WikiLeaks has found a champion in former High Court judge Michael Kirby, who believes the cyber whistleblower has brought more openness and justice to the world.
Mr Kirby said his first reaction to WikiLeaks was that its founder, Julian Assange, was an amateur who had “bumbled into tricky areas” and that the torrent of information he released from diplomatic cables was not sufficiently nuanced, dangerous and wrong in principle.
But in recent months he had changed his mind.
“WikiLeaks has made the world a more open and transparent place, and therefore a bit more just, and that’s where I stand at the moment,” Mr Kirby told a forum in Sydney organised by CPA Australia.
“It is part and parcel of the new technology.
“On the whole it’s probably been a good thing for all of us, to hold governments to account.”
He said the revelation that 2.5 million people had been entitled to see the US records suggested they were not “super secret” and that the risks and dangers of publication were not so great.
“There is too much secrecy in our society,” he said.
Citizens needed something to undermine the “cosy relationship” between the media and politicians.
Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who is acting for Assange in extradition proceedings, said the WikiLeaks phenomenon would remain a part of the modern communications landscape.
“Wikileaks is here to stay,” the London-based QC told the forum on Wednesday night.
“Even if Assange was assassinated tomorrow, imitation is rife,” he said, citing the Wall Street Journal’s “Safe House” site, which promised anonymity to leakers.
Robertson said the WikiLeaks philosophy was “fundamentally anti-bastard” and it helped give power to the powerless.
He said Australia had inherited Britain’s obsession with secrecy, adding: “I think open government means better government, whether in Wollongong or Tunisia.”
Robertson agreed, however, with former Howard government attorney-general Philip Ruddock, who said much information should not be published, such as national security issues, medical records, tax returns, sensitive legal information and confidential business data.
“Journalists themselves seek to protect their sources,” said Mr Ruddock.