I was asked to mediate the Wikileaks Party launch in Byron Bay on August 29, 2013. Below is my introduction.
Veteran journalist Mungo McCullum was going to present tonight but after the preference fiasco, he washed his hands of it and said he won't be giving the Wikileaks party any oxygen. Frankly the things he said to me are actually too damning for me to repeat here. But he did tell me one gag which seemed to sum up the situation: put four lefties in a room to form a party and you will end up with three parties and one independent.
And from my understanding, this is essentially where the senate preference fiasco has led us. I don't want to dwell on this topic for too long, but it's an important one. Those following this will know that there have been an exodus of Wikileaks party volunteers and a candidate after an internal squabble erupted over where their preference votes would flow. According to a founding member of Wikileaks and long time Assange friend, Daniel Mathews, the eleven National Council members agreed on a set of preferences but they were mysteriously changed. He says he quit the party after hearing Assange on JJJ's Hack incorrectly explaining how his party's preferences are handled. Daniel also made the point Assange was absent for the majority of the Council's meetings. It's an interesting turn considering the party ran on a platform of transparency, democracy and accountability.
This is a good time to add that Byron Shire Councillor Paul Spooner was also going to chair tonight as well as Mungo, but declined after this was brought to light.
Some say that placing very conservative parties above the Greens and the major parties will lead to both houses of parliament controlled by the Coalition. Others say instead that micro-party preferences won't have a big impact. We'll have to wait until September 7 to find out.
And it's not just Wikileaks either, the Stop CSG party have done deals with other parties that don't seem to fit with a 'progressive' ideology. The following were all placed before the Greens and majors for the Stop CSG part: The Stable Population Party, Family First Party, Australia First Party, Australian Voice Party, Australian Protectionist Party and the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party.
I asked Michael McNamara from northern rivers lock the gate about this, and said his group are not politically aligned to anyone and he suggested that voters look at the policies and preferences themselves. That's hardly an ringing endorsement.
I thought Graham Askey summed it up well in this week's Echo on why we have a metre long senate ticket, but more than why, the result I believe has damaged Australia's democracy. No reasonable citizen in NSW should be asked to differentiate or understand the policies between 44 senate parties.
And to make it more complicated and boring, internal preference deals from an outsider perspective appear like a poker game, so to win you need to know this stuff inside out. It's reasonable to assume that new parties will not have the skill or knowledge to negotiate like the long-term ones.
Has Assange and his Wikileaks party blown their credibility by this fiasco? With so many senate parties with endless policies, can this team provide a much needed alternative? That's my take for what it's worth. These letdowns only matter because we've all been so inspired by WikiLeaks and Assange standing up against secretive and oppressive governments, including ours.
I'd like to introduce Alison and offer her an opportunity to respond and to also hear more broadly about the issues Wikileaks are championing.
Alison Broinowski is a former Australian diplomat with experience in Asian countries and the United Nations. She has written and lectures extensively on Australia’s reputation abroad, and has publicly opposed the way prime ministers send Australians to war illegally and in defiance of public opinion. She lives in Sydney.