WikiLeaks Party deregistered in Australia

Julian Assange's WikiLeaks Party has been deregistered after failing to maintain a sufficient number of party members under Australian legislation.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has deregistered the WikiLeaks Party, citing a lack of party numbers to sustain an active political party.

The deregistration, announced on Thursday, was made under Section 137 of the Commonwealth Electorate Act 1918. The section grants the AEC the power to deregister a political party, with s137(1)(b) stating that a party will be deregistered if it ceases to have less than 500 members.

The WikiLeaks Party, however, has countered that despite the level of difficulty involved in running a small party in Australia's two-party dominated political landscape, it does in fact have enough members, and the AEC simply uses outdated systems to ascertain this information.

"The current electoral system makes it extremely difficult for smaller political parties to exist, and will only get worse if the overhaul of the political system happens in the near future," the WikiLeaks Party said in a statement on Friday to ZDNet. "While as last count, we have over the minimal requirement of 500-plus members, the AEC only checks a small sample of this before it decides to put for deregistration using old-style phone landline technology many of our young members have long since stopped using.

"While we are considering our options for the next election, we continue to build up the party's influence via social media and outreach, and continue to be a political voice for values the party was founded on.

"In practical terms, we can either operate as is or register again near the election, but we are still considering our position on this."

The WikiLeaks party was first registered in Australia on July 1, 2013, before the federal election of that year. Australian-born WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had at the time announced his intention to run for the Senate in Victoria, despite continuing to reside in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

"The WikiLeaks Party believes that truthful, accurate, factual information is the foundation of democracy and is essential to the protection of human rights and freedoms," the party's website states in relation to its aspirations for its involvement in Australian politics. "Where the truth is suppressed or distorted, corruption and injustice flourish."

While the WikiLeaks Party mirrored the Greens Party's desire in 2013 to bring amendments before the Australian parliament to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act in order to require a warrant for all agency requests for telecommunications metadata from ISPs, by the time of the election, the party had instead decided to preference Nationals Senate candidates over Greens candidates in Western Australia.

"It's pretty poor. It's an unexpected and hostile decision which I can't pretend to understand," Western Australia Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said in August 2013. "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."

Ultimately, the WikiLeaks Party won no Senate seats in that election.

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than three years, where he claimed political asylum while United States authorities conducted an investigation into his activities and Swedish officials sought to arrest him for the alleged rape and sexual assault of two women. Assange denied the truth of these charges in August last year.

US authorities have been investigating the WikiLeaks website, which publishes documents from anonymous whistleblowers, since its distribution of US government and military documents in 2010. Assange sought asylum on the basis that if he surrendered himself to Sweden to face his sexual assault charges, the country would simply extradite him to the US.

In March, Swedish authorities applied for Assange's consent to both question him and take a DNA sample from him in London. While Assange agreed to the appointment, the Swedish prosecutors were then forced to cancel it at the last moment, according to The Guardian, as they had not received formal permission from the Ecuadorian Embassy to enter its grounds.

Assange has fought against his arrest, but the appeal was thrown out by the Swedish High Court in May.

On July 3, the French government reportedly denied a request for asylum from Assange on the basis that he is "not in immediate danger"; however, a day later, the WikiLeaks founder denied having ever made the request to French Prime Minister Francois Hollande.

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