Gillard Blows It

Mark blogs about Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s response to Wikileaks.

Author: Mark Seymour.

Date: 11 December 2010.

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At risk of sounding cynical, politicians routinely conceal negative information, distort it, leak it deliberately, or otherwise use it to chastise the actions of their opponents, and routinely hose it down with evasive language in order to get policy over the line. And the awful truth is, we expect them to, as long they’re batting for the side we voted for.

Still, most of us quietly cling to the belief that simply by voting we have some small effect on the way politicians behave. And we do, all be it briefly, once every three years. In the mean time, the decisions that governments make are largely beyond our control, except in so far as we are protected by the rule of law, that we have access to real information, and the right to comment on it. Without these rights, democracy withers away.

You see, politics is not a high-school debate. It’s a blood sport. Politics is not about justice, or even what is right. It’s about power… who’s got it, and who hasn’t.

And no incident in recent times, has proven this more convincingly than the explosion of leaks through the ‘Wikileaks’ website. And it’s not just the information, although that in itself is damning enough, exposing as it does, the yawning gulf between what politicians say and what they really think. It is the way in which the Australian Government has condemned its founder Julian Assange by threatening to cancel his passport. The reaction has been almost hysterical. The prime minister herself has called him a ‘criminal.’ By doing so she has flouted the rule of law and freedom of speech itself.

As an Australian citizen I have the right to comment on or criticize the government of the day, on the basis of information I have at hand, which I access through the daily media.. So it follows that I have the right to read Wikileaks! I also have the right to know what the Minister of Foreign Affairs really thinks of the war in Afghanistan. I also have the right to know that ministers past and present have talked fast and loose with American secretaries of state and declared their willingness to commit our youth to a theoretical war with China, if tensions with Taiwan ever escalate.

This is crucial information that demands to be revealed! The more the better. They can bluster all they like about threats to ‘national security’.. I want to know if Australians are going to die because of our military alliance with the U.S. I have the right to know this regardless of how Gillard tries to ‘nuance’ the nature of Wikileak’s activities. If we follow Gillard’s logic, the Melbourne Age is also breaking the law simply by publishing information passed onto it by Wikileaks.

So where does it end?

Politicians spy on each other, and use parliamentary privilege to justify it.. ALL THE TIME! Or, just to scale it up a bit, entire nations, on the basis of decisions politicians make, covertly subvert the sovereignty of other nations at best, and declare war at worst. Politicians have real power and the lives of ordinary people are in their hands. If you don’t believe me, go and look at Wikileaks! So when a media organization emerges which successfully exposes the buffoonery and arrogance of our leaders engaged in the exercise of that power we should whole-heartedly rejoice given what little of it we have, especially in the face of the potential loss of life politicians can initiate.

The rule of law and freedom of speech are the only values that stand between our rights as voters and the capricious behaviour of our leaders, conceding as we must, that they are only human and fall prey to that most basic of human frailties…like LYING! And lying in public life, if it goes unchecked can only lead to corruption and the abuse of power.

Governments ‘leak’ information routinely when it suits them. So why shouldn’t Wikileaks? Wikileaks is nothing more than a media organization like any other looking for information. It just happens to be very good at getting it.