Australian born WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, who began publishing thousands of leaked US diplomatic cables last year, received the Sydney Peace Foundation’s Gold Medal at a special ceremony at the Frontline Club in London on May 10. The award, which differs from the foundation’s annual Sydney Peace Prize, is for "exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights" and has only been awarded on three previous occasions: to the Dalai Lama in 1998, Nelson Mandela in 2000 and Japanese lay Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda in 2009.
In the lead up to the March 26 New South Wales state election, a concerted anti-Greens campaign was unleashed by the major parties and the corporate media. Despite this, Greens candidate and mayor of Leichhardt Jamie Parker won the seat of Balmain. Green Left Weekly’s
Kiraz Janicke spoke to Parker about the campaign and the Greens’ agenda in the next period.
Congratulations on being the first ever lower house Greens MP elected to the NSW parliament. Could you comment on the significance of this victory?
The family of an Aboriginal man, Herbert Mitchell, who died after being taken to Townsville’s police watchhouse on April 18, is calling for answers from the current police investigation and coroner's report. Aboriginal activist and Townsville resident Gracelyn Smallwood said: “The Mitchell family is in a state of shock and mourning at the sudden and unexpected death of their family member. “The family has no clear information except that he was picked up by police for public drunkenness and within four hours he was on life support in hospital.”
Spokesperson for the Intervention Rollback Action Group in Alice Springs and resident of Mt Nancy Town camp, Barbara Shaw, has disputed claims by Bess Price on ABC Television's Q&A on April 10 about the “success” of the federal governments’ Northern Territory intervention. "It is outrageous that Bess Price can continue to go on national media and spread false information on the intervention while life in our town camps and communities gets harder and harder,” Shaw said on April 15.
Sydney's Marrickville council is coming under increasing pressure to overturn a resolution it passed in December in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. NSW Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell has threatened to use his powers under the Local Government Act to sack the council unless the resolution is overturned.
Australian refugee advocates have announced they will send a delegation to Dili in the second week of May to lobby against a proposal by Australian PM Julia Gillard to build a regional processing centre for refugees in East Timor. The announcement follows recent comments by East Timorese president Ramos Horta that such a centre “remains a possibility". The delegation was invited by the Timor Leste Forum of NGOs and the Student Front of Timor Leste and will meet with community groups, NGOs, unions and political parties to lobby against the Australian government's proposal.
A cable from the US embassy in Buenos Aires, released by WikiLeaks, reveals pressure from the US government to halt a serious criminal investigation in Argentina. The US pressured an Argentine prosecutor to halt investigations into former Argentine president Carlos Menem and a number of other officials suspected of being involved in a cover-up over the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, Argentine daily Pagina/12 reported on February 27.
The US Army announced on March 2 that it has charged 22-year-old Private First Class Bradley Manning with a further 22 charges. Manning is being held on suspicion of having leaked classified information to WikiLeaks. One of the new charges is “aiding the enemy”. This means Manning could face the death penalty if convicted. So far, Pentagon and military officials have found no direct link between Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
In a joint statement on February 25, indigenous communities that make up the Native Federation of Madre de Dios River and Tributaries in south-eastern Peru rejected a military crackdown on illegal mining on their lands. The statement said it was a “false solution to a problem that has social and economic roots”. Environment minister Antonio Bracks authorised the operation in mid February —involving about 1000 police and infantrymen — to destroy illegal mining equipment including bombing of dredges.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team have announced they will appeal after British magistrate Howard Riddle ruled on February 24 that Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sexual assault. Assange denies the allegations. Assange’s British Attorney Mark Stephens told Democracy Now later that day that the defence team remains “very optimistic about our opportunities on appeal”.
Labor, Liberal and National MPs lined up to pass the Labor government's National Radioactive Waste Management Bill through the House of Representatives on February 23. Greens MP Adams Bandt and independents Andrew Wilke, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter did not support the bill. If passed in the senate, the bill will pave the way for the construction of a national nuclear waste dump at Muckaty, north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. The legislation overrides NT legislation designed to ban nuclear waste dumps in the territory.
Activists from the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) confronted Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and opposition Immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison at a Harmony Day event in Sydney on February 17. "You've forgotten to tell us what you did this morning," RAC's Paul Benedek called out to Bowen after his speech. That morning, Bowen had overseen the forced return of 22 survivors of the Christmas Island tragedy (including Seena, a nine-year-old boy orphaned in the incident) back to detention on the island after a short stay in Sydney to bury their dead relatives.
Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) voted on January 13 to lift their ban on the transmission of student results. More than 40 staff members who took part in the lawful industrial action had been stood down without pay for nearly eight weeks. The decision to lift the ban followed concerns over attempts by university management to release unauthorised student results.
About 150 members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University have been stood down after taking part in lawful and protected industrial action. The union put a ban on the transmission of student results after more than two years of negotiations failed to make progress on improving job security, pay and other conditions for staff. A key sticking point in the negotiations is management’s unregulated use of fixed-term contracts and casual employment.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has voted for further industrial action, as vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer still refuses to negotiate in good faith on improvements to job security, pay and other conditions for staff. A November 10 NTEU meeting voted for an indefinite ban on processing student results at the end of the second semester. This is the second time staff have voted to carry out results bans this year. The dispute made headlines in July after management’s decision to stand down about 70 staff without pay.
Seventy people from across New South Wales took part in the Socialist Alliance state conference on October 7 to discuss politics and political campaigns in NSW and plan for the March 2011 state elections. The conference decided to run a “red-green” election campaign based on the slogan “NSW not for sale, community need not corporate greed!”