Julian Assange runs for Australia Senate as ‘libertarian’
SYDNEY — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday vowed to be a “libertarian” and campaign for more openness in government if he is successful in gaining a seat in the Australian Senate.
Assange, who is on bail awaiting a British court decision on his appeal against extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations, announced his plan to run for the upper house of parliament earlier this month.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian citizen said he would be a “fierce defender of free media”.
Assange, who set up the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, also vowed to use parliamentary privilege to break court suppression orders and other “excessive constraints” on free access to information.
The Australian government has previously blasted WikiLeaks, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard describing its release of US diplomatic cables as “grossly irresponsible”.
Assange told the Herald the attacks by Gillard directly contributed to his decision to embark on a Senate campaign.
He said there were “many things wrong” with Australian politics, especially “increasing levels of cronyism” and “the betrayal of the rights and interests of people — by political insiders, operating in their own interests”.
WikiLeaks has said it will also field a candidate to run directly against Gillard in her lower house electorate of Lalor, in Victoria state, in elections due in 2013.
Each of Australia’s states is represented by 12 senators who serve six-year terms, with half-senate elections for some 40 vacancies generally held at the same time as national polls for the lower House of Representatives.
The “state Julian will run for will be announced at the appropriate time”, WikiLeaks said this month. He has several options, having lived in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
The Herald said he was considering “all possibilities”, including standing as an independent, seeking an alliance with a party, or establishing his own party devoted to advancing open government.
Assange strongly denies the sexual assault claims against him, saying they are politically motivated and linked to the activities of WikiLeaks, which has published thousands of confidential documents on the Internet.
He fears being sent to Stockholm would open the way for his extradition to the United States to face charges of spying linked to the leaking of classified military documents by US soldier Bradley Manning.
Manning has been formally charged for allegedly turning over a trove of classified US documents to WikiLeaks in one of the most serious intelligence breaches in US history.