Why Gillard’s attack on Assange made me ashamed of the Australian Government.
Let me be perfectly clear at the outset that I have deep misgivings about Julian Assange’s stated motivations for his actions, about the actions themselves, and about the potential effects of the WikiLeaks revelations on international relations. I can’t declare myself a supporter of leaking this kind of information, nor of publishing the same. But I most certainly cannot support the way Assange and WikiLeaks have been attacked by senior government figures.
The American perspective on this is somewhat different to our own because of the constitutional litigiousness that forms part of the American political process. In any case, my concerns are principally parochial as far as this comment is concerned. In Australia a consideration of the government’s response to the latest WikiLeaks revelations doesn’t need to get past the test of the rule of law.
Notionally Westminster democracy has been based on an explicit recognition that the executive, parliament and the judiciary are bound by law just as much as the ordinary citizen, thus acting as a principal check on tyranny since that principle was written into the 1689 Bill of Rights in England. The principle underpins everything that is valuable about our common law system and carries the strongest guarantee that the liberty of citizens cannot be infringed arbitrarily by the state. Put another way, the rule of law makes summary or arbitrary persecution and condemnation unlawful. According to that principle Assange and WikiLeaks should either be charged with an offence under law or left alone to pursue their lawful business.