshima on Sunday, the President will return to the US, the White House confirmed. It was also revealed that the President had invited Prime Minister Albanese for an official state visit at a mutually agreeable date, and similar correspondence had been shared with the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.

This development coincides with an intensified campaign for the release of Julian Assange, the Australian journalist and founder of WikiLeaks. Rallies are planned to coincide with Biden's rescheduled visit to Australia. Assange's father, John Shipton, has reignited his plea for the Prime Minister to address his son's legal issues and urge the US president to drop charges against Assange.

Shipton said, "My sole aim is to bring Julian home and communicate with supporters wherever possible." He mentioned his plans to write a letter to the President requesting a meeting ahead of his rescheduled visit and that protests would persist if the President came to Australia.

"It's an opportune time to remind the President of the Australian people's concerns," he told ABC's 7:30 program on Tuesday.

It comes as a bipartisan group of Australian politicians met with US ambassador Caroline Kennedy to pressure the Biden administration to cease pursuing Assange and warn that his ongoing imprisonment could jeopardise the US-Australia alliance.

Assange's supporters were encouraged by Kennedy's decision to hold the meeting and stated at the time that they were cautiously optimistic about a potential breakthrough in Assange's case.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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