Profile: Christine Assange

While the Wikileaks founder fights a Swedish extradition order in the UK, in Sydney, James O’Doherty speaks to the woman whose son changed the world.

Christine Assange, Julian Assange

In the mind of Christine Assange, freedom activist and mother of Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, the revolution has already begun. Disillusioned activists are re-activating, citizens are becoming engaged, and real change is on its way. The days of global political corruption, collusion and exploitation may be over sooner than we think. “It’s already happened,” she says, dryly.

Christine Assange, Julian Assange

Like many trends before it, Ms Assange’s revolution started in America. People were frustrated with what their government was doing behind closed doors. “The US has turned into a rogue state in terms of freedom of speech,” Ms Assange says. Once the Land of the Free, the global superpower is involved in global corruption on a worryingly insidious scale, Ms Assange asserts. She points to cables that claim the American fraud runs deep: “They’re involved in many, many countries; in supporting dictatorships, rorting the country’s minerals, oil deposits, diamonds, and all the rest of it,” she says. “They’re also involved with starting wars with no good basis, and taking gain from that, and then the reconstructing rorting that comes with that.  They’re propping up a number of countries, and engaging in collusion often in an illegal way.”

But it’s not just abroad; the political discontent has travelled to Australian shores. Ms Assange believes the problem, again, stems from America. “The US has installed a puppet in Julia Gillard,” she says. “Millions and millions of people are now very angry that weren’t angry before.” People are angry with our leaders, and they’re prepared to make a change.

Beneath all the talk of how to oust global political corruption, collusion and exploitation, though, Ms Assange is just worried for a son in trouble.  “Obviously I’m just a normal mother,” she says. A normal mother who spends her free time campaigning for freedom of speech and the release of her son from foreign custody for allegations which, in her words, are a “set-up.” The overwhelming presence she exudes is one of stressful urgency – an urgency, perhaps, for people to listen to what she has to say. Or perhaps an urgency for those people to act once they have listened. It’s clear her son’s work has galvanised her activism; it appears to be all-consuming.

The work itself was ambitious, and deceptively simple. Wikileaks was founded six years ago, in 2006, it set out to enable information to pass freely from the third world to the first. Once dictatorships are broken down, journalists and citizens can get real information out of their country. This was Julian Assange’s vision.  “Julian wanted to do something good in the world,” Ms Assange explains. What followed was a poignant moment in the relationship between the mother and son.

“We were sitting around the table one night,” Ms Assange remembers. “I said, Julian, what do you think will change it? He said, ‘I think only two things will change it – one, a huge catastrophe… to make people wake up, or something technological. And as it happened, that technological thing happened to be the Wikileaks Dropbox.”

Julian’s answer was an anonymous folder of internet-submissions in which people could leave classified documents exposing governmental misdeeds. Simple in execution, and startling in its impact. “If people know what’s going on, they can act to change it,” she says.  “What Wikileaks has done for the world has given the world the facts. What they do with it is up to them.”

When US embassy cables were submitted, exposing the extent of US corruption, the profile of the organisation exploded, and he found himself in deeper than anticipated. “I don’t think in his wildest dreams he ever expected to find something from America,” Christine Assange says.

These cables can be proven to h

ave existed, Ms Assange says. Whether or not the subject matter are lies, though, is indiscernible. She points to an analogy of an unfaithful marriage. “If you believe your spouse is having a relationship, and you can only feel it, then you find the love letters, you may be able to confront them and act upon it. In a similar way, people have the indication that things are not running according to how democracy is… but once Wikileaks gave people the documentation to prove it, things could actually change.”

This evidence, she says, indicates Gillard has been slowly shifting to the right, taking on “pro-Israeli and pro-US policies.” It’s this influence of Americanism in the highest ranks that points to a problem within the structure of our government. As Ms Assange explains, this isn’t a real democracy: “I’ve heard… that it’s very much a top-down operation within the ALP. Right down to the bottom people don’t really have a choice [with pre-selection of candidates]”.

Therein lies the basis of the Wikileaks truth revolution. The reason is simple enough – give people the facts they need, and they can defend their democracies for themselves.

It’s a revolution from the bottom; one that will bring change quicker than you might think. “The more they repress people, the angrier they are going to get,” Ms Assange says. “The more repression, the more revolutionary it’s going to get.”

“In their own self interests [the US and Australia], they need to take a step back. This is not going to stop.” We could see change as quickly as the next election cycle, Ms Assange says – if not from governments, from citizens.

For Ms Assange, the days of confidential caucus agreements and the individual pursuit of political power are over. Just this morning, Gillard has shown she has the political fortitude to survive confidential backroom dealings with the ‘faceless men’ of Australian politics. But according to Ms Assange, we can’t have true democracy until we are are informed of backroom machinations. “It’s our money, they are there to represent us, we need to know what they’re doing,” she says. When things happen, that’s when corruption breeds. Wikileaks fosters a system where every phone call, every conversation, and every note passed over the back of the party room is subject to scrutiny.

What Ms Assange doesn’t leave room for, however, is the ideal of a Government working towards a sense of a greater good through means which, by virtue of their nature, must remain confidential. When faced with a prospect of backroom dealings and political promises resulting in a cohesive governance system, she rejected the premise: “I don’t think they are working towards the greater good,” she said.

These failings could mobilise citizens to create change, as soon as they wake up to the situation around them. Our government is just a pack of frightened ostriches, Ms Assange says: “They can stick their heads in the sand for as long as they like, but you know what happens when you stick your head in the sand… your bum’s in the air. Citizens are going to give them a swift kick in the behind.”

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