The aftermath of the WikiLeaks Party’s electoral debut reached a new and unexpected level of farce today when the party released its much-heralded “independent review” of the circumstances around its allocation of preferences in the lead-up to the September federal election.
The party announced the review in August after the uproar over its decision to allocate preferences to the Nationals ahead of the Greens in Western Australia and to direct preferences to the Shooters and Fishers Party and the far-Right Australia First Party ahead of the Greens in New South Wales. The party subsequently blamed an “administrative error” for the debacle, which prompted a spate of resignations from key figures, including the party’s No. 2 Senate candidate in Victoria, Dr Leslie Cannold.
Today, the “review” has finally been released, via email to members. It was conducted by Stuart Bell of Bell Campbell Auditing, a WikiLeaks Party member approached by John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, to conduct the audit. The review is six pages long, including the cover page and an attachment. In it, Bell complains that his conduct of the review was “limited” by his “inability or access to all relevant information and WLP personnel, especially where there has been a severe fall-out over the 2013 preferencing issues in NSW and WA”.
Bell had not been able to interview anyone except for Shipton, but says he took written submissions or phone calls from other key figures like Greg Barns. Bell also laments “limited or no access to WLP official transcripts, minutes of National Council meetings and official emails/correspondence”, which forced him to accept the word of those he interviewed. However, Bell rejected the “administrative error” claim by the party:
“It cannot be shown that it was an ‘administrative error’, based on the electronic and verbal hyper-activity by the National Council members … It was a combination of human errors caused by a highly emotional and volatile atmosphere, where a number of key WLP members were instrumental in causing confusion, not from malicious intent but due to a lack of defined responsibilities.”
Bell goes on to recommend that the party make its preference allocation decisions earlier and that someone formally be given the job of overseeing the allocation process. Party secretary Matt Watt said in the email accompanying the review this morning:
“[T]he circumstances of the 2013 Federal Election Group Voting Tickets have triggered a need to re-examine what the party does and determine how it can improve further. A promise to learn — a commitment to act: The WikiLeaks Party will analyse and evaluate the findings from the internal review and ensure that improvements are made.”
At three-and-a-half pages of actual text, evaluation shouldn’t take too long.