Three perspectives on Julian Assange

Julian Assange and Wikileaks: philosophy, politics and plight

Julian Assange at Ecuadorian embassyThe political program, the philosophical views and the legal plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be discussed by leading Australian thinkers at La Trobe University on Thursday 23 May.

Human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, National Campaign Director of the WikiLeaks Party Greg Barns and La Trobe University Vice Chancellor’s Fellow Robert Manne will share their views in what promises to be a fascinating insight into the world of Julian Assange at this forthcoming Ideas & Society seminar.

The seminar will be chaired by Mary Kostakidis, former SBS News presenter who was Chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation when it awarded the Human Rights Medal to Mr Assange in 2011.

The legal plight facing Mr Assange will be discussed by Mr Burnside, his Australian lawyer, who has argued that the fact Ecuador has granted asylum lends credence to concerns about him if extradited. He will also discuss his view of the Australian Government’s responsibility for citizens overseas and the need for it to distance itself clearly from the words and actions of the government of the United States.

Greg Barns will focus on the new WikiLeaks party and the role it is set to play in the Australian Senate if successful in the forthcoming election. Mr Barns will discuss the new party’s emphasis on freedom of speech, human rights, government transparency and privacy issues, including the Labor government's online data retention proposals.

Professor Robert Manne will examine the philosophical direction of Mr Assange’s thinking as well as the contribution he has made to challenging centuries-old practices of government secrecy and by championing people’s right to know.

‘Assange’s importance is in the revolutionary threat that his idea of publishing damaging documentary information sent by anonymous insiders to WikiLeaks poses to governments and corporations across the globe,’ Professor Manne said.

WikiLeaks caused a media and diplomatic uproar late last year when it began to publish its cache of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables, revealing secrets such as that Saudi leaders had urged US military action against Iran. Some US politicians said WikiLeaks should be defined as an international terrorist organisation. Julian Assange himself claims publication of the cables helped shape uprisings in north Africa and the Middle East and said WikiLeaks was on the side of justice.

The Ideas and Society program involves a series of debates and public lectures aimed at considering some of the critical questions of the times.

DATE: Thursday 23 May 2013

TIME: 5.30-7.00pm

VENUE: John Scott Meeting House, La Trobe University, Bundoora

Webcast: A webcast will be available for download from Ideas and Society following the seminar.

Public inquiries: University Events

Media inquiries: Penny Underwood on (03) 9818 8540.

Greg Barns is a barrister, author and National Campaign Director of the newly formed WikiLeaks Party’s federal election campaign.  He is a former senior political adviser and was National Chair of the Australian Republican Movement from 2000-2002.  He left the Liberal Party in 2002 because of his opposition to the Party’s policies on asylum seekers. 

Julian Burnside AO QC is a barrister, author, human rights and refugee advocate. He is known for his staunch opposition to the mandatory detention of asylum seekers and has  acted pro bono in many human rights cases for fair treatment of refugees. He was voted a  National Living Treasure and was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2009. 

Mary Kostakidis presented World News Australia on SBS television for over two decades. Her role as a freelance journalist, commentator, and her service on various boards and committees reflects her commitment to social justice and active citizenship.  Mary was Chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation when it awarded the Human Rights Medal to Julian Assange in 2011.

Robert Manne is the Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow and Convenor of the Ideas & Society Program at La Trobe University. A well-known public commentator, he is the author of Left, Right, Left: Political Essays;Making Trouble: Essays against the New Australian Complacency and three Quarterly Essays, most recently “Bad News”.  


Image credit: Snapperjack on Flickr.