Wednesday, 10 February 2016

In which then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott gives the nod for then Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert to help smooth the way for a big Liberal Party donor and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull inherits a problem

These are the antics of then Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and his not-so-faithful side kick LNP MP for Fadden & then Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert, as reported in the Herald Sun on 7 February 2016:

A FEDERAL minister is under pressure after admitting he made a secret trip to Beijing where a Liberal donor and mate finalised a mining deal.
Human Services Minister Stuart Robert told the Herald Sun he was acting in a “private capacity” when he attended a signing ceremony with Nimrod Resources’s Paul Marks and high-ranking Communist Party ­officials who run Chinese Government-owned company Minmetals.
Mr Robert has previously said Mr Marks was a “close personal friend” and he’d bought shares in two of the Melbourne millionaire’s companies.
Mr Marks has also donated $2 million to the Liberals in the past two ­financial years. Last year, then prime minister Tony Abbott flew on a taxpayer-funded jet to Mr Marks’s birthday party at Huntingdale Golf Club.
Minmetals’s website says that at the August 18, 2014, event in Beijing, Mr Robert, then assistant defence minister, spoke “on behalf of the Australian Department of Defence”.
It says he presented to a senior Communist Party official “a medal” bestowed by the prime minister.

In 1999 Stuart Robert registered Robert International Pty Ltd and in 2007, the same year he entered Parliament, he created his own private investment company Robert Investment House Pty Ltd, with himself and his wife as directors.

His time in politics apparently always hast its "slip-ups" as this intriguing entry in Griffith University Vice-Chancellor's 2012 report hints:

One political misstep in 2012 was speeches he made under parliamentary privilege which saw The Australian reporting this on 19 February 2015:

In a comparatively rare development, parliament’s privileges committee — chaired by Victorian Liberal MP Russell Broadbent — granted Mr Lee leave to make a statement to the House of Representatives detailing his acquittal.
Mr Lee thanked the committee and Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and accused Mr Robert of denying him the presumption of innocence while his case was before the courts.
“It was very distressing for us and our families, seeing the member for Fadden, Stuart Robert, on not one but two occasions in 2012, rise in the house and accuse me of a crime, on behalf of his wealthy constituents Sunland,’’ he told The Australian. “In doing so, and under the safety of parliamentary privilege, Stuart Robert never considered the ordeal we had been through or continued to endure, that of being imprisoned and detained in the Middle East, nor did he try to contact us to get a balanced view of the situation before he spoke.”
Mr Robert said he would not apologise for defending the interests of his constituents, including the Sunland Group.

“I will always stand up for Gold Coast companies,’’ he said. “It was a difficult time for all those involved and my job is to stand up for my … community.”

On 19 and 21 August 2014 this is how China Minmetals Corporation and the Chinese Ministry of Land Website described Robert's allegedly private stay in Beijing:

#On August 18, a ceremony was held in Beijing to sign the agreement between 
Minmetals Exploration & Development Co., Ltd. and Australia Nimrod Resources 
Limited (hereinafter “Nimrod”) for the joint establishment of an exploration 
technical committee. 
Chairman Zhou Zhongshu and Stuart Robert, Assistant Minister of Australian Department of Defence, attended the ceremony and delivered speeches. 
Vice President Li Fuli attended the signing ceremony. 
Wang Jionghui, Assistant President of Minmetals and General Manager of Minmetals Exploration & Development Co., Ltd., and Paul Marks, Executive Chairman of 
Nimrod and Director Robert Kingdon signed the agreement on behalf of the two 
The ceremony was hosted by Huang Dongmei, Deputy General Manager of MinmetalsExploration & Development Co., Ltd.

#August 19 morning, Vice Minister of Land and Resources Wang Min meets Australia Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Stuart and his party. The two sides will jointly create a favorable external investment environment and promote mining agency cooperation and further strengthen Sino-Australian mining industry cooperation talks and exchanges.

According to the Herald Sun on 28 March 2015:

Mr Marks was a director of Conquest Mining Pty Ltd from December 2009 to April 2012. On May 13, 2011, Mr Robert declared Conquest shares.
Mr Marks was a director of Evolution Mining Ltd from October 2011 to November 2013. In August 2013, Mr Robert declared owning shares in his and one of his sons’ names.
Mr Marks said: “Conquest merged with Catalpa and subsumed a number of Newcrest Assets to create Evolution Mining. Consequently I went on the board of Evolution Mining. I resigned from the Evolution board because I took the chairman role of Nimrod.’’

On 8 February 2016 the Australian House of Representatives Hansard records this exchange:

Mr Burke: Mr Speaker, on one final point of order: the clause that I am referring to, which leads to why the parliament must be able to pursue this, says: A Minister shall not act as a consultant or adviser to any company, business, or other interests, whether paid or unpaid, or provide assistance to any such body, except as may be appropriate in their official capacity as Minister … 
Ms Henderson interjecting—
The SPEAKER: The member for Corangamite will cease interjecting. 
Mr Dreyfus interjecting—

The SPEAKER: The member for Isaacs will cease interjecting. I have obviously given this careful consideration and I have examined the practice carefully. For anyone who examines the practice carefully, on page 555—and I just happen to have it with me—they will see that it says, 'A minister may not be asked a question about his or her actions in a former ministerial role.' However, in a case when a minister has issued a statement referring to earlier responsibilities a question relating to the statement was permitted. There has been one case of that, in 2006. Beyond that, questions have not been allowed. That is certainly the practice and the history, I can assure the House, from the best of my research. Whilst I want to see questions asked and answered, if this question had been asked some time ago, when the minister had different responsibilities, it would, clearly, be in order. But the minister responsible for the code of conduct is the Prime Minister, and it is the Prime Minister that makes the determination on whether ministers have complied with it. Having heard that patiently, and I apologise for detaining the House for so long, I am not going to allow that question and will move to the next question. 

While on 9 February 2016 The Australian stated of the now Minister for Veterans Affairs & Human Services Minister:

His register of interests shows his investments are held in a company called Robert Investment House. This in turn is owned by Robert International, which lists his parents — 78-year-old Alan and 75-year-old Dorothy — as directors and shareholders.
The investment company was previously held by Mr Robert, but was transferred to his parents three weeks after the 2010 election.

At this time Robert and his wife also ceased to be trustees of the Robert Family Trust and the Robert Investments Family Trust according to his statement of registrable interests in 2010, although they both still appear to derive income from one or both of these discretionary trusts.

The first year in government must have been a busy housekeeping year for the Member for Fanning as he decided to return two Cartier watches given to him by a Chinese investment company known as the Liguancheng Group.

Rather coyly on 15 July 2013 he had listed these very expensive items simply as "watches":
His last lodged statement of registrable interests shows Robert's self-managed super fund (which sometimes buys/sells shares) is still active and he still carries a "portfolio investment loan" with the National Australia Bank as well as a home loan.

Stuart Robert is being characterized by the Murdoch press as being somewhat naive in his dealings with the Chinese.

Somehow I think the Gold Coast Bulletin's 28 December 2015 assessment of this LNP politician is probably closer to the mark:

Minister Robert appears to see himself as a businessman and investor as well as an elected parliamentarian. It will be interesting to see what else surfaces concerning his past and current business interests.

SHORTER ANDREW WILKIE: Grubby, grubby Julie Bishop

Excerpts from ABC News, 3 February 2016:

A history of treaties in the Timor Sea 

* In 1989 Australia and Indonesia signed the Timor Gap Treaty when East Timor was still under Indonesian occupation. 

* East Timor was left with no permanent maritime border and Indonesia and Australia got to share the wealth in what was known as the Timor Gap. 
* In 2002 East Timor gained independence and the Timor Sea Treaty was signed, but no permanent maritime border was negotiated. 
* East Timor has long argued the border should sit halfway between it and Australia, placing most of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field in their territory. 
* In 2004 East Timor started negotiating with Australia again about the border. 
* In 2006 the CMATS treaty was signed, but no permanent border was set, and instead it ruled that revenue from the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field would be split evenly between the two countries. 

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has intervened in an application by a former senior intelligence agent to have his passport returned, rejecting his application on the grounds he is a threat to national security.

The former ASIS agent, known as Witness K, is due to give evidence at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague about an operation to bug East Timor's cabinet rooms during negotiations with Australia over an oil and gas treaty in 2004.
East Timor is hoping to get the treaty — worth an estimated $40 billion — torn up on the basis that the bugging was illegal.

Key to their case is Witness K, the former foreign intelligence service agent who ran the spying operation.

He has been unable to leave Australia since his passport was seized in a raid by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) on his home in 2012.

According to Witness K's lawyer Bernard Collaery, the new head of ASIO, Duncan Lewis, indicated last year that ASIO was not taking action on national security grounds regarding Witness K's passport.

But Lateline can reveal that Ms Bishop has rejected Witness K's application for a new passport despite what the head of ASIO said.

A letter to Witness K's lawyers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade explained Ms Bishop's decision:

Mr Collaery described the justification as laughable.

"How could it be a prejudice to Australia's national security for K to repeat what he has said? And that is that an unlawful operation took place abroad," he said.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who is a former intelligence analyst with the Office of National Assessments, is shocked by the decision

"We need to understand here that the person who makes a decision about someone being a security threat or not is the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In this case the head of ASIO has apparently judged that Witness K is not a security threat to this country," he said.

"That makes the apparent intervention of the Foreign Minister all the more remarkable.

"She is in no position to make any judgement about Witness K from a security point of view, which I think goes to show this is a political decision for political and diplomatic reasons and nothing to do with national security."…..

Mr Wilkie said the decision raised questions about how seriously the Government took international law.

"For the Foreign Minister apparently to deny Witness K a passport to give evidence at the Hague is really us just saying we don't care about the Hague, we don't care about international law," he said.

"Every way you look at this it's grubby."

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: campaign humour

Excerpt from email sent by, 6 February 2016:

Victory was declared this week. Punctuation was defeated and the Government’s semi-annual skirmishes against hyphens and semi-colons came to an end. After two years the Government decided to stop their so-called "red tape repeal days". We can all congratulate the Government on successfully removing from legislation 40 hyphens, one comma and one inverted comma; changing two full stops to semi-colons, one semi-colon to a full stop; and inserting two commas, one full stop, one colon and one hyphen. They also abolished state navies, which hadn't existed since 1913, and decided you no longer need to register your mule or bullock for military purposes. #Victory

Will the Turnbull Government finally eliminate those overgenerous superannuation tax concessions for the wealthy?

Is talk of make superannuation policy fairer just part of the political spin in the lead-up to this year's federal election spin or will the Turnbull Government genuinely commitment to removing overgenerous superannuation tax concessions for the wealthy?

In 2015 Australian Treasurer Scott Morrision put superannuation tax concessions for the high-income earners on the table - signalling the possibility of cuts to tax concessions for this group.

By January 2016 Morrison was holding to this position with qualifications.

Public expectation began to build that the Turnbull Government would at last address those tax loopholes in the national superannuation scheme which allows high-income earners to use super as a form of tax avoidance or as estate planning, but leaves ordinary workers paying higher levels of tax on their own super.

An article in The Australian on 3 February 2016 contained this information on government policy relating to tax breaks for the wealthy and the current public mood:

More than 60 per cent of voters support increasing the tax on superannuation contributions for high-income earners in a Newspoll that will buttress plans by the Turnbull government to strip back the generosity of tax breaks on compulsory savings…..

Treasury estimated last week that the tax breaks on superannuation contributions would cost the government $16.2bn in tax revenue this year, or almost half the projected budget deficit. The concessional treatment of superannuation earnings costs the budget a further $13.6bn…..

Treasury has been pressing for a tightening of superannuation tax concessions since 2008. It estimated that in 2012-13, people on the top tax bracket were gaining concessions on contributions worth an average of $4900 a year while people on the bottom two tax rates got concessions of $320.

The response from the Turnbull Government was expected to fall in with the public mood and further announcements were anticipated.

Unfortunately, by 5 February an unnamed source in Canberra had let it be known that the government also has the Super Guarantee in its sights and intends to permanently halt increases in the amount of compulsory superannuation contributions paid by an employer into a worker's superannuation account.

If this comes to pass then an est. 11.5 million workers (based on 2015 figures) currently below retirement age will have less money to live on in their eventual retirement years and their employers with potentially more money in their own personal retirement kitty.

Broken down by gender that's an est. 6.1 million men and 5.3 million women (including in excess of est. 90,000 couples) with less retirement savings in their pockets to meet their living expenses when their working life ends. 

Prime Minister Turnbull has since denied there will changes to the Super Guarantee - or did he?

However he did not deny the move was up for discussion, saying: “What is happening at the moment is that we’re having a very lively debate about tax and economic reform and so all sorts of proposals are swirling around.”

Somehow I'm not feeling confident this denial will last because I'm not sure that this particular federal government understands the real meaning of 'a fair go for all'.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Tony Abbott and his captain's picks continue to haunt Australia

It would appear that when he was prime minister the MP for Warringah, Tony Abbott,  was not only telling political lies of omission and commission to Australian voters – he may also telling them to his own government.

The Australian, 1 February 2016:

Sharp tensions between Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop were exposed yesterday with the revelation of a rock-solid pledge in writing by Mr Abbott to back former New Zealand leader Helen Clark as the next UN secretar­y-general.

The Australian has obtained the late-2014 exchange of letters between the then Australian prime minister and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in which Mr Abbott commits to a joint strategy between the two countries to try to make Ms Clark the successor to Ban Ki-moon.

Ms Bishop signalled last week that the Turnbull government felt its options were open to support former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd if he nominated for the post and that no firm commitment to any other candidate had been made by the government.

Yet Mr Abbott had made such commitments and the assurances offered by Ms Bishop were wrong.

It emerged last night that Ms Bishop as Foreign Minister, dealing with the UN on a regular basis, was not informed by Mr Abbott­ of his 2014 commitment to back Ms Clark for the post.

Ms Bishop is astonished that Mr Abbott as prime minister was exercising his personal authority with Mr Key without ­consulting her or keeping her “in the loop”.

Abbott supporters in turn are suspicious that Ms Bishop is positioning the Turnbull government to support Mr Rudd for the post when Mr Abbott had made a formal commitment to another candid­ate through the letter.

Ms Bishop, in response, has made it clear that the decision on Australia’s support for any candid­ate will be made by the Turnbull cabinet and not by herself as Foreign Minister……

Tony Abbott was quick to deny that he had acted unilaterally in endorsing former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark’s candidature. However, Ms. Bishop insists that “Any letter to the New Zealand Prime Minister was not shared with me, my office or my department…There was no discussion in cabinet about supporting Helen Clark …No New Zealand official ever raised this with us.”

On 3 February 2016 The Australian expanded on Abbott's motives:

Tony Abbott sought an exchange of letters with John Key to support former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark for the top job at the UN to head off Kevin Rudd’s push to get Australia’s backing for the post…..

In November 2014, Mr Abbott was aware of Mr Rudd’s interest in Australian government support should he declare as a candidate for UN secretary-general and, after discussions with Mr Key, gave a written guarantee he would support Ms Clark if she ran.

After earlier discussions, Mr Abbott and an ­adviser approached Mr Key at Darwin Airport in early November on their way to an APEC meeting in Beijing. The two prime ministers discussed the issue, with Mr Abbott offering his support for Ms Clark and seeking an exchange of letters to formalise the agreement. On November 10, Mr Key wrote to Mr Abbott about their conversation about Ms Clark and said he would welcome “any support from the Australian government”…..

Yesterday in Wellington, Mr Key said he had discussed the matter only with Mr Abbott.

“I didn’t have any discussions with Julie Bishop,” he said. “We thought at the time there was a possibility Helen Clark would put her name forward, and I had a discussion with Tony Abbott about Helen being a very strong candidate and that the New Zealand government would back her. He said … if she put her name forward, he thought Australia would support her.”

Mr Key said the situation changed when Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister. “What I said (to him) … was once the change of prime ministership happened, we wouldn’t consider it a binding ­obligation.”

This situation poses two questions:

(1) What other previously unannounced captain’s picks by Tony Abbott will surface in the coming months and will they also have the potential to cause domestic or foreign policy difficulties?

(2) Can the Turnbull Government afford to go to a general election this year with a divisive Tony Abbott still in its ranks?

Perhaps sacking him as prime minister was only half the answer and the NSW Division of the Liberal Party needs to go further and not support his pre-selection.

The Turnbull Government continues the Abbott Government's failure to protect Australian marine life from foreign super trawlers including the Geelong Star

Image of Geelong Star (formerly FV Dirk Dirk) and position heading towards the Bass Strait on 28 January 2016

Geelong Advertiser, 2 February 2016:

THE dolphin-killing trawler Geelong Star has been cleared to return to work just days after being suspended for the deaths of seven albatross in one trip.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority lifted its ban on the controversial fishing vessel on Sunday after authorities were satisfied the length of net cables had been reduced and made more visible.

The trawler must stop fishing “immediately” if a seabird is killed by the cable until the authority has investigated.
Geelong Star’s management plan, updated on January 16, shows the trawler will be forced to carry an AFMA observe on “at least the next trip” if two or more marine mammals are found in the end of the net.

A full reassessment is required if any changes are made to the exclusion device, which is designed to prevent seal and dolphin deaths.

AFMA chief executive Nick Rayns said the new protection methods came on top of existing mitigation methods…..

Greens spokesman for fisheries Peter Whish-Wilson said the AFMA’s catch and release of Geelong Star risked making a mockery of the regulation.

“If a member of the public had killed seven albatross over a week they would be charged under Australian environmental laws,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.

“If over the period of a year a member of public had killed some dolphins, some more dolphins, then some seals and finally some albatross then that person would probably end up doing jail time.

“But it is one law for the member of the public and another for the Geelong Star.

“The Geelong Star has been given a license to kill protected marine species and it’s time its license was revoked.”

Stop the Trawler and Environment Tasmania spokeswoman Rebecca Hubbard said it was time for the Federal Government to overrule the AFMA and ban the trawler outright….

Mercury, 1 February 2016:

A COALITION of environmentalists and recreational fishers has expressed alarm at a recommendation by a newly appointed scientific panel to increase the Geelong Star’s total catch.

The Stop the Trawler Alliance argues that the recommendation — disclosed at a stakeholder forum in Hobart on Thursday — had been made, despite ongoing concerns from recreational fishers and conservationists that the large factory freezer trawler could cause localised depletion of fish stocks.

“A newly appointed scientific panel is now proposing to increase the total catch from 42,000 tonnes to over 49,000 tonnes,” said Rebecca Hubbard from Environment Tasmania.

“Instead of listening to community concerns the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) have further reduced stakeholders input into critical decision-making processes.”…..

A brief history of this super trawler owned by Parlevliet & Van der Plas Beheer B.V. and contracted to its Australian subsidiary, Seafish Tasmania, can be found here.

Marine reserves in Australian waters may also be under further threat from commercial fishing with The Guardian reporting this on 6 February 2016:

Australia’s leading marine scientists are appealing to the federal government to reject a review expected to recommend a significant reduction in the size of ocean sanctuaries and an expansion of areas permitted for commercial fishing.

Tony Abbott announced the review of the boundaries of Labor’s marine parks, counted by the former government as one of its greatest environmental achievements, during the 2013 election campaign, and said he would scrap the just-finished management plans so that the fishing industry could be given a greater say.

The leading scientists understand the review, now finally completed, recommends a sizeable reduction in some areas previously designated as closed to fishing and trawling, particularly in the Coral Sea, and say it has ignored expert scientific advice.

“If the government winds back what was already just partial environmental protection it would be terrible for the environment and send a terrible message to the world,” said West Australian marine science professor Jessica Meeuwig.

“We have no faith in this process. They haven’t spoken to marine scientists, despite our best efforts. They spent a lot of time talking to the extractive industries. 

If Malcolm Turnbull is serious about being guided by science and by evidence he will reject recommendations to reduce marine sanctuary zones,” she said.

Meeuwig is one of 10 leading marine researchers who have formed the Ocean Science Council of Australia and have published benchmarks against which the review should be judged, including:

* No further diminishment of marine national park zoning in bioregions and key ecological features should occur as these are already significantly under-represented in the 2012 plans

* The international standard for ocean protection of a minimum of 30% of each marine habitat in highly protected no-take marine national parks should be met;

* Very large marine national parks such as that proposed for the Coral Sea should be preserved.......

This is one of the areas potentially under threat:

The new Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve covers 989 842 km2 and is an important national asset in near pristine condition. The reserve will be managed for the primary purpose of conserving the biodiversity found in it, while also allowing for the sustainable use of natural resources in some areas. The reserve includes the different marine ecosystems and habitats of the Coral Sea marine region and will help ensure our marine environment remains healthy and is more resilient to the effects of climate change and other pressures.

The Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve will provide additional protection for many species listed as endangered or vulnerable under Commonwealth legislation or international agreements, including the endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles and the critically endangered Herald petrel. The reserve also supports the world's only confirmed spawning aggregation of black marlin.

Sites of high productivity in the reserve, such as those around seamounts, are important aggregators for a range of species including lanternfish, albacore tuna, billfish and sharks. Large marine mammals journey hundreds or even thousands of kilometres to breed in the reserve, or to travel through en route to breeding areas.

The new Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve encompasses the former Coral Sea Conservation Zone, former Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve and former Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve. Transitional management arrangements apply until a management plan for the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve is in place.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The strange case of Julian Assange continues.....

Julian Assange has reportedly been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 12 June 2012, a total of 1,328 days since he sought asylum there.

The legal matter which triggered his request for asylum remains unresolved to date.

On 5 February 2016 the Office of High CommissionerHuman Rights, United Nations, issued this statement:

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Deems the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Julian Assange as arbitrary

On 4 December 2015, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted Opinion No. 54/2015, in which it considered that Mr. Julian Assange was arbitrarily detained by the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In that opinion, the Working Group recognized that Mr. Assange is entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation. The application was filed with the Working Group in September 2014. The Opinion 54/2015 was sent to the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 22 January 2016 in accordance with the Working Group’s Methods of Work.

Given that Mr. Assange is an Australian citizen, one of the members of the Working Group who shares his nationality recused herself from participating in the deliberations.  Another member of the Working Group disagreed with the position of the majority and considered that the situation of Mr. Assange is not one of detention and therefore falls outside the mandate of the Working Group.

In mid-2010, a Swedish Prosecutor commenced an investigation against Mr. Assange based on allegations of sexual misconduct. On 7 December 2010, pursuant to an international arrest warrant issued at the request of the Swedish Prosecutor, Mr. Assange was detained in Wandsworth Prison for 10 days in isolation. Thereafter, he was subjected to house arrest for 550 days.  While under house arrest in the United Kingdom, Mr. Assange requested the Republic of Ecuador to grant him refugee status at its Embassy in London. The Republic of Ecuador granted asylum because of Mr. Assange’s fear that if he was extradited to Sweden, he would be further extradited to the United States where he would face serious criminal charges for the peaceful exercise of his freedoms.  Since August 2012, Mr. Assange has not been able to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy and is subject to extensive surveillance by the British police.

The Working Group considered that Mr. Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorian Embassy.  Having concluded that there was a continuous deprivation of liberty, the Working Group also found that the detention was arbitrary because he was held in isolation during the first stage of detention and because of the lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor in its investigations, which resulted in the lengthy detention of Mr. Assange.  The Working Group found that this detention is in violation of Articles 9 and 10 of the UDHR and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the ICCPR, and falls within category III as defined in its Methods of Work. 

The Working Group therefore requested Sweden and the United Kingdom to assess the situation of Mr. Assange to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner, and to ensure the full enjoyment of his rights guaranteed by the international norms on detention. The Working Group also considered that the detention should be brought to an end and that Mr. Assange should be afforded the right to compensation. 

SBS News, 5 February 2016:

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has branded a United Nations working group report on the "arbitrary detention" of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as "frankly ridiculous".

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart in London, Mr Hammond said Mr Assange was in fact "hiding from justice".

He spoke out after the UN working group ruled Mr Assange was being "arbitrarily detained" in the Ecuadorian embassy in London - and called for him to be paid compensation.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said the Swedish and British authorities should end Assange's "deprivation of liberty" and respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement.

Assange is wanted for questioning over an alleged sex offence in Sweden but has avoided extradition by seeking refuge in the embassy, where he has been living for more than three years after being granted political asylum by the Ecuadorian government.

He claims he will be transported to the United States to be quizzed over the activities of WikiLeaks if he is extradited to Sweden. There is an espionage case against him in the US.

He filed a complaint against Sweden and the UK to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in September 2014.

But Hammond said: "I reject the decision of this working group. It is a group made up of lay people and not lawyers.

"Julian Assange is a fugitive from justice. He is hiding from justice in the Ecuadorian embassy.

"He can come out any time he chooses ... But he will have to face justice in Sweden if he chooses to do so.

"This is frankly a ridiculous finding by the working group and we reject it.".....

The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 2016:

And Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said the UN report showed that "the real villain is Sweden".

Sweden had misused the European arrest warrant system, he said.

"The United Kingdom should now ask Sweden to withdraw that arrest warrant," Mr Robertson said. "It can in fact refuse to act upon it because it has been declared unlawful by this UN tribunal. I think that would be the proper way."

In a statement addressed to the UN Working Group, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs said it disagreed with their opinion.

"He is not being deprived of his liberty (at the embassy) due to any decision or action taken by the Swedish authorities," they said, adding that the government could not in any case interfere with an ongoing case handled by a Swedish public prosecutor.

Assange’s country of origin, Australia, had this to say on the subject by way of its Foreign Minister Julie Bishop:

"I have now read the report and I am seeking legal advice on its implications for Mr Assange, as an Australian citizen….I have confirmed with his lawyers that our offer of consular assistance stands should he require it."