After defending the actions of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange in parliament, a decision by the WikiLeaks Party to preference WA Nationals Senate candidates over sitting Western Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam could cost the senator his seat in the parliament.
Ludlam, who has been one of the most vocal parliamentarians on the importance of WikiLeaks and the rise of the surveillance state, faces a difficult re-election contest for his Senate spot in Western Australia. He told ZDNet that the last WA slot in the Senate will come down to either a Nationals or Greens candidate.
Australia's compulsory preferential voting system ensures that every vote cast ultimately ends up for a particular candidate who is voted in. This means that a vote for a candidate who doesn't meet the required quota to be elected is transferred to the next preferred candidate. In voting for Senate candidates, a person can decide to vote for a particular party rather than a particular order of candidates, in which case the allocation of voting preferences from that vote is determined by the party.
Alternatively, a voter can number all of their candidate preferences individually, but, as this election's Senate ballot in New South Wales shows, it can be more time consuming and prone to error, with 110 candidates up for election in that state.
The Senate group voting tickets released yesterday indicate how those preferences will flow if a voter does choose to vote for a party. It revealed that in Western Australia, the newly formed WikiLeaks party has preferenced the conservative-leaning Nationals above the progressive Greens candidates, including Ludlam.
Ludlam said that the Greens position in WA is on a knife's edge, and WikiLeaks did not help the situation.
"It's pretty poor. It's an unexpected and hostile decision which I can't pretend to understand," Ludlam said. "What we do know is that the last Senate spot is likely to come down to the Greens or the Nationals, so to have WikiLeaks preference that way is profoundly unhelpful."
WikiLeaks has not commented on the situation in WA, but a similar preferencing arrangement in NSW that sees the extreme right-wing parties of The Shooters & Fishers and Australia First preferenced above the Greens was labelled as an "administrative error" by the WikiLeaks Party yesterday. Ludlam said that the Greens had known the WikiLeaks Party was planning to preference that way last week.
"There's no administrative error. One of our guys was told last week well before this decision got locked away that that was what they were going to do," Ludlam said.
Ludlam said that if he fails to get back in, the other Greens senators will be there to ensure that either the Labor or Coalition government is held to account.
"I think it has been mischaracterised, as I'm the only one in parliament who cares about or works on these issues, but we've got a strong Greens team who will continue to take on these issues no matter what. I'm hoping that I'm part of it, but even if I'm not, we'll continue to do that work," he said.
If the Coalition wins, and controls both houses of parliament, Ludlam warned that the ability of the Senate Estimates committees and parliamentary committees to do oversight work would be reduced.
"A lot of the accountability mechanisms we've been able to put to good effect in the last few years [will] get closed down," he said.
The two current inquiries underway for legislation proposed by the Greens, including requiring government agencies to obtain a warrant before being able to access telecommunications customer metadata, will not be completed until parliament resumes after September. Ludlam said that he had expected the inquiries would not be resolved before the election was called.
"I knew that would occur, so I'm not stressed about it. I put them in so that people would know where we're heading in the next parliament, and to give people a good, long run to put evidence to it," he said.
If re-elected, Ludlam said he would also like to step up to chair the joint parliamentary committee investigating the National Broadband Network (NBN), if it still exists after the election. The former chair, Independent MP Rob Oakeshott, is retiring at this election.
He said he wasn't surprised that the Parliamentary Budget Office is not being used to cost the Coalition's alternative NBN policy.
"Malcolm Turnbull's costings are highly suspect, because they seem to be imagining that Telstra won't bring the lawyers to the negotiation when it comes to taking the copper off them," he said.
"The whole proposal is extremely suspect."