WikiLeaks has announced it will form a party to contest the Australian federal elections in September this year. Julian Assange has confirmed he will stand for election in the Victorian senate, with other WikiLeaks candidates in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia to be announced soon.
Sam Castro, spokesperson for the party and co-founder of the WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance, told Green Left Weekly: “Because we’re focussed on a Senate run as a brand new party, we certainly have some core values and issues that we’re interested in promoting and exploring in the Senate.
“The main components of that are around a commitment to truth and transparency for governments and corporations alike, a commitment to free speech, to human rights, to self-determination for Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, and, of course, to the free flow of information, which is central and core.
“It’s really to return the Senate to a House of oversight which is a key component of what the party would also like to achieve.”
It was announced on April 2 that barrister Greg Barns will be the party’s campaign manager. Barns previously headed the campaign for the Australian republican movement. Barns told the Sydney Morning Herald on April 2 that “Assange is a serious Senate candidate; this is no stunt…the party will offer a refreshing change from the Australian government culture of secrecy, whether Labor or Liberal.”
Polling by UMR Research in April last year found that 25% of people would be likely to vote for Assange, with significant support amongst Greens voters and young people.
To formally register as a political party, WikiLeaks is seeking 500 members who are registered to vote.
The party has adopted a constitution in which it says it will “promote that truthful, accurate factual information and providing truthful, accurate factual information are the foundations of life and democracy.”
Castro told GLW : “the policy platform is something that will be developed as the party grows in membership and supporters. Obviously, the Wikileaks party is going to be interested in […] things in terms of media in Australia and also laws around whistleblowers, […] journalists, and things like that but our position on that is really ensuring that there isn’t censorship and there is free flow of information.
“One of the roles of a Senator is to have oversight over legislation and draft components of policy that are brought to the table … That’s something the candidates will have a lot more to say on once the campaign is announced. So, at this point our main focus is on […] the big issues not the detailed policies.
“We’re not putting ourselves forward as an alternative government, we’re running a Senate campaign around issues that we believe are essential and looking at the way media happens in this country will undoubtedly be something we have positions on.”
Assange has now been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than nine months and is unable to leave without risk of arrest. When asked how effectively Assange will be able to campaign while being confined inside the embassy Castro said: “We are communicating with Julian in the embassy and developing some very interesting and innovative ways [for him to] communicate with the Australian population.
“Only just yesterday it was confirmed in an email between the US Department of Justice and journalist Alexa O’Brien that there is an ongoing Grand Jury investigation into Wikileaks and Julian Assange.
“I think it completely verifies what Julian, his supporters, his lawyers and many people around the globe have been saying for the last several years — that the threat from the United States to an Australian journalist is very, very real. This is clearly an issue of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
“That Julian is being hunted by the United States because of the revelations of Wikileaks, which some people might claim were a mere embarrassment but I would like to remind people they include massive human rights abuses, war crimes, corruption and collusion between corporations and governments across the globe, which can’t be underestimated.
Swedish Supreme Court judge, Stefan Lindskog, delivered a public lecture to Adelaide University on April 3 titled, “The Assange Affair: freedom of speech and freedom of information, a global perspective”.
He told the audience: “It should never be a crime to reveal the crimes of the state.”
At the same forum, Julian Burnside QC said: “It seems to me that the Gillard government has abandoned Assange, just as the Howard government abandoned Hicks and Habib.
“If Assange falls into American hands, he is likely to suffer the fate of Bradley Manning, who has been held in solitary confinement for two years, much of the time held naked “for his own protection”. Whether the Americans can dream up any plausible charge against Assange, it hardly matters that he may ultimately be found not guilty. He will have been personally destroyed, and Wikileaks will not likely survive.”
Castro told GLW: “I believe the time is right in Australia for [the Wikileaks party] to actually speak to the people because it’s clear that there is corruption and collusion going on in Australian politics.
“It is also clear that the Australian population have been lied to by both sides of politics and it really is time that we put some people into the parliament and into the Senate that have Australians’ best interests […] at heart and are prepared to do the job of oversight as opposed to making the job to maintain their power.
So I hope the Australian population sees this as an opportunity to end the duopoly that has lasted for so long in this country and bring real democracy and real people power to Canberra.”