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UK expenses on Ecuadorian embassy surveillance ‘utterly absurd’ – Assange

Published time: April 22, 2013 13:17
Edited time: April 23, 2013 14:32
Reuters / Chris Helgren

Reuters / Chris Helgren

By spending $4.5 million on ensuring a whistleblower does not escape from an embassy, Britain has overstepped the bounds of common sense, according to Julian Assange, who does not believe the 2015 UK election will bring any change to his fate.

Assange believes his being trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy is the result of the UK’s unwillingness to offend the US. And that sentiment is unlikely to disappear even if the ruling party is switched in Britain following the country’s 2015 election.  

The Australian government taskforce against WikiLeaks is also a bow to the United States, according to the organization’s founder, who stresses there’s no single reason for persecuting the organization in a country it never leaked anything about. Australian officials meanwhile publicly announced they are looking for ways to cancel the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief’s passport – something extremely rare – last done to the Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett in the 1970s.

Assange believes this approach is “symptomatic of corruption in Canberra", which he describes as corruption of purpose, when politicians do not represent the people, but other interests instead.

He offers his newborn political party as an alternative. In an interview with RT Assange says that as long as the WikiLeaks party has candidates running for the Senate, other participants of the election race have to “shift ground” to remain competitive, even though breaking into Australian politics from an Ecuadorian embassy in London is quite a challenging task.

RT: You are making a bid for the Australian Senate. Why?

Julian Assange: In order to promote our values within Australia. We face a very interesting situation, as an organization and me personally, with the Australian government, in response to pressure by the United States, starting to investigate our organization. It formed what it called a whole of government task force against WikiLeaks. Whole of government involved in the internal security service ASIO, the external security service ASIS, the department of defense, the Australian federal police equivalent of the FBI and the attorney general’s office. Publically announced that the Australian government would try and work out how to cancel my passport. It is an extremely rare procedure, last done to an Australian journalist in the ’60s-’70s - Wilfred Burchett.  What was WikiLeaks’ connection to Australia?  Was WikiLeaks publishing Australian secrets? No. Was WikiLeaks having its publishing service in Australia? No!

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he addresses members of the media and supporters from the window of the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge, west London on December 20, 2012 (AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

The connection to Australia is simply that I’m an Australian. And we also have one of our many non-profit registrations in Australia, and that’s all. And that alone and the US pressure was enough to cause the Australian government to roll over. That’s symptomatic of corruption in Canberra in general, which is a corruption not just in a regular financial sense, it’s a corruption of purpose. That when a government says that it’s going to represent the people, it’s not representing the people, it’s rather representing other interests.

RT: How easy is it to try and break into politics from inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London?

JA: It’s a fascinating situation that the Australian electoral code permits an imprisoned Australian overseas to run for the Australian Senate. That’s something quite interesting that when we first proposed that, the critics in the Australian establishment media said “Oh, that would be impossible.” But actually it is possible and the Australian Electoral Commission has recognized that. There’s been a variety of polls done in Australia that show that I have somewhere between 27 and 15 per cent support of the Australian population. Fourteen per cent is needed to be directly elected to the Senate without preferences. The WikiLeaks party itself is growing from strength to strength. We have potential candidates now in most Australian states.

RT: And on a practical level you can campaign remotely online?

JA: I don’t want to underestimate the difficulties of being in this situation. But WikiLeaks has certain abilities in using the internet, certain understanding on how to project the information on the internet. So we’ll see whether that works. I don’t know how much difficulty that’s going to be, how forgiving the Australian population will be of that difficulty. But I’m certain that the values that I have fought for 20 years, that the organization has fought for six or seven years, can be projected into the Australian debate of this election and that we will influence the policy positions of the other parties. They must shift ground if they are to be competitive with us for the Senate.

Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange rally with placards outside Ecuador's embassy in central London on June 20, 2012, where Assange is seeking political asylum as he fights extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes (AFP Photo / Carl Court)

RT: How long do you anticipate staying here?

JA: As long as it takes.

RT: Do you think your personal circumstances might change if Labour comes to power?

JA: The Labor Party is in power, and that’s one of the problems. The Labor Party is the most infiltrated and economically corrupt major party in the Australian politics. We see this from the US embassy cables. For example the current Foreign Minister Bob Carr was a US embassy informant even back in the 1970s, even when he was a senior member of the New South Wales Australian Union, a union leader constantly going into the American embassy. Why was a union leader constantly going to the US embassy, informing on the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, white-anting Gough Whitlam? Similarly, Mark Arbib now kicked out of the Cabinet partially as a result of being exposed as a US embassy informant. And the current Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who rolled the sitting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Why did that happen? And how did that happen? It happened in part because she sent her invoice to the US embassy and spoke to the security staff. There was a constant back and forth in this year-long sort of preparation where she was ingratiating herself with Rudd’s place.

RT: What about the British politics? If there’s a change of power here, do you think there could be some sort of deal struck between Ecuadorians and the Labour Party in the UK? 

JA: A lot has been said about the British Foreign Minister William Hague that there does not exist a diplomatic situation that William Hague cannot make worse. We’ll see whether that statement is true. So far that has proven to be true, but really for the United Kingdom they’ve been handed a poisoned chalice.

William Hague (AFP Photo / Georges Gobet)

The United Kingdom so far admits to spending over $4.5 million just on the police surveillance around this embassy alone in the past 10 months. Utterly absurd. That money could be spent on the British population. Why is the United Kingdom doing it? It’s pushed between a number of different forces. So you have the United States on the one hand, the UK feels that it cannot offend in any manner whatsoever. On the other hand you have its interrelationships in Europe that it wants to be seen to be part of.  

The United Kingdom actually wants to ship the problem away as fast as possible. But now, of course, it overstepped. The result of it overstepping is that another state has intervened, Ecuador and another way of seeing the world, another population group, another region, Latin America has intervened and said “this is not right” and we want to project our values in showing that it is not right. And so there is a clash now of cultures, rule of law and geopolitics.

2015 is the British election. I don’t think it will make any difference. The United Kingdom is a nation geopolitically of institutions. So its Foreign Commonwealth Office and MI-5, and MI-6, and the Central Bank - this is what controls the behavior of the United Kingdom, and the media a little bit. And elected representatives, they simply represent the forces that are underneath these institutions.

The present government is possibly even the best for someone in my sort of situation, which is where you have a conservative government, on the other hand you have the Liberal Democrats creating some restraint forces on the conservative government. You also have the Labour Party, which hasn’t yet worked out being the opposition they can. But perhaps overtime they’ll work out again how to be an opposition.

What opposition is meant to do is hold government to account. When you see parliamentary debates here, you see extraordinary things to me. For example, debates about extraditions to United States, how corrupting that is. In fact, the parliament voted that there must be urgent reform about what has been done with the extraditions to Europe and to the United States back in December 2011. My case was being used as an example of one of the reasons of why there should be urgent reform. And who was speaking against that? The most aggressive voices against us, that we must ship people over to the United States directly as soon as possible [were from] Labour.

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