Australia was providing consular support to the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was arrested in London on allegations of sexual assault, Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd said today. The minister offered consulate support to Assange despite a leaked US diplomatic cable that revealed Rudd being criticised as 'abrasive, impulsive control freak'. "I'm the foreign minister of Australia, responsible for the consular well-being of all Australians and therefore I just want to make it absolutely clear that first of all Assange has contacted the Australian Consul-General in London and asked for consular support," Rudd was quoted as saying in the media.
39-year-old Assange, an Australian citizen, was arrested by the UK Metropolitan Police on the basis of an arrest warrant issued in Sweden relating to allegations of sexual assault. "We have confirmed that we will provide that, as we do for all Australian citizens," Rudd said, adding consular officials attended Assange's appearance in the London court yesterday.
Assange, who was produced before the Westminster Magistrates Court, was denied bail. According to media reports, criticism of Rudd came to light after details of cables sent by the US Embassy in Canberra to US Secretaries of State, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, were published in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' newspaper. "Rudd.....undoubtedly believes that with his intellect, his six years as a diplomat in the 1980s and his five years as shadow foreign minister, he has the background and the ability to direct Australia's foreign policy," one leaked cable read. "His performance so far, however, demonstrates that he does not have the staff or the experience to do the job properly," the US embassy bluntly observed in November, 2009.
In response, Rudd was quoted as saying that the criticism was like "water off a duck's back". "I don't, frankly, give a damn about this sort of thing. You just get on with it," he said, adding the important thing was to get on with his job. "Because the real challenges of diplomacy are here today as they were yesterday", he said.