Greg Barns President of Australian Lawyers' Alliance


The Ukrainian Government is Illegitimate: It Was a Coup

Download audio file  14 April, 2014 23:37

The criticism of the Russian Federation by Australia is another example of western double standards and hypocrisy especially given the fact that Australia is currently paying other countries to house refugees in razor-wire camps who were attempting to reach Australia. The media manipulation and the views of the West propagated by anti-Russian politicians and Washington strategists have skewed the image of the situation in Ukraine for the world audience. The over simplification of the situation in Ukraine and in Crimea by the western media into a good vs evil is far from reality. The VOR talked to Greg Barns, he is an advisor for the WikiLeaks Party in Australia about Australian reaction to this situation in Ukraine.

Hello, this is John Robles. I'm speaking with Greg Barns. He is a political commentator and an advisor of the WikiLeaks Party in Australia.

Robles: Hello, sir. Good morning.

Barns: Good morning, John.

Robles: I'd like to get your opinion on the situation right now going on with Ukraine and contrast with some of the things are going on in Australia. What is the media coverage about them?

Barns: I think that the media coverage on Russia's participation in Crimea and in relation to Ukraine has been hostile.

The Australian government has certainly been very critical of the Russian government and has been more supportive of Ukraine.

There is a good deal of hypocrisy of course in contamination of President Putin and those in Russia in relation to what, or what might not have, happened in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine.

And I say that for this reason: that the Australian government has essentially written out large sums of money to Papua New Guinea and Nauru, both of which are impoverished countries, in order for those countries to set up razor-wire detention centers in which are housed people who have been seeking to come to Australia, mainly from Indonesia as their last port, but coming on boats to try and get to Australia to seek asylum.

Many of these people are from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran. They are in a very desperate situation including women and children have now been placed in these extraordinarily bad conditions in Nauru and in Papua New Guinea and so it is a little bit rich for the Australian Government to be condemning Vladimir Putin and Russia in relation to human rights, when in fact the human rights records of the Australian government and its predecessors in relation to refugees have been absolutely appalling.

Robles: Now can I ask you a question: what would the Australian government say to do with, ok, I don't know what kind of coverage you are getting but the situation in Crimea was that the junta-coup government, the western-backed neo-nazis that came into power, they were openly threatening to kill Russians, Jews and blacks and the first thing they did was ban the Russian language which is spoken as a primary language by 97% of Ukrainians.

Even Ukrainian in the neo-nazi junta government, they regularly make speeches in the Russian language. So it is ridiculous! They do television addresses in Russian, they are all speaking in Russian so that is completely ridiculous.

There are at least 8 million Russians in Western Ukraine and they were being threatened with annihilation. What would the Australian government say to do with those people?

Barns: I think that is one of the problems that you've got in terms of the portrayal of this conflict outside of those who are on the ground. Certainly in Australia and the Australian government is driven by essentially the Australian media and also takes its lead from the US. But there seems to be no sophisticated analysis of what is happening in Ukraine and certainly no sophisticated analysis in relation to Crimea, the sort of thing you are talking about.

It is essentially saying: it's good guys versus bad guys, you know. Good guys meaning Ukraine and the coup government, bad guys being the Russians. I think that as Stephen Cohen from Princeton University pointed out in an article in The Nation in the US last month: this is a much more sophisticated complex matter and we tend to reduce it down to good vs evil but in fact it is not clearly that way at all.

We've actually seen a little bit of turn because the Ukrainian government's decision to essentially threaten the independence of the Judiciary in that country, I think is starting to tell some people that maybe the coup government isn't all that good after all. It certainly cracked down on protestors, the way in which the thuggish behavior of this government... I think is letting people know that again this is a much more complex dispute. It should not be seen purely through American eyes and you need to read your own analysis rather than simply believing western political leaders.

Robles: I would like to point out, I mean, my opinion I know the Cohen piece you are talking about and for me it is a way out in my opinion calling it complex. It is a way out to say: 'Maybe we were wrong' in my opinion because it is not complex, it is quite simple. The US staged and sponsored and organized a coup of neo-nazi elements who want to basically have their way in the country by force and violence. It is pretty simple.

Barns: I think, John, what I would say about it in terms of just giving you a flavor of the way in which one western nation views it. That is to essentially said: "Look, there are always or it is rare that you get a situation where there are good guys versus bad guys. There are generally complexities on both fronts'.

And certainly in relation of Ukraine, the previous government and other governments in Ukraine have been extraordinarily bad. You've seen the way in which the Sochi Olympics were portrayed in the West, it was said that they were going to be disastrous, so you always have to be careful in believing the rhetoric of those who think that everything that Putin does is bad.

Robles: You know that, I know that. But I'm trying to get that out to the world.

Barns: The other thing that needs to be understood in the West is that Russia plays a vital role in relation to Syria, in the resolution of Syria, it plays a vital role in relation to Iran and bringing Iran to the table and starting the settlement off Iran, it plays a very strategic role in the Middle East and certainly in other parts of the world and in Europe and that needs to be understood, inflammatory rhetoric is really unhealthy.

Just a reminder you are listening to an interview with Greg Barns.

Robles: It somehow seems that the US thinks it is a better part and a closer part of Europe than Russia, although Russian territory is the largest part of Europe. And most countries are depending on Russian energy resources, trade with Russia. Ukraine was the biggest country in Europe. I've seen some political commentators and reports in the West that Russia "believes" it has some connection with Ukraine. Well, Russia has thousands of years of connections with Ukraine. Ukraine was the mother of Rus. I mean, to say that Russia has no interest or there has been no history is really ridiculous. Go ahead, sir, I'm sorry.

Barns: That is ok. I'm just going to say that I think the lesson of this again is that one needs to be very careful in analyzing these disputes.

The perspective that comes through Australia as it does in the US is one which essentially says that 'Look, you've got good vs bad, good vs evil and it is very simple'. There may be some simplicity but it is not a simplicity it is really important to understand the history of those regions, it is really important to understand that there are as you say, John, Russian language speakers who had felt under threat in the past and certainly there have been some very troubling rhetoric from the new government in Kiev.

And it is also time for western governments to look in their own backyards.

The United States' actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq were it left millions of impoverished and dead in wars which were appalling and certainly in Iraq built on a lie.

Let's remember all that and let's look at history (recent history even) in a broader context, not simply through the prism of Washington or to be fair not simply through the prism of Moscow (but it is more sophisticated and complex in essence and it is important for people to understand that when it comes to the Ukraine – this new government doesn't have any legitimacy.

I mean, Putin made on point right very early on, I saw it in an interview and press conference he held which I saw on Al Jazeera, he made that point that this government has no legitimacy. And certainly in international law this new government has no legitimacy – it is a coup.

Robles: And under Ukrainian law as well. You brought up Iraq, Afghanistan, I'd like to just.. if we could contrast it with... (I don't know what reports you are seeing about Crimea) but, there was a referendum, there was first a declaration of independence by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea then they declared independence, legally under their constitution, under international law, than the held a democratic referendum with observers from the OSCE and Europe and the US and Russia of course, and the people decided to – now this is a very important point but – "rejoin" Russia because Crimea historically for thousands of years was part of Russia.

There was not a shot fired, I can tell you 100% there was no invasion, there was no annexation. There was no huge Russian military buildup, there were Russian troops but they have been there for over 25/30 years. They are part of the Black Sea fleet so they were there under legally binding agreements for two decades.

Now again, there was not a shot fired, nobody died, there was no bloodshed, there was no war, nothing. How would you compare that to for example John Kerry saying :' We don't annex countries on false pretexts'. He said something like that.

Barns: He was wrong to say it and he knows that he was wrong to say it because the war in Iraq was built on a lie. And it was known to be a lie by George W. Bush, it was known to be a lie by Tony Blair, the then British PM, and they pursued a war in the face of all that, and known to be lie by John Howard the Australian Prime Minister.

So the Western hypocrisy go together unfortunately in the same sense on many occasions and this is one of those occasions.

Robles: What about what is going on in Australia now with regards to Russia? Are there calls by Australian politicians for sanctions and things like that?

Barns: Australia unfortunately, especially under the newly installed conservative government is just a secretariat of Washington.

The Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop never utters a sentence without... which is essentially lip-sinking Washington and that is the unfortunate thing about the Australian foreign policy.

We've seen the Australian PM TonyAbbott cuddling up to Japan and now in China but certainly much more circumspect in China than he is Japan. I mean once again playing into the US strategy which is containment of China.

There are free trade agreement discussions between Australia and Russia which have been put on hold as a result of this op in Ukraine but money talks at the end of the day, you can imagine that certainly I would expect that free trade agreement to go ahead between Australia and Russia at some point over the next couple of years.

Robles: Can you give us some details on that trade agreement? What are the levels of the tradel? Any idea?

Barns: John, it has essentially been in the works for some time. The Australian minister was going to Russia I think just about the time that Ukraine blew up and we had the Russian response. So it has been put on hold. But I certainly think that there will be an Australian free trade agreement with Russia, will certainly come about.

I mean, Australia and Russia have many trading issues in common one of which of course is energy and free trade agreements also in relation to agricultural produce.

So Australia certainly has the capacity to do a free trade agreement with China and Russia and it certainly will.

Robles: Very good, very good. That is normal business.

Barns: I should say just quickly that Russia has now banned Australian beef imports which were worth about $130 million last year and that is in retaliation for the Australians essentially putting on hold the trade deal talks.

So there is some tension but I have to say I think that it will certainly be back on the table.

Robles: That is a normal business, it is a normal thing I think that countries should be engaged in and should not be politicized but I don't think the US is going to wipe that . How the US is going to react if Australia signs a trade agreement?

Barns: I think when it comes to trade agreements Australia has a free trade agreement with the US and it often pursued its own interests outside of those that Washington might think are appropriate and I don't think that that is a major issue.

Robles: So Australia is maintaining some independence as far as trade and the economy?

Barns: The Australian trade is much more independent, it is in relation to foreign policy and defense policy that it is much more locked in step with the US.

Robles: Anything with WikiLeaks coming up if you can tell us?

Barns: No that I know of mate.

Robles: Thanks a lot, Greg, I appreciate it.

Barns: Thanks, John, it was good to talk to you.

That was the end of an interview with Greg Barns, a political commentator from Australia and an advisor of the WikiLeaks Party. Thank you very much for listening and as always I wish you the best, wherever you may be.


Australia is Becoming a Rouge State

Download audio file   6 February, 2014 13:23

The Australian Navy has been conducting incursions into Indonesia's territorial waters, apparently, in an attempt to stop ships with refugees from reaching Australia. The Australian Government's crackdown on marginalized people, fleeing warzones and oppression shows the callousness that has poisoned the West. This was stated in an interview with the Voice of Russia by the former Head of the WikiLeaks Party and the Founder of the Australian Lawyers Alliance Mr. Greg Barns. He also stated that Australia’s Government has still not moved on protecting Julian Assange and is still a client of the US.

This is John Robles, I’m speaking with Mr. Greg Barns. He is a regular Voice of Russia contributor, the former campaign director of the WikiLeaks Party in Australia and the official spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance. He is also the founder and the former president of that alliance.

Robles: Hello Greg! How are you this fine morning? Morning for you and middle of the night for me…

Barns: It is a fine, it’s a beautiful morning in Tasmania, Australia, John. So, I’m sorry you are not here.

Robles: It is minus 23 here in downtown Moscow.

Barns: It is about plus 23 degrees Celsius here.

Robles: That’s great! So, what is going on in Australia right now as far as Indonesia, refugees, AISO etc? If you could, give our listeners an on the ground Australia update?

Barns: Yes, the newly-elected conservative government headed by Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister, had a policy of turning back boats.

What had happened was that there were a number of asylum seekers, seeking to come to Australia on boats which were organized by people smugglers out of Indonesia.

People were simply coming because the queues, the so-called official queue that the UN runs, simply doesn’t work. People just wait for years and years in refugee camps.

What’s happened is that the Australian Navy has made incursions into the Indonesian territorial waters in a bid to turn back boats.

Now, what is extraordinary is that the Australian navy and the Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison have both said that these incursions into the Indonesian waters were in fact a “mistake”.

Now it just seems extraordinary that highly trained members of the Australian Navy on highly sophisticated ships, would on a number of occasions, go into the Indonesian waters and not know about it.

One of the other issues is the great secrecy with which this exercise has been conducted. The minister and the military are refusing to allow journalists any real access to the program.

We don’t know whether, for example, the Navy is abusing asylum seekers. There have been some unconfirmed reports about that. But it’s been conducted in such secrecy that, really, one has to wonder what the Australian Navy and what the Abbott Government have to hide.

Robles: What kinds of abuse have been reported? Have there been any clashes or contacts with Indonesian security forces or naval forces?

Barns: There have been no clashes at this point, but the Indonesians have indicated that they will be patrolling their waters very-very strongly.

It comes on the back of the Edward Snowden leaks, which have confirmed that Australia spied on the Indonesian President Yudhoyono and members of his family. And that really I think has been catastrophic for Australian-Indonesian relations, in the same way that US spying on Angela Merkel has been for German-US relations.

The second point is that the Indonesians, you know, it is a developing world country and just believe that Australia is being extraordinarily selfish and xenophobic in the way in which it is dealing with this issue of asylum seekers.

Indonesia is a country teeming with people who’ve come from other countries. Australia should be doing more to support asylum seekers, but it is instead running, for its own domestic political purposes, a very nasty campaign.

In terms of abuse, the allegations were that some asylum seekers were forced to put their hands on hot engines on the boats by Australian Navy personnel.

Those allegations have not been confirmed, I should say, but nor have they been able to be explicitly put to bed as not being correct. There is also an allegation of some physical abuse. There is also an allegation about a pepper-spray and mace incident. Now again one of the difficulties is that you’ll never know the truth of this because the Minister and the Navy, and the military are simply in complete denial and there is no way of knowing whether those allegations are true or not.

Robles: I see. A couple of things here: Why would they be putting people’s hands on hot engines? Is that some sort of torture or punishment? What is it?

Barns: That’s right, and that was the allegation that was made. Certainly, as I say, at this point in time I think it would be fair to say that that allegation is being vigorously denied by the Australian Navy, but because of the secrecy with which this exercise has been conducted, there is no real accountability on the part of the military and/or the government for what is happening in relation to interactions between the Australian Navy and people on these asylum seeker boats.

Robles: So, you’re saying this was like torture, is that what you are saying?

Barns: The allegation was that people have got burns, had their hands badly burnt as a result of being forced to hold hot engines on the boats by the Australian Navy. Now, as I said, the Australian navy is vehemently denying it and the Australian Navy is being backed up by the conservative elements in the Australian media.

Robles: You know yourself, I mean, that sounds so bizarre, that I don’t think it is made up. Who would make up something like that? I don’t know.

Barns: I think the problem is, John, that the Government … in fact, what the minister said was that people shouldn’t sledge the Australian navy or shouldn’t criticize the Australian navy. An extraordinary comment to make.

You know, in a democratic society the military is not above reproach and the people are entitled to put allegations to the military, and they should answer them, they should answer in a way that is respectful rather than simply getting into a huff like a small kid. And that’s what has been happening with the Minister for Immigration and with the Australian navy.

Robles: Sounds like the same thing that is going on in the UK, I mean, as far as the security services and stuff go, where illegality is not questionable, right?

Regarding immigration and the refugees trying to get to Australia, I thought it had a pretty liberal immigration policy. But a lot of it was based on economic means. I mean, basically, if you have a lot of money…

Barns: It used to.

Robles: That no longer exists?

Barns: What no longer exists is generosity in Australia. In the late 1970s Australia took in vast numbers of Vietnamese who, again, came on boats from Indonesia fleeing Vietnam’s Communist Regime. But in the last 12 years Australia has shown an extraordinary mean-spiritedness in relation to asylum seekers coming from Iraq, Afghanistan – places where Australia has caused displaced persons, because we’ve participated in those wars.

And what we’ve done in Australia is – children and women in particular have been detained in hellish detention centers in places such as Nauru, which is effectively a client state of Australia, and also Papua New Guinea. People are being held in terrible conditions.

There has been widespread condemnation from Human Rights Watch, from UNHCR and from Amnesty International. And both sides of politics in Australia – the previous Government and the current Government – effectively say “We don’t care!”. Australia is becoming a rouge state when it comes to the human rights of asylum seekers.

Robles: Very serious statement to make. How many people are we talking here, Greg, in these camps?

Barns: In any stage we are talking anywhere from between 5, 10 to 15,000 it just depends on how many. We did have a number of people coming on boats over the last couple of years. The reason for that happening was effectively because of deterioration of conditions in Afghanistan.

I mean, it is a bit rich for countries like Australia and the US, which caused this displacement in those countries, to then turn around and say – “Well, we are not going to look out for desperate people.”

I should say, as a lawyer, I’ve acted for a number of people who have sought asylum and the stories are just horrific. And it is just difficult to believe that Australia can’t find a way for these people coming into our community.

Asylum seekers, generally speaking, are extremely law-abiding, hard-working, and they are terrific members of the Australian community. And with some really good positive leadership Australians could, again I think, become more generous towards asylum seekers, but we are living here through a horrific period in this country’s history. As I say, Australia is becoming a rogue state when it comes to the freedom of asylum seekers.

Robles: That’s horrible! Up to 15 000, that’s a very large quantity of people. That’s a huge amount of people, I think! I think what you are talking about is something that is a problem in the world in general, as far as the callousness and the uncaring. That seems to have become the norm rather than the abomination. I’m sure you remember the 1970s and the 1980s, we tried to be kinder, right?

Barns: Yes, I think you are absolutely right.

The other issue that has emerged, that we should talk about is the visit by some members of the WikiLeaks Party to President Bashar Assad in late December.

John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, went on that trip with some other members of the party. It was widely condemned by the conservative elements media.

The issue of course is – Australians seem to see Syria in very black and white terms. That is that the opposition is thwarting Assad and he bad.

The complexity of Syria is such, that there are as many nefarious forces on the side of the opposition, as there are within the Government.

And the trip I think was blown out of all proportions by the conservative elements in Australia, but also some on the left, who see Syria in very black and white terms. And it was made clear by the WikiLeaks Party that it was a fact-finding mission.

Certainly, I had nothing to do with the trip, but I didn’t see any endorsement of Assad by those who were on the trip. And as I say, I think it was blown out of proportion given that the Syrian situation is a complex situation.

Robles: What did they see? Can you tell us about that? You said they didn’t endorse Assad, but did they condemn him or did they see anything damning against the government?

Barns: I think the trip was very much around fact-finding. I wasn’t on the trip, I had no involvement. My involvement with the party has been sort of unofficial, since the election campaign. But I think it was organized by a guy called Tim Anderson who is an academic in Australia. It should be said that Andersen has been fairly pro-Assad in the past.

My understanding is that they met with the members of the Syrian opposition. It was a short trip and I think John Shipton made a point that Assad was glad to see them go because they were certainly meeting with members of the opposition.

Robles: That’s the problem in Damascus and in Syria. I mean, the opposition controls or tries to control who human rights workers talk to, who, I’m sure, you guys talk to, and they try to make sure you only hear what they want you to hear. So, I mean, it is almost impossible… that’s why I’m really interested in hearing….

Barns: I think the point John is that there are no angels in Syria at the moment. It is a complex situation and there is a lot of hypocrisy in the West. At the same time, that the West condemns Assad, you’ve got back channel discussion going on with Assad because there is a recognition that he might still be around in any talks. So, I think from that perspective, it is silly to see it in purely black and white terms.

Robles: I personally believe it was the terrorist elements and the Western-backed elements, and I think this is a big point and nobody wants it to come out, about those 426 children that were murdered as a pretext to cause that invasion. And I’m sure that is something the West does not want to come out, because this was really their own homicidal maniacal Al-Qaeda lunatics who did it.

Barns: But certainly there are some serious human rights abuses on both sides of this conflict.

Robles: Can you tell us anything about Julian on the record?

Barns: I don’t have any great update on Julian at the moment. He is still in the embassy and there is no sign that the new Australian Government will assist him. And that is because they are in the thrall of the US, in the same way as the previous government. But Julian is continuing his work and WikiLeaks is continuing to put out some very important material.

Robles: Okay, but there is no movement within Australia.

Barns: No movement that I know of, John.

Robles: I saw Julian, he grew a beard and he looks a little worse for wear, I mean it looks like he is being under, extremely, a lot of pressure and it is showing.

Barns: It is a very-very tough gig and it is extraordinary the inhumanity of the British Government, the Australian Government and the US Government that they would leave someone in that situation.

Robles: Yes, it is. I mean, that’s a human rights abuse in itself. It is an abomination I think, that he is still there.

Barns: Absolutely, it is a human rights abuse, there is no doubt that.

Robles: Thank you Greg, I really appreciate it. And thanks for letting us know what is going on with Indonesia.


You were listening to an interview with Greg Barns – the former campaign director of the WikiLeaks Party in Australia, the official spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance and the founder and the former President for that alliance.


Persecution of the Guardian by Security and MPs is Frightening - Part One

Download audio file 5 December, 2013 20:52

The pursuit by the Australia, the UK and the US of whistleblowers and media outlets which publish any information that the security agencies do not like continues to be a worrying development that appears to be getting worse. The almost unheard of prospect that the Guardian might face terrorism charges for publishing revelations of illegal US/UK/FVEY spying shows that the West is continuing and in fact escalating their war on journalists and anyone who dares to speak out. The fact that a media outlet performing its proper oversight function and practicing responsible journalism might face terrorism charges brings to question the true meaning of that word and who is in fact using fear and terror to reach their own political and other ends. Labels of “treason” and “terrorism” by security agencies are used to strike fear into anyone who might seek to publish the truth. We are heading into, if not already, in a similar epoch as the McCarthy years and this is frightening according to Greg Barns in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian newspaper in the UK, defended his publication for publishing leaks by Edward Snowden. He told the parliamentary panel under fierce questioning that the staff of the daily were patriots.

Mr. Rusbridger told the parliamentary committee that his newspaper had published just 1% of the files that were passed to them by the US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

He said that other files had been passed to other news agencies around the world. Towards the end of the hearing the possibility was revealed that the Guardian may face terrorism charges in light of the revelations by Edward Snowden.

Hello! This is John Robles, you are listening to part 1 of an interview with Greg Barnes. He is a barrister in Australia. He is the former campaign director for the WikiLeaks Party and the official spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, as well as the former president for that organization.

Robles: Hello Greg! How are you?

I’m good, John.

Robles: I’d like to start out our discussion today, if we could, running by a definition for you, on terrorism: one source says it is the use of violent acts to frighten people in an area, as a way of trying to achieve a political goal; another one says it is the unlawful use or a threat to use force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments. Then we go to the FBI’s site: they say there is no single universally accepted definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the code of federal regulations as the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government or a civilian population.

Now, the reason I’m saying that the Guardian is being threatened with terrorism charges for the revelations they released by Edward Snowden. And I’d like to get your comment on that, and this (now it seems global) war on whistleblowers.

Barns:Well John I think firstly, what is happening to the Guardian and the threats being made by UK MPs and by security agencies is absolutely frightening. And I use the word “absolutely” advisably. This really is heading back into the McCarthist territory of the 1950s where anyone who puts their head up and takes an alternative point of view or reveals information that doesn’t suit the national security agencies is liable to be threatened with all manner of sanctions, including very-very serious terrorism charges.

The conduct of British security agencies, the conduct of US security agencies and here in Australia the conduct of security agencies since 9-11 has been one of bullying, has been one of seeking to surveil as many people as possible, of pushing up against the limits of the law, if not breaking it, and expecting the world to sit back, including media outlets, and simply not report those outrageous activities.

And so, the way in which security agencies and some British MPs are behaving in relation to the Guardian is typical of that sort of bullying tactics, which we’ve now come to be used to since 9-11.

Robles: You are familiar with Alan Rusbridger’s testimony in front of the parliamentary committee. What do you think about the way he was attacked?

Barns: I think that is it utterly irrational. I mean, Alan Rusbridger, as I understand it, and reading the media reports, indicated that he’d cooperated with security agencies.

In a bizarre comment made by Keith Vaz, who is the committee chair, who is an MP, he asked Rusbridger did he love his country? In other words, running the old hoary chestnut up the mast of if you are not with us therefore you, (and you are testing our patience) then we accuse of committing treason.

The way in which Rusbridger and the Guardian have been treated, has been utterly appalling. But we have become used to security agencies, believing they will be able to do what they want and there ought to be no sanction, no scrutinyand certainly the public ought to sit down and shut up.

And unfortunately some British members of Parliament and members of Parliament in Australia, and members of Congress in the United States seem willing to go along with the security agencies. And I think that’s what is disturbing.

Robles: They are trying to say that he was threatening agents and sources etc, which was the same argument made against WikiLeaks etc, which seems completely disingenuous, the same way it was with WikiLeaks, because they were very-very carefully vetting everything that was coming out, I’m referring to the Afghan files more so, then. And I think it was a very interesting comment the Guardian made last month, where they said that the information they have now, and it’s been learned that they’ve only released about 1% of the Snowden Files, they said that it was in safer hands with the Guardian than it had been with the NSA.

Barns: I’d make two points. Firstly, this is the line that gets trotted at all the time by security agencies and by gullible members of parliament. They say – if you release this information (Snowden and Assange, and the Guardian and other networks) if you release this information, what you are doing is you are putting lives in jeopardy. There is simply no evidence that that is the case.

Secondly, we saw here in Australia at the start of the week we had the Federal Minister for Communications accusing ABC, which is the government broadcasting agency or government-run and government-owned broadcasting agency, accusing it of jeopardizing Australia’s relationship with Indonesia, because it participated in the publication of the leaks from Snowden which indicated that Australia had been spying on the Indonesian President and his family.

Again, it is this bully-boy tactics which effectively say: “We don’t want any scrutiny and what we are going to do is; we are going to frighten the community by saying; ‘Well you are putting lives at risk’, you know, ‘there might be a terrorist attack as a result of your activities.’”. I just hope that Allan Rusbridger from the Guardian, follows the lead of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and others and simply ignore these absurd tactics used by security agencies and by gullible members of parliament.

Robles: You just said the word “frighten”. And I tried not to say this too loudly in the past, but it is getting to the point where, if we looked at the definition of terror and using fear and force to coerce individuals or a society in general for ideological or political reasons, it is exactly what they are doing: threatening people with incarceration. The US police, who are militarized now, are basically terrorizing the populous…

Barns: You heard yesterday Alan Rusbridger accused by an MP in the committee that is hearing the matters relating to the Snowden’s leaks, accuse him of committing a criminal offence and seeking to scare him by saying: “wouldn’t it be in the public interest to prosecute.”

Now, this is nothing more than thuggery on the part of that particular MP. It is also going very close to essentially saying: “We will fully and verbally assault you to the point where you are going to be too scared to do anything.”

If we believe in democracy, then you’ve got to stand up for it at certain points in time. And that’s what Rusbridger is doing.

What I find ironic about those members of parliament, both on the left and on the right, but particularly on the right; is the gross hypocrisy on this issue. They accuse Russia, they accuse China of running authoritarian states, where there is limited freedom of speech, and of seeking to close down freedom of speech. There is no difference between that accusation and what happened to Alan Rusbridger yesterday, this was a clear attempt to shut down a newspaper and a (tattler) as I said, it is the sort of things shown in 1950s with Joe McCarthy and his notorious committee in the United States Congress.

Robles: I would like to point out, truly, in Russia you can still practically post anything on the Internet, unless it is really extremely offensive or dealing with child pornography or something. But it is pretty free, still.

Barns: There is no doubt, what we now know is that security agencies in countries like Australia, the United States and in the United Kingdom have been sharing data, including what people post on the Internet. As I said, I find it very frightening because we are meant to be a democracy.

Robles: It was interesting for me because (watching the parliamentary hearing) they were following the exact same line that was being used by the US. And I thought it was interesting, why did they come up with something about sexual orientation of GCHQ members. What was that all about?

Barns: I think it is part of this sort of blackmail game that gets played by the security agencies, which is to try anything when it comes to closing down scrutiny. And of course, there is a long history of the issue of sexuality and spies, and you know like Philby, Burgess and Maclean.

I think that Carl Bernstein, the former Watergate journalist, got it right when he said that Rusbridger’s appearance at the committee was "dangerously pernicious", that it was essentially designed to scare Rusbridger. And if you live in a democratic society, like the UK, I think you ought to be really alarmed at the way in which the parliament can abuse its standing in the community. To attempt to do the dirty work of security agencies, which, by the way, are inherently unaccountable for what they do and do an enormous damage to an enormous number of people about which we never hear.

Robles: Right! During the hearing the Parliamentarian Mr. Vaz, he mentioned that the Director of MI-5 and MI-6 had given testimony that somehow Mr. Rusbridger and the Guardian had damaged British security. I thought it was a big plus on Mr. Rusbridger’s side; he was able to cite four very credible sources saying he had not, and they had checked the information before it was released.

Barns: The point of that of course is that people like Keith Vaz and those other MPs are effectively just doing the work of the security agencies. They obviously weren’t there for a fair hearing. They were there to intimidate Mr. Rusbridger and the Guardian.

The difficulty with security agencies is that they will tell you that security is being put at risk. But, of course, then they will say that they we can’t tell you how. And so, I’ve always taken the view: you just never believe them because they have a habit of over-stating the case, and when you look at independent sources, such as independent sources in relation to the Julian Assange and WikiLeaks net releases in relation to Afghanistan and Iraq, what you found was that not one person was put at risk as a result of WikiLeaks material in relation to Afghanistan and Iraq. I’d much rather believe those independent sources, than I would, the self-interested rhetoric of the heads of security agencies.

Robles: On those lines they were trying to blame Mr. Rusbridger and the Guardian for example, for exposing methods to trap pedophiles and hackers. I mean, it is just unbelievable. And of course, nobody in the public…

Barns: It is so nonsensical, it is utterly nonsensical. And I can tell you as a criminal lawyer, there’d many criminal defense lawyers in the world who know exactly how these police and security agencies trap people who they suspect of committed paedophilic activity. There is no secret in that.

To say that Alan Rusbridger and the Guardian have come across some great revelation and published it, and made it easier for pedophilic activity is insulting to Rusbridger and the Guardian and, again, just plain wrong.

Robles: Back to our first topic about terrorism. As a lawyer, what is terrorism?

Barns: The definition in Australia, which is taken from the UK Act, and the Canadian Act and the US Act, is essentially that it is the use of violence for political ends. And what we are seeing here, in my view, is certainly the use of verbal violence on the part of some people to seek to intimidate people like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, and others.

Now, it is certainly not the traditional realm of terrorism, but it does look suspiciously like activity which is designed, and it is a means of violence… you know, verbal exchanges can be violence and it is certainly intimidating, and threatening. And when you have an MP yesterday suggesting to Alan Rusbridger that he’s committed a criminal offense and that the Crown Prosecution Service ought to have a look at the matter. That seems to me to be a form of intimidation.

I’m not going to call it terrorist activity, but what I would say about it is that it is certainly intimidating, and it is certainly the sort of conduct that one doesn’t expect from democratically elected Members of Parliament or members of Congress in the United States.

Robles: Right! I’ve always had a problem with that definition of terrorism when it comes into a context of a war waged on it. Maybe I’m a minority, but I’ve always thought it was very strange. How could you possibly wage a war on a methodology for bringing about political change?

Barns: The answer is you can’t. And the war of terror has meant that many innocent people have been surveilled, many innocent people have been charged, many innocent people have gone to jail, as a result of the so-called “War on Terror”. It is an impossible task to wage a war on a political ideology. Look, terrorist activity when it happens is appalling and no one ought to support it.

Robles: And no one does, I think.

Barns: And no one does. But those people can be charged with murder and they can be jailed for the rest of their lives. Why we needed to invent anti-terror laws, just because 9-11 happened, seemed to me, always to be, an irrational response and I think it remains an irrational response.

You were listening to an interview with Greg Barns – the former campaign director for the WikiLeaks Party in Australia and the official spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

Australia's AISO Intimidating East Timor Over Hague Case - Part Two

7 December, 2013 15:00   Download audio file

The so-called "War on Terror" has been and continues to be abused by western security services and governments who have used it to strip away fundamental freedoms such as freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom of association. The security services which now operate with almost complete impunity and are catered to by the judicial bodies which are supposed to provide some form of accountability and oversight along with other government bodies simply cater to the security services and have allowed them to basically become out of control. In Australia AISO has recently engaged in intimidation tactics against lawyers taking the Australian government to court in the Hague. This attempt at hiding illegality and institutionalized corruption by AISO, in a case involving millions of dollars, is almost exactly the type of thing we have seen from the US and the UK. Greg Barns spoke to the Voice of Russia after the hearing in the UK Parliament over disclosures made by the Guardian, yet another case of a western government attempting to intimidate and hide illegality.

This is part 2 of an interview in progress with Greg Barns – the former campaign director for the WikiLeaks Party in Australia and the official spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

Robles: Sometimes I think about the semantical meanings that are used for passing legislation and stuff, for example in the US. If they call something a war, it releases all kinds of secret moneys and extra rights, and saying technically, I mean, this is getting a little off topic, but it should have been a war on terrorists or a war on terrorist organizations, or a war on Al Qaeda.

Barns: What the so-called "War on Terror" allowed, was for fundamental freedoms to be trashed, and freedom of speech was trashed, freedom of movement was trashed, freedom of association was trashed and we've seen that, and we've seen that in … and we saw an increase in the surveillance state. That's all we've got from the so-called War on Terror. But John, the concern I have, and I think many people have, is the way in which security agencies are seemingly out of control.

We've got an incident here in Australia that happened yesterday, where the lawyers acting for the East Timorese Government, it's taken a case to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The allegation is that the Australian Government spied on the East Timorese Cabinet when it was deliberating on the very-very profitable oil fields between East Timor and Australia.

The lawyer who is acting is in The Hague, he got a call, as I understand it, from his office in Canberra (the capital of Australia) saying that two ASIO agents are here (that is the security agency in Australia). I understand also there has been meida reports that a person who is a former security agent was arrested.

Now, this just seems extraordinary on the eve of a case for ASIO to be involving itself in such a public way. And again, there is no real scrutiny in Australia. I mean, the Attorney General signs the warrant, the Attorney General backs up what ASIO does. There is no real scrutiny why Australia's National Security Agency is raiding the offices of a lawyer who is acting for a country which is taking Australia to Court in the International Court of Justice.

Another example I think of this sort of intimidatory tactics that we are getting from security agencies around the world, and don't think it just happens in the United Kingdom and the United States, it happens in Australia as well.

Robles: Well that's unbelievable! I mean, there should be an international outcry. Has that effectively stopped the lawyer from going forward?

Barns: Look, I don't think that it has. My understanding of it is that what happened was that (and I'm going on media reports here) my understanding is that what happened is that a lawyer – his name is Bernard Collaery, he's a very well-known lawyer in Canberra – he is acting for the East Timorese. The allegation is that Australia bugged the East Timorese Cabinet when it was deliberating in 2004.

Collaery went on radio last night in Australia, and that is Tuesday night, to say that two agents identifying themselves as ASIO had raided his office while he was in The Hague. And also, there is a former security agent who is the whistleblower, who is being I suspect assisting with the case in relation to East Timor, who is also being intimidated by ASIO.

Now, ASIO in executing its search warrant no doubt told the law clerk that it was doing so on the basis of national security. It is hard to see how national security could be at play in a case which involved allegations going back to 2004. And again, the Australian Government needs to come clean on what ASIO was doing yesterday, because we have had examples in the past where ASIO has gone off on frolics of its own, and it has a poor track record when it comes to individuals.

There was a case a number of years ago now where it "roughed up" a person that it was surveilling. It was heavily criticized, ASIO, by the New South Wales Supreme Court, a superior court in that state in Australia. And, yet, here we are, five or six years later, up to similar sort of tactics.

Robles: So, these listening devices, how many years were they in place? Were they just recently discovered?

Barns: I'm not quite sure and I think the case is about a particular period in time. And there is a key witness in this case, who is a former intelligence official in Australia, who, as I understand it, is a whistleblower and he is going to give evidence on behalf of Timor. And he is the one that ASIO went after yesterday afternoon in addition to the lawyer's offices. Now, as I say, this seems to be intimidatory tactics because these allegations go back to 2004 and not allegations that are current.

Robles: Do you have his name?

Barns: The name of the whistleblower?

Robles: Yes.

Barns: No, I don't. I don't think that man has been revealed and for obvious reasons he has to be protected. But certainly Bernard Collaery – the lawyer – has gone on record saying about what happened yesterday with his law office and that he is concerned about this particular person.

Robles: I see. Now this this making a resonance in Australia and in Timor, or is this kind of being pushed under the carpet?

Barns: Well the difficulty for the new Australian Government, which is a conservative Government, is this – it's already reeling from the revelations by Ed Snowden that Australia was spying on the President of Indonesia and his family. Secondly, on the back footing relations to China we have a Prime Minister, Mr. Abbott, who has sided very closely with Japan and the United States in relation to China. And now we've got Timor-Leste as its known now, East Timor, which is very close to Australia, in fact its only about an hour's flight from Darwin, where it now its feeling the sort of Australian bullying. So, Australia has some real problems in the region and this has just made it worse.

Robles: I see. It sounds a little bit healthier than the current situation, I think, in Europe and the United States, where everything was just kind of hushed up and brushed under the carpet it seemed. I mean, you should get some of the revelations on spying on European countries were just egregious and unbelievable, even on the UN.

Barns: And certainly the Indonesians, who Australia likes to portray as its great friend, are outrageously aggrieved. And it was interesting that the only people who are defending the role of ASIO and ASIS and other security agencies in Australia are the conservatives, who seem to think that it is okay to wander around the world spying on others so long as it is in Australia's interests. Whereas I think a lot of people in Australia, including myself, think of Australia as a democracy ought to be more transparent and ought to be doing better.

Robles: We are talking about Stasi and Gestapo tactics…

Barns: What we are talking about here is secretive tactics with no accountability, where people have very few rights. And I think that is very frightening.

Robles: Has transparency or accountability, has that improved at all in the last couple of years or is it continuing to get worse in Australia?

Barns: I think it is as bad as it's always been. One of the reasons is because Australia does not have sufficient human rights protections for its people. We don't have a Human Rights Act the way you do in Europe and in the United Kingdom or in Canada. Secondly, Australia is a branch office of the United States. The way in which Australia conducts itself in foreign policy is effectively just fawning to the United States at every possible opportunity. And I think thirdly, it is concerning that the only way in which Australians can get information about what its Government and security agencies are up to is via Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.

Robles: Unbelievable! These agencies, they are supposed to serve the people right, and it turns out they are serving…

Barns: These agencies are relatively unaccountable. I've had encounters with them in the past in my professional practice and I can tell you now that there is no accountability about these agencies. I mean, there is no doubt that there has to be some secrecy in a state. Julian Assange has said that and I think Edward Snowden would probably agree. But what they say and what the Guardian is saying, and the ABC here in Australia is: it is now out of control – the secret state is now out of control.

And it is no good people saying – "oh well, if you are not doing anything wrong, it doesn't matter". It could be you, it could be your neighbor, it could be anyone, because one of the difficulties with these agencies is how they often get the wrong person. And we have people arrested in Australia, placed in detention and then released with no apology. And they have been the wrong person.

Robles: Unfortunately, in the United States they end up executing people like that very often.

Barns: Exactly right!

Robles: Where do you this is going to go with the Guardian and then we will wrap it up?

Barns: I think the Guardian will stick to its guns, and I think it is ought to stick to its guns. It won't be intimidated. I mean, the way in which the media gets intimidated by governments is appalling. And it is often the case that you get politicians picking up the final evidence and saying – "don't do this and don't do that". But I think the Guardian, the way that the amateurish thuggery of British MPs yesterday I think will mean that many people in the United Kingdom think "Go the Guardian" and "Go Assange", and "Go Snowden" because these are people who are actually revealing and lifting the lid on the underbelly of democratic societies, the underbelly which is distasteful, which needs to be brought under control and which needs to have some rules around it.

Robles: I think it's moved dangerously away from democratic.

Barns: Yes.

Robles: Okay, thank you very much, Greg,

Barns: Thanks John.

Robles: I really appreciate it.

Barns: All the best mate, bye bye.

Robles: Okay, bye bye.

That was the end of part 2 of an interview with Greg Barns – the former campaign director for the WikiLeaks Party in Australia and the official spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance. Thank you very much for listening and I wish you the best.


Everything that could go wrong with WikiLeaks Party bid did

9 September, 2013 17:02   Download audio file

The extremely complicated electoral system in Australia, where voters can choose several different parties, mass media that is hostile and biased towards WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and the fact that the party is new, were all factors in the loss at the polls for Julian Assange. The head of the WikiLeaks Party Greg Barns spoke to the VOR’s John Robles after the elections, and graciously conceded the loss and explained what lessons there were to be learnt.

This is John Robles. I'm speaking with Mr. Greg Barns, he's the head of the WikiLeaks Party, the campaign manager for Julian Assange and he's in Australia right now.

Robles: Hello, Greg! How are you?

Barns: Hi, John!

Robles: It was a pretty good run, I think, for the first time, but results not too good. Can you tell us about the elections down there?

Barns: The election was, as we all saw, Julian hasn’t won a seat in the Senate and our candidates in Western Australia and New South Wales haven’t won seats. However, this was the first campaign for the WikiLeaks Party and that was only set up in March of this year.

We had a number of issues in the campaign, relating to people who had disagreements about the line which we put our preferences to other parties, that is we recommend votes for other parties, and that meant that that we had to re-group the campaign very quickly which was done, I think, in a very professional way. But it did impact adversely on the vote. But for a first time, first shine, we’re still pretty happy.

Robles: Can you explain to our listeners a little bit and even to myself the(it seems very complicated) Australian election system and with the preferences and everything the voters have a one, two or three choice. Can you explain all of that?

Barns: Yeah. It's a very complicated system, many would say including myself, ridiculously complicated, but the way it works is that if you vote for your party at number one and, say, another party at number two. If you get less votes than the number two party, all of your votes go to the number two party, you just keep cascading down.

What happened with us was that our people made an error in the way they compiled the election form in New South Wales, Australia's biggest state, and that meant that we had some parties that we didn't want preference with, we put it in front of others that did want preference.

That created some real ruptures within the party and disappointing, some people left the campaign. One of our candidates resigned. And I was essentially left to re-group the campaign very quickly which we were able to do and I should say with Julians’s full support.

But one of the things that became obvious to me in this campaign is just how much many people in the mainstream media in Australia dislike Julian Assange, because essentially what he does is he undermines the way they do their business.

They want to filter information to people. The chaff at the fact that he has been able to get some extraordinary scoops over the years and of course he doesn’t filter the information, he puts it out there so people can make their own judgment. It did become clear to me that the media in general is hostile to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and I think that that was one factor also in this campaign.

Robles: There was almost no media coverage of the WikiLeaks campaign, not that I could find, and then I did find something on like an official election commission site and the results didn't change for about 20 hours there was no change.

Barns: Yeah. That's probably John because of the way the Senate is counted it's a slow accounting. But, in terms of the campaign media coverage they were very happy to cover any splits in the campaign and the eruptions within the campaign.

They weren’t too keen on covering the good stuff in the campaign. And I think Julian was given a pretty rough time by any media interviews.

I saw him do and heard him do a number of media interviews. And they were tough interviews. Now, this sort of underlying hostility to Julian in Australia by some media, I suspect there is.

I think also there is a sense in which they just don't understand WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and what that movement is about. But I do think that what this shows: this is a test-run, in other words, the WikiLeaks political movement around the world, there are lessons learnt here that can be taken to other parts of the world and I’ll certainly be talking with Julian over the next couple of days about what I think those lessons are.

Robles: I see. Can you share with us what some of those lessons might be?

Barns: I think, John, that you've got to have a fairly tight structure in a political party.

The structure of the WikiLeaks Party in Australia is a little bit unwieldy, it has a national council which has enormous powers. Now this is in essence what the party wants to be but there's a tradeoff, I think, between having a very democratic party and having a party that can make quick decisions and which can follow the campaign term and getting that balance right is something that can be worked on.

I think the other thing that needs to be worked on is making sure that you got the right people on the campaigns.

This campaign was put together very quickly and we got some good people to work with us. As I said, disappointed, some people left, but those who did stay the distance, I think, did a really good job and really helped the campaign.

Having said that, you know, in relation to those who left, Julian's made some comments about those people and about Leslie Cannold who left the campaign and I will leave his comments to stand.

I certainly had a job to do which was to make sure this campaign saw it through election day, I did that job, along with others and, as I say, disappointing results, but it's pretty unusual for a first-up political party in Australia and its first election to get elected to the Senate.

In fact if I look at the Katter’s Party and the Palmer United Party which are the other two major names alongside Julian's, to my recollection any of them has not won a Senate seat. Certainly Katter hasn’t got a Senate seat in Queensland where he might have expected one. Palmer won his own seat in the House of Representatives although I don’t think he has got a senator elected.

Robles: I see. What's the media coverage like in Australia? Do minor parties, do they have any chance of getting equal coverage, or is it pretty much like in the United States.

Barns: No, they really have no chance. In this election campaign the Murdoch media essentially, well didn’t “essentially”, it supported “overtly” the coalition, the Conservative Coalition, and so this election campaign was one where you had one major media that effectively, every day of the week, supporting one side of politics. And that meant also that there was very little room for minor parties.

We got, probably, some good coverage and certainly Philip Dorling in The Age was an excellent journalist who has covered Julian for many years and produced some great stories on WikiLeaks. But other than Philip there was very little coverage.

Robles: That's a shame. That is a sign of a lack of democracy, I think, in the country. Can you tell us about all of the strange (I don't know what else to call them) it seems like one-issue parties that you have in Australia?

Barns: Well a whole lot of these parties have been established just because of the way in which the electoral system is, you know.

Minor parties, really “micro” parties, you can call them, can get elected if they get a good preference flow and we're seeing that now. I think in Western Australia, a “Sporting” Party is going to get elected (whatever that means)

So you get these quirky little parties who do get elected. But generally they only get one term. They do get elected. And, you know, it's a good thing or bad thing, you know it’s a good thing in some ways but it just means getting elected to the Senate is like winning a lottery. It really is, because you just don't know where the preferences are going to flow.

Robles: I saw there is some sort of “Sex Party”, an “Animal-Love Party” or something and “Automobile Lovers”.

Barns: Well the Australian Sex Party, they are actually a good party, they’re big supporters of Julian, as well as the Animal Justice Party. But I you’re your point actually the Sex Party is essentially a Libertarian Party and they would be better off calling themselves that name. They're actually one of the oklay ones.

There are parties that are, I mean the “Outdoor Recreation Party”,”The Shooters and Fishers Party”...

Robles: What is that about?

Barns: Well, that's essentially people who like hunting and shooting and fishing but who are essentially anti-Green. So, I think, John, that the electoral system real makes it a lottery as to whether or not you win a seat in the Senate.

Robles: I see. It seems almost mind-numbing that a party like the Sex Party would get more votes.

Barns: I think that the WikiLeaks Party represents a set of values that are extremely important in a democratic society John. And it's a party that will go far in the long term. I mean this was a hard campaign. We had people leaving the campaign, there were some errors made in preferences, so anything that could go wrong, went wrong, and yet we're still standing and Julian polled quite well!

Robles: What are the plans for the immediate future and any comments from Julian?

Barns: No, I haven't spoken to Julian today. But I will be communicating with him later on today.

My advice to him as a campaign manager and that was my role, would be: he should continue with this model. There are things to learn, I'm more than happy to help out, if he wants my assistance, in rolling the strategy out in other places, but certainly there are lessons to be learnt from here, which, I think, you can take into other forays. I have no doubt that the WikiLeaks will get elected somewhere in the world, somewhere in the next 12 months.

Robles: Couldn't Julian run for some sort of office in Ecuador or…?

Barns: I don't know the answer to that, John. I think Sweden is another place which you have to look at, because the electoral system there is good for minor parties, but certainly I think that the values are universal and WikiLeaks is a universal brand and it's something that you could apply in other parts of the world.

Robles: Oh sure. I agree with you 100%.

Barns: I have enjoyed talking to you John, and I'm more than happy to speak with you on WikiLeaks matters and other matters anytime. And I’m certainly going to have continued involvement with Julian and perhaps not on the political side but certainly assisting Julian in any way I can and I am a strong believer in the WikiLeaks mission and justice for Julian.

And I have to say one thing about him, that having worked with him now for six months he one of the best people I have worked with in the political sphere over many years, he’s calm, considerate, he takes advice. His interview doen’s suit some of the Australian political journalists but that is to his credit not theirs and I think that he's a very-very highly intelligent individual and the world is lucky to have people like him who are pushing the boundaries and ensuring that nations like the United States become more accountable.

Robles: Wonderful!

Barns: Thanks, John!

Robles: Ok, thanks a lot Greg! I really appreciate it! Good luck! Take care!

Barns: Thanks mate! See you. Bye-bye!

You were listening to an interview with Greg Barns, he's the head of the WikiLeaks Party in Australia and the Chairman of the Julian Assange Campaign. Thanks for listening!


WikiLeaks Party announces candidates: interview with Greg Barns

26 July 2013 06:10 Download audio file

The WikiLeaks Party has announced their candidates for the upcoming elections to the Australian Senate, the Upper House of the Australian Parliament, and the team that they have assembled consists of leaders in the areas of human rights, foreign policy, and ethics. Their chances to win seats are excellent and such a team is what will be needed to bring accountability to the government of Australia. Julian Assange remains the number one candidate and is running in Victoria. Greg Barns, the head of the Australian WikiLeaks Party spoke to the Voice of Russia moments after making the announcement.

This is John Robles. I’m speaking with Greg Barns. He is the campaign manager for the Wikileaks party and the head of the Julianne Assange Senate campaign.

Robles: Hello, Greg! Big day for you over there, big day for everybody, and finally you’ll answer the million-dollar question, I think, that I’ve been asking you for a long time already. Who are the candidates that are running in the WikiLeaks party?

Barns: The candidates for the Australian elections, they are running for the Senate, which is Australia’s upper house. Julian Assange is the number one candidate in the State of Victoria.

Robles: OK.

Barns: Leslie Cannold is the number two candidate. She is a very well-respected ethicist and commentator in Victoria and number three is Dr Binoy Kampmark who is an expert in international law. In New South Wales, which is Australia’s biggest state, it is Kellie Tranter who’s a well-known lawyer and activist and Dr Alison Broinowski who is a former… a very distinguished former Australian diplomat. In Western Australia the candidates are Gerry Georgatos who is well-known journalist and activist and Suresh Rajan, who is very heavily involved in disability sector in Western Australia.

Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about the candidates? And what their strengths are and what are they going to bring to the party? And what are they going to bring to Australian politics and the world?

Barns: Well, Leslie Cannold as I say… Well, I think all these candidates bring one thing and that is they are committed to making the Australian Parliament work a lot better. So that the government is much more accountable for its actions.

The second thing is that people like Leslie Cannold have vast experience in policy issues as does Alison Broinowski, Kellie Tranter, Gerry Georgatos and Suresh Rajan have great experience in dealing particularly with more marginalized members of the Australian community, people with disabilities, indigenous people. And so on…

And Binoy Kampark, of course, brings to Australian politics a very good sense of what is right and wrong in international law. And that is particularly relevant in Australia, where we’re seeing both the major politics parties indulge in some extraordinary negative politics around the issue of asylum seekers and really create a climate of hysteria and both of them sanctioning breaches of international law in the sort of policies that they’re pronouncing.

Robles: Do you see… in the future, Australian politics become a little more independent from the United States and the U.K.? I think that is something…

Barns: The WikiLeaks party has got a very strong view on that Australia needs to stand on its own two feet. It lives in the Asian region it needs to have foreign policy which is built on Australia’s interests and on the interests of Australia as an Asian country, not as a country joined at the hip by the United States, and not as a country which because of historical links to the United Kingdom wants to maintain some special relationship.

The world has moved on, Australia needs to move on, and Australia needs to adopt a more independent foreign policy.

Robles: What’s it looking like there - the political climate- for the world audience right now, for the party going into the elections right now? What are your ratings like and everything?

Barns: We’ve got a chance of winning, Julian has a very good chance of winning the Senate seat in Victoria and our other candidates likewise have all certainly got a chance to win.

It’s a very competitive environment. But there is a disillusionment in the Australian electorate with the major parties and with the spin and the lies of modern politics. And I think that ours is a welcome contribution.

Robles: Just a reminder; you’re listening to an interview with Greg Barns.

Do you think this is going to be a signal, like, the Wikileaks party is going to have a domino effect worldwide, I mean, introducing real independent parties like in the United States and maybe in the UK and other countries that are stuck in…?

Barns: That’s the matter for the Wikileaks organization whether they take the part worldwide, I said that to Julian, we just talked about it. But the values the Wikileaks party stands for, you know, universal values, and they are particularly relevant in modern democracies.

Robles: Has Julianne issued a statement? I’m sure he did, this afternoon regarding the party?

Barns: Yes. It’s on our website at

Robles: I hate to mention this, but the Snowden affair because it’s taking attention away from almost everything in the world right now. But how has the Australian electorate reacted to that and how is Wikileaks…?

Barns: Well, I think the relevance… Sorry, I think the relevance of Snowden to the Australian electorate is the revelations that the Australian government has been allowed … our Australian telecommunication companies, have been allowing the United States to spy on our citizens. Transactions that the Australians have with the United States - are all being collected by US security agencies. And once again, I think what it shows is, how dangerous it is for Australia to be so wedded at the hip to the United States.

Robles: Now in Australian politics and with the Australian populace - how are they reacting to Prism and the NSA and everything?

Barns: Well, I think a lot of people are very concerned. I think a lot of Australians are surprised to know that this secret, dirty secret of the Australian Government and Australian telecommunication companies has come out. No Australian has ever given permission for their material, for their transactions and details and their data to be collected and sent along to the United States.

Robles: I see. How much time before the actual balloting is going to take place? Has the date…

Barns: Well. We are still unclear on when the election will be. There is a rumor that it will be on August 31. If it’s not at the end of August, it’s likely to be in early October.

Robles: Early October? So there is a one-month gap. When will you know?

Barns: Well. There’s a gap mainly because of school holidays and big sporting events. September is a difficult month, and also Yom Kippur falls within September as well.

Robles: Yom Kippur… that’s a very popular Australian holiday?

Barns: Well, it’s certainly in some electorates where you’ve got large Jewish populations, you know that would be an issue, yeah.

Robles: I see. How is your election campaigning and the election raising finances and everything going?

Barns: The campaign is going very well. We’re very happy with it. We had a very successful launch of candidates today. And now the issue is getting up there and convincing as many voters as we can that they ought to be voting for a party which does unambiguously stand for keeping politicians accountable, between now and the election.

Robles: OK, in like one sentence – a hard question – why should people vote for your party?

Barns: People should vote for the WikiLeaks party because it’s a party which does stand against deal-making in parliament, it stands for a complete openness and transparency. At the end of the day we’re accountable only to one group – voters - not interest groups.

Robles: I see, and that’s something that’s seriously lacking all over the world I think. Greg, anything you want to finish up with? I know you’re really busy and…

Barns: Sorry, John. No. yeah… Look, that probably does it. But always good to talk to you.

Robles: OK. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.

Barns: Thanks, John.

Robles: You were listening to an interview with Mr. Greg Barns. He is the campaign manager for the Wikileaks party and the head of the Julian Assange Senate campaign. Thanks for listening and I wish you the best



Snowden case is saturated with American hypocrisy  Part 1

26 June, 2013 03:20

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In an exclusive interview to the Voice of Russia's John Robles Greg Barns, the President of Australian Lawyers Alliance, and the head of Julian Assange’s senatorial campaign, shares his opinion on the intelligence alliance between the US and UK, America's failure to rationally perceive the reaction of other countries, and the connection between Wikileaks' Assange and Edward Snowden.

Hello this is John Robles I’m speaking with Greg Barns, he’s the campaign manager for the WikiLeaks Party in Australia and the head of Julian Assange’s senate campaign.

Robles: I’d like to ask you some questions regarding whistleblower Edward Snowden, in particular the connection between WikiLeaks and Snowden, and what your impressions are of that whole situation, if you could.

Barns: Look, there is no doubt that WikiLeaks organization as parts to the political party here in Australia, but the organization has had some links with Snowden. And I think it is doing a very good job in protecting someone who has, in a quite marked way, in the same way that Julian Assange did, exposed what effectively are secret spying operations which are being run by the United States and its allies. And I think it is important that that’s the story that is told to the world and that the person who tells that story ought to be protected.

Robles: That’s right! As far as the level of embarrassment to the United States Government, I mean, I think this pales in comparison to what Julian did. How far do you think the US is going to go to try to get Snowden? And what do you know about his current situation?

Barns: I don’t know a lot about his current situation, other than to say that I think the United States has the same determination to get him as it has to get Julian Assange.

The United States fails to see what the rest of the world is saying to it: there is an enormous amount of hypocrisy here. This is a country which has fulminated against other counties, such as Russia, such as China, about spying programs, and invasions of the privacy of its citizens. And yet here we have the United States and its allies, including the United Kingdom and probably Australia, doing exactly the same things. And I think that their determination to get Edward Snowden will be quite extreme, as it has been in the case of Julian Assange.

Robles: Can you tell us, through your channels, do you know where he is? That’s the question of the hour, or do you have any indication of what might be going on that you could tell us without endangering anybody?

Barns: I don’t. If I did, I’d share as much as I could with you. But I certainly don’t.

We are focusing on running Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks Party candidates’ election campaign in Australia. And I should say those developments have been very good for the campaign because what they are saying is that we live in a world now where democratic governments effectively are spying on their citizens.

One question which remains unanswered and which the Australian Government and the opposition parties here are refusing to answer is the extent to which Australia is involved in these US and UK activities. I think that there is absolutely no doubt that Australian security agencies will have involvement. And I think there is also absolutely no doubt that we will see some revelations about that in the forthcoming days.

Robles: Are you aware of the signals intelligence alliance UKUSA? As far as I understand the whole situation, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, the US and Canada, all share this type of information. I’m not sure to what extent they allow access to the servers of the US Internet giants. What do you think about that blanket, overall surveillance on everything and everyone in the world? Which is what it has come down to.

Barns: I think that China got it absolutely right in the way it’s characterized that this is the hypocrisy and the sanctimonious way in which the United States has acted towards other countries, has now been exposed for what it is, gross hypocrisy.

And I think what’s disturbing is that countries like the United Kingdom and Australia and Canada and New Zealand, their citizens are subjected to the similar regimes and yet their political leaders are not jumping up and down saying: “This is outrageous we should do something about it!”

Robles: In fact, the UK authorities are calling for more surveillance. I’m not sure if you remember, about two weeks ago Stella Rimington came out saying; ”Oh! UK’s subjects should be the eyes and ears of the special services!”, trying to push through the terrorism meme again. I mean at that time it was pretty fresh… What’s your opinion on the whole...

Barns: The abuses which have occurred in the light of 9-11 have been manifold and we have seen innocent people, they have been skewered, they’ve been crucified as a result of post-9-11 activities.

Security agencies are running rampant in Australia, in the United Kingdom, in the United States and other so-called democratic countries. And it is time to rein them in. There is no reason why citizens ought to be surveilled to the extent that they are.

And calls by people like Stella Rimington just show how out of touch she is with democratic values. This is one of the most overblown rhetoric of governments about terrorism threats. It is absolutely absurd, it is nonsense.

I appeared in a case in Australia a number of years ago, it was alleged that people were running around indulging in terrorist activities. It was effectively Mickey-Mouse stuff and it was blown up by elements of the media. In this country these developments, allege an essential threat to Australia, it is just absurd and it is time to put the genie back in a bottle.

Robles: Yes, there is a terrorist behind every street post, lamppost and on every corner. Now, for years I’ve seen myself 9-11 as a catalyst for complete world domination militarily, electronically etc.

And 5 years ago people would say: “John, come on, that’s a conspiracy theory.”

How far away do you that is now, those kinds of ideas, from being a “conspiracy theory”?

Barns: I think your views were presentient because I think that there is no doubt that we have allowed in democracies, governments to be effectively run by security agencies.

Security agencies have had enormous increases in their budgets. They get whatever they want. When they want increases in powers, they get those increases. They are not accountable in the way that they should be to the citizens of the country. And now we’ve found that effectively they spy on us, and not only those they consider a threat, but every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Terrorism, politicians and security agencies: a toxic mix   Part 2

28 June, 23:42  

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Revelations by Julian Assange and Ed Snowden will come out in the few days that put the entire surveillance paradigm and the PRISM revelation in an Australian context. Robert John “Bob” Carr the Foreign Minister of Australia has been on the record as characterizing abandoned Australian citizen Julian Assange as an “over serviced case” in the consular sense, with regard the perfunctory phone calls to the Ecuadorian Embassy to find out if Julian is still ”ok”. The Australian Government has still not lifted a finger to assist Mr. Assange. This was all covered by Greg Barns, former government legal advisor, president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance and the head of Julian Assange’s Senate Campaign.

This is part 2 of a 3 part interview.

You are listening to an interview in progress with Greg Barns, the Campaign Manager for the Wikileaks Party and the Head of the Julian Assange Senate Campaign. You can find part one on our website at

This is a continuation of an interview which has aired on the Voice of Russia’s world service.

Robles: You’ve mentioned the word “sanctimonious” and “hypocrisy”, which is I think exactly what this is, and you mentioned accessing U.S. servers.

Barns: I think the access was very pronounced and I think that these, now it’s out, that companies like Google and other effectively “rollover and get tickles” every time a security agency barks, and it is unfortunately the case, that in countries like Australia, you couldn’t say that internet service providers and telecoms in this country or in the United Kingdom or in other countries weren’t employing similar guarantors to the agencies.

Robles: A friend of mine and me were discussing the fact that, for example: Skype was free, Facebook was free, all these chats and voice messaging services were free. Do you think they were funded from the beginning by U.S. intelligence.? Do you think that is a possibility?

Barns: Look I don’t know that. I haven’t seen the evidence to that. But what I think people should be disappointed about is the fact that misinformation gets churn over, I think people ought to realize also, people have been very tolerant and have said; “Oh well, you know, what with 9-11, and the Madrid and the London bombings, we’ve got to be more scrupulous and you know, we’re happy to hand material over.”

I think people now should realize that that is what these agencies haven’t been about that. Big thing about overall mass surveillance, and that of course is a nightmare for any democracy, and I think people ought to take a very hard look at the way in which they have been blasé at the post 9-11 environment.

Robles: So you agree that, and that is my view exactly, the entire terrorism paradigm has been overused and I think at this point it is clear that it is a false flag?

Barns: Well it is and in the same way that we saw Communism used, as a ruse to destroy the lives of many, many people. And surveil people in a way that was totally inappropriate through 1950s and 19860s. We’re seeing the same thing with terrorism. Politicians like that and security agencies love it even more. And when they get into bed together it’s a toxic mix.

Robles: Back to the Wikileaks party. You are the campaign chairman for Julian Assange’s campaign, and I’d like to know what is going on? What kind of progress is going on with the party? You mentioned several candidates? Can you name them now? Last time we talked you told me that was all still a little bit secret.

Barns: John, we’re… Unfortunately I can’t name the names right now. We’re about 3 weeks away from doing that but the party will go through its final registration phase with the electoral authorities here in the next couple of weeks.

What I can say is that there is very strong support for Julian Assange in Victoria where he will be running which is starting the struggle, and we’ll have candidates in three states.

But the sorts of issues that Julian’s been raising and Ed Snowden is raising have been making news here and I think that you’ll see in the next few days a development which will put it in an Australian context, so I think that you’ll see strong support in Australia amongst voters, for a party which is, we’re going to make politicians accountable, we are going to lift the lid on secrecy when it comes to the security agencies and the way in which government does business.

Robles: That is great! I mean, the world needs that. Absolutely! The world is dying from lack of that right now I think. What is the reaction from Australians? Are Australians so easily… I don’t want to deride Americans, but they’ve become completely like “sheep”, are Australians so easily… are there concerns so easily brushed aside about their privacy when the security services scream the word “terror”?

Barns: I think Australians have been very soft on politicians when it comes to the post 9-11 environment, I think they have had to hand over enormous powers, which of course have been abused by police and security agencies since 9-11. However, I do think Australians would take a very dim view of a government, which is effectively just rolling over and doing what it is told by Washington and handing over great slabs of information about Australian’s privacy. Which matters for Australians.

So, I do think that there is certainly some concern in Australia about that. I think as this issue develops, we are going to see the abject lack of leadership among Australian politicians on this issue in the last two weeks will change. We might see some serious back-peddling

Robles: You are close to the Internet, you are close to information, you are close to all this stuff. Can you give our listeners a few of the ways that all this personal information could be used by the security services to control and manipulate the masses? I am talking about people saying; “Who cares if they know that I bought 10 pounds of beef last week and I drive to work on Elm Street”. But that information is valuable. Can you tell us about some of the ways they can use that?

Barns: Yes! Well it’s valuable. You’re really going to get a person, who for example, might be a very respectable member of the middle class in Australia or the United States, who suddenly finds that their data is matched to… or their name for example is John Smith and the security agencies latch on to the wrong John Smith and then they find that their lives have been turned over because there’s been a wrong identification by the security agencies, and all of the information that was private, is then public.

We might also see, in terms of the way people do banking transactions and the security agencies know that they logged on to their banks 15 times in one week. They, for example, will not be wrongly under suspicion for fraud.

We might also see in terms of surveillance of particular areas, where security agencies believe that there are particular people living in that community and if they’ve been communicating with other people in their community, those people will then find themselves under surveillance and information thrown back into their face.

So, it is never a good thing, for any citizen, even the most innocent citizen to allow security agencies to invade your privacy to that extent. It’s unhealthy and it shouldn’t happen.

Robles: You are talking about particular targeted situations. I am talking about mass data-mining, I am talking about taking all this data, I mean they are building billion dollar data-collection centers, and they are going to set up on in Utah in the United States to deal with all this stuff because; we’re talking about a billion e-mails every minute, or something, that they have to go through. The mass-data mining, the big picture, I mean how can that information be used?

Barns: I think that can be used to influence policies and legislation. And governments are fond of telling their security agencies, say, that there is a particular trend in the way certain information is flowing so, you know, we’re going to legislate to stop that!

Or alternatively to be used in racial profiling, you see it, where you get enormous amounts of information being shared amongst people of a certain ethnic group and then you find governments move in to surveil that particular group, but to allow government to have that much information, means that it has any number of uses that it can be put to, and the sky is the limit and that is the problem.

Robles: I see. And those include economic uses, financial uses, political uses, anything right?

Barns: Of course, there are any number of uses.

Robles: Back to Julian’s campaign and, I call it a tragic anniversary, because he has been in the Embassy now a year and nine or ten days. How is Julian and how has that anniversary affected the case? What is going on, if you can tell us, behind the scenes? Anything that might be of interest.

Barns: I saw Julian about 3 weeks ago when I was in London for about 3 days, and as I said to… right on one of the Australian radio outlets; “He seemed remarkably chipper for someone who’s spent a year behind the walls of the embassy and literally behind the walls.

On the other hand, I think there are a lot of Australians tend to view that this could be their son or daughter, left high and dry by the Australian Government.

I think that what has been important, has been we’ve seen the lies of the Foreign Minister in Australia, who has indicated a number of times that Julian’s case is what he calls “over-serviced”, in the consular sense. All of this happened.

Julian, I think, has said he hasn’t seen anyone from the Australian diplomatic service since 2002 and all that happens is that the High Commission in London, the Australian High Commission, rings the Ecuadorian Embassy on a regular basis, reaches the front desk and they call that “diplomatic service” and “looking out” for a person!

Robles: They still haven’t done anything?

Barns: The Australian government has not lifted a finger to assist Julian Assange for years and yet Foreign Minister Bob Carr says that this is an “over serviced case”, he then tried to back off a day later but the point was made.

You were listening to an interview of Greg Barns, he’s the head of the WikiLeaks Party in Australia and the Chairman of the Julian Assange Campaign.

Thanks for listening.

This was the end of part 2 of a 3 part interview.

Surveillance continues on candidate Assange in the embassy  Part 3

5 July, 14:30  

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The bug that was recently discovered in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London  was found by Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Patino in the Ecuadorian Ambassador’s office and now there are concerns as to how many other bugs are in the embassy. The fact that an Australian senatorial candidate is being surveilled is outrageous stated the head of Julian Assange’s senatorial campaign Greg Barns to the Voice of Russia.

Hello, this is John Robles. I'm speaking with Mr. Greg Barns, he's the head of the WikiLeaks Party and he's heading up Julian Assange’s Senate campaign.

Robles: Your party was officially registered yesterday. That, I think, is a really big important step and a victory I think. Can you tell us about that?

Barns: The WikiLeaks Party went through a registration process with the electoral authorities in Australia and this week has been registered. This means that we can run as a political party in the election campaign, which is sometime in August, September, October this year.

It also means that the party candidates can be announced and we'll be announcing candidates for Senate, Australia's Upper House, within the next couple of weeks. We'll also be announcing some policy initiatives over the next couple of weeks, as well.

Robles: Well, we'll be waiting for that. Can you tell us a little bit about the bug that was found in Ecuadorian Embassy?

Barns: My understanding is that the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Patino, when he was in the embassy seeing Julian Assange in June, found the bug in the ambassador's office.

I understand that the bug belongs to a British security firm.

What's disturbing about it is that you have an Australian political candidate who's being surveilled by security and one would assume that it's the U.K. or the United States that's surveilling.

It should be disturbing to the Australian government in the sense that no candidate for office should be put under surveillance but this is another example of where, Julian Assange has been subjected to, in our view, appaling interference by the authorities, even whilst he's inside the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Robles: There were reports that Ricardo Patino's e-mails, between him and Julian were also hacked. Is that true?

Barns: Certainly. You can be assured that the level of surveillance on Julian Assange has not diminished, despite the fact that he’s sought asylum in Ecuador. And, as I say, it's really extraordinary that a political candidate in a democracy, like Australia, should find himself being surveilled.

Robles: No Australian officials have mentioned anything about that, have they?

Barns: No, and it's not being suggested at this stage that Australia has anything to do with it. It's much more likely that it is the United States or the United Kingdom that has had the bug in the embassy.

Robles: I am just talking about: has anybody expressed any comments or outrage or anything about this?

Barns: No, because the story has really just broken over the past 12 hours in Australia. But certainly it's concerning to the WikiLeaks Party that one of its candidates should be subject to surveillance.

Robles: How much in danger could that put Julian? Is there any idea how long that bug has been in place?

Barns: There’s not, but certainly I was over in the embassy in June of this year, I will be going over again in July and the conversations that I had with Julian about political strategy and the election campaign are not conversations that ought to be recorded or listened to by third parties or other countries. As I Said I think it's a great concern that there is this bug that's been discovered in the embassy and furthermore, that it is in the ambassador's office.

Robles: So this is right in the ambassador's office! Can you give us some details how it was discovered? What kind of bug it was? Where it was and things like that? Maybe, if you know anything.

Barns: All I know is that it was discovered by Mr. Patino, when he was in the ambassador’s office, that’s all I know about it. I have been told that the bug has been traced to a British security firm. That’s probably not unusual, given the fact that the embassy is in London. And as I say you just have a look at the countries that are interested in Julian Assange, respectable to the United States and it proxies like the U.K. and what is concerning about it is there was that bug. Are there other bugs placed inside the embassy? If there are again, we’ve raised great concerns that there’s an Australian political candidates whose election campaign is being surveilled a by third party.

Robles: Twenty years ago this would have caused an international scandal. How scandalous, do you think, this is going to get?

Barns: I mean it ought to be a matter of scandal, because the security state, which has emerged since 9-11 in particular, is no longer big news, except when it's completely outrageous. And certainly, from our perspective, this is a matter of grave concern.

As I say, our concern is, from the perspective of the WikiLeaks Party election campaign that one of its candidates is being surveilled and furthermore, that any discussions that he might have with campaign advisors, including myself, are being recorded. And certainly it is, as I say of grave concern that there’s actually a bug was inside ambassador's office.

Robles: And no idea as to how long it was there, right?

Barns: No reason, the bugging was carried out, the Ecuadorians say by a company called the Surveillance Group Ltd. which is a private investigation and covert surveillance company in the United Kingdom but I don't have any further information on how long it has been there.

Robles: I see. So it can be anybody and probably the United States. I wouldn’t doubt that.

Barns: It could be the U.K. which is effectively acting as a proxy to the United States.

Robles: Oh sure, of course they are. If they weren't Julian could have left there a long time ago.

Barns: Exactly! Yeah!

Robles: Do you think this is a warning to other European countries?

Barns: What we’re finding in the revelations from Ed Snowden, and revelations from WikiLeaks itself over the past few years, is the way in which the surveillance state post 9/11 environment, has infiltrated so much of the world and there is so much in terms of surveillance that ordinary people haven't been told about and I think that's of grave concern. That should be of grave concern to peoples and nations all around the world.

Robles: The fact that the U.S. has been spying on allies and their “supposed” friends; isn't that outrageous?

Barns: Absolutely. And that’s the view the European Union takes. And what is also scandalous is the fact the Australian government hasn't been jumping up and down on behalf of its own citizens asking for explanations from the U.S. as to whether or not there has been surveillance of Australian citizens, particularly those Australian citizens who have a lot of dealings with the United States.

Robles: Would you take that as a given? I think I would at this point.

Barns: The problem in Australia is: and one of the points we are going to be making in the election campaign, is that the Australian governments have been far too trusting of the United States over a long period of time, and in particular, in the post 9-11 environments. And what guarantees can be given to Australian citizens that their privacy hasn’t been invaded by Australian security agencies operating alongside the U.S.!

Robles: What's your opening strategy going to be? Can you tell us?

Barns: I think the campaign is going to be very much about saying to the Australian people that here's a party that's got a track record, through its broader movements, in transparency and accountability and standing up for the individuals. And we're going to take that into the election campaign.

The Senate, Australia's Upper House, which where Julian is running, that is a house of review. It's meant to be a check on the government and it’s become just a deal-making chamber in recent years and the government simply uses it to rubber stamp legislation, or sometimes it just bypasses the Senate.

All we want to see is a Senate that is an effective check-and-balance, that's ensuring that we don’t have secrets, that government is accountable, that all documentation in relation to policy is put on the table and, in particular, that security agencies, the federal police and those, are held accountable for their decisions by forcing them to reveal to the Senate on a twice yearly basis what are the collection activities they've been up to.

Robles: Anything else you want to enlighten our listeners about?

Barns: No. We’re alright John!

Robles: Thanks a lot, Greg! I really appreciate it!

Barns: Alright mate! I’ll talk to you next week.

Robles: Okay, I’ll talk to you next week and maybe you will tell us who the candidates are.


Julian Assange determined to win Senate seat

2 April, 2013 16:03

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The Australian Senate bid by Julian Assange is in full swing and the WikiLeaks Party will be officially launched within weeks. So far WikiLeaks is keeping mum as to who the other candidates are who will be running side by side for seats on the Australian Senate with Assange but there can be no doubt that wins by the party will have a positive impact in the fight for the civil liberties of the Australian people. Greg Barns, the head of Julian Assange’s unusual campaign spoke to the Voice of Russia and says that if Assange is elected, he would become a Senator and could demand a totaling in the Senate of documents in relation to security treaties that Australia has with other countries. 

Hello, this is John Robles. I'm speaking with Greg Barns, he's the campaign manager for the WikiLeaks Party and the head of Julian Assange's Senate campaign.

Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about what's going on with the WikiLeaks Party and what role you're going to be playing?

Barns: Thanks, John. Look, WikiLeaks has Julian Assange (inaudible) He’s forming a party that will be launched very shortly. It'll be running candidates in the forthcoming Australian national election which is due on September the 14th this year.

Julian Assange will be a candidate for the Senate, which is Australia's Upper House in the state of Victoria. And the intention is also to run candidates in New South Wales and potentially in one or two other states.

Robles: So there's going to be several candidates running for the WikiLeaks Party then?

Barns: There'll be some candidates. It won't be wide across Australia and it'll be focused on the Senate not the House, but there certainly will be, in addition to Julian, some other candidates.”

Robles: Ok. Can you give us a hint to who those might be?

Barns: It’s the matter for the party, but certainly we’ve had some discussions with people.

The interesting thing about the WikiLeaks Party and Julian Assange is that it attracts support in Australia across the political spectrum from left to right.  So we are getting people to notice, speaking with us, certainly speaking with me who come from the conservative side of the politics as well as the left and that, I think, augers well for the party going forward.

Robles: I talked to Samantha Castro and I was interested in finding out how and in what way would Julian try to bring about, or try to change some of the “Culture of Secrecy” in the Australian government?

Barns: He would be, if he's elected, a Senator. The Upper House in Australia has a great deal of power over government, it provides a check and balance on the Executive in Australia.

He would be in a position, where he could certainly demand a totaling in the Senate of documents in relation to security treaties that Australia has with other countries, in relation to the way in which Australia detains asylum seekers and the conditions of their detention and certainly he would be also be, in unison with the other WikiLeaks candidates or Senators, for a greater check on the power of the government to surveil Australian people.

We’ve seen an increasing, certainly since 9-11, an increasing number of pieces of legislation in Australia which are designed to encroach on the civil liberties of Australians and he would certainly be a very-very valuable voice in trying to stem that tide.

Robles: Do you know anything about “Project K”?

Barns: That’s the matter for WikiLeaks. I understand it's in Washington, they launched it this week in Washington, John. But I am not able to add anything further to that.

Robles: Ok, I understand. What stage is the party at right now? Have you obtained all the signatures that were needed and is the party registered?

Barns: My understanding is, it's getting close to that, if that's not already been done, and that the party will be launched pretty shortly, that is within the next week.

So, you know… I'm not involved in the party as such, I’m running the campaign, but obviously you need a strong party.

Today with my appointment I’ve has a number of people approaching us indicating they want to get involved and I think you’ll have a strong party, which will have networks throughout Australia, but particularly focused on Sydney and Melbourne.

Robles: Now, as the campaign director, what are going to be your main avenues and your main targets for gaining support, if you can tell us?

Barns: Well, I think the main issue is people understanding that this is a serious campaign, that WikiLeaks stands for a range of issues which are not being stood for by the other political parties in Australia and that we garner sufficient votes to get Julian elected.

The way the Australian Senate election works is you essentially need…There’re six Senate seats up for grabs in Victoria, New South Wales and we'll be aiming to get the last of those Senate seats.

The bulk of our seats go to the major parties, we’d be aiming to get the last of those seats and to do that you have got to get 14.9% of the popular vote.

Normally what happens with a preferential voting system in Australia is that you get a lower percentage of the vote and then you make it up through preferences from other parties. However, that's something that we’ll have to focus on very closely over the next few months, because preferences are critical. So preferences deals with other parties are critical to the success of any Senate campaign.


Robles: I see. Can you give us your views: How is this going to affect Julian's current situation, if he is elected?

Barns: Firstly, if he wants to get elected to the Senate and he’s determined to be a Senator whether he has to be in the Ecuadorian Embassy or he’s back in Australia. But I think what might happen after the election is; one would hope that you would see the Australian government actually start use some of its political capital with London and with Washington and with Stockholm in order to ensure that he can come home and take his seat in the Senate. But that's a matter for the Australian government, that's not a reason for running for office. But it does appear to me that that’s something that the Australian government would have to look at I members of the Australian electorate voted for Julian.

Robles: This would be a very uncomfortable situation for the Australian Government, wouldn’t it: to have an Australian senator basically having to hide from the U.K. authorities in a foreign embassy, wouldn't it?

Barns: It would be absurd and the Australian Government, I would think, would have to do something about it, but as I say that's a matter for the Australian Government.

Robles: Has there been… any statements or anything… by the Australian officials regarding that? Have you heard anything? Have you heard any softening of a position by the Australian authorities?

Barns: No. I’ve heard nothing in recent times but I think Julian running in the campaign and having WikiLeaks’ presence in the campaign, will mean that the major political parties in Australian will have to take a position on issue of Julian.

Robles: What’s the public reaction down there like?

Barns: The public reaction has been very supportive. I think, you know, as I was saying, Julian Assange, he’s strongly supported across the political spectrum, some polling out late last year showed that support for him was around about 27% if he ran for the Senate. That would put him in the Senate easily. You would expect that support to diminish over the course an election campaign, but, you know, it's a very-very good place to start.

Robles: Is there any way that people on the internet and people internationally can support the campaign and support Julian?

Barns: Look, there is John, they can go to the website and…

Robles: You're talking about the WikiLeaks Party website?

Barns: Yeah, yeah. They can just go to that…

Robles: Ok. And I'm sure you've spoken to Julian recently. Can you tell us anything about how he is holding up in there? What’s going on?

Barns: He seems to be in very good spirits. I've spoken to him a couple of times and he seems to be in a very good spirits and certainly working hard on a range of issues, and certainly will be extremely focused on this election campaign.

Robles: Ok. So he's holding up fairly well then?

Barns: He is, yeah!

WikiLeaks official party website


Gillard's Comments Defamatory

13 October 2012, 16:46  

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Greg Barns, the President of the Australian Lawyer's Alliance talks about the legal aspect of Assange's case and gives an Australian perspective on the case. He also calls Julia Gillard's comments 'defamatory' and points out that, from day one the Swedish Government and the Swedish prosecutors have behaved appallingly in this matter.

Hello! This is John Robles, I’m speaking with Mr. Greg Barnes. He’s a barrister (or a lawyer) and the Director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, in Australia.


WikiLeaks is exploring the possibility of suing Julia Gillard for defamation. Do you think this is a real possibility?

Certainly the comments that Mrs. Gillard made in 2010 which were that Mr. Assange had committed criminal offences against Australian law. She knew certainly at some point, either when she made or repeated those comments, that, that was false, and certainly from that perspective it has a defamatory element to it. The problem that Mr. Assange has got though is that in Australia you have to issue a defamation proceedings within one year of the publication of the remarks, or you can get an extension from the court to up to three years, but it would be unlikely, I would have thought, that he would get that extension given that he’s had a legal team working on a range of cases for him and he has known of those remarks since 2010. So, he has some procedural difficulties in getting his claim up.

How does his being granted asylum affect his status in Australia as a citizen, etc., from a legal standpoint?

His citizenship is not affected by his pursuing asylum, and he really doesn’t have any claim against the Australian Government. One thing the Australian Government hasn’t done is rely on the doctrine of diplomatic protection which is an international law doctrine, which says that: when a country believes that one of its citizens is being subjected to a cruel and unusual punishment or torture in an overseas country, it can step in and directly negotiate with that Government to try and look after its own citizen.

In this case the Australian Government could step in if it wanted to with the UK and Sweden and indicate that it is concerned about Julian Assange being handed over to the Americans, like Bradley Manning – the person who is alleged to have leaked the information to WikiLeaks has been subjected to very cruel punishments in a lead-up to his trial, and it could make those representations to the UK Government and to the Swedish Government has chosen not to. So, it certainly hasn’t done all that it can to protect Julian Assange as an Australian citizen.

Can he sue the Government?

He can’t sue the Government, he really has no recourse against the Australian Government in the courts. It is really, like a lot of the international law doctrines, they’re discretionary, and it is really a matter of putting pressure on the Australian Government to get them to move to assert the authority which they have got, and all nations have, to protect one of their citizens when they’re at risk of being tortured or are being tortured.

The Ecuadorians offered to take Julian to the Ecuadorian Embassy in Sweden, they refused. What do you make of that?

I think the Swedish Government, from day one and the Swedish prosecutors behaved appallingly in this matter, they have pursued Julian Assange in a way that they would pursue no other person for these types of offences, and they’re not even offences but merely allegations. And they’ve confirmed in the last few weeks, the fact that they’re not interested in a diplomatic solution to this matter. They are determined to get Julian Assange back to Sweden without any asylum mantel over his head. And in my view, and I think most people think this: he’ll be handed over to the Americans by the Swedes and I think that’s why the Swedes have continued to act the way they have. It’s been an appalling performance from a country which prides itself on taking seriously human rights.


They haven’t charged him with anything?


Apparently they can’t. They don’t have a case against him as far as I know.

My understanding is that the case against him is very flimsy, that the witnesses’ statements are contradictory, that the motives of some of the witnesses have been called into question. Certainly it looks an extremely weak case from Australian perspective and even a perspective of a developed world country which relies on the rule of law you would have thought it was a very, very weak case. And one has to wonder why Sweden is pursuing Julian Assange in the way it is. As I said if he weren’t Julian Assange it would not be pursuing him for these types of matters because the case is so thin against him. The Swedish authorities in any other case would be saying simply: look, let him go.

Apparently it’s so thin they can’t even charge him with anything.

The case is very thin. It’s being pursued politically by prosecutors pursuing their own political agenda and lawyers pursuing their own political agenda. And it is an appalling case and as I say Sweden is not interested in justice for Julian Assange, Sweden’s role in this has simply been to get him back there, and hand him over to the Americans. And I think their conduct in the last few weeks has confirmed that.

Regarding the stalemate, the situation right now between the Ecuadorian Government and the UK authorities, is there any way out of that that you see realistically in the near future?

I don’t think there is any way out of it but if the Australian Government would have intervened… it’s their citizen. Australian relations with the UK and the US and Sweden are extremely good. It could broker some form of settlement but the settlement hangs mainly because it doesn’t want to offend its great alliance with the US and it’s left Julian Assange swinging. I think Australia is part of the key to a solution. As I said Australian Government has shown no inclination of getting involved.

And they still don’t, and you don’t see that happening in the future?

I don’t see that happening in the future unless there is greater public pressure to try and bring Julian Assange home, back to Australia. And that’s the sort of pressure that Assange’s supporters are now seeking to bring about.

What’s the mood there in Australia, I mean towards the case and towards Julian? Has it changed any since he was granted asylum?

There was a TV program on Australian television last Sunday night which was essentially a dramatic portrayal of Julian’s younger days and how he came to be a hacker and then his work with WikiLeaks. That I think has generated some support for Julian. And I think generally speaking most Australians think what is happening to Julian Assange is unfair. But what that needs to do – that pressure now needs to be brought to the attention, of both Government and the opposition parties here, so that they begin to act on this because at the moment they show no inclination of doing anything to upset the United States. And I think they’ll only do so if there is a considerable public pressure.

What about international pressure?

I think international pressure is also extremely important. And what Ecuador is representing is the Alliance, if you like, of Non-Aligned Nations who are saying to the United States: that there are broader human rights issues at stake in the Assange case - freedom of speech being one of them - and that he ought not to be pursued by Sweden, the United States and Britain under the ruse or guise of trumped-up allegations in Sweden, simply to get him back to the United States where we all know there’s a sealed indictment and a Grand Jury that’s been meeting over a number of months to determine the course of the case against him in the United States.

Julia Gillard’s comments, did they actually in reality prevent MasterCard customers from making donations?

Well, they certainly didn’t help. But any legal actions would have to be brought by a legal entity associated with WikiLeaks, not by Julian Assange. But certainly Ms. Gillard’s comments did not help when it came to the blockade by credit card companies and banks because they were used as a basis for saying that these companies wouldn’t take contributions to WikiLeaks.

Thank you very much, Greg. I really appreciate it.

Thanks John

This is John Robles, you were listening to an interview with Mr. Greg Barnes. He is the lawyer and the Director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, in Australia.


In Defense of Assange

August 29, 2012

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Julian Assange has finally been given asylum by Ecuador and Greg Barns spoke with the Voice of Russia's John Robles regarding the case of Julian Assange and Australia's slavish relationship with the United States. He says that there is still a lot Australia can do to ensure Mr. Assange's safety behind-the-scenes.

Hello! This is John Robles. I’m speaking with Mr. Greg Barns – he is a barrister (or a lawyer) and the Director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance in Australia.

My first question is regarding your reaction to the Australian Government’s lack of protection for Julian Assange? What do you make of Australian Government’s inaction or lack of reaction?

Since he had been originally held for questioning in Sweden, the reality is that the Australian Government has been very scared to do much more for Mr. Assange because its alliance with the United States is so strong that it does not want to offend the US. And I think there is no doubt that the Australian Government understands that the US would like to extradite Mr. Assange from Sweden despite the fact that the Australian Government has been saying they know of no plans to do so.

What do you know about the secret grand jury that met in Virginia?

My understanding is that certainly a secret grand jury met. My understanding also is that the Stratfor documents show that there was a sealed indictment. Look, it would just be extraordinary to think that the Americans are not seeking to have Julian Assange prosecuted in the same way as they’ve had Bradley Manning prosecuted. The Americans have taken a very dim view of Julian Assange from day one. The Australian Government has been ensuring that it doesn’t upset the United States and that’s why, despite the fact that the Australian Government says that it’s done all it can to help Mr. Assange there are many Australians who think that it should have done a lot more by making correct representations to Washington that it does not want Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States and if he goes anywhere he goes to Australia.

What would you say to people who say that Australia has been taken over by the US as some say apparently has been the case with the UK and Sweden?

Well, I think Australia's track record when it comes to US foreign policy in recent years has played one of slavish adherence. Australia was one of the first to sign up to the war in Iraq, it’s been involved in Afghanistan. Last year the Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced putting a US base in Darwin, a northern city, which China was very hostile about. There is no doubt also that the United States is the premier ally for Australia and I think when it comes to Julian Assange, his rights come well behind those of Australia maintaining its alliance with the United States.

How do you think this is going to affect or has it affected Australian journalists and journalists worldwide as far as US censorship goes and strong arm tactics by the US?

I think what it does show is the United States’ hypocrisy on this particular issue. If the US Government decides to leak materials against other regimes such as China for example, or Russia, then that’s all ok. But if there’s material out there that the United States doesn’t want to be out there, then the United States comes down upon that journalist very very hard. And I think that the so called “land of the free” has shown that it has got a glass jaw when it comes to tactics being used against it, that it itself uses against other nations.

Why do you think the reaction was so extreme from the US?

The extreme reaction by the United States was because of the volume of material. And also what it did was that it exposed another side of the United States version of events about Iraq and Afghanistan. And the United States, like any empire, likes to control the flow of information. What Julian Assange and WikiLeaks did was to upend that control. It also showed I think that the world of international diplomacy, the inherent duplicity of that world, was exposed for all to see. One of the difficulties in this case I think for the United States is that Julian Assange doesn’t appear to have committed any offence, he certainly committed no offence in Australia. It is certainly highly questionable whether he committed any offence in the United States.

And the other difficulty I think is that whilst Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr says that Sweden has a track record of not extraditing people to the United States when they are on political crimes, in recent years that hasn’t been the case as Sweden has proved very weak when it comes to extradition of people from Sweden back to the United States in what we would say is a politically charged atmosphere in relation to the war on terror.

The UK threatening to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy compound I think is an unprecedented event in recent times. Do you see this as growing US influence? Do you see that as a dangerous precedent?

I think it’s a very dangerous precedent and I think what iе shows is that the stranglehold that the United States has over its allies like the United Kingdom and Australia when it wants to get its man, in this case Julian Assange, it will effectively rip up international diplomacy and the normal rules of civility that apply in order to do so. It was going to use an act of Parliament passed in 1987 not for this purpose, but to stop terrorist activities taking place in embassies. There is no sense in which Julian Assange could be in any way considered to be a terrorist.

Looking at the terrorist issue, do you think that has been exploited, manipulated and over-used by the United States?

The problem with the war on terror is that we have seen a growing erosion of fundamental liberties and rights in Australia, United Kingdom, Canada – a range of countries that participate in the war on terror. The difficulty with the war on terror is that it is ongoing, it is never-ending, and so legislation can be justified simply under the rubric that this is all part of the war on terror. And governments which use terrorism as a tool to oppress individuals or as a tool to curtail civil liberties are generally doing so simply because they want political control. It’s got nothing to do with illegitimate acts of terrorism at all.

Do you see a hand behind orchestrating the entire so called war on terror in order to take away the civil liberties and rights of individuals, not only in the United States but worldwide?

Certainly the United States led the war on terror through the PATRIOT Act passed in the heated moments after 9\11, and other countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom followed. And those laws have led to the jailing of many many people who were innocent, it also led to racial-profiling, it also have been counterproductive in terms of relations with the Muslim world.

Has an Australian citizen ever been granted asylum in another country?

That’s a very good question, John. I’m not aware of one. Certainly during the Vietnam War when Australians were resisting going to Vietnam, being conscripted, some Australians certainly may have gone, for example to Canada. Pierre Trudeau was granting asylum to the Americans, I’m not sure of any Australians going over there. But certainly I’m not aware of any Australians seeking asylum in the circumstances of Julian Assange. But the Australian Government certainly could have said – we want Julian Assange to come home, we’ve got some leverage over the Americans – the Americans want us as essentially a base for their Pacific-Axis in terms of containing China, we want Julian Assange home as part of that.

How do Australians feel towards the Government? Is there a noticeable backlash going on there in Australian right now?

Look, I think the difficulty is that both the major political parties in Australia have the same position on Julian Assange: they would effectively have sat on their hands and done very little to support him. I think a lot of Australians are very upset at the way in which Julian Assange is being treated by their Government. In the same way they were about David Hicks, an Australian who was found in Afghanistan, who was then taken in Guantanamo Bay where he languished for a number of years and eventually was brought back to Australia. Ordinary Australians are outraged about what happened to Hicks as they are about Assange simply because they expect their Government to protect their citizens when they get into trouble overseas.

Sure! As it should be. Do you think this is a sign, the fact that he was granted asylum in Ecuador, do you think it is a sign of the world maybe waking up? Or is it a sign of increasing or decreasing US influence?

I think what it shows is that there are many countries that have their own minds and that Australia needs to be very careful, that its rock solid, long-standing alliance with the United States doesn’t blind it to the fact that there are other countries in the world, particularly countries in central and Latin America or in the Asian region which take a much more, if not hostile view towards the United States, a certainly a more balanced view. And Australia needs to recognize that.

Ecuador is a very small country. A large percentage of their trade and economy is dependent on the US, yet they took such a bold step as granting Julian asylum. As a lawyer you know all that legal angles to this. How do you think Julian is going to get out of the embassy? And what do you think, this is going to proceed in the future? Do you think the Australian Government may in fact come out in support of him later on?

This is where the Australian Government can get involved. Its relationship with the United Kingdom is a long and historic relationship, it says it can’t get involved in this, it can get involved behind the scenes, as it can with the United States. Julian Assange should be given safe passage either to Ecuador or directly to Australia. And that can be done and that is what is usually done when a person seeks asylum. He should not be sent to Sweden because firstly the charges that he faces in Sweden are not even charges he’s simply wanted for questioning. And we know now that this is has been highly political exercise by the prosecutors in that country. And there is also no guarantee that Sweden won’t hand him over to the Americans. Australia should get involved in persuading the United Kingdom Julian Assange should be given safe passage to the airport and as I say he either goes to Quito Ecuador or he returns home to Australia.

Thank you very much.


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