Australians ‘have a critical role to play’ to defend WikiLeaks

March 19, 2011
John Pilger speaking at the March 16 public meeting at Sydney Town Hall. Photo: Mat Ward

Thousands of people packed into Sydney’s Town Hall on March 16 to hear journalist John Pilger, independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Julian Burnside QC speak out in support of WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange.

Assange fears he may be extradited to the US and face Guantanamo Bay-style incarceration for publishing leaked US embassy cables.

Sydney Peace Foundation chairperson Mary Kostakidis presented the forum. She asked the audience to send a message to politicians in Canberra saying, “Hillary Clinton says WikiLeaks is a danger to the world … what do all of you think?”

The audience responded with a thunderous and unanimous “No”.

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks attended the forum at Pilger’s invitation. Hicks’ presence was met with warm applause by the audience.

Pilger described Hicks as “a courageous Australian” and said Hicks and Assange were both victims of the failure of successive Australian governments to protect their citizens.

Pilger condemned the governments of the world that are seeking retribution against Assange and WikiLeaks.

He described the opposition to WikiLeaks and Assange as an attack on freedom of speech. He accused those attacking WikiLeaks of hating “the democracy of knowledge” and said “the real threat is not WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. The real threat is you, the public.”

Australians “have a critical role to play” in defence of WikiLeaks and Assange and should not be intimidated by those in power.

Pilger said the Australian government sent troops to Vietnam based on a lie to impress Washington. He asked the audience to “imagine, just imagine” how many lives would have been saved if WikiLeaks had existed at that time.

He also asked the audience to imagine if WikiLeaks had existed during the Cold

“The Cold War might have ended years, even decades before the Berlin Wall crumbled.”

Former whistleblower Andrew Wilkie, said the attempts to gag Assange and WikiLeaks represent “another attempt to censor the internet”.

Wilkie also criticised the response to Assange and WikiLeaks by Prime Minister Julia Gillard: “The Australian government doesn’t want Australians to speak up.”

Julian Burnside QC unequivocally defended Hicks, Assange, WikiLeaks and others abandoned by the Australian government.

Referring to the embarrassment caused to governments by WikiLeaks’ release of “secret” documents, Burnside said: “If you don’t want to be embarrassed then stop doing embarrassing things!”

Defying those who suggest nothing in the treatment of Assange by the Australian government was wrong; Burnside said: “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. We bloody well betrayed one of our own citizens!”

Burnside described the actions of Assange as “the converse of treason”.

Burnside acknowledged that campaigns such as the defence of WikiLeaks and Assange can become exhausting. But he defiantly told the audience “we will not yield our democracy to the people in Canberra … Never give up, never give up, never give up!”

Donations were collected at the meeting for the Julian Assange Defence Fund.


The list of travesties of justice perpetrated by the world's governments was highlighted in a big way at the forum Wednesday night. The list, as fans of Top Gun will appreciate, was "long and distinguished". Just like my Johnson - gasp! (is there no decency anymore?). Anyway, all three speakers spoke of governments killing these people and governments lying to those people and governments generally being very very bad. It begged the question, why don't we just "take a highway to the Danger Zone" and get rid of governments all together? Seems it would save everyone alot of trouble. Just an idle thought.

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