Home might be a cramped room in Ecuador’s London Embassy, but Julian Assange’s heart lies in the Australian Senate.
WikiLeaks’ besieged founder is leading a party formed from the online whistleblowing organisation in a bid to win the balance of power in the Upper House at the September 7 election.
While generally ignored or dismissed by most political commentators, polling has indicated that the WikiLeaks Party could upset electoral calculations and win as many as four Senate seats.
While this might be optimistic, there are signs that WikiLeaks could at least leach significant support from the Greens and, to a lesser extent, Labor. The Greens at present control the Senate balance of power.
All this is speculation so far and, given the uncertainty of the neck-and-neck race between Labor and the Coalition, and the tendency of many voters to express views they might not reflect at the ballot box, Assange’s real level of support has yet to be seen.
WikiLeaks is running seven Senate candidates – three in Victoria, and two each in New South Wales, and one in Western Australia.
Most have impressive credentials. Assange will run in Victoria (albeit in absentia, from London) with US-born academic Leslie Cannold, named as one of Australia’s top 20 intellectuals, and RMIT University law lecturer Binoy Kampmark.
Former diplomat Alison Broinowski and lawyer and human rights activist Kellie Tranter are seeking Senate seats in NSW. In WA the party’s candidates are PhD researcher and human rights campaigner Gerry Georgatos, and economist Suresh Rajan, president of the National Ethnic Disability Alliance.
Georgatos, writing in the online political journal Independent Australia, said Australians wanted a house of review – “not a Senate degenerated by caucus and lobbying, where deals are done, where bills are traded and compromised.”
Assange, in interviews from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he has been sheltering from extradition to Sweden for more than a year, has been even more scathing.
“When you turn a bright light on, the cockroaches scuttle away, and that’s what we need to do to Canberra,” he told Channel Nine.
He told SBS he intended to give every senator the opportunity to blow the whistle on dirty deeds: “One of the first things that we will do when we have someone in the Senate is go and give every senator a secure USB communications system where they can convey to WikiLeaks information about corruption within Australian political parties and so on that they’ve observed but can’t reveal.”
How other senators would view Assange is another unknown.
Sweden wants to try him for alleged sex crimes, which he denies and claims are a front to allow further extradition to the United States for trial on charges relating to the release of secret Government files, many of them compromising.
American soldier Bradley Manning faces 90 years’ jail for leaking the documents.
Assange and WikiLeaks have infuriated both sides of politics in Australia and the Government sought advice on possible charges it could lay against the would-be senator. It was told no Australian laws had been broken.
The WikiLeaks platform includes protection of human rights and freedoms, transparency in government and business, the free flow of information and internet freedom, independence in foreign affairs, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination.
Assange says it has rung a bell, with Labor pollster UMR finding he had 25-28 per cent of voting intention, and 40 per cent of votes of people under 30.
A Morgan poll in June said 21 per cent would consider voting for WikiLeaks, including 44 per cent of Greens supporters and 26 per cent of Labor voters.