Monday, 19 August 2013

WikiLeaks: Strange Bedfellows

Julian Assange’s Australian WikiLeaks Party has some strange ideas about how to pursue freedom.

In a recent story published in the US, he extolls the US Right interpretation of libertarianism as the “only hope” and representing non-violence. Reading the whole article is interesting, and worth taking the time to do so, especially if you are an Australian voter.

Where does he get that the hardcore antigovernment right is about nonviolence (including as regards abortion)? They are happy to endorse murder when it suits their agenda. To me libertarianism starts with maximising freedom of choice for the individual. The American right version of libertarianism goes off the rails when it aligns itself with extremist religion (which opposes free choice) and big business (which can undermine the individual as much as or even more than government). Ask Russians concerned about oligarchs if excessive concentration of power in big business is a problem.

Meanwhile, in Australia, parties contesting the Senate election need to rank all candidates so any votes that don’t go to elect them are reassigned according to the order the party specifies. The purpose of this exercise to create a group voting ticket is so voters who don’t want to number every candidate can just tick one box, and the order preset by the party they select is used to fill in the ballot. The WikiLeaks Party has preferenced minor parties with views in line with the US right ahead of the Greens, their ally in anti-war and transparency causes. Even more bizarrely, they have put the Nationals ahead of the Greens in Western Australia, reducing the chances of reelection for Greens senator Scott Ludlum, one of the most consistent campaigners for freedom of information. The Nationals are not libertarians by any stretch of the imagination The WikiLeaks Party claims this happened as result of an “administrative error”.

The Australian Electoral Commission’s web site right now is in meltdown so I can’t check the details, but there is enough reporting of this stuff that it seems unlikely to be wrong.

You can read more about similar strange deals here. If parties were doing this the way you’d expect a voter to, they would number candidates in the order of nearest to their position to furthest. Instead, many take the approach of numbering the candidate closest to them last to try to eliminate their most obvious competition. Just to make things more interesting, the big parties tend to use the opposite tactic, favouring each other over smaller parties who offer a real alternative. This way, the two-party duopoly is maintained. This is nothing new. In the past, the Greens were criticized for dodgy deals, and don’t do that anymore. Everyone else still does, apparently. One more reason to support the Greens.

As a consequence of this weirdness, anyone wanting to express support for WikiLeaks has to either accept that they are undermining the chances of the Greens to be elected, or number all the candidates themselves. With about 100 in NSW, that takes some commitment.

In the interests of transparency, the WikiLeaks Party should publish a full and complete record of how they arrived at their preferences for the Senate vote in New South Wales.

What was it that WikiLeaks stands for?


The WikiLeaks Party has imploded spectacularly, with one of Julian Assange’s oldest associates Daniel Mathews quitting, and providing explicit detail of how the preferences fiasco happened. In summary, “administrative error”, my arse. What is particularly disappointing about this is how Assange appears to see his voters as cattle who can be herded to the slaughter, without concern about how and where they are being led. The very notion that you can negotiate a dodgy preferences deal on the basis that no one cares about that sort of detail is contrary to the core principles of a whistleblower organization. The details do matter, and everyone is not only entitled to know, but ought to check.

Here are some articles from WLP (GVT means group voting ticket, a specification of preference flows if a voter votes only for that party’s ticket rather than number all candidates):
Possibly. But we don’t know what their preference negotiators told the Greens during negotiations, and the inconsistency between the two statements does not add to their credibility.

Much of the Assange story revolves around his personality, which is unfortunate. The ideal of real governmental transparency is a great one. If you really care about this, vote for the Greens because they not only are on the right side of this issue, but are a principled party that doesn’t revolve around personalities.

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