Paul Holmes on New Zealand

Paul Holmes is an award-winning Herald columnist

Paul Holmes: Leaker not worthy of martyrdom

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I suppose they'll kill him. Julian Assange. I would if I were them, all those intelligence organisations and secret boys who find themselves at the mercy of a lone operator becoming a world folk hero among the cyber hoodlums.

If they don't kill him then those big old powerful countries will work out ways to confine him in a very dark hole for a very long time.

The Swedes have already pulled a very unsavoury trick of requesting the British extradite him to Stockholm to be tried for rape and unlawful sex, charges John Pilger says, - oh yes, he's got Pilger on his side, and Jemima Goldsmith, for heaven's sake - a Swedish official investigator has already thrown out. He's suggesting what the Swedes are doing is political. You don't say, John.

They can be nasty and secretive, those Swedes. We know that from the Stieg Larsson books. There's some real dark stuff in those.

We may think of Sweden as irrelevant. It isn't. Sweden is a wealthy country that plays a big game.

He's a funny looking bloke, Julian Assange, and he has a rather flash surname for a bloke who grew up in Townsville. He has a strange baby face.

And he's just hacked into a quarter of a million secret cables.

One of them already has the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin squealing. This one has a report to some American officials that Putin's Russia is a Mafia state with everyone on the take at every level, in for a cut.

Even Putin seems to have a great deal of wealth and a connection to an ex-KGB mate with an oil supply company who might have cut him in on the action. Putin was so mad about it all he went straight on Larry King.

I don't know why Putin was so mad. Everyone knows the Mafia run Russia.

I mean, I don't really know why anyone is so upset with the revelations so far. It's just flash gossip.

But the Americans want Assange for espionage, for stealing secrets. They take very unkindly to espionage. Really, it is hard to imagine Assange seeing the light of day for many a year by the time he's served time in probably half a dozen jurisdictions.

Julian's mother lives in Noosa and she is hot to trot about it all. Christine Assange says that "democracy is on trial" with what's happening to her son. No, Christine,

I think Julian's the one on trial and will be for a very long time. What he and his cohorts have done is steal a quarter of a million secret files and cables in which officials and diplomats speak more than frankly about each other and those people don't like that stuff getting out.

Who knows, really, what will happen. There are inevitable comparisons between Assange and Daniel Ellsberg, the American military analyst who, in 1971, released the Pentagon Papers, a stack of material about American decision-making during the Vietnam War. And God knows, the war was still cooking.

But he was a national of the country he offended. Assange has upset the entire world. They'll all soon be scrapping over him.

I'm sure the best way to have handled it would have been simply to smile in a good human fashion and get on with it. Anything but make him a martyr, which is now surely what will happen.

PRIME MINISTER Jon Key was in great form last Friday at the Mad Butcher's big fundraiser for the Middlemore Burns Unit, a fine cause if ever there was one. My job was to interview him on stage about anything. He told a story of being at some international conference, Apec maybe.

Sitting opposite was President Barack Obama. On Key's left was the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev said quite loudly that it would take 15 minutes for Russian nuclear warheads to get to Washington. Key didn't say whether Obama heard this.

So Key said to Medvedev. "How long to get to New Zealand?" "Wait a minute," Medvedev replied and turned to his officials for a brief conference. Then he turned back to PM and said, "Twenty-two minutes. But I'll phone you first." It brought the house down.

It occurred to me that it must be extraordinary to have conversations like that with people like that.

- Herald on Sunday

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