‘Assange chances very good in Australian senate election’
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK
for the past nine months, but that hasn't dampened his political
The whistleblower has just appointed high-profile campaigner Greg Barns to manage his bid for the Australian Senate in September’s election.
Barns, a former Australian Republican Movement head and barrister, says his employer enjoys wide public support in his homeland, with the possible success in the vote increasing his chances of returning home to Australia.
RT:What made you take up Assange's campaign?
Greg Barns: Well, I had a longstanding interest in Julian Assange’s campaign from a legal perspective because of the way which he’s been appallingly treated by the Australian government. And I’ve also had an interest in the sorts of values that Julian Assange brings to the Australian political landscape. That is greater transparency in decision making and an examination of the way which the state in Australia is encroaching on the rights of individuals.
These are the sorts of issues which do concern Australians. And the current political parties in Australia don’t address either of those issues. Julian Assange certainly does. And he’s got runs on the board when it comes to walking the walk and talking the talk through WikiLeaks.
RT:And who’s bankrolling this campaign?
GB: Well they’re matters for the WikiLeaks party, which is currently being established, but what I can say to you is that there are no multimillionaires bankrolling this campaign to my knowledge. This is a campaign that’ll be put together by those who are enthusiastically volunteering their time. We’ll be using a lot of volunteers on the campaign. It’ll be a very small-paid campaign team and we’ll also be having greater access to the internet, which of course – particularly, for younger voters in Australia – is a primary way, in which they obtain information about the political process in Australia.
RT:Given Assange's difficult legal situation, what do you think his chances are of winning his bid for the senate?
GB: The policies are going to be determined over the next few months by Julian and the party and we’ll be rolling those out. But what I can say at this point is that he certainly stands for – in the Australian senate, which is effectively the house of review in the Australian parliamentary system - is using it more effectively to keep the government honest about what they are doing.
So not simply rubber-stamping government policies, but using the senate as a house of review to ensure that all available documentation in relation to policies is tabled in the parliament. That we see when the government appointments are made that they are scrutinized properly. But also ensuring that we start to roll back some of the security measures that have been brought in in Australia in the post 9/11 environment. There are major invasions by the security services in Australia into the lives of ordinary Australians.
RT:What do you think are Julian Assange’s chances of winning the bid for the Australian senate?
GB: I think he’s got a very good chance. There are six senators who’ll be elected out of Victoria, one of the states in Australia. He’s gotta get 14.29 per cent of the vote in order to get elected. Now, with a preferential system, which is other parties preferencing Julian Assange, if he gets 6 to 7 per cent of the raw vote he’s going to get elected. At the moment, he’s polling around about 25 to 27 per cent. That is 25 to 27 per cent of Australians say they would vote for Assange. So he’s starting from a very high base, which is going to come down a bit in the context of the campaign. But it’s a very good place to start.
RT:If Assange is successful, could that eventually help him receive some kind of legal protection?
GB: It’s hoped that it would, but certainly that’s not his motivation. However, the Australian government would be left in a position after the September election here where it had a person who’d been elected to the senate by the people of Victoria and the Australian government is not lifting a finger to help that person to come back to Australia.
I think that would be incumbent on the Australian government to exercise diplomatic and political capital that it has got with Stockholm, with London and with Washington to ensure that Julian Assange can rightfully return home and take his place in the senate.