WHEN Julian Assange's mother agreed to our request for an interview, she set very strict parameters: "I will talk about Mr Squiggle and only Mr Squiggle."
Christine Assange is a puppeteer, and she is very worried about the decline of her artform.
Her phone has been running hot, however, with national and international media seeking comment on arguably a more pressing matter: the arrest in England of her son, the editor-in-chief of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, who has been accused of rape in Sweden.
When contacted by The Sun-Herald on the Sunshine Coast last week, Ms Assange had nothing to say - until the subject turned to Mr Squiggle, the moon-dwelling marionette with a pencil for a nose who entertained generations of Australians on ABC television for 40 years. Mr Squiggle was back in the news because his creator, Norman Hetherington, had died, aged 89, in a Sydney hospital.
"I absolutely adored Mr Squiggle and so did the kids,'' Ms Assange said. ''I still adore him.''
She added: "I was designing and making puppets for theatres when my children were growing up. They were immersed in puppetry from their early years and loved watching the show then playing with their own puppets.''
Ms Assange moved about six weeks ago from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast, where she runs the Fairytale Puppet Theatre. She entertains at schools, libraries and parties. "Unfortunately, traditional puppetry is a dying art in Australia and children these days have too much TV and not enough reading and things to engage their imaginations."
Asked whether the media had offered her money for her son's life story, she said: "That's not about Mr Squiggle."
She may wish she could pull some strings to free Mr Assange, 39, from his London cell following his arrest last Tuesday.
WikiLeaks defectors plan to launch a rival leaks site tomorrow. Daniel Domschelt-Berg told Mr Assange in an online message: ''You are not anyone's king or god … You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader.''