The WikiLeaks Party: Just A Publicity Prop

There are four major political parties in Australian politics: Labor, the Liberals, the ‘Nats’ (National Party) and the Greens. Media coverage of these movements in the election period is understandable, but other than a few light-hearted articles on the more outlandish entrants into the political battle (the Sex Party has been a favourite of many journalists), many interesting candidates have been completely ignored. One such group is the WikiLeaks Party, which has six candidates for the Senate.

The members of the commonwealth (federal) Senate are elected on a state by state basis: the WikiLeaks Party is fielding one candidate in each state. Julian Assange is leading the party from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has used the sovereignty of foreign embassies to avoid arrest by the British police. To lead any political group when trapped in a small flat thousands of miles away from the country in which it is based is an impressive, and unprecedented, feat.

WikiLeaks is running on an anti-corruption, anti-intellectual property and pro-transparency platform. It is strikingly similar to the policy base of the Pirate Party, which has had some electoral success in northern Europe.

The WikiLeaks party believes that the Australian government needs to take more robust action against moves by the US and big businesses to collect and collect ever greater volumes of data that affect our lives in the 21st century. However, it seems that the Australian public distrust a group so closely associated with Julian Assange to be true to its ‘whiter than white’ anti-corruption stance.

So comprehensively has the WikiLeaks Party failed to capture the electorate’s imagination that it has ceased to register at all in opinion polls. The plucky band of party members that remain active have only been able to raise a mere 10% of their AUS$700,000 (£280,000) election fund target. Furthermore, the solidity of the Liberal/Nation Coalition’s lead in the polls at this late stage in the election campaign means that the party cannot gain any leverage by endorsing rival parties where it is not standing.

It seems that the WikiLeaks Party will not only fail electorally (winning elections is rarely the true aim of ‘pop up’ political parties) but it will fail in its function of raising Julian Assange’s profile within and beyond his country of birth, Australia. After all, Assange risks languishing in the Ecuadorian embassy for years, with ever diminishing celebrity, until even Ecuador tires of supporting him at the expense of good relations with Britain and the United States.

Indeed, the only evidence of the international community even noticing Assange’s latest publicity stunt was his slap-down by Ecuador’s foreign minister. Assange released a video in which he donned a comedy wig and bandana, mocked senior Australian politicians, and then sang ‘You’re The Voice’ by John Farnham. Apart from leading people to question if Assange’s 14-month captivity was beginning to affect his judgement, it resulted in Ecuador warning him that asylum seekers are not permitted to make fun of foreign politicians.

Though we are unlikely to wake up on 8th September to find Senator Assange instructing his proxy in how to vote on the new Government’s legislative programme, it’s doubtful that WikiLeaks’ standing will be further damaged. A once promising band of information liberation fighters continue to be dragged deeper into the mud by a weak and self-interested leader: a man who manages to be the driving force behind the group but who is also its ruination. If the organisation wishes to retain any degree of credibility and thus sustainability, it must accept that Assange is no longer the right person to lead it.


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