The Wikileaks Party
The Wikileaks Party
Transparency and Accountability
The Wikileaks Party was a micro political party in Australia. The party was created in part to support Julian Assange's failed bid for a Senate seat in Australia in the 2013 election, where they won 0.66% of the national vote. The WikiLeaks Party national council consisted of: Julian Assange, Matt Watt, Gail Malone, John Shipton, Omar Todd and Gerry Georgatos.
Julian Assange's decision to run for the Australian Senate was announced via the Wikileaks Twitter account in March 2012. The intent to form a WikiLeaks Party was announced by Assange in late 2012, and Assange stated that the party was to be a vehicle for his candidacy for a seat in the Australian Senate in the 2013 election.
On 23 March 2013 the Wikileaks Party submitted its registrations to the Australian Electoral Commission. The party had over 1300 fee-paying members. The application was accepted and the party was registered as a political party on 2 July 2013.
Assange is a native of Australia. Since July 2012 Assange has lived in the Embassy of Ecuador, London, having been granted political asylum by Ecuador in an attempt to avoid arrest by UK authorities. Assange is unable to leave the Embassy without being arrested by the Police Forces of the United Kingdom acting on an extradition order placed on him to travel to Sweden to answer allegations of rape and sexual molestation of two Swedish women. Assange fought the extradition order in the UK Court system from December 2010, however, subsequently both the UK High Court of Justice and the UK Supreme Court ruled that the extradition order had been lawfully made and duly dismissed Assange's request for an appeal against the extradition warrant.
The party fielded candidates for the Australian Senate in the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. Two polling experts rated the Wikileaks Party's electoral chances as '‘highly unlikely'’.
Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens, was positive about the emergence of the Wikileaks Party as part of a move away from Australia's two-party system. However, the Greens said they had no intention of stepping aside for Assange in the Victoria Senate election. Similarly, the Socialist Equality Party reaffirmed its intention to defend Assange against persecution but refused to endorse the Wikileaks Party, stating that this position represents the "interests of the working class".
Professor Anne Twomey, an expert on Australian constitutional law at the University of Sydney, suggested that if Assange were elected, this could be found invalid in the event of a legal challenge if a court ruled that his relationship with Ecuador breached the prohibition against the election of people "under any [acknowledgement] of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power".
The party's campaign was thrown into turmoil just weeks before the election when members objected strongly to the party's voting preferences - see single transferable vote. In New South Wales, a fascist group was placed above the Greens, while in Western Australia the National Party was placed above Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, a strong supporter of WikiLeaks and Assange. The Wikileaks Party blamed an unspecified "admin error" and announced an independent review would be held after the election. When National Council members complained, CEO John Shipton attempted to subvert them and create a new power base. Leslie Cannold, Assange's running mate in Victoria, resigned along with many volunteers and members of the National Council.
The party published a short, inconclusive review by a party member five months later. Former member Gary Lord responded with a comprehensive 20-page report fully examining the party's failures.
Assange failed in his bid for a Senate seat. It is difficult to separate out his personal vote under the single transferable vote system. The party received 33,683 votes in Victoria from electors who voted the Wikileaks ticket, with Assange at its head, and Assange received an additional 8,016 first preference votes from electors who numbered the candidates individually. The party as a whole received 1.24%, the 7th highest primary vote in Victoria, and reached the 26th round of ballot before being eliminated without the opportunity to receive preference flows. The party received 88,100 votes or 0.66% nationally but only contested seats in three States. Gerry Georgatos came closest to winning a Senate seat for the Wikileaks Party, reaching the 19th round with only seven rounds to go before being eliminated, also before any opportunity to receive preference flows. He fell about 3,000 primary votes short of being elected, but given that the party received only 9,767 primary votes in Western Australia, this was a large gap.
New South Wales
The Wikileaks Party subscribes to a libertarian ideology. Specific policies for the 2013 election included: introduction of a national shield law to protect a reporter's right not to reveal a source and; "promoting free information and protection for whistle-blowers."
CEO John Shipton stated that "The party stands for what Julian espouses — transparency and accountability in government and of course human rights." Assange himself has said the Wikileaks Party would combine "a small, centralised leadership with maximum grassroots involvement,” and that the party would advance WikiLeaks' objectives of promoting openness in government and politics, and that it would combat intrusions on individual privacy. The Voice of Russia stated that Shipton in an interview "praised Russian diplomatic skills and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Shipton and the WikiLeaks Party believe that the Russian President and Foreign Ministry are forces for peace."
Assange has been reported as saying that he envisions the Wikileaks Party as bound together by unswerving commitment to the core principles of civic courage nourished by understanding and truthfulness and the free flow of information, and one that will practise in politics what Wikileaks has done in the field of information. The Constitution of the Wikileaks Party lists objectives, including: the protection of human rights and freedoms; transparency of governmental and corporate action, policy and information; recognition of the need for equality between generations; and support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination. The Wikileaks Political party has criticised the Telstra Group's relationship with the FBI and US Department of Justice.
In December 2013 a delegation from the party, including its chairman John Shipton, visited Syria and met with President Bashar al-Assad with the goals of demonstrating "solidarity with the Syrian people and their nation" and improving the party's understanding of the country's civil war. In a statement issued shortly before the visit, the Wikileaks Party stated that it opposed outside intervention in the war, supported a negotiated peace process, and described reports of the Ghouta chemical attack by forces loyal to al-Assad in August 2013 as being "unsubstantiated" and comparable to the concerns which were raised over the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program prior to the Iraq War. The meeting with President al-Assad was attended by National Council members John Shipton, Gail Malone and by former National Council member Jamal Daoud.
The meeting with Assad was criticized by the Australian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and many WikiLeaks supporters. Shipton stated that the meeting with al-Assad was "just a matter of good manners", and that the delegation had also met with members of the Syrian opposition. These meetings with the opposition have not been verified. Former National Council member and advocate for Shias in Sydney, Jamal Daoud (resigned from the Greens over differences), who accompanied Shipton on the trip, expressed support for Assad on Twitter and on his blog.
The WikiLeaks Party contested the April 5 re-run of the disqualified 2013 Senate election (Western Australia component). The prior year's lead Senate Candidate Gerry Georgatos recommended to the National Council that he step down for Julian Assange to take the lead Senate position for Western Australia and hopefully get elected. But in February the National Council learned that Julian Assange would be ineligible to contest. Gerry Georgatos rejected continuing on as the endorsed candidate and asked that the membership be surveyed as to their preferred candidate. More than 500 WikiLeaks members completed the survey and Gerry Georgatos was endorsed as the lead candidate with West TV producer Tibor Meszaros at number 2 and journalist Lucy Nicol at number 3. But one hour before the close of nominations Gerry Georgatos withdrew for "unforeseen personal reasons" and Tibor Meszaros was consequently elevated to lead candidate. On April 14, the AEC draw for the ballot of 33 parties (77 candidates) drew The WikiLeaks Party first.
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