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WikiLeaks Party - The Aftermath

They forgot rule number one.


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The Australian WikiLeaks Party didn't get a senate seat in Canberra. A lot of small weird parties did. And Scott Ludlam lost his seat and as a result will be leaving the senate next year. Julian Assange and Scott Ludlam together in Canberra would have been a show worth watching, but it's not to be. Not yet.

There was a kerfuffle over the party's preferences about a fortnight before the elections, with several prominent members departing in loud protest over the way those preferences were divided. Those departing were not all in agreement about what was wrong, but they were still loud about it, and thereby failed as regards the number one rule of combat in the War of the Words:

1. Stick together as one and keep your differences amongst yourselves.

This is the same egregious boner Birgitta J pulled when DDB started making trouble at WikiLeaks three years ago. You don't hang your private laundry in public.

Outsiders can't possibly understand the strange preferences system in use in Australia. Most people assume that government of the people comes from the will of the people, thereby the vote count of the people.

A similar situation occurred in the mid-1980s. Bald-domed seven-foot Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett was approached by the country's Nuclear Disarmament Party (NDP) and asked to run for the senate. No one expected Garrett to win, but the NDP saw a chance to get publicity and thereby a better vote count and thereby state subsidies to help the party along.

Garrett conducted a heck of a show. He invited the media to Pine Gap where he simulated the formal closing of the CIA facility. He invited the media to Sydney harbour and then told them 'they're out there', even though nothing could be seen. (He was referring to the submerged US nuclear submarines lurking nearby.)

Garrett didn't get the majority - but he got the plurality. And then the finagling with preferences began. This is all told in his book Political Blues.

Bob Hawke was PM at the time, and there was no way Hawke was going to let a rock 'n' roller into his senate!

For each (indirect) vote where no candidate gets an absolute majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and those votes are then distributed as the candidate sees fit. This is where Bob Hawke worked overtime. For even if there should be a system whereby a candidate promises votes to another, nothing is given. Hawke kept at it until only two candidates remained, and Garrett, who'd had the plurality of the votes, was finally defeated by a dark horse who got all the rest.

Such is the Australian system. And it's crap.

But that being said, everyone in Australia knows this. They know the system sucks. They understand as well that declaring those preferences is a necessary evil. Yet several members of the WikiLeaks Party disagreed with the tactical decisions of the party leadership. And for that, a mere two weeks before the election, made a big stink about it, damaging the party's chances in a way that can never be fully appreciated.

Few people outside Australia and few people in Australia understand what happened. But thirty minutes at Twitter, witnessing the continuing recriminations, shows the people outside Australia that there's been something very wrong. Not with the way the preferences were divided - that's something no outsider is qualified to comment on - but with the rabid reactions since then.

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