My WikiLeaks Party Inquiry
by Gary Lord (@Jaraparilla)
A full independent review of what really happened to The Wikileaks Party.
“I am not a politician.” - Julian Assange.
Table of Contents
This inquiry is mandated by the WikiLeaks Party's own failure to deliver a meaningful promised inquiry into their calamitous “errors” in the September 2013 election, their continued damage of the WikiLeaks “brand”, and their failure to uphold their own stated values of transparency, accountability and justice.
This inquiry is mandated by the dire state of our planet and the urgent need for genuine change to our political, business and social structures. Anyone associated with WikiLeaks should be setting an example, not playing cynical power games.
- the creation of the party and the lead-up to the 2013 Federal
Election, where the allocation of preferences proved a critical
point of failure,
- post-election responses and further activity of WikiLeaks
- the current state of the party,
- outlook for the future of the Wikileaks Party.
- To hold the WikiLeaks Party to its own professed standards of
transparency and accountability, as stated in its Constitution.
- To examine communications between WLP decision-makers leading
up to and following the 2013 Australian federal election.
- To expose the truth behind unpopular WLP preferencing
decisions in NSW and WA, including the unsubstantiated claim of an
“administrative error” in NSW.
- To examine how WLP staff have behaved before, during and
since the election, and how this has affected the reputations of
WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
- To recommend future changes.
The scope of this inquiry is only limited by WLP's continued failure to explain its own actions, and the author’s inability to get straight answers from anyone still associated with WLP, including several who seem to have left the party but remain silent on their involvement.
The author has made repeated unsuccessful approaches for information to WikiLeaks Party directly, and the following people in particular:
- John Shipton
- Cassie Findlay
- Greg Barns
- Kellie Tranter
- Gail Malone
- Omar Todd
The author has examined all available public data, including:
- Written statements of resignation from ex National Council
members Leslie Cannold, Dr Dan Mathews, Luke Pearson, Sam Castro
and Kaz Cochrane, plus volunteers like David Haidon and Sean Bedlam,
- Analysis from interested activists such as independent WikiLeaks-related news source @MarthaGroup (now
- Website content, media interviews and WLP press releases,
- Twitter and Facebook commentary.
- SMS responses from Sam Castro to questions others refused to
Where the author has relied on verbal information or personal experience, this is clearly stated. See the About The Author section below for background.
See the Sources section below for links to original documents.
This inquiry is intended as a positive contribution to further public discussion and decision-making. Anyone disagreeing with any of the facts presented in this review is welcome to leave a public comment below (preferably) or contact the author:
- Gary Lord
- The Australian author of this review is a long-time vocal
WikiLeaks supporter who since 2010 has helped organise many local
and national demonstrations in support of WikiLeaks and Julian
Assange's right to freedom. His tweets and blog articles have been
frequently re-tweeted by @wikileaks. He authored the OzWikiWatch
site (ozwikiwatch.blogspot.com), which maintained a check on
Australian government support (or lack thereof) leading up to the
2013 election. He has spoken frequently in public in support of
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
- The author is a former member of the Wikileaks Party who was
originally selected to join the Wikileaks Party National Council
(“NC”). Further background including reasons for not staying on
the National Council can be found on the author's blog here
- The author has had limited personal contact with the
following past or present WikiLeaks Party staff: John Shipton, Matt
Watt, Kaz Cochrane and Sam Castro. He has been in contact with
Julian Assange rarely and by email only. He has never met any other
National Council members, although he has communicated with most at
some time via Twitter or email.
- The author was previously listed online as the Queensland
spokesperson for the Melbourne-based WACA group (originally
WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance), headed by Kaz Cochrane and
Sam Castro. This was arranged because (a) media seeking comments on
Assange, WikiLeaks and WLP were unwilling to talk to anyone without
a title of some sort and (b) nobody from WACA in NSW or Victoria
wanted to post their number publicly, as they were busy with WLP. In
effect, the role mostly involved screening calls and alerting Sam
and Kaz to any media opportunities. Following the election the
author asked to be removed as spokesperson because he has never had
involvement in day to day WACA affairs.
- The author had discussions with John Shipton and Julian
Assange regarding (a) running as the 2013 Queensland candidate for
WLP, or (b) finding another suitable QLD candidate. The author was
not eligible under AEC rules and no other QLD candidate was
- The author became QLD co-ordinator for election day voting
booths (aiming to help provide WLP supporters with How To Vote
flyers at booths in Northern NSW), an unofficial position he quit
before the election.
- The author was also a member of the WikiLeaks Party Social
Media group, a collection of trusted online activists whom the WLP
brought together to help spread a co-ordinated message leading up to
the election. The head of the group was current WLP NC member Omar
- Since the election, the author has maintained a campaign to
demand WLP deliver their promised inquiry into the NSW preferential
voting “admin error”
. The author sadly remains a vocal online critic of recent WLP
activity and is now campaigning for the WLP to be terminated before
more damage is done (see #EndWLparty hashtag). This review sets out
the logic and events behind such criticism. Readers are asked to
avoid ad hominem attacks and judge for themselves based on the facts
presented herein (or in some cases, the facts deliberately with-held
from the public by WLP).
- The author remains committed the WikiLeaks ideals of
transparency and accountability. He has no vested interest in either
supporting or damaging WLP, and is providing this report for his own
personal desire to see real transparency and accountability in
The WikiLeaks Party was incorporated as a political party in Australia in 2013, while founder Julian Assange remained unjustly trapped in Ecuador's London embassy, where he was granted political asylum in August 2012.
Mr Assange's biological father John Shipton performed much of the initial work required to set up the party. Former Liberal Party candidate
A Constitution was created and posted on the website: https://www.wikileaksparty.org.au
On July 25, seven WikiLeaks Party candidates for the Australian Senate were announced in three states:
- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange,
- Author and Monash University gender studies lecturer Leslie
Cannold (who would take Assange's seat if he were to win but not
be able to return home),
- RMIT law lecturer Binoy Kampmark.
- New South Wales:
- Human rights lawyer Kellie Tranter,
- Former diplomat Alison Broinowski.
- Western Australia:
- Refugee activist Gerry Georgatos,
- President of the National Ethnic Disability Alliance Suresh
Some of the above candidates were also on the original National Council, which included:
- Friends of the Earth
activists Sam Castro & Kaz Cochrane,
- Sea Shepherd campaigner Omar Todd,
- Aboriginal activist Luke Pearson,
- Mathematician Dr Dan Mathews, who helped Julian
Assange create WikiLeaks,
- Gail Malone.
A schism within the party developed early on, with John Shipton and Greg Barns taking an authoritarian approach to decision-making, while a faction on the National Council demanded more democratic processes based on respect for the WLP Constitution. This faction was largely represented by Sam Castro, a strong personality with years of experience in activism, but appears to have included all the NC members who eventually resigned - Leslie Cannold, Kaz Cochrane, Dan Mathews and Luke Pearson – plus other staff.
In my own pre-election conversations with Sam Castro, she clearly saw the WikiLeaks Party as a vehicle with the potential to grow beyond Julian Assange's influence. This was not necessarily a bad thing, especially while Julian remained under detention. We discussed the possibility of WikiLeaks Parties springing up around the world with a basic message of transparent, open government. There was no reason such ambition could not co-exist with the primary goal of getting Julian Assange safely home and into the Senate. But I suspect others within the Party may have viewed Castro's ambitions less favourably.
Meanwhile John Shipton appeared to have ambitions of his own, despite originally informing NC members that he was going to quit “before the election” and “once the party is set up”. Media appearances increasingly focussing on himself rather than his son or the party's platform and candidates http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/like-father-like-son/story-e6frg8h6-1226663757794 . Perhaps he was granting interviews to the wrong people, or perhaps he was just enjoying the limelight a bit too much. Either way, discontent continued to simmer as the election approached . And Shipton continued to hold onto several key roles in the party, despite being challenged to at least drop all but one of his positions.
Dan Mathews (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/22/wikileaks-julian-assange): “The WikiLeaks party has arguably suffered serious problems from the outset, being pulled in radically different directions from its base and membership, on the one hand, and the figurehead and associates on the other... Barns spoke repeatedly of his conversations with Julian, but it seemed to me that much less communication apparently occurred between Julian and the National Council. As such, in my view, a divide started to appear between an insider group, including Julian, Shipton and Barns, and the rest of the national council... Strong commitment at the center of the party to deals seen as unscrupulous and unprincipled by supporters was a train wreck waiting to happen."
NOTE: Under Australian law, all political parties must allocate “preferences” for other parties to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC): these preferences are allocated in numerical order after all voters' primary choices have been counted. The aim of this system is to ensure that if a voter's first preference does not get elected (e.g. a minor candidate) they can still have a say in the final outcome. Voters are allowed to personally number all candidates on the lengthy Senate voting paper, but in practice most just choose one party and allow that party's submitted list of preferences to decide how their own preferences are allocated.
The NSW preferencing debacle had a prelude: a few weeks before the election, WLP NC member Cassie Findlay was handing out flyers at Marrickville Markets in Sydney when Greens councillor Max Phillips asked her about WLP preferences. He tweeted that he was told WLP would be putting “rightwing micros like Shooters & Hanson” ahead of the Greens (https://twitter.com/maxphillips/status/366402575991455745 ). This claim was dismissed by WLP supporters (including myself) who could not believe that anyone in a position to know would be stupid enough to tell random members of the public about WLP preferences before they were announced.
NOTE: Max Phillips was only able to identify Ms. Findlay as his source after preferences were announced.
When preferences were finally announced, it was even worse than Max Phillips' tweet suggested. From WLP's own published Inquiry:
Over a period of several weeks prior to the 2013 Federal Election, the WLP National Council members attended internal meetings and conversed via email, telephone conferencing and other electronic media to preference a record number of Senate candidates.
A WLP press release stated (inter alia) that we “aren’t aligned with anyone”.....and will “support and oppose the policies of other parties and groups according to our stated principles”.
The WLP publicly released its group voting ticket on 17 August 2013, in which preferences for the Australia First and the Shooters and Fishers Parties were placed above the Greens in NSW, contrary to exchanges of emails between WLP National Council members leading-up to the deadline with the AEC.
In WA, the Greens were placed below the National Party.
When news of the WLP preferences broke, there was an immediate uproar on social media. The Greens and their supporters were horrified that WLP had placed them behind Fascists and anti-environmentalists in NSW, and behind the Nationals in WA (who are part of a Coalition with the Liberal Party, which ultimately won the election). Even loyal WLP supporters like myself were confused and angry.
In WA, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam had been by far the single most supportive WikiLeaks/Assange supporter in parliament. He had even travelled at personal cost to the UK and Sweden to meet Julian Assange and plead his case with authorities. When WLP preferences were announced, Senator Ludlum said he considered the National Party to be the biggest threat to his own chances of retaining a Senate seat.
The announcement of preferences was a major blow to WLP's public support nationwide, particularly as much of the WLP support base were people who would normally vote for the Greens. By contrast, the Greens had preferenced WLP highly in every state where they had a candidate.
Although Julian Assange had previously expressed support for right-wing Libertarianism and US Republican Ron Paul, WLP supporters had no reason to believe the party would take an anti-Greens right-wing stance, particularly given the principles outlined in its Constitution and stated policies.
“At a national council meeting on 12 August, there was spirited argument between Greg Barns and several members of the national council regarding a deal with Family First. As part of its decision at that meeting, the national council requested Barns to provide certain information.
“Although Assange had not attended the meeting, after receiving the council’s resolution by email he quickly wrote a long email entitled “NC micromanagement of preferences”, in which he expressed his displeasure with the council in making such requests, and proposed an alternative structure for preference decisions. Negotiations would be done by lead candidates, with no restraints on them, and Assange having a right of veto. He proposed giving the national council a role in rubber-stamping the results of this process.
“Thus, one member of the national council was proposing to grant themselves a right of veto and to reduce it to a rubber stamp. Given the eagerness of some to pursue deals even with the far right, I and several others on the national council were keen to retain the national council’s role in these important decisions.
“I told the council that the party could have been set up autocratically, but it was not set up that way. It was set up with a reasonably democratic structure, with a governing council with membership and representation from various sectors supportive of, and related to, WikiLeaks. If it could be overridden by the lead candidate when he disagreed, it would be a sham. This received the support of several others on the council, and it thus appeared that the council would not be reduced to a sham.”
“The council could not practically decide the precise ordering of all parties, and some discretion was left to the candidates and/or campaign teams to establish the details. Nonetheless clear instructions were formalised by Barns in an email sent at 8:16 pm Friday night, which said the following.
I would have preferred to have had Shooters and FF in the mix but the final deals are:
Victoria – Greens put WLP at number 2 and WLP has Greens first of majors and drops Shooters and FF/Christian groups below majors.
NSW – Greens preference WLP at 3, with Pirates at 2, and WLP puts Greens above FF, Shooters and Christian Right.
WA – Greens preference WLP at 2 and WLP puts Greens first of major parties and above Christian right and Shooters.
The Shooters and some parties on the right will probably put WLP below the majors as a result of these deals.
“Nothing further was heard until Sunday, when I woke up to find that the Wikileaks party ticket in NSW had the Shooters & Fishers — and the Nazi Australia First party! — above the Greens. In WA, the Nationals were above the Greens.
“I was dumbstruck.”
“The WikiLeaks Party isn't aligned with any other political group. We'd rather not allocate preferences at all but allocating preferences is compulsory if your name is to go above the line.
“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. As we said, we aren't aligned with anyone and the only policies we promote are our own. We will support and oppose the policies of other parties or groups according to our stated principles.”
WLP's WA candidate Gerry Georgatos – himself a disaffected former Greens member
NSW candidate Alison Broinowski : “I am prepared to go along with the explanation of it as an error.’’ http://www.dailyliberal.com.au/story/1723226/wikileaks-candidate-says-there-was-no-skulduggery-in-party-schism/?cs=3275
WA candidate Gerry Georgatos: “It was not an administrative error, it was a poor judgement call. I’m not [going to come out] here and bullshit the audience. “ http://techgeek.com.au/2013/08/26/wikileaks-party-senate-candidate-nsw-preferences-poor-judgement-call-admin-error/
Georgatos (a campaigner for indigenous rights) argued that the Nationals Party candidate was an indigenous Australian who had no real chance of winning, but deserved a “token of support”.
John Shipton (http://www.altmedia.net.au/wikileaks-calls-for-electoral-reform/82216 ) : “David Wirrpanda is a very notable WA Indigenous person, so we were happy to give him some publicity.”
As it turned out, given the process of allocating preference votes, WLP preferences were not critical to the result in either NSW or WA, although margins were extraordinarily slim at various stages of the count. Nevertheless, Georgatos' claim that the National Party candidate never had a chance was wrong.
Allocating WA preferences to a right-wing Coalition member was at best a foolish gamble, a PR nightmare, and a betrayal of WikiLeaks Party principles (as stated in the Constitution).
NOTE 1: WACA later claimed that an un-named National Council member had caved in to pressure from Greg Barns and “a candidate” to change the NSW preferences. Sam Castro also told me that Gerry Georgatos had emailed Greg Barns asking if it was OK to preference the National Party in WA, but Barns had failed to pass on his concerns to the National Council. So why did Georgatos bother to email Barns, if he really thought he had the final say? Or is that what Barns told him? We don't know because neither has been willing to explain the truth.
NOTE 2: NSW Senate candidate Kelly Tranter posted and then deleted a Twitter post saying that the Greens were punished because they did a deal with the ALP, a party sending asylum seekers “to gulags”. Later, explaining that post, she stated that The Greens “spent weeks talking about the cruelty of the ALP and then do a deal with them”. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/18/wikileaks_party_scrambles_to_explain_election_decisions/
NOTE 3: There has been much speculation that a deal was made with infamous “preferences whisperer” Glenn Druery (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Druery ), who specialises in “helping” minor parties orchestrate preference voting for mutual benefit. Although there was obviously much discussion, I have seen no proof of any such deal. In fact, Sam Castro says that at one stage she heard Druery tell Greg Barns that he had “ruined everything”. Alison Brionowski also denied there was a deal with Druery.
Dan Mathews: “On 6 August, at a national council meeting, Barns proposed a deal with a group of small parties, organised by Glenn Druery. It is of course his job to talk to other parties and I have no doubt he has worked hard and honestly to do his job throughout. This group, including several far right parties, proposed to deliver 7%-9% of the vote to us if we preferenced them all highly. The national council rejected it."
Following the massive public furore over WLP preferences, National Council members met to discuss what went wrong and how it could be fixed. Details of these discussions were published in their lengthy statements of resignation, which have never been seriously challenged (see the Sources section at the end). Dan Mathew's statement, quoted extensively in this inquiry document, is particularly illuminating.
It is worth noting that the resignation statements were relatively subdued and generally did not name names, politely giving the party an opportunity to remedy errors and continue operations without specifically damaging anyone's reputation. It was only in the to-and-fro arguments that followed, where WLP insiders continued to deny responsibility and blame those who quit, that specific people were named.
Sean Bedlam soon revealed that John Shipton was the person who had tried to approach him and establish a new power-base to challenge the National Council.
‘‘As long as I believed there was a chance that democracy, transparency and accountability could prevail in the party I was willing to stay on and fight for it. But where a party member makes a bid to subvert the party's own processes, asking others to join in a secret, alternative power centre that subverts the properly constituted one, nothing makes sense anymore.
‘‘This is an unacceptable mode of operation for any organisation but even more so for an organisation explicitly committed to democracy, transparency and accountability.’’My reply:
“John it is not about me: get on Twitter and take a look. I have stood by Julian through thick and thin. And I do not hate anyone involved with WLP. But this massive fuckup was totally avoidable.”John:
“What the fuck are you gonna say upon finding that Cannold was a plant”
“If that is true then tell it to Australia. A smart media manager can turn all tomorrow's bad headlines to WLP's advantage. But to own the narrative you have to get your version of the truth out there. WLP is not doing that. That is what I am saying.”
Another SMS from John:
“Really and truly treacherous . No calls to me or Greg or anybody”
“Sam and Kaz have been getting arrested for your son. They are wonderful committed people.”
“Loved both those women: but one day, when all is calm we can talk about what unfolded before my eyes and heart.”
NOTE: I never heard from John Shipton again. His twitter account @JohnShipton remains silent.
Of course the resignations provided an opportunity for the mainstream media to inform the general public what was going on – and curiously, many readers replied that they didn't even know the WikiLeaks Party existed. In fact, the party later claimed that NSW membership had actually increased after the resignations.
They say there is no such thing as bad publicity: this shows that the party could still have gone on to win votes if they had been able to get their version of events out to the public. But their version of events was something the WLP leadership was desperate to keep private.
Following the resignations, Julian Assange issued a statement and made several Australian media appearances in an effort to limit the damage.
Julian Assange: “I made a decision two months ago to spend a lot of my time on dealing with the Edward Snowden asylum situation and trying to save the life of a young man (Bradley Manning). Now, the result is over-delegation, so I admit and I accept full responsibility for over-delegating functions to the Australian party while I tried to take care of those situations.”
Assange's efforts back-fired because he could not properly explain the WLP “administrative error” and because he simultaneously maintained that as party leader, he could do whatever he liked, regardless of the party's Constitution or the National Council.
By this time Crikey had published leaked WLP emails showing Assange's efforts to over-ride National Council decisions on preferences: http://media.crikey.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/From21.pdf This increased the pressure on Assange to either defend the final preferencing decisions or explain the “error”. He managed to do neither successfully.
Assange's 30 August appearance on The Drum ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbJJx5f1kAY ) was a final PR disaster, epitomised by his bizarre statement: ‘‘I am not a politician, though I am running for election.”
This lengthy prime-time TV appearance was just a week out from the September 7th election. The last best chance to repair the damage had just been blown.
WikiLeaks Party won just 0.66 per cent of the national vote. No candidates were elected.
Australian political parties that win over 1.4% of the national vote are eligible for government funding that can amount to millions of dollars. This would have been invaluable to the ongoing work of WikiLeaks. No such public funding was earned.
This section details further activity by WLP since the election.
After the election, remaining WLP staff went largely silent on social media, refusing to discuss what happened. But the party continued to post bizarre articles on their website, including a “Happy Birthday” hagiography of former Australian PM Paul Keating (who supported Indonesian dictator Suharto) and climate denialist pseudo-scientific nonsense that contradicts the party's own Constitutional support for the environment (John Shipton has told former NC members that man-made climate change was a hoax).
In late December 2013, en route to visit Julian Assange in London, John Shipton lead a Wikileaks Party delegation to Damascus, where they met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is widely condemned as a War Criminal. The visit appears to have been orchestrated by delegation member Daoud Jamal, who joined the WLP NC after the election. Gail Malone was also on the trip.
Syrian TV news portrayed the WLP visit as an official Australian “solidarity delegation”. There was no specific mention of WikiLeaks or the WikiLeaks Party. The Assad regime tweeted a picture showing the President addressing the seated, smiling WLP members, who later admitted they were only allowed to ask Assad two questions. It is clear they were used as a PR tool by President Assad's regime at the height of the Syrian civil war.
@WikiLeaks: ''Peace brokering a good idea, but [it was] obvious [the] meeting would be spun without care. Did not know or approve.''
"Because of the defamatory statements made against myself by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, we have asked barrister Clive A. Evatt to begin defamation proceedings seeking $5 million in damages in each case.”
Shipton also promised to open a Wikileaks Party office in Damascus, and said WLP would raise $40,000 funds for Syrian people's health. Again, the media were more than happy to use “WikiLeaks” instead of WLP in their headlines: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/wikileaks-reheats-syrian-assad-campaign/story-e6frg6so-1226821976235#
Strong WikiLeaks supporter Antony Loewenstein wrote an article condemning the WLP Syria trip http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/14/wikileaks-partys-syria-visit-is-a-damaging-and-misguided-pr-coup Sadly but predictably, this article lead to WLP insiders condemning Loewenstein.
Graeme Dunstan, an old friend of Shipton's, told an email forum that the WLP Syria trip was just like Jane Fonda in Vietnam. But Fonda got to make a dozen radio speeches to the Vietnamese people over several weeks, while WLP were only allowed to ask two questions to Assad. Just before she left Vietnam, Fonda was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese tank, and this “Hanoi Jane” image became an enduring PR nightmare she always regretted. WLP got the PR disaster photo and nothing else.
WLP claimed they also met with Syrian opposition but were never able to substantiate this claim. WLP NC member Daoud Jamal - whose Twitter avatar when he joined the NC was a man with a machine gun in front of a Palestine flag - has blogged explicit support for President Assad, and has been assaulted at Sydney demonstrations by anti-Assad protestors.
WLP followed up their Syrian PR disaster with a series of interviews with Voice Of Russia journalist John Robles, where selected quotes were hand-picked for pro-Russian propaganda.
Shipton: The Russian diplomatic skills are a triumph, and with the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, the BRICs last year in Far East and this year Syria and the Ukraine. There is diplomatic triumph second to none, and in our view the Russian President and Foreign Ministry people wish to bring peace to allow development. http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_02_05/The-US-and-its-allies-a-horror-show-that-must-stop-John-Shipton-9806/
"Shipton praised President Vladimir Putin and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov and called them forces for peace." http://t.co/vFlms2Rm3v
"The envy of Russia & Slavic civilization by the West seems to be boundless." http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_02_09/Western-envy-of-Russia-and-Slavs-boundless-John-Shipton-9691/
“Australia is becoming a rouge [sic] state” http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_02_06/Australia-is-becoming-a-rouge-state-Greg-Barns-9578/
“Certainly, I had nothing to do with the trip, but I didn’t see any endorsement of Assad by those who were on the trip … I wasn’t on the trip, I had no involvement.”
The hastily announced WLP “independent inquiry” was never intended to be either independent or serious. As Leslie Cannold said on the day she resigned ( http://waca.net.au/resignations-from-the-wikileaks-party-statements/ ) :
“An additional call was made to a campaign staffer. In direct contrast to the public statement The Wikileaks Party put out this morning in which we promised the public that we would have an immediate independent review of the preference outcomes, this person said that the review would be delayed until after the election and that it wouldn’t be done independently. The caller would run it. This is the final straw.”
As we now know, that “caller” was John Shipton. And again it is worth noting that Cannold did not name Shipton as the “caller” at the time, presumably because she knew Julian Assange would be damaged by association with his father's lack of ethics.
The WLP inquiry was eventually sent out to members by email on 4th February 2014, five months after the election. The author was a WLP member who made it clear he did not have enough information to draw any meaningful conclusions.
It was conducted by Stuart Bell of Bell Campbell Auditing, a WikiLeaks Party member approached by John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, to conduct the audit. The review is six pages long, including the cover page and an attachment. In it, Bell complains that his conduct of the review was “limited” by his “inability or access to all relevant information and WLP personnel, especially where there has been a severe fall-out over the 2013 preferencing issues in NSW and WA”.
Bell had not been able to interview anyone except for Shipton, but says he took written submissions or phone calls from other key figures like Greg Barns. Bell also laments “limited or no access to WLP official transcripts, minutes of National Council meetings and official emails/correspondence”, which forced him to accept the word of those he interviewed. However, Bell rejected the “administrative error” claim by the party:
“It cannot be shown that it was an ‘administrative error’, based on the electronic and verbal hyper-activity by the National Council members … It was a combination of human errors caused by a highly emotional and volatile atmosphere, where a number of key WLP members were instrumental in causing confusion, not from malicious intent but due to a lack of defined responsibilities.”
Bell goes on to recommend that the party make its preference allocation decisions earlier and that someone formally be given the job of overseeing the allocation process.
Prior to the formation of the WikiLeaks Party, WikiLeaks supporters in Australia were a vocal, united and active group across all states. Public demonstrations in support of Julian Assange's right to freedom were held regularly, along with online activities. Since the election, this unity and support has all but vanished, and WLP has done nothing to replace it.
The problem began when WLP insiders criticized those who resigned (as described above). These personal attacks – accusing people of being treacherous or even secret government agents – have never been substantiated, and there has never been any apology for them.
The problem was exacerbated when @wikileaks began to criticize @akaWACA on Twitter, and Sam Castro in particular. Julian accused WACA of using the WikiLeaks brand to build a power platform and demanded they change name (this has belatedly been done).
Then @wikileaks posted a link to an embarrassing old video of Sean Bedlam (which Bedlam said he had tried unsuccessfully to get removed from a disreputable website). What is the point of such vindictive character assassination? Isn't this the same ad hominem muck-raking UK media has done to destroy Assange's character? Admittedly, Bedlam has posted angry tweets rudely describing his contempt for Julian Assange. But surely a proper WLP inquiry, justifying the unsubstantiated allegations of “treachery”, would have been a better way to respond to such criticism?
On the day the WLP Inquiry was released, Sam Castro claimed https://twitter.com/jaraparilla/status/431997851858526208 someone had deleted all her emails prior to August 13th 2013 (including emails regarding the pivotal August 12th WLP meeting) in multiple accounts. She supplied no proof of this but said other WikiLeaks supporters had suffered the same problem. I asked @wikileaks and @wikileaksparty to deny any involvement in this but got no response.
WLP has recently announced that it will run the same candidates when WA goes back to the polls.
“National Council has nominated our 2013 WA candidates Gerry Georgatos & Suresh Rajan."
Lessons learned? I think not. A recent email to members asked:
"What do we stand for? ... Where the truth is suppressed or distorted, corruption and injustice are allowed to flourish."
The findings in this section are based on the available evidence as presented above.
The NSW “Administrative Error”
UPDATE: See also this Storify of discussion on 12th March 2014 - it seems the decision to call it an "admin error" may have been made by Kellie Tranter, over objections from Sam Castro and Kaz Cochrane, who nevertheless accepted the National Council vote to go with that explanation but then "went on strike" and called for meetings to resolve the issue: http://storify.com/jaraparilla/wlp-discussion-12-march-2014?awesm=sfy.co_pQwN&utm_campaign=&utm_source=direct-sfy.co&utm_medium=sfy.co-twitter&utm_content=storify-pingback
WLP insiders have consistently blamed those who resigned for their poor election results. This is not true. The damage was done by the preferences, which totally shocked and alienated countless supporters. The debacle was then exacerbated by the flimsy excuse of an unsubstantiated “administrative error” and – finally - the ludicrously cynical promise of an “independent inquiry” after the election.
Circumstantial evidence, combined with WA candidate Gerry Georgatos's public admission, make it clear that the decision to preference Fascists and anti-environmentalists in NSW was no “administrative error”. At best, one might imagine that the preferencing of Shooters & Fishers was deliberate sabotage of the National Council vote while the preferencing of the Fascist “Australia First” party was an accidental confusion with the “Family First” party [ed: or Australian Voice - see emailed comment from Dan Mathews in Comments below]. But WLP have not even tried to substantiate this possibility.
- Statements from those who resigned indicate that remaining
members of WLP, including John Shipton
and Greg Barns[ed: Barns did not have a vote], previously voted to submit NSW preferences with the Shooters and rightwing parties preferenced.
- Weeks before NC member Cassie Findlay personally submitted
the preferences (along with Gail Malone) to the AEC, she was already
publicly telling people this would happen.
- Neither Cassie nor Gail nor Greg nor John is prepared to
publicly state what really happened.
- Greg Barns continued to argue post-election that WLP
candidates could have won with the right-wing preferences he
The decision to call this an “administrative error” can most generously be explained by blind panic. The fast and furious public backlash on social media seemed to genuinely shock the WLP power-brokers. Having made a mistake, they exacerbated it by lying, thus sealing not only the downfall of their own party, but also denying Julian Assange a fair and reasonable chance to get elected and come home as an Australian Senator.
WA candidate Gerry Georgatos was clearly under the impression that he had the power to submit preferences as he pleased, whatever the NC may have instructed. Either he was given the nod by someone more senior (most likely Greg Barns, or via Greg Barns) or else he made his own arrogant decision. In either case, he does not appear to have been admonished – quite the opposite. Georgatos' decision to subvert NC procedures confirms Julian Assange's admission that he did not exercise proper oversight of the party.
And either way, whatever Georgatos or Matt Watt may say, it was clearly a foolish decision. It contributed to the broader national anti-WLP backlash, it definitely and significantly endangered Scott Ludlam's chance of a Senate seat, and (perhaps most importantly) it must surely have left a damaging impression on Senator Ludlam and other senior Greens, who may well choose not to spend so much time supporting Assange and WikiLeaks in the future.
Assuming Senator Ludlam still has a future in parliament. The WA re-vote is scheduled for April 5th 2014.
Allocating WA preferences to a right-wing Coalition member was at best a foolish gamble, a PR nightmare, and a betrayal of WikiLeaks Party principles (as stated in the Constitution).
There was a pre-election deal between WLP and the Greens, who accepted that WLP would preference minor parties (but no major parties) ahead of them. Gerry Georgatos' insistence that preferencing the Nationals in WA did not breach this deal was clearly ridiculous: they are a key part of the Liberal-National Coalition that has held power in Australia for most of the past 20 years.
With the deal broken, the Greens did not hesitate to attack WLP for supporting Fascists and anti-environmentalists. This may have lead some within WLP to call the Greens hypocrites and even ultimately blame them for the ensuing debacle. But the Greens were well within their rights to attack WLP, who (on the basis of their listed preferences) should have been prepared for such criticism from all sides.
The fact that
Personal prejudices appear to have negatively affected party decision-making.
It is impossible not to hold Julian Assange personally responsible for much of what went wrong with the WikiLeaksParty. It is also impossible to be sure exactly how much decision-making he was personally involved with.
What is abundantly clear, however, is that since the election he has closed ranks with his father John Shipton (despite continuing and embarrassing errors of judgement), supported unsubstantiated attacks on his own supporters, and approved the cover-up of events surrounding preferences and resignations. This is foolish and disappointing behaviour.
It would be nice to blame this on the paranoia induced by relentless pursuit by extremely powerful forces, Julian's continued captivity in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and his consequent inability to meet supporters face-to-face. And nobody should be influenced by the media's relentless smear attacks on Julian's character. But nobody is perfect, and ultimately the WikiLeaks Party failures have exposed an authoritarian element of the WikiLeaks founder.
The author of the WLP Inquiry concluded:
“In the author’s opinion, it was a combination of human errors caused by a highly emotional and volatile atmosphere, where a number of key WLP members were instrumental in causing confusion, not from malicious intent but due to a lack of defined responsibilities.”
As founder and self-declared President of the WikiLeaks Party, Julian Assange must take full responsibility for its mistakes.
It is worth pausing to reflect on other considerations which made success for the WikiLeaks Party a serious challenge. These include:
- The Australian media (with notable exceptions including
Fairfax's Phillip Dorling and ABC Four Corner's) and major political
parties are generally hostile to WikiLeaks.
- Volunteer staff were working on a casual or part-time basis.
- Communication was hampered by international and interstate
time differences, lack of real world one-to-one contact between key
personnel, and the constant need to consider government
- The party never got close to its declared funding goal and
had limited financial resources.
The WikiLeaks Party has been an utter and complete failure for all but a small handful of remaining members. It has betrayed its own stated principles, ignored its own Constitution, turned against its own National Council leaders with unsubstantiated attacks, disillusioned its own members, and alienated WikiLeaks supporters worldwide.
The WikiLeaks Party has unnecessarily divided the previously strong community of WikiLeaks supporters and virtually destroyed active, vocal support for Julian Assange in Australia.
The WikiLeaks Party has inflicted global reputation damage by association with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Much of this has resulted from foolish and avoidable behaviour, which politicians and an antagonistic media have happily used to attack their prime targets.
Post-election WikiLeaks Party activity has been embarrassing and counter-productive. The party no longer seems to know what it stands for, and its reasons for continued existence need to be urgently reconsidered.
The Australian Preferential Voting system is inherently dangerous for any minor party (by design, it would seem). Many people, including the Greens, are now calling for it to be abolished. WLP should have dealt with this danger by either:
- Adopting NC member Dan Mathews' recommendation not to be a
part of any sleazy deals, or
- Publicly advising members that WLP would be taking a totally
cynical, Realpolitik approach to an inherently unfair system,
whereby the end (getting Julian Assange elected) justified the means
(giving preferences to Fascists etc).
- Set up the party with a more authoritarian structure, or
- Respected their own Constitution.
In George Orwell's Animal Farm, “some pigs are more important than others”. This appears to have been the attitude of Julian Assange, John Shipton, and Greg Barns, who felt they had a right to impose their will on the National Council, whatever was written in their own Constitution. With no other evidence provided by them, such a warped perspective is the only way to understand their allegations of “sabotage” and “treachery”. Anyone who refused to do what they were told was clearly a traitor intent on destroying all their hard work.
Julian Assange, John Shipton, and Greg Barns have had ample opportunity to explain the allegations of sabotage and treachery from the staff who resigned. They have failed to do so and should apologize for making the allegations. Any money still owed to ex-staff should be paid.
Fundamentally, Julian Assange needs to reconsider his relationship with those who support him around the world. Rightly or wrongly, many strong supporters have complained for years of being “used” and not fairly acknowledged for their efforts (e.g. “stealing” tweets). A more humane and respectful approach should be embraced.
NOTE: I have previously suggested that Assange may have Aspergers and I again urge him to consider this possibility when trying to understand why these interpersonal conflicts continue to pursue his otherwise laudable efforts.
Many WikiLeaks supporters worldwide are deeply disillusioned with the political process, and even question the value of voting, particularly in the corrupted two-party democracies that dominate the Anglosphere. Some, who would rather fight for change from outside the political process, saw the WLP as a rare opportunity to make politics work from “inside the tent”. This effort has failed and the WikiLeaks Party no longer provides any clear avenue for further advancement. For example, consider how the Pirate Party is pressuring governments worldwide with copyright campaigns and good work on Infosec, then ask what additional help WLP provides?
The WikiLeaks Party is currently trying to organize for the WA Senate re-vote in four weeks time. They are fielding the same rejected candidates, with even less funding, even less supporters (going by social media) and no apparent sense of purpose or direction. It would best for all involved if members properly acknowledged the party's mistakes and threw their support behind Greens Senator Scott Ludlam instead.
Having betrayed its own principles of transparency and accountability, the discredited WikiLeaks Party no longer serves any useful purpose and should be shut down.
- Resignation Statement from Dan Mathews:
- Guardian version of above:
- Resignation Statements from Leslie Cannold, Dr Dan Mathews,
Luke Pearson, Sam Castro and Kaz Cochrane:
- WLP Review released Feb 7th 2014:
- Crikey review of WLP Review:
- My blog calling for WLP Inquiry:
- Marth Mitchell Effect @MarthaGroup (now @HazelPress) analysis
of WLP: http://hazelpress.org/articles/4582449775
- Leslie Cannold interview with SMH following resignation:
- Sam Castro talks to Cathy Vogan about reasons for resigning -
- Leaked WLP emails: http://media.crikey.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/From21.pdf
- UPDATE: Storify of Twitter discussions regarding NSW "admin error" on 12th March 2014 : http://storify.com/jaraparilla/wlp-discussion-12-march-2014?awesm=sfy.co_pQwN&utm_campaign=&utm_source=direct-sfy.co&utm_medium=sfy.co-twitter&utm_content=storify-pingback