DID YOU HAVE ANY IDEA? with Larry Buttrose

Like a lot of Australians, I was not just disappointed but actually shocked by the attitude of Julia Gillard and her government – many of the senior members of government – to Julian Assange and the major Wikileaks release of 250,000 documents that started in 2010.

It was an emotive response to a number of factors; one of which being “those leaks”, that were published a few days before. They were the ones that named Mark Arbib as an informer, an insider who informed on the workings of our government to a foreign power. It might be an ally, but it’s still a foreign power, and you don’t do that. You don’t tell a foreign power what’s going on inside your own government…

Imagine that the other way round: if Australian Intelligence had been receiving information about the internal workings of Obama’s government, and sending it back to Canberra. This would have been… you can imagine the reaction in the US. The fact that there was virtually no reaction illustrates the servant-master relationship; post-colonial relationship; NEO-colonial relationship that we have with the United States.

We are the willing Deputy Sheriff, and nothing has illustrated that more than the reaction Julia Gillard had when she claimed, completely wrongly – and the woman’s a LAWYER, for God’s sake – that Julian Assange was in breach of the law and that he had done something illegal. Then it was put to the federal police and what did they say? “No, he hasn’t broken any law”.

The other terrible thing at that time, was that Attorney General McClelland said that he would examine the state of Assange’s passport, as though he might not be allowed back into Australia – a last refuge, one would have thought, if the forces of authority are hunting him throughout the world. But what does the Australian government do? It says we’ll examine his passport to see if he can be kept out. The last person they did something like that to was Wilfred Burchett, so presumably they see Assange, in his own way, as as dangerous as Burchett – the last thing we had as a real renegade journalist – who didn’t take the government’s orders and reported as he wished. But that was decades ago…

So is Assange the new bête noir of the Australian government? Presumably he is.

Julian Assange receives the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize

My feeling about Julian Assange is that he should be celebrated. He is someone who has gone off in pursuit of truth. That’s all. He’s like Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers, which showed the dark side of the Vietnam War (it was all the dark side really) and Assange; what he’s been trying to do is to get papers which will show the unseen side of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. From a journalistic point of view, you have to remember that these wars have not been reported. They have gone UNREPORTED. Why is that? The last wars that were reported in any way objectively… the last one was Vietnam, where reporters were on the ground as free agents and could report what they saw. A number of them died in that process, but they got the news out as they saw it.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, reporters are embedded, and they spout the line of whoever embeds them with their troops. They see the war from the perspective of those who are giving them safety and comfort, and with whom they are bedded down. This is not the way that journalists should operate and it’s not the way that the public will ever learn the truth. So we have to accept that we are not getting information about those wars.

The French theoretician Jean Baudrillard spoke of the first Gulf War and said that it was an electronic confection, put on almost as a form of entertainment, and through it you could no longer contact or touch the reality of war. Iran and Afghanistan are the same, and the major powers are stage-managing their conflicts now, so that the public back home never worry about them; turn off The News and turn on The Simpsons.

The problem is someone like Julian Assange comes along and through releasing all sorts of government information, shows what the facts actually are, and the true danger is that the public may learn them. That’s why they’re so terrified of him. What is the attitude of the Australian government to a citizen, who has only brought material to light that was volunteered to his website anonymously? Take away his passport. Say that he’s done illegal acts. What does that really construe? That says he’s a criminal. He’s none of those things. He’s a journalist and a publisher, and that’s all he’s done. And for the things that he’s done, we should be awarding him the A.M., the A.O. He should be Australian of The Year. That’s the kind of person he is.

This government has betrayed a person whose only crime is to publish the truth. No one says these cables aren’t correct. They are authentic documents. And is Julian Assange accused of stealing them? No. So what is his crime, in any country? Even the Americans will find it hard to make that stick.

So from my point of view it’s one of the worst performances of this Government; the one that’s really sapped faith in the progressive side of politics, in the shell of what was The Labor Party. If they are going to suck on this level, God knows what Mark Lathem would say about them…


About CaTⓋ

Artist, musician, nerd
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5 Responses to DID YOU HAVE ANY IDEA? with Larry Buttrose

  1. gabfest says:

    Great Larry,
    I fully agree with you.
    In a not so distant time Julian Assange will be recognised as a true genius and man of courage by all of us. And we should be proud that he is Australian .
    Let’s see if Carr will wil be true to his own words.
    it is important to give him the support of the best lawyers and give him donations.
    Thanks to “Beat the blocade .org” it is now possible .
    Log on to beattheblockade.org
    Protest the extrajudicial financial blockade of WikiLeaks. Help raise vital funds so that WikiLeaks can continue its important work providing the truth about corruption and wrong doing around the world.
    Since 7th December 2010, Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union have subjected WikiLeaks to a financial blockade. The blockade is an attack on a free press publishing organisation that has breached no law in any country, and that won the 2011 Australian Walkley Award for outstanding contribution to journalism.
    Send a message to the companies engaged in the blockade, and the governments that regulate them, that censorship of a free press publisher will not be tolerated.

    • CaTⓋ says:

      Thanks for your comments gabfest. You point to the heart of the injustice. Not only has the Walkley been awarded, the Sydney Prize too. Before that, an Amnesty International award, among others. Curiously one of these is the Sam Adams Award, which is given for Integrity in Intelligence by a group of retired CIA officers, to an intelligence professional who has taken a stand for integrity and ethics. Seems that’s what happens when people are old enough to speak their mind. He’s also won some outstanding international awards, such as Readers’ Choice in TIME magazine’s Person of the Year poll, and runner-up for Person of the Year. But when he bothers Americans, our lawyer-leader will sacrifice her professional integrity by claiming he’s a criminal. That makes some of us feel all schizoid inside…

      Wikileaks / Assange’s publications cause controversy for sure, but they are legal and of great public interest. We are being de-brained again by the sound-byte: “He will be treated like an other Australian”. Em… no other Australian that I know has so many people with so much influence after his head, or want him at least immobilised, irrespective of whether he has committed any crime. Since this influence has been clearly demonstrated to be at the level of government and public media, there is a high risk that “arrangements” could be made. We need tight judiciary monitoring, but are dismayed that Australian laws affecting Julian’s extradition(s) are rapidly changing… Another schizoid moment was Nicola Roxon on Q&A saying that Assange had fled Sweden. No doubt in my mind about the truth of the matter, which Jeffrey Robinson thankfully pointed out, but an Attorney General as well now, spouting false information on national television… needs a second thought.

  2. Robert Medina says:

    Great commentary Larry. Yes, I too think he should be “Australian of The Year”

  3. Great work Larry. Juilan Assange has been treated very badly be our Government and there was a vote about this during Q and A a few weeks ago. More that 70% (dont quote me on the number but near enough ) agreed that the Australian Government had not done enough to help him. Nicola Roxon was present that night and showed no interest in what Australians feel about the situation.
    When corruption is absolute from the top down in this country we need people like Julian to keep on spreading the truth to us.
    Yes he should be Australian of the Year.

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