WikiLeaks: A leaky boat?
The WikiLeaks Party ‘was never meant to be a front for [The Greens]’, Julian Assange said from London yesterday, in an interview with AAP*.
They have certainly proved that with their Senate preference allocations.
In Victoria, where Assange is running a tightly-fought contest for the sixth Senate seat against The Greens’ Janet Rice, the fledgeling WikiLeaks Party has preferenced the Pirate Party, Animal Justice Party, Sex Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Drug Law Reform Party and the Australian Democrats above The Greens, who are nearly at the bottom of their list.
While none of these parties is likely to win the seat, their own preferences could become crucial.
The parties WikiLeaks preferenced above The Greens have also sent their preferences back to WikiLeaks, above The Greens, despite the fact that the WikiLeaks Party’s National Council voted against doing any deals for preferences.
Leslie Cannold, second on the WikiLeaks ticket in Victoria (behind Julian Assange), and party members including Daniel Mathews of the National Council resigned as a result (here is Leslie Cannold’s and here is Daniel Mathews‘).
Dr Cannold said on her Facebook page that the party was riddled with “internal corruption” and that she no longer trusted it to act democratically.
The preferences that were put in to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) were not the preferences Mathews and other members of the WikiLeaks Party’s National Council had agreed to. WikLeaks said this was an ‘administrative error‘, in an apology to its supporters on its Facebook page.
Error or not, once the preference allocations went to the AEC, they were set in concrete. A source from the WikiLeaks executive told this writer that there were questions as to whether this was a genuine error, or a way of getting past the National Council’s decision not to do deals with other minor (especially far right-wing) parties.
In Western Australia, the six Senate seats currently up for re-election are likely to fall as they usually do: three to the Coalition, two to ALP, and one up for grabs. The incumbent in this last seat, Scott Ludlam of The Greens, may have an anxious wait ahead of him.
Ludlam was one of Julian Assange’s most vocal supporters, and it was widely believed the Greens could trust WikiLeaks to be sending their preferences his way. Instead, WikiLeaks have officially preferenced the Australian Sports Party, Animal Justice, Australian Democrats, and more tellingly, the Nationals, above the Greens.
And… all these parties have preferenced WikiLeaks above The Greens.
Senate control to Abbott?
The Nationals’ David Wirrpunda does have a chance to win the Senate spot ahead of the Greens, according to Professor John Phillimore from the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy. This could conceivably give control of the Senate to Tony Abbott.
Gerry Georgatos is the man heading the WikiLeaks ticket in WA, and was influential in allocating preferences.
Bid for Senate
This is not the first time Georgatos has made a bid for the Senate.
In 2009, he was a member of the WA Greens, and sought pre-selection for WIllagee, the seat of the former premier, Alan Carpenter.
He was initially endorsed in Willagee, then, after the nominations were re-opened, disendorsed via the usual democratic process, in favour of Hsien Harper. Georgatos did not take kindly to this, and subsequently campaigned as an independent against his own party’s candidate. As a result, he was asked to resign.
In 2010, he moved on to head a ticket of the Ecological & Social Justice Aboriginal Party (ESJAP) which included well-known WA Indigenous rights campaigner, Marianne Headland Mackay, and a Nyoongar elder, Dr William Hayward.
Despite running on a platform proclaiming the need for more Indigenous voices in Parliament, Georgatos insisted that he be first on the ticket, ahead of Mackay and Hayward.
This caused much distress at the time, according to another candidate on the ticket, Lara Menkens, but Georgatos refused to give up his number one spot for either of the Indigenous candidates.
Now, Georgatos is running again, this time on the WIkiLeaks Party’s ticket. And, again, there has been disruption in the camp of the party he is using to mount his effort to gain parliamentary legitimacy.
The comments on WikiLeaks Party’s Facebook page are full of plaintive cries re the preferencing debacle, such as: “This is an absolute betrayal” … “Explain the ideology behind preferencing ACTUAL fascists ahead of Greens?” …”Why did your Senate candidates lie last week and say your preferences weren’t decided?” … “Dear Wikileaks Party..Give your preferances to the Greens..They have being very vocal in support for Assange..”
The morning after
As things look at the moment, control of the Senate could come down to how the smaller parties have allocated their preferences. With WikiLeaks looking increasingly unstable in their internal structure, many who were looking to vote WikiLeaks are now either choosing the Greens as their primary vote, or face the daunting task of numbering each one of the 70+ squares below the line.
A senior politician told this writer that some of the smaller parties running for Senate seats are fronts, designed to hijack the complicated preferencing system. It remains to be seen whether Australians will see through this and use their above-the-line vote directly for their candidate of choice, or number every box separately.
If they don’t, they may wake up the morning after the election and find the political landscape radically different, and have cause to regret their trust of small parties, including the fledgeling, supposedly pro-democratic, WikiLeaks Party.
Home run for Julian?
There is also the question of what happens to Julian Assange’s seat, if he is elected. The pressure to bring him home to Australia safely would be intense. As well, he may be eligible for a diplomatic passport and the attendant diplomatic immunity in Australia. Something I’m sure Assange himself has discussed with others very carefully.
Come home, all may yet be forgiven
There is no doubt that some very passionate and compassionate people swung their support behind the WikiLeaks Party campaign.
And very few want to see the brilliant Assange, one of the finest minds of our generation, rot in a dank, dark cell. We hope he gets home safely. But…is it right to subvert the democratic process to do so?
UMR Research commissioned the polling that set Assange on this path. I wonder at their motives.
Assange sees this party as his own. It is his game and he will play it how he wants. I don’t doubt he truly does not understand why people are so upset about the way this has been done, or the behaviour of some of the people involved.
His interview with The Drum, on Friday night, was most revealing. In it he cries: “I am not a politician!” and goes on to prove it by getting the names of his own candidate, and of David Wirrpanda (not Miranda) wrong. Fair enough, he is under a lot of serious pressure, and can be forgiven for not being as across the issues as perhaps he should be.
But democracy is democracy. We use the democratic processes to elect representatives because they are the closest thing we have seen approaching fairness. Truth matters. Accountability matters. Not using the group to further your individual ends, often against the interest of the group, matters.
The most revealing moment of all, was the moment the journalist seems to hang his head at Assange’s words, 11:37.
Sadly, we are all hanging our heads over this. Shame.
* AAP is owned jointly by Fairfax, News Corp, and a minor share to Seven West.
Tagged 2010 election, Australian Greens, Australian politics, Australian senate, election 2013, election predictions, Gerry Georgatos, John Phillimore, Julian Assange, Leslie Cannold, new politics, politics, Scott Ludlum, Senate preferences, Wikileaks