April 12, 2012
Illustration: Edd Aragon
I’m not given to conspiracy theories, incompetence being so much easier to imagine, but one thing gives credibility to Clive Palmer’s otherwise nutty CIA phantasm about US influence in Australia.
It is Julian Assange, a story that hinges on the uncomfortable relationship between truth and power.
We expect truth-telling from our four-year-olds but not from our politicians. In the case of Assange, truth is actively and repeatedly punished.
This implies that, as you move up through society’s power strata, there’s a point where morality flips.
A sort of moral inversion layer, beneath which the rules apply but above which they’re reversed.
The modern Labor Party seems to illustrate this as well as anyone.
It seemed rather a giggle last year when, after their electoral drubbing, NSW Labor felt the need for ethics classes to learn how to be “honest with ourselves and … the people we represent”. But prolonged electroconvulsive therapy might have been more in order, for whichever thread you pull, the last decade of Labor emerges like an episode of the Jason Bourne film franchise.
Start anywhere. Say, at Mark Arbib. Arbib, then a Labor senator crucial in deposing a first-term prime minister and crowning Julia Gillard, was later revealed as a secret US government source. He also owned a beachfront apartment in Maroubra, built by a Labor donor developer, as did Labor’s former NSW treasurer Eric Roozendaal, both in the very same block where Moses Obeid, son of Labor MLC Eddie, also resided.
For two years Arbib stayed in the Canberra apartment of Alexandra Williamson, staffer to Gillard and daughter of the embattled HSU boss Michael Williamson.
I tell you, it’s the Philippines out there. When Craig Thomson popped up as an electoral contender the ALP must have kicked his tyres, seen his dodgy log-book and thought, yep, he’s one of ours. Bring him in.
I mention all this not just to illustrate that high-level grubbiness is so normal we almost expect it, but to highlight a more sinister possibility; that we, like the Philippines, are a puppet US state, where truth comes second to power.
This kind of talk I’ve always resisted. Yet it is now undeniable that, at US behest, Julian Assange stands to lose his liberty, indefinitely, for telling the truth. And the very same Labor Party, with its CIA-assisted PM and its concern for truth re-education, lifts not a finger to help him.
It’s quite clear that Assange is not guilty – not of rape, not of treason. As Malcolm Turnbull, responding to Gillard’s “illegal” claim, told a Sydney University law school
audience last year, it is prima facie clear that Assange has broken no Australian law.
In words of one syllable, the Australian Federal Police agrees. There has been no breach of our law.
Christine Assange says when she began investigating this, it was like slipping through a wormhole into another, shadowy world where the rules do not apply. Australian lore sees her son as a cult-outlaw in
the time-honoured tradition, a modern folk hero, wrongly maligned for helping us to see into that wormhole.
Assange has been under house arrest for 15 months. His family are in hiding and governments all over the world vilify him. A US sealed indictment could deliver decades in prison, or worse, his lawyers claim. Yet he has not been charged. Not with rape. Not with terrorism. Not with hacking. Not even with condomless sex.
The man is an Australian citizen in fear of his life, victim of a massive miscarriage of justice. But our government does nothing.
Were it anyone else – even on a genuine charge, formally laid – Gillard, Roxon and Carr would be over there, holding hands, pressing buttons, making tea. But because it’s Assange, and because he’s been telling inconvenient truths about Big Brother, he is guilty until proved otherwise.
The sex charges are clearly ridiculous and the Swedish justice system so convoluted as to be, if you’ll excuse the pun, impenetrable.
Yet the Sweden-US bilateral extradition agreement requires neither charge nor evidence. The minute he lands in Sweden, Assange can be locked up in solitary, incommunicado, and indefinitely without charge.
Or he can be shuffled straight onto the US extradition plane and, under sealed indictment, into the secret horror of a grand jury. There will be no judge, and no defence materials. Just a jury drawn from the most militarised area of the US – Alexandria, Virginia.
This is weird. Assange didn’t do the evil stuff. He exposed it (names redacted).
But join the dots. Over the same period, Karl Rove has been advising the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, known as ”Sweden’s Reagan”. Julia Gillard, flipped into power by CIA-friendly Mark Arbib, describes herself rhythmically as “a true mate” to the US, “an ally for the 60 years past … an ally for all the years to come”. And in our Parliament a raft of sinister legislation has appeared.
Labor’s special amendments to the Extradition Act allow the same, proofless ”streamlining” of extradition from Australia. Its so-called “WikiLeaks Amendment” allows ASIO to spy, at the Attorney-General’s discretion, on known supporters – despite the AFP’s view that no law has been breached. And its controversial Cybercrime Security Bill allows routine collection and surveillance of private emails, texts and other personal data.
As Gillard told Barack Obama last year, “you can do anything today”. Assange’s story will make a great film, in years to come; Jason Bourne with a dragon tattoo. But it’s not fiction. It’s real. We may yet be forced to recognise that Gillard’s ”anything” may include totalitarianism by stealth. And this is Labor.