A cautionary tale from Julian Assange's birthplace of Townsville, where Australian Labour Party (ALP) MP Mandy Johnstone just lost power in the recent Queensland state election.
Townsville was one of Queensland's most marginal seats, with Ms Johnstone clinging to a mere 4% lead. So with a crushing ALP defeat widely predicted in the media, and around 80% of Australians supporting her hometown hero, how did Mandy Johnstone respond to a polite Facebook request for support?
Hi Mandy, I'll definitely vote for you on Saturday.. If you speak up for Julian Assange. A local man (he was born in Townsville hospital and his Mother christine went to school here) who has yet to be changed with any crime in any country. I know a LOT of people that would vote for you at the drop of a hat if I were able to tell them you spoke up for him. It would go a long way to helping his politically motivated extradition case, and would earn the respect of many of your constituents. It you wold (sic) like more info feel free to inbox me or just reply here. Thank you for your time, all the best on Saturday!
Sunday at 22:18
Mandy Johnstone Mp
Thank you for the support people. To Occupy Townsville - right now I am focussed on the people of Townsville; it may disappoint you that I did not provide an instant response to your posts however in the last few days of the campaign I make no apologies for being out in the electorate meeting with as many people as I can.
Monday at 21:27
I didn't expect an instant response, it's been a full day, I understand this is a crucial time in your election campaign, as 87% of Australians support Julian's work with WikiLeaks, one would think it beneficial for you to speak up for him. How is it that you were able to take the time now to rebutt my accusation of silence, yet you weren't able to make a statement about Julian?
If I were in his predicament, I would hope that the MPs from the city I was born in would be the loudest voices speaking in my defense. [WA Perth Greens party] Senator Scott Ludlum has flown to London to meet with Julian, and only this weekend has attended a WikiLeaks forum with Julians Mum Christine [in Brisbane, QLD]. How is it that a Senator from another state can take the time to fight for his freedom and speak against his prosecution, yet you cannot even provide a Facebook comment in his defense?
Monday at 21:46
Five days later, Mandy Johnstone lost her seat. The right-wing Queensland opposition Liberal National Party (LNP) won the seat of Townsville with a solid 9.3% swing. After ruling Queensland for 20 years, Prime Minister Julia Gillard's ALP was crushed into tiny little pieces, winning just 6 seats to the opposition's 76.
So would things be different if Mandy Johnstone MP had spoken up for Julian Assange? It would certainly have attracted huge media coverage, because to date not a single Australian ALP MP or Senator has spoken out for the WikiLeaks founder since December 2010, when Julia Gillard declared WikiLeaks "illegal".
The irony is that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was ousted by Gillard in a coup that bears all the hallmarks of US influence, was hugely popular in his home state of Queensland. The swing against Labour in Rudd's electorate, and bordering electorates, was only half the state average.
And yet even Kevin Rudd has not dared to speak up for Julian Assange. So what does that tell us about the state of the Australian Labor Party? What does that tell us about the state of Australian democracy?
Are all ALP MPs and Senators prepared to lose power, as Mandy Johnstone did, rather than speak up for Assange?
PS: Thanks to @WatchingMonkey for the Facebook quotes.