Julian Assange was a client of mine for a brief time for matters involving Australia. When I needed to get a hold of the most wanted man on earth, I did so through his mother, Christine. She still runs a small theatre just off Stradbroke island.
When she answered the phone, I would hear Christine’s very Australian voice sing, “Fairy Island Puppet Theatre”. I’d then discuss the serious legal matters facing Julian. At that time the only portal to the world’s most sought after man was through the puppet theatre. All of Julian’s life was more than surreal.
He obtained his surname from his mother’s second marriage, from a man who incidentally happened to be an actor. I was very good friends with his biological father, John Shipton, who was a builder going out with Margaret and Leon Fink’s nanny – a girl who I had fancied as her brothers went to my boarding school. Christine then became involved with and married a male member of the Australian cult The Family, whose graphic story involved Dr Anna Hamilton adopting many children from the UK and Australia, whose hair she bleached jet white with peroxide.
Christine and Julian went on the run from The Family, a very dangerous cult who kidnapped and brainwashed their members. Julian spent most of his childhood on the lam, going from town to town around Australia with his mother and half-brother – over 30 different towns – before going to school. For most of Julian’s adolescence, they lived in mortal fear for their lives. The Family make Scientology look like a cute bedtime story.
Once Julian settled in Melbourne, he and two friends formed “Mendax” calling the group “the international subversives”. Julian, a high-functioning, highly charismatic genius, had clear anarchistic leanings during his teenage years. His psychiatrist at the time described him as “having a prescient understanding of institutional corruption which he wanted to challenge and change”. Julian and his “white hat hackers” had no financial nor commercial agenda at the time. They used student computers at RMIT to hack the world’s most powerful and secretive alphabet organisations, including NASA and ASIO, as well as telecom behemoths at the highest level. They were just pranksters having fun, being larrikins and showing international authorities just how vulnerable they were in the face of a few teenaged hackers operating from an Australian university computer.
Eventually Julian and his Kelly gang were apprehended and charged, but after a period of time on remand, were never locked up. At this time, he married, had a child and suffered a mental breakdown because of the stress of the proceedings. He had committed no real crime other than to expose the crepe-paper like defences of Australia’s and the world’s digital and cyber institutions.
Julian and his troupe were self-taught masters of the emerging digital universe. He should be regarded as an Australian forward-thinker at the forefront of free speech. His motives were never financial but he believed in the sunlight principle; that secrets, by their nature, corrupt.
With his cyber skills, he helped the Victorian police find online paedophiles, pulled out the filthy maggots that hide in the mouldy depths of the digital world.
The rest of Julian Assange’s adventures in the world are well known. He started WikiLeaks, exposing hidden corruption all over the world. And compelled governments worldwide to respond to the unprecedented public release of previously hidden evidence of various governments and institutions, of torture, outrage and murder.
Throughout his adult career, he has spent his life exposing duplicity, mass government torture, and famously, footage of US soldiers murdering journalists and innocent citizens from a helicopter in Iraq. Wikileaks thereafter, in conjunction with the world’s most respected newspapers, published secret documents obtained from whistle-blower Chelsey (Elizabeth) Manning among other sources, exposing the decadence and real lives of Saudi Princes: drinking, drugging and orgies with the world’s top models at home and in London.
Wikileaks’ releases, in conjunction with the premier newspapers of the world, showcased the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs. If it wasn’t for Wikileaks there would never have been the greatest fiscal leak in history – the Panama Papers release – exposing the tax havens of many of the world’s leaders, countries, institutions and companies. Even Google, whose unofficial motto was don’t be evil – were forced to respond to allegations made. Loopholes around the world were closed, and the gap between the rich and poor, even if only slightly.
Swedish authorities’ pursuit of Assange was a farcical camouflaged extradition attempt to get him to the US for alleged treason allegations. He is an Australian citizen and could hardly commit treason off US soil. The highest allegations against him are that he coached or enabled Manning as to how to deliver the information she had stolen. Julian has quite rightly been fearful of America’s intentions to prosecute him and jail him for life for offences against American pride.
His friends tell me his time in the Ecuadorian embassy, where the American’s spied on every blink of his eye, visit to the toilet and assignation with any female visitor. To a mind like Julian’s, the gulag of the embassy and the denial of bail in the UK at this moment has the capacity to jeopardise his life. With Julian’s swashbuckling sword of anti-secrecy and the extraordinary gift of exposing evil to the world, he should occupy the highest position on the podium in the free speech Olympics. Yet Australia has done so little to protect its most heroic citizen who has suffered enormously for his principles. If only there was a Victor Hugo to write J’Accuse at Australia’s cowering timidity.
It is not without significance that the Australian fight to bring Julian Assange home is led by the North Queensland Politician George Christenson, a Liberal National MP from the Sunshine State. It is the small 'L' liberal champions of free speech who put their reputations and jobs on the line when it comes to courage in the face of inertia. Christenson said of his motives to free Julian, “It’s about the principle of someone whose published information on the internet and fallen afoul of laws in a country that they are not a citizen of, that they haven’t actually set a foot in... you’ve got to question how that is possible. That’s a crazy situation that I don’t think most Australians would agree with.”
He said Wikileaks acted in the public interest and that “the information may have been sensitive to the United States, but he wasn’t in the United States when he published it nor is he a citizen of the United States”.
The farcical impeachment of Trump, the Russian question and distraction of American politicians from doing their work could have been avoided if they took seriously the words of the country’s real heroes: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that” - Martin Luther King.