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Leslie Cannold: the woman who makes Assange palatable

By Evelyn Tsitas - posted Wednesday, 31 July 2013


In an election campaign where our only female Prime Minister was removed so that two almost indistinguishable middle aged men can fight for the top job, Julian Assange's master stroke in running for Senate has been to place Dr Leslie Cannold as his running mate.

Assange told RN Drive that he planned to appoint the Melbourne bioethicist as his proxy in the Senate if he is elected and can't return to Canberra.

In choosing Cannold, Assange has proven himself a shrewd media player. This is an election where misogyny, always lurking under the surface like a tetanus spore, has erupted. Both political parties are overwhelmingly choosing men to replace outgoing MPs in safe seats, and former PM Julia Gillard told The Monthly magazine that some of the contempt that she was shown as prime minister was about being the first woman in the job.

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So, for Assange, what better way to distinguish his party from an undistinguished pack than by placing a strong, intelligent and highly qualified woman in front of the fledgling WikiLeaks Party?

The Australian voting public is desperate for a female voice in politics.

For many, Cannold may be that voice. Young enough to inspire younger women and a mother to boot, she has written extensively on women's reproductive rights and was awarded Australian Humanist of the Year in 2011 for her advocacy for abortion rights for women - take that, Tony Abbott.

As one of the many tweets following the announcement attested: "provides that party with a much needed infusion of gravitas. Nice."

An academic, author, and a skillful media player herself (nearly 10,000 twitter followers), Cannold also says a lot of things a lot of people don't like. And stands by them. If anyone can take a hit for the party, it is this woman.

Just as well, because as soon as her position on the WikiLeaks Party ticket was announced on 25 July, the Tweets started – specifically - how can WikiLeaks Party supporters disavow rape culture considering that the leader Julian Assange is hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London while facing rape allegations?

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On Twitter, she was challenged: "How about speaking up for women and asking Julian Assange to stop lying about his sexual-assault charges?"

Cannold replied: "I've been doing that my whole life & don't intend to stop now. I'll just be more effective in the Senate."

In an interview on the day her Senate bid was announced, Cannold told news.com.au that "Julian has said repeatedly, and to me personally, that he would answer questions about the case and get it all cleared up, but that can't happen without a promise that he isn't being put at risk of extradition to the US."

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About the Author

Dr Evelyn Tsitas works at RMIT University and has an extensive background in journalism (10 years at the Herald Sun) and communications. As well as crime fiction and horror, she writes about media, popular culture, parenting and Gothic horror and the arts and society in general. She likes to take her academic research to the mass media and to provoke debate.

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