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NOTE: After adding 4 updates, this story was getting messy so I have totally re-arranged it and added more info. The most recent version before this update is here.
Just two days after Wikileaks Party Senate candidate for Victoria, Julian Assange, raised eyebrows by praising US anti-abortion politicians Ron Paul and Senator Rand Paul, the Wikileaks Party revealed a new attempt to appeal to the far Right. In official election tickets lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission, they have said they want the fascist Australia First Party, the pro-shooting-in-National-Parks Shooters and Fishers Party , and the “mens rights activist” Non-Custodial Parents Party to win a seat instead of the Australian Greens. In New South Wales, if you take the easy option and just tick the Wikileaks Party box in the Senate, and if they don’t win, your vote will go to those three right-wing parties before it goes to the Greens. One of the parties Assange is preferencing above the Greens, the Shooters and Fishers Party, already has two members serving in the State parliament in New South Wales today, who got elected by taking advantage of other parties’ votes. (See here for more background detail on how Australia’s complex system of interlocking preference deals can get tiny parties elected).
This decision has provoked open hostility from the Greens on Twitter. Greens NSW State parliamentarian Jeremy Buckingham attacked the decision early in the day, and Greens Senator from Western Australia, Scott Ludlam, who has staunchly stood up for Assange’s legal rights despite Assange being wanted for questioning on sexual assault matters in Sweden, also regards Wikileaks’ decision to preference him below the National Party in Western Australia as hostile. Wikileaks Party candidate Gerry Georgatos, who defended this decision, said that the National Party is defintely not going to win a seat in WA, and therefore the Greens will get to use Wikileaks Party votes. However there is a strong argument against that position, and Ludlam rejects it, saying Georgatos has risked handing control of the Senate to the conservative Liberal/National Coalition.
It wasn’t just politicians who were angry, with a wave of angry tweets coming from the politicially engaged; a wave which grew in intensity after they claimed the preference decision in New South Wales was an “administrative error”:
In allocating preferences between 53 other parties or groups in NSW some administrative errors occurred, as has been the case with some other parties. The overall decision as to preferences was a democratically made decision of the full National Council of the party. According to the National Council decision The Shooters & Fishers and the Australia First Party should have been below Greens, Labor, Liberal.
The Wikileaks Party has given no more details about this supposed error. However rumours about this preferencing arrangement have been circulating since at least Sunday August 11, when Greens activist and councillor Max Phillips says he was told by a Wikileaks Party member at the Marrickville Markets that the Right-wing preferences were going to happen “because the Greens are our competition”. Phillips tweeted his suspicions at the time, but Wikileaks Party NSW candidate Kellie Tranter rejected them and countered by asking what the Greens intended to do with their preferences. The rumours were also dismissed as unfounded by Wikileaks Victorian candidate in Victoria, Leslie Cannold.
Phillips took this photo of the woman at the market stall who advised him the right-wing preferences were going ahead. Online privacy activist Asher Wolf confirms that this woman is Cassandra Findlay, (on Twitter as @CassPF), one of the Deputy Registered Officer of the Wikileaks Party. As the Deputy Registered Officer, Findlay was one of the two people who lodged the “Group Voting Ticket” form with the Australian Electoral Commission on Friday, the form that officially said Wikileaks Party preferences were going to fascists above Greens.
This seems certain to prevent the Wikileaks Party from winning a seat. While their preferences in Victoria aren’t offensive to potential left-wing supporters, that detail is likely to not matter to people angry about the NSW decision, and it’s Victoria where Assange is running. Realistically, if the Wikileaks Party doesn’t come first out of themselves, Family First, the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Australian Sex Party, they have absolutely no chance of coming through the middle of the pack and winning a seat. Even then, they’d need about 250,000 votes of their own, as well as being able to use all the votes those other parties get. The polls currently show about 8% of people intend to vote for small parties other than the Greens – that’s about 270,000 – 300,000 votes in *total* to be spread across all the small parties in Victoria.
Assange was never likely to win a seat anyway, even if the Wikileaks Party hadn’t angered people today with their preferences. But now their chance of getting anyone who thinks of themselves as Left to co-operate with their organisation long term is zero. (If Assange is serious about seeing the libertarian right-wing as the wave of the future, perhaps they don’t care). But where are they going to get volunteers to come to long, boring meetings on winter nights? Their volunteer co-ordinator in WA has already resigned, and prominent supporter Mary Kostakidis tweeted that the WA decision was a “major error of judgment”. Where are they going to get people willing to argue the case for the Party to their friends? Where are they going to get people to stand outside polling booths handing out “How-To-Vote Cards”? And where are they going to win enough goodwill to be trusted ever again? The Wikileaks Party in Australia today put itself in the shredding machine of history.
Assange said he was not personally involved, and said decisions about preferences in states other than Victoria were made by “candidates or officers”. But he said “we’re not sure what’s happened in NSW”. [NOTE: This appears to contradict the "administrative error" post on the Wikileaks Party Facebook page, which says the decision was made by the Party's National Council].
In WA, about Gerry Georgatos’ decision to preference the National Party’s David Wirrapanda over Greens Senator Scott Ludlum, Assange said “Ludlam is one of the best guys in the Senate”, but the “Wikileaks Party is not a plaything of Julian Assange”.
Assange fell back onto the idea that Wirrapanda will not be elected so preferencing an Aboriginal man who is also a National candidate is merely “symbolic”
There is an interesting discussion at the end by the hosts about the anger the decision has caused. The hosts (without Assange listening it seems) say that the decision to preference Wirrapanda could lose the Greens the balance of power in the Senate. One of the hosts calls the decision “very disappointing, very disillusioning”. (Which makes my cynical tweets just before airtime very wrong, for which I apologise to the show and RTR-FM).