And now we come to the WikiLeaks party, which I have to admit, I’ve sort of been dreading. It has a lot of lefty cred, so I should theoretically like it, but then you have the recent utter meltdown over preferences, which was all a bit embarrassing and painful. And then we have the Julian Assange aspect, which is complicated on a lot of levels and I really don’t know how to address at all.
The problem is, frankly, that I live in Melbourne, and am in the same general age bracket as Assange, so I have a number of friends and acquaintances who knew him at university and socially when he lived here. And they really don’t like him. As far as I can tell, this opinion is unanimous, though the reasons for it vary. For me this is problematic, because while I am entirely happy to approach a political party with bias and an expectation of obnoxiousness and / or stupidity, I don’t like to start off by assuming ill of individuals. But I can’t pretend that, despite never having met the Assange, I am strongly inclined to dislike him, and this does prejudice me against the WikiLeaks Party. I suspect I’m going to like what WikiLeaks stands for, but I don’t want to see Assange in our Parliament.
(I also can’t pretend that I’m not just a little bit terrified about making that sort of statement on the internet, because whatever Assange himself may be like, he certainly has some very scary supporters online.)
The fairest thing I can do here, I think, is to declare my bias up-front, and avoid talking about Assange further unless any of the policies make it impossible not to. I am also not going to make any comment on the Swedish allegations and request for extradition, because they are not in the purview of this blog. (And incidentally, should this blog magically turn into the sort of blog that gets a lot of commenters, I’m going to delete any comments that go in that direction. They are not relevant to this topic. Also, I haven’t seen any conversations about the allegations and extradition request which haven’t become very nasty in a very short space of time.)
I have nothing against WikiLeaks itself, incidentally – there is more to WikiLeaks than Julian Assange, and I think it’s rather sad that WikiLeaks has become so much about a single person, not just because it ignores the contributions of so many other people, but also because when you tie a political party to a single figure, the behaviour and reputation of that figure can very easily be seen as a reflection of that organisation in its entirety. No matter who that person is, I think this is unfortunate and misleading.
Goodness me, that was serious, wasn’t it? I shall now return to my wonted frivolity, as we move on to look at the Group Voting Ticket – a group voting ticket that is quite a pleasing one in Victoria, but which had a few issues in other states…
WikiLeaks starts by preferencing the Pirate Party, a political party that I am very much looking forward to, I have to say. (My brief peek at their website showed that their logo has a little pirate ship on it. Fabulous.) Moving on from Captain Jack Sparrow, we have the Animal Justice Party, showing that WikiLeaks aren’t afraid of a little bit of crazysauce, provided it’s from the left of politics. We then have the Sex Party and, oh dear, the Liberal Democrats. Just when I thought they were doing so well. We trip daintily through a collection of generally social-justice oriented parties until we reach the democrats, and continue our tour of generally left leaning parties, with a few weird exceptions, until we reach the Greens, Labor and the Liberals, in that order. Family First come next, and the bottom of the ticket is reserved for One Nation, Rise Up Australia and the Citizens Electoral Council.
Apart from the Liberal Democrats, it’s a pretty good ticket. But I don’t think I can talk about WikiLeaks and preferences without at least touching on the preference debacle that came out about a week ago. Briefly, it seems that there was a lot of discussion in the WikiLeaks party about whether they should preference the little leftist parties and then the Greens, in keeping with general WikiLeaks policy, or whether they should swap preferences ‘strategically’ with a number of the smaller and scarier right-wing parties. It was agreed by the party to go with the former option, and the agreements were adhered to by the Greens and other leftist parties… and yet, when the Group Voting Tickets came out, the Nationals were ahead of the Greens in Western Australian, and the Shooters and Fishers and Australia First were ahead of the Greens in New South Wales. All hell promptly broke loose, with a number of resignations by party members who felt betrayed, and a few within the top echelons of the party, who felt that the party’s internal democratic purpose had been subverted. You can read more about this in the letter of resignation by Daniel Mathews, and more resignation letters can be read here.
It’s all rather sad in some ways, because it did undermine a lot of goodwill for the party, and it sounds as though it hasn’t actually delivered them any benefit.
Of interest to Victorians who are voting, however, is that one of the resignations was from Leslie Cannold, who was the second Senate Candidate on the Wikileaks ticket – and a very important second candidate, given that the first candidate in Victoria is Assange himself, and there was no guarantee that he would be able to take his seat in Parliament, which might have left Cannold as Senator by default.
I actually rather like the little I know of Leslie Cannold – she pops up on my radar periodically as someone who is doing excellent feminist pro-choicey things in Victoria, so I was curious to know what would happen to her candidacy now. It turns out that you can still vote for her – once tickets are declared, the only way off one is to die – but she will not be campaigning, and in the unlikely event that she is elected, she would take her seat as an independent. If you vote above the line, and WikiLeaks somehow gets two candidates up, she will still be the second candidate elected – she won’t be passed over for the third candidate on the ticket. You can read more about this on her website, and more about what happens when a candidate withdraws from a contest more generally on Antony Green’s blog (which you should be reading anyway, because it’s excellent).
Good lord, a thousand words and I haven’t even got to the policies yet, though I have now discovered in myself a burning desire to vote 1 Leslie Cannold below the line, just because she is awesome. Let’s investigate the WikiLeaks Party Website.
WikiLeaks have picked orange as their colour, which really is another reason not to hand out how to vote cards for them, don’t you think Yes, that was rather petty of me, but you see, I’ve had their front page flickering orangely on the side of my screen the whole time I’ve been writing this, and the header moves between a photo of Assange and the slogan “Shining a light on injustice and corruption: it’s time for a real change”, and a call for volunteers.
Actually, they have a fairly tasteful website after you get past the orange front page. On their About page, we are informed that:
The WikiLeaks Party stands for unswerving commitment to the core principles of civic courage nourished by understanding and truthfulness and the free flow of information.
It is a party that will practise in politics what WikiLeaks has done in the field of information by standing up to the powerful and shining a light on injustice and corruption.
They get extra points for knowing how to spell ‘practise’ in its verb form.
These are good principles for a government, though I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about what WikiLeaks has done in the field of information. I am strongly in favour of their support of Edward Snowden and their release of documents revealing things like the level of collateral damage deemed acceptable by the US government in Afghanistan and other war zones, but I have also read, over the years, commentary indicating that some of the information released by WikiLeaks has put soldiers in the field at risk, and that, in my view, is unacceptable. Actually, if there is any such thing as treason – and I’m not wholly sure there is – that would be how I’d define it.
Erratum: Apparently I remembered this wrong, which is unfortunately what will happen when I’m trying to write so many posts in such a short space of time. The actual quote was from US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the concern was that leaks would put those in Afghanistan who had helped US troops at risk. My source is this article on the CNN website, so I’m fairly confident I’ve got the accusation right this time. So not treason, but in my view, still very much the wrong thing to do.
I am a big fan of freedom of information and transparent government, but I do think that there can be valid reasons to keep some things secret. I’m not sure that this is a possibility recognised by WikiLeaks in general.
Moving on to their Platform Page, there are platforms on Transparency, Asylum Seekers, Climate Change, Media, Shield Laws and Surveillance.
Under Transparency, which seems to be their key platform, as they keep coming back to it in all the other platforms, we are informed that ‘truthful, accurate, factual information is the foundation of democracy and is essential to the protection of human rights and freedoms. Where the truth is suppressed or distorted, corruption and injustice flourish.’
This is true, and but it is also rather tautological. You didn’t need truthful, accurate *and* factual.
We also learn that the WikiLeaks Party “is fearless in its pursuit of truth and good governance, regardless of which party is in power.” They are like super-heroes! Super heroes of Truth!
(sorry, you know me and rhetorical flourishes)
The WikiLeaks believes that Parliament has failed at oversight, which they view as being the role of the Senate:
There has been a gradual acceptance that once a single party or a coalition has gained the majority required to form a government, Parliament then becomes little more than an extension of that government’s executive machinery: the houses of Parliament effectively become rubber stamps for its policy agendas. This problem becomes particularly pressing when a single party gains a majority in both Houses, a spectre that remains a distinct possibility after the 2013 election.
WikiLeaks is only running in the Senate, because scrutiny is what they are all about.
While they are there, though, they will also stand up for the free flow of information (nobody is surprised…), including changing media policy to fight the Murdoch monopoly, they will stand for internet freedom, freedom from surveillance, protection for whistleblowers, removing Australian politics from the influence of foreign powers, and for integrity in the global community.
The WikiLeaks Party is very big on standing up for refugees, and I do like the way they are against changes to restrict the legal definition of a refugee. They point out that the number of refugees we take in is really quite tiny compared to the rest of the world, which is something that we clearly need to keep re-stating.
The WikiLeaks Party will reverse the PNG deal, reduce processing times to 45 days, repeal excision, and demand accountability and transparency, of course.
Good policies all round.
It will surprise nobody that the WikiLeaks Party wants better protection for whistle-blowers “particularly covering media disclosures. The WikiLeaks Party does not support current Federal whistle-blower law unconditionally because it fails to protect whistle-blowers if they reveal corruption or misdeeds by federal parliamentarians or if they involve exposing misconduct by the secret intelligence services.”
I can’t imagine why a group like WikiLeaks would have such a policy, can you?
Under Surveillance and Your Privacy, we are informed that Big Brother really is watching you, and he doesn’t even have a search warrant. The WikiLeaks policy would require all requests for access to data to be subject to a warrant, and require reporting on how many warrants are applied for, their nature, and how many are granted. Companies like Google and telephone companies would also be required to file an annual notice containing information about requests for data access – though it’s interesting to note that they are not subject to any other restrictions, just to a requirement to report.
Under Media, The WikiLeaks Party would keep the ABC and SBS independent. Hooray! They would also support non-profit media and news organisations.
They have an interesting policy about establishing an Australian content innovation fund, based on the Public Lending Rights fee, so that the 100,000 most nominated works authored by Australians in music, journalism, online books, blogs, videos, etc, would attract a dividend. Oh, and I do like this:
The money will come from a small fee on the defence budget, because projecting popular Australian content to the world makes the world care about the fate of Australians and is a very effective contribution to our defence. We must have a strong defence and that means an efficient, clever and creative defence.
As a blogger, musician and pacifist, I do like this idea, though I’m not at all convinced that it’s true in real life.
Finally, we have climate change, which the WikiLeaks Party does acknowledge as being real and human induced. They quote Bill McKibben’s three numbers, and conclude that:
Following the recent report of the Australian Climate Commission, we acknowledge that a significant proportion of Australia’s coal reserves will have to be left unburned (in Australia or elsewhere) if the world is to avoid catastrophic global warming. Doing this cooperatively in the global community whilst maintaining a robust Australian economy is a significant policy challenge: the WLP acknowledges that climate change is an international and intergenerational tragedy of the commons and prisoners’ dilemma wrapped in one.
The WikiLeaks Party therefore supports the ETS, though it must address the criticisms of the EU version (especially the ones about transparency!). They are also in favour of science, of more transparency and oversight, and of undistorted market solutions to climate change (I get the impression from this and other passing remarks that they are rather free-market and libertarian around the edges), and therefore want the government to stop subsidising coal, which it does in rather a lot of ways, apparently. They will support research and development into “climate science, renewable energy, carbon-sequestration, electricity-grid transformation and the feasibility of pricing the extraction of carbon from the earth’s crust instead of the emission of CO2 into its atmosphere. The WLP further supports research into the economic and social consequences of changing climate, and innovative, scientifically and ecologically sound responses to climate change in Australia.”
This is all pretty good stuff, to be honest. If anyone else was heading up the party, I think they’d be quite high on my preference list. I do find them slightly holier-than-thou, and I’m not entirely sure that they have quite as much moral high ground as they think they do. I’m also not entirely sure that their policies can be realistically achieved – though they are not much worse off than the Greens in this respect. But it’s honestly hard for me to be in any way objective about this group. And… look, political and preference shenanigans happen all over the place, but if you are trying to position yourself as being on the side of transparency, democracy and truth, this sort of internal politicking and going against your own constitution looks very dodgy indeed, and does rather undermine your position. If you are going to be the party that watches over everyone else’s shoulders, you need to make sure your own noses are clean.
I’m really going to think hard about where The WikiLeaks Party will go on my ticket. But I have to say, Leslie Cannold is looking good for my first preference right now. I do love a lefty feminist independent…