Australia House refused to host award

BY PETER JEAN, 12 Nov, 2011 04:00 AM

It’s played host to the reality television program Australian Princess, but Australia’s High Commission in London was not willing to let its facilities be used by the Sydney Peace Foundation to present a human rights prize to an Australian citizen.

Instead, Australia House staff suggested that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could receive his Gold Medal in an Australian-themed nightclub which advertises itself using a website featuring a man being ”dacked” in a rugby scrum.

Assange was awarded the medal for ”exceptional courage in the pursuit of human rights” at London’s Frontline Club in May. WikiLeaks staff and Sydney Peace Foundation officials had originally approached the High Commission and asked if the awards ceremony could be held at Australia House but, after several days, were told this would not be possible.

High Commission staff suggested that the Walkabout Club might be available instead.

Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, said the incident was indicative of the Australian Government’s ”real attitude’ towards her son, who faces possible extradition from Britain to Sweden.

”To trivialise this by saying have it in a nightclub when they’ve allowed something as base as a reality TV show – to have it at Australia House – just goes to the general poor attitude, the dismissive, disrespectful attitude to Julian and his work,” she said.

Gold Coast-based Mrs Assange will travel to Canberra next week to address a protest rally during US President Barack Obama’s visit.

Former Sydney Peace Foundation chair Mary Kostakidis said she was disappointed Australia House was not prepared, or was unable, to make the venue available for the foundation to honour an Australian citizen. ”Basically they told us to go walkabout,” the former SBS Television newsreader said.

Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange about allegations he molested one woman and raped another. Assange has denied the allegations and fears the Swedish Government will hand him over to American authorities.

Mrs Assange said the Australian Government had failed to stand up for her son.

”I believe that the reason they’re not doing anything is that we have become a franchise of the US under [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard and that the CEO of that franchise – Obama – is coming to look over his new acquisition and to see if his managing director Julia Gillard is doing a good job of keep everybody in line,” she said. Mrs Assange believed the human rights of all Australians were under threat and urged people to tell their political representatives they wanted Assange freed.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said many requests were made for the use of Australia House.

”The majority of these requests are declined for operational reasons, as was the case with this one,” she said.

”During discussions, suggestions for alternative venues were made including the Walkabout Club and the National Liberal Club,” the spokeswoman said.

Australia House has previously been used to film a public speaking competition by contestants on Ten Network program Australian Princess.

Australia House refused to host award

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