It can be difficult to attempt to be a person of ethics who sets themselves standards to live by. Once you have done so, then comes the attempt to meet those standards in your day to day life. God knows I have tried through my life only to come up short much of the time.
Once you have set those standards you have then guaranteed that you are walking into a minefield of incidents that could compromise those principles and have you looking like a hypocrite.
So why set them in the first place? For me, a definition of success has evolved in my life, that to be successful is as much about giving it everything you have in pursuit of that success, as opposed to not achieving what your vision of success may be. To me, the only failure in life is to have not have tried at all.
The same applies when setting ethical standards for your self.
Now multiply that significantly for a Western Democracy such as Australia who has long-established institutions, laws and principles. That we live in such a country who over its history has aspired for its citizens to be their best selves is certainly one of the privileges we all enjoy over citizens in other countries that do not embrace such standards.
To maintain those standards, however, is like walking on eggshells with steel-toed work boots. The thread between civilisation and barbarianism can be both thin and stretched to breaking point on many occasions.
As a nation, Australia has faced that breaking on two fronts and one has to wonder whether we have failed to meet the collective standards that we set ourselves as a vibrant democracy on either scenario.
The most recent glaring example to me is the shaming of so many patriots who served with distinction in our defence forces through the tabling of the recent Brereton report. Its handling and worse its presumption of guilt rather than innocence by our politicians and Defence Chiefs have ostracised many current and past veterans unfairly and needlessly.
The other scenario that has tested our nation’s inner compass for some time and one that seems to be forgotten by what seems to be so many is that of Julian Assange. This week marked the tenth anniversary since Assange was first detained in England
As a person with conservative beliefs both in life and politics, this treatment of Assange is something that should sit uncomfortably with anybody who embraces conservative values. If, as conservatives claim they believe in the power of the individual to think for themselves, to be innovative, to be able to embrace freedom of thought, expression, speech and religion even when those thoughts are contrary to ours then the treatment of Julian Assange should be of concern.
To embrace this stance can at times deliver me some very strange bedfellows. In supporting and promoting the cause of Julian Assange it aligns me with people such as every Greens politician in Canberra and Andrew Willkie, an independent member of parliament. These are people I would normally be virulently opposed to on most issues.
Due to this it naturally gives me a reason to pause, think and reflect as to whether my concern on Assange’s treatment is legitimate. The fact that after such consideration his situation still sits uncomfortably with me screams that something is broken with our nations moral compass.
I found that this was strangely reinforced for me through our government’s handling of the Brererton report and how, in my opinion, our politicians have thrown our ADF personnel under the bus. Considering Assange’s exposure of certain military personnel through his release of information through WikiLeaks, it is a strange comparison to make.
Throughout our lives, especially in our childhoods most Australians would have been raised with noble and dignified principles such as freedoms and liberties while being taught to reject fraud and corruption. As the son of parents who went through both the depression and World War Two, the concepts of standing by your mates and standing up to authorities was the norm. For many Australians, it has in all likelihood been a ritualistic tradition probably dating back to the time convict settlers of the first fleet initially landed at Botany Bay.
Our diggers for over a century have been sent to the four corners of the globe to fight this and other countries wars at the direction of politicians who for the most part have never pulled on a uniform in service of their nation. They went to war to fight to defend our nation from what they were convinced were forces that could impact on our nation, its citizens and our way of life. Or at least, they went to war on the pretence of these matters. On most occasions we sent our sons and daughters to war for principled and valid reasons, on some rare occasions there can be legitimate arguments that we did not.
Whenever troops are sent into a conflict by any nation, the chances of war crimes occurring exist and the ugly reality is that there can be no doubt that they happen. Sadly many of these crimes would not be brought into light or brought to justice. To think after one hundred years of military conflict that Australian troops would not have been prone to these circumstances is simply naïve.
The difference is when they do occur and are discovered due to our nation’s transparency through its laws, courts and tribunals both military and civil, these crimes can be exposed and dealt with and justice dispensed where required. Thanks to this Australia’s military record would be better than most nations and one that Australians can be rightly proud of.
To have that pride in this process all individuals should be given the right to a fair trial and defence before any justice can be administered.
To arrive at the point where the wheels of any justice system can be set into motion, there needs to be some oversight and even exposure, which is where Julian Assange comes in. Mr Assange exposed incidents that were concerning and needed investigating, not of our troops but those of other nations. You can argue until your blue in the face about whether Assange went about it correctly, what you cannot argue against is whether that exposure was important or not.
No ethical nation wants it’s military engaging in actions against innocents and when any person is accused of such actions they should then be entitled to a full, fair and transparent investigation and process. The presumption of innocence should be maintained until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is a principle all Australians and citizens in most Western Democracies are familiar with and have been raised with. It’s an entirely noble standard to strive for by any society. It’s one however that hasn’t been extended to members of the ADF implicated by the Brereton report and it also begs the question; why is Julian Assange sitting in a jail cell at Belmarsh prison in England before any trial has been conducted?
Normally, Julian Assange and our military personnel would be natural protagonists, yet somehow our government has made them very strange bedfellows indeed. They both stand not only accused but convicted by many without even a trial having been started let alone conducted. In the case of Mr Assange, he sits in a jail cell for what I can only see as the crime of shining a light onto some the darkest corners of our nation’s Allie’s closet of shame.
Both the Brereton report and the Assange situation surround principles we hold at the core of our soul as a nation. In the first instance, the bravery and integrity of our men and women in uniform and how they have throughout our history fought for our freedoms and liberties. In the second instance is two key parts of those freedoms and liberties any free society is built upon. One is to allow a citizen to investigate and call into question the actions of our government and bureaucracies so we can ensure corruption is minimised and the integrity of our nation is maintained. The other is to protect the rights of any individual citizen brave enough to raise those questions.
Just as no individual can maintain the high standard they set themselves without the odd failing, no nation will always maintain the standards it sets for itself. The point of setting standards is having something to strive for while realising you will not always meet them.
To ensure that we come as close as possible as often as possible, it’s vital to have oversight on our various arms of government both from within and without. To not do so is asking for a lack of transparency that will ultimately see the trashing of the very institutions that are responsible for maintaining our decency as a nation.
If we fail in this endeavour, then this nation’s citizens will ultimately lose faith in it all and we will start our collective descent into anarchy. The importance of the role that somebody like Julian Assange plays in that process cannot be underestimated. Whether you agree with his methods or not is another debate.
While many may question Julian Assange’s credentials as a journalist, there can be no doubt he provides oversight through WikiLeaks that makes governments and politicians feel uncomfortable, which can only be a good thing in any transparent society.
Some argue that Assange’s efforts to release restricted and sensitive information to the public potentially puts lives at risk. This may be true, but it misses the greater question of concern and that is if this information was so sensitive and its release could indeed risk lives, then why was it able to be provided to WikiLeaks in the first place?
As a conservative, respect for things such as our institutions, our courts our parliaments is important, yet as life goes on you realise it is many members of those institutions that have failed to meet the standards we expext of them to make our nation as great as it could be.
It’s our politicians who constantly preach to us about the importance of a free society, yet while doing so they cover up information that they consider could be damaging to their careers and continued controls of power within our nation. It’s our politicians who send our troops to war, it’s our politicians who decide who manages and leads those troops and who trains and oversees them in battle. Many of those politicians have never pulled on a uniform.
They send our troops to war at the risk of their own lives and to see and experience things most Australians won’t, yet at the same time, those same politicians won’t hesitate to throw them all under a bus when they may become inconvenient.
In the case of Mr Assange, those same politicians espouse the merits of democracy, free speech and a free exchange of ideas, but when one its own a citizen does this and produces exposure that could embarrass them by highlighting their failings and incompetence they cover it up and then look to destroy that individual.
What is the crime that Julian Assange has committed that has him currently sitting in a jail in England? All I can see is that to some of those in powerful places in several nations see him as guilty of the crime of embarrassing them. Is our society truly a bastion for transparency, for free speech and integrity of government? Or are those principles jettisoned when it isn’t convenient to some in government whether they are politicians or bureaucrats?
The term the “Deep State” has become commonplace over the past two decades due to what is perceived as a lack of transparency and constant cover-ups by those within government with something to hide. It seems to me that many within this “Deep State” in the United Kingdom, the USA and even Australia are just as happy to look away from Mr Assange’s situation and would happily throw away the key, let him see out his days behind bars and hope to never hear from him again.
As an Australian citizen, I would certainly hope our government would do everything within its power to ensure one of my fellow citizen’s does not rot in a jail cell in another country before any trial about their guilt or innocence was decided. Any family parent looks to protect their children from harm, is Mr Assange not a son of Australia? Why are we not making a stronger argument on his behalf. It is my opinion that governments on both sides of the aisle have failed Mr Assange that we would never accept if he was our child. Why then should we accept in his case?
If this was your son or daughter, what would you expect from our politicians? Has Assange killed anybody? Has he been directly or indirectly responsible for say over 800 deaths through government failure to administer a public health scheme? Has he accepted favours, monetary or otherwise from a foreign entity or foreign-owned company acting against our national interest as so many within our government have? Has Mr Assange sworn an oath, to tell the truth before an officer of the law to only then lie before that same officer in an inquiry? Did Mr Assange send our troops off to war based on a lie as they were when we sent them to Iraq in search of non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction?
Our politicians can mislead, can lie, tell falsehoods, can be corrupt and hide that corruption. They have also at different times been at least in part responsible for the deaths of our fellow Australians. How many days have they spent behind bars for these endeavours?
On the other hand, Mr Assange’s worst crime seems to be that he published information about our politicians and “deep state” members that they didn’t want to be made public. If you believe those people are concerned with our national security and other people’s lives as opposed to having their corrupt behaviour exposed, then you are either blind or incredibly naïve.
Mr Assange’s supporters on the other hand would argue he has served a public service in bringing to the public’s attention unethical behaviour that should be considered ethical to any nation of conviction.
If we do value our integrity as a nation and if we believe our nation has a soul, then should our politicians stand by and just allow Julian Assange to sit in a jail cell in Belmarsh prison in England for exposing uncomfortable truths? Or should they be do everything they can to convince our Allies to release Mr Assange into at worst our charge?
Alternatively, they could do one better and consider a scenario of what would be two of the strangest bedfellows of all.
For those with the capabilities and connections, I believe they should be lobbying President Trump as strongly as possible to pardon Assange before his Presidency potentially ends on January 20th. After all, it was Trump who has campaigned on a platform of fighting against and exposing the Deep State now for five years. For anybody who has followed President Trump closely, it is no understatement that he believes he has been a victim of the “Deep State” as much as Assange has been.
Despite what normally would be striking contrasts between President Trump and Mr Assange there are also some striking similarities. They both have fought in their way against “the deep state” as they see it, they have both opposed unjustifiable wars, President Trump is currently fighting what he sees as corruption and fraud in the recent USA presidential election and he also rightly made political mileage out of releasing and pardoning prisoners unfairly jailed for minor infractions.
If Julian Assange’s worst crime is to expose the uncomfortable truths that politicians and deep state entities want to remain hidden, then should we be treating him as a criminal or a patriot? How should President Trump be considering his treatment? A presidential pardon for Assange would certainly send a powerful message to the political swamp that Trump has preached consistently throughout his presidency that he wanted to drain. His MAGA support base would be right behind such a move.
A quote from former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis where he said: “Sunlight is … the best of disinfectants.” to me best describes the actions of Julian Assange.
Isn’t that the core of what Assange has done? Maybe Julian Assange for President Trump is the enemy of my enemy and should be considered that friend deserving of a pardon.
It’s high time our Australian politicians stood up for one of our citizens and negotiated his return to our shores. Also, any politician with any ability to lobby President Trump for a pardon for Assange should do so before a Biden administration may move into the white house. Considering Assange’s publishing of information came during the time of the Obama/Biden administration and that he also released documents that hurt Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign in the 2016 election, I wouldn’t hold my breath on a Biden administration relaxing efforts to extradite and imprison Assange.
Since the first Boer war haven’t Australians fought and died for the values that built our nation? Isn’t one of those values to stand by your mates? In consideration of this, how can genuine Australians now sit on the sidelines and watch one of our own be pursued by countries that are supposed to be our Allies? If you had any of our current politicians fighting alongside you in the trenches, how many of them do you think would have your back?
One suspects that concerns about Assange’s publishing of documents are less about National security sensitivities than it is about protecting the careers of politicians and bureaucrats. Here is a chance for many of our federal politicians to prove to us that their careers can be one of integrity and principle.
A pardon from President Trump could be Assange’s last best hope and the clock is counting on that option. What are our politicians doing about it?
From my perspective we at least we need to find out, so from this week, I will be writing to all our Federal politicians to lobby them to speak out on behalf of Mr Assange and to do everything they can to have him Pardoned or at worst brought back to our shores.
In doing so our government may fail to meet the ethical standards we expect of it, but I won’t fail to meet the ones I set for myself, succeed or fail.
If you wish to join me in that effort then please CLICK HERE.