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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Behind the scenes of Assange's WikiLeaks Party disaster

English: Picture of Julian Assange during a ta...
Assange during a talk at 26C3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Assange's Wikileaks Party got less than 1% in Australia's election at the weekend.

This followed damning revelations about party operations and preferences given to the far-right in the Senate. Formerly loyal insider Gary Lord here unloads on Assange and his Australian praetorian guard.
I first met John Shipton [Assange's father] when he was contacting National Council members prior to the formal registration of the WikiLeaks Party. As a long-time vocal supporter of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, I was honoured to have been invited to join the Council. But given that the party would soon be under huge public scrutiny, there was something I needed to explain: I had gone bankrupt a few years earlier (after the failure of Kevin Rudd's Green Loans scheme, ironically) and I was still not formally discharged, so I was not sure if I was legally allowed to be on the Council.

John made a quick phone call to lawyer Kellie Tranter, later the party's NSW candidate, and then told me I would not be able to join the Council. After years of dedicated support for WikiLeaks, I felt gutted. But I accepted the decision in the best interests of the party.

"Never mind," smiled John with a sly wink, "we all have a few skeletons in our closets, don't we?"

John did not seem too unhappy at all about my situation, and I couldn't help wondering if that had something to do with my friendship with Julian's mum Christine. It was never going to be easy for the two of them to work together. [removed at request of Christine Assange - Gary]. My original understanding was that John would help set up the WikiLeaks Party and then step away from the day to day running of it. It's a pity this did not happen.

Months later, as the divisions within the party became more obvious, I contacted the Australian Electoral Commission myself, and learned that bankruptcy did NOT in fact prohibit me from being on the National Council (it only made me ineligible to run as a Candidate in the election, an option which was also discussed).

In retrospect, sharing my financial situation with John Shipton may have been one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I do not regret it because I did what I thought was right for the party and the values WikiLeaks represents. But given the WikiLeaks Party's own subsequent lack of honesty and transparency, my voluntary personal disclosure seems bitterly ironic.
.....
In New South Wales, the White Nationalists from Australia First and the militant Shooters and Fishers party were preferenced above the Greens. In Western Australia, Julian Assange's staunchest parliamentary supporter, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, was preferenced below his strongest rival, the National Party. Even in Victoria, the Greens were well down the list behind minor parties. By contrast, the Greens had preferenced the WikiLeaks Party (WLP) extremely highly in every state. 
I had just spent a week on Twitter trying to suppress rumours that the Greens would be preferenced well down the WLP list, and now it turned out the rumours were true. Worse yet, the source of those rumours was a WLP National Council member, Cassie Findlay, who helped submit the NSW preferences. And after helping me and others look like fools, Cassie conveniently disappeared off Twitter and ignored my DMs (thanks for that, Cassie). 
The WikiLeaks Party issued a statement blaming an "admin error" for the preferencing debacle and promising a review AFTER the election. That was never going to be good enough. Social media was going off. The mainstream media was all over it. Our biggest detractors were rubbing our noses in it and there was nothing we could say in reply.  
We clearly needed a proper public response from the party ASAP. But all the WikiLeaks Party insiders were suddenly - and very strangely - silent. This was not OK.  
I spoke with the only National Council members I knew personally, Sam Castro and Kaz Cochrane. They were both in tears on the phone. I urged them to be patient and give things time to work out, but they explained that others were already walking out the door. When Leslie Cannold's resignation prompted a wave of departures the next day, I started publicly demanding answers from @WikiLeaksParty on Twitter.
.....
The WikiLeaks Party had promised a full inquiry AFTER the election. But Julian's August 30th appearance on ABC The Drum suggested that no inquiry would be necessary. Mistakes were made but nobody would be held accountable, the people who resigned over these errors were somehow out of order, even if Julian accepted responsibility, and in any case he agreed pretty much with everything that was done anyway.  
Was her serious? Or just trying to bluff his way through? 
.....
I am deeply concerned that the WikiLeaks Party was unnecessarily politicised, not by Greens supporters, but by people with a hidden right-wing agenda, including John Shipton, Greg Barns (campaign manager, former Liberal Party candidate and advisor to former PM John Howard) and Julian Assange himself.  
Gary joins a long, long line of former supporters burned by arrogant prat Julian Assange.

More >> Jaraparilla: Where's That WikiLeaks Party Inquiry?
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