Friday, June 1, 2012

Supporting Julian Assange - Melbourne Protest

On 31st May, 2012, there were rallies around Australia, being the day following the UK Supreme Court's decision to dismiss Julian Assange's appeal against extradition to Sweden.

As it happens, Assange's defence team has been given an extra 14 days to argue to reopen the case, as the Supreme Court made what seems to be a rookie mistake; they used the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties as a source of information to use to help them interpret the meaning of "judicial authority", the definition of which was the point on which Julian's appeal hinged. The problem? Nobody presented that to the court as something to consider. This made it unfair on the defence to have to accept a decision without having an opportunity to argue against the reasons for the decision, hence the court's decision to allow some more arguments.

I won't go into any more detail about the decision itself, other than to point you towards Justice 4 Assange, which has a wealth of information.

So, back to the rallies. The Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia, Simon Frew, spoke at the Sydney rally and I represented Pirate Party Australia at the Melbourne rally. The Deputy Secretary, David Haidon was with me in Melbourne, and he filmed the first hour or so of the demonstration, including my speech, an approximate transcript of which is following in this post. I got to speak alongside people like Spencer Zifcak from Liberty Victoria, who has spoken out on behalf of Wikileaks for some timeDan Mathews, a co-founder of Wikileaks and Councillor Cathy Oke, the good member of the Melbourne City Council.

Samantha Castro and Kaz Cochrane from Wikileaks Australian Citizens' Alliance did a great job of organising the protest along with Asher Wolf, who drove a small spy tank into a secure area and freaked out some security guards.

Anyway, here's my speech as I tried to deliver it, at an appropriate volume and stutter-free:

I’m David Crafti from the Pirate Party.

So, why are we all here?

I’ve had some friends ask me lately what all this Assange stuff is about. I’ve told them it’s about the distinction between being charged and being wanted for questioning and how messed up the European Arrest Warrant system is.

And I’ve told them about how this is all tied in to the right to due process and the presumption of innocence.

Depending on the amount of impassioned prose I’ve already inflicted upon my friend, I’ve tried talking about the topic of freedom of speech and how it doesn’t exist if you can’t use it to say things that others would rather not be said.

All those things are important.

But, the reason that we are here, today, to support Julian Assange at the time of his extradition verdict, is because we’re cynical.

We’re cynical, because we’ve heard about the mismanagement of the case against Julian in Sweden. About how the alleged victims didn’t want to press charges. About how the investigation was dropped, then un-dropped, after some whispering.

We’ve heard about how the U.S. has been in discussions with Sweden for 18 months to extradite Julian. We’ve even heard about the secret indictment against him, which has only come to light through hacked documents that were leaked through WikiLeaks.

We’ve heard calls for his death from powerful people in America, and unfounded accusations by our own Prime Minister at a time when she should have been vocally defending him.

We know that cases like that against Richard O’Dwyer of TVShack show how easy it is for the U.S. to extradite people from the U.K., even without any U.K. laws being infringed. And, thanks in part to WikiLeaks, we’ve seen evidence of the torture that can be inflicted when the U.S. gets a suspect into their custody overseas.

If you were paying attention during the most recent leadership spill, you would have noticed the changes to our own Extradition Act that make it easier to extradite people accused of political crimes, and few would doubt that Gillard would hand over Julian given the opportunity.

So, what can we do about it?

To start with, what we’re doing right now. We’re here to show that we doubt any assurance that Julian will be treated fairly, that we doubt all guarantees that he will have due process.

We’re here to tell everyone involved in trying to shut down WikiLeaks that we see what they’re doing. That they can’t sneak this one through without us noticing. That if they have the balls to use these dodgy allegations as a pretext, to get him for the crime of exposing the abuses of others, that we are watching them.

And maybe our oversight will stop them even trying. Hopefully, Julian will end up back here, perhaps as a Senator, with this nightmare all forgotten, except for the laughter about all those conspiracy nuts who thought that everyone was out to get him. Hopefully...

I started this speech by asking about why we are here, and the answer is to stop abuses of power by bringing light to the machinations of corrupt governments. When you think about it, that’s pretty much the mission statement of WikiLeaks.

So why am I here?

I’m here, because I’m in the Pirate Party. As a Pirate, I’ve admired what WikiLeaks has done over the last few years in uncovering abuses of power, both by governments and private organisations. Here are some examples:

  1. That U.S. military personnel have callously murdered civilians,
  2. That they are involved in assassination and torture.
  3. That they then ignore and suppress reports of military misconduct.
  4. That the Vatican was complicit in hiding sexual abuse cases
  5. That there was widespread corruption in parts of the middle east, and that the U.S. chose to support those regimes anyway,
  6. And the corruption among some major banks, the result of which has been the WikiLeaks Blockade.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

WikiLeaks exposes the secrets that should be public, which aren’t. And then, governments punish the leakers instead of those whose crimes are exposed.

My T-shirt says viva la informacion. It's a recognition of the saying that knowledge is power. Wikileaks is trying to share relevant knowledge with the people of the world, which means equalising power for everyone. This is what scares governments so much, and why Wikileaks has been so heavily persecuted.

Here’s a local example of how WikiLeaks has contributed positively to society:
When Minister Conroy was in full swing with his plans to censor the internet, a copy of the blacklist was leaked to WikiLeaks. That got parts of WikiLeaks added to the blacklist. With access to this list, I was able to go through many of the URLs on it and demonstrate both that the list was not kept up to date, and that it contained lots of errors. It was in part because of stories highlighting how the list was being misused that the plans to censor the internet have been put on a back burner by Labor.

Gillard has forsaken Julian. He seems to have the support of the Greens, which is fantastic, but he has no political allies more fervent than the various Pirate Parties around the world. When WikiLeaks was first taken offline, it was the Swiss Pirate Party that stepped in and began hosting the site from The Swedish Pirate Party has also helped out with hosting.

In Australia, the Pirate Party has mirrored WikiLeaks, and early last year, we organised a protest in support of both WikiLeaks and Assange, in Sydney.

We do this because we share the common goals of transparent governance, protection of whistleblowers, freedom of speech, elimination of censorship, and ending the government/corporate feedback loop that causes the kind of corruption that WikiLeaks exposes.

We value what WikiLeaks does, and we want Julian home!

Thank you.


  1. Sorry, but these Wikileaks supporters are all the same. They couldn't organise a chook raffle. They seem to want fame based on how wonderful and great their integrity is- placing themselves above the rest of us, and now a lot of them have resigned. But come on ... they're just ordinary people and no doubt just as capable of lies and deceit, I happen to know that some of their personal lives are not so 'honest'. Give it a break. Everyone just seems to want their 15 minutes these days.

  2. There is a difference between being a supporter of Wikileaks, which is an organisation with a mission it very capably fulfills, and being a supporter of the Wikileaks Party, which is an organisation that claimed to represent transparency and democracy, which demonstrably failed internally on both counts.

    I know, to some extent, several of the people who resigned from Wikileaks Party after the preference screw-up, and I can say they all did it due to their high level of integrity. That's only you placing them above yourself if you believe your own integrity is not up to the same level.

    We are all capable of lies and deceit; the question is obviously whether we use our capabilities. Some of that was seen in the Wikileaks Party, but not by those who resigned. As for your comment that some people's "lives are not so 'honest'", well if I was interested in that sort of anonymous, vague hearsay, I'd go read youtube comments.

    1. The thing is, the people involved could have resigned from The Wikileaks Party without being so public about it all. You can't expect the general public to be able to differentiate between being a supporter of Wikileaks and/or the 'party'.
      There's no integrity in going public over such resignations. It wasn't necessary and whichever way you look at it, the people you deem to have so much more integrity than most, have sullied the name of Wikileaks and it was entirely unnecessary. You can support the notion of transparency and democracy without slinging mud all over Assange, which is essentially what these public 'resignations' have done.
      This is infantile idealism that you put before all that Assange himself has achieved, I agree about the 15 minutes analogy. People are jumping on a band wagon of something they never took the risk to create (as Assange did), and then proclaiming so much more exceptional 'transparency and democracy' than the founder, and then just blundering all this 'stuff' out to the world that they could have kept silent.
      We've all got a dark side- yourself included!
      Why don't you guys go and create your own party and then it can be full of nothing but integrity, transparency and democracy... Lol... Someone will always catch you out doing 'something' human. There's very few enlightened souls on this planet, and they don't spend their time 'commenting' and 'posting' on the internet. You should just accept your humaneness, and then you'd be less destructive.
      Everyone who 'resigned' had that right, but they didn't need to be so public. It just gave fuel to those who are already critical of Assange. He's not perfect - so what? He's a doer, and not just someone who chooses to enter another person's genius and rip it to shreds for its lack of this or that.

    2. "There's no integrity in going public over such resignations." Yes, you have no idea how integrity works, do go on.

      "You can support the notion of transparency and democracy without slinging mud all over Assange" because protecting a man from his own actions is what exactly? Oh, that's right, now I remember, in this case it would be "lying".

      "This is infantile idealism". Where are you on the spectrum?

      "There's very few enlightened souls on this planet, and they don't spend their time 'commenting' and 'posting' on the internet." You can't hear yourself at all, can you?

      "He's a doer, and not just someone who chooses to enter another person's genius and rip it to shreds for its lack of this or that." What a fan you are! You must keep kneepads on a wallet chain.

      Good times.

  3. So... Whether or not you like it, there is a difference between WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks Party. One requires operational secrecy in order to carry out a clear mission statement; the other has transparency and democracy in its slogan and aims to be an instrument of those goals.

    "Why don't you guys go and create your own party and then it can be full of nothing but integrity, transparency and democracy... Lol..."
    Not sure if that was sarcastic, as that party has existed for almost 5 years in Australia. It's called Pirate Party Australia. Its preferences were decided by its members in a two stage vote conducted by the membership.

    Back in 2009, I expressed doubts that this level of transparency and internal democracy regarding preference allocation could work in practice. I was wrong and it worked beautifully.

    Anyway, independent of hygiene, I recently wore my Assange "Viva La Informacion" t-shirt for 3 days straight. I, like those in WACA, support him in his WikiLeaks mission.

    You don't think the average punter puts as much thought into things as you do. Maybe they don't, but I disagree. I never expected that anything the party could do could upset so many people, but I was wrong. After all, if people didn't care about the preferencing issue, why would they have cared about some internal spat?

    Maybe quietly stepping aside to no effect would have allowed the party to still succeed, but then what point in relinquishing their ability to work for transparency at all? "Fine, you kill these Jews, but I'm going to be on a beach pretending it's not happening and silently muttering about your actions." Stuff that. The whole party is about principle. It appointed principled people, so it's got to expect principled actions.

    This isn't a partisan attack. It's the opinions of someone who really wanted to see Assange get into the Senate.