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Local News

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

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By Tonia Dynan

HE MIGHT have been thousands of kilometres away behind bars in Belmarsh prison in London, but WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was with his father in spirit as he campaigned for his son’s freedom in Lismore last week.
Julian’s father John Shipton was in town as part of the Home Run for Julian tour making its way down the east coast.
Mr Shipton said he spoke to Julian on the phone from Belmarsh the day before his visit to Lismore, and his son was keen to hear how his hometown was doing.
“After they locked down the jail, they extended the privilege for external phone calls, so Julian can ring up – he has a 10-minute guillotine – and then he has to wait a certain amount of time before he can call out again,” Mr Shipton said.
“I spoke to him yesterday and he asked about what was happening in Lismore, how was his family, did I go up to the old school and have a look, just keeping him up-to-date on what was happening on the road.”
Asked about how he felt as a dad watching his son go through this ordeal, Mr Shipton said it was an emotional rollercoaster.
“Well, it’s up and down,” he said.
“The activity intensified over the last three years, particularly the last two years, as Julian was beaten down.
“There was always lots of possibilities that he’d be able to negotiate a way out prior.
“So, over the last two years the intensity – you just take each day as it comes. You give thanks for the wins and for the things that don’t work out so well you just and think of another way.”
In January, a London judge refused to grant a US request for Julian’s extradition, but also refused him bail until a US appeal against that verdict is heard.
Julian, a 49-year-old Australian, is wanted in Washington to face 18 charges relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange The US claims he helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal the documents before exposing confidential sources around the world.
“Julian grew in this soil here, and the fierce integrity he displays comes out of this soil, out of this society,” Mr Shipton said.
“That soil continues to produce people with fierce integrity.”
Julian faces a possible 175-year sentence if convicted, but Julian and his lawyers have long argued the case against him was politically motivated under former president Donald Trump.
His legal team called on President Joe Biden’s US administration to drop the charges, and for the Australian government to do more on Assange’s behalf.
Mr Shipton said people were looking around behind the scenes for a way out of “this mess”.
“Just a couple of months ago the Consular service of Australia wrote to the Crown prosecuting service and asked them two things – when was the hearing going to take place and what was the hearing composed of,” he said.
“The Crown prosecuting service wrote back saying that the appeal of the United States and the appeal of the defense would be heard within two months of that date, which was the seventh of last month, before a single judge.
“This had never happened before, admitting that it was writing to the Crown Prosecution Service and sending me copies, so it’s a big change, so you can see, people are looking around for ways out of this mess.”
Tour manager Jacob Grech said one of the main obstacles in getting Julian released was with the White House administration.
“If they were to prosecute Julian Assange, it would leave the door open for prosecution of different publishers like the New York Times, for example, who also published the documents that WikiLeaks released,” he said.
“So, it’s a matter of charge one, charge all.
“Now the second point is that it’s been said that because Julian is an Australian citizen, he has no First Amendment rights to free speech. They claim that first amendment rights are only available to US citizens.
“Every major publishing house in the world has a correspondent in the United States – the ABC has, Fairfax has, they all have. They also have no First Amendment rights.
“This is something the administration does not want to pursue.
“He (Julian) was arrested and detained in the United Kingdom for activities that took place outside the United States. What the United States seems to be asking for is nothing short of a universal bailiwick to the application of their laws.
“That means, if any law that is existent in the United States is broken by a citizen of any country anywhere, the United States has the right to arrest them and detain them. This is what they are claiming.”
Lismore Mayor Vanessa Ekins was at the rally to show her support for a cause she said was all about respect.
“It’s about our government giving respect to our citizens overseas in difficult circumstances,” she said.
“It’s about respecting the independent nature of journalism and how important that is, that our people have access to information about what our government is doing and what our soldiers are doing overseas, and it’s about just basic respect for people in difficult circumstances.
“So, keep the conversation going and we need to put pressure on our federal representatives to bring Julian home.”
Lismore City Council was the first council in Australia to write to the Federal Government asking for Julian to come home and it was Councillor Darlene Cook who moved that in the chamber.
“We’re all part of the greater collective of humanity and injustice to one is injustice to us all,” Cr Cook said.
“To not look around hoping someone else will carry that banner or flag or start a campaign, it is up to all of us as global citizens to shoulder the duty to fight for the rights of our fellow citizens, anywhere around the world, anytime injustice is seen, every time our voices and our actions can lead to changes.
“That’s why I put a motion to Lismore City Council in February 2020 calling on the Australian Government to uphold Julian’s human rights as an Australian citizen who has been unjustly held overseas for nine years.”
Mr Grech called on the community to lobby their local federal member to take action in getting Julian released.

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Local News

Veteran nurse debunks claims Tweed Hospital is ‘Falling over in a screaming heap.’

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Veteran nurse debunks claims Tweed Hospital is ‘Falling over in a screaming heap.’

Veteran nurse debunks claims Tweed Hospital is ‘Falling over in a screaming heap.’

Speaking to The Northern Rivers Times on the condition of anonymity, an experienced nurse at Tweed Hospital has moved to counter some media claims the hospital is falling apart.

The nurse said the belief “Tweed Hospital has no Covid diagnosis equipment” is simply not true with Rapid Antigen Tests continuing this week for patients.  Hospital staff were also being tested at Tweed hospital.

“They still do ‘rapids’, definitely, and the results are back in half an hour,” the nurse said.

The nurse was concerned media hype did not tell the everyday story of life on hospital wards, which the nurse said were generally well-staffed and if quiet, saw some nurses redeployed to other wards.  The nurse said it was not unusual to have staff shortages anyway at this time of year or staff doing paid overtime.

“Hospital administration is still allowing people to go on annual leave, if it was in dire straits, why aren’t all the hierarchy back, they would be back if it was so bad.”

“A & E (Accident and Emergency) is certainly stretched with Covid admissions who should be staying home .. but it certainly isn’t falling apart.”

The nurse said managers and nurse unions have had ‘plenty of time’ to prepare for covid emergencies like now, including ensuring fit-testing of N95 or P2 respirators, mandatory for all frontline staff and an area lagging at Tweed Hospital.

“They could’ve planned better for this,” the nurse observed, “ .. it should’ve been done earlier.”

The experienced nurse was quick to add that negative commentary was not helpful for staff morale at a time like this.

“What we need to do is boost people up, encourage them to keep going, that we will get through this.  It’s all too easy to criticise,” the veteran nurse said.

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Business News NSW Northern Rivers

RENT RELIEF CONTINUES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19

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RENT RELIEF CONTINUES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19

RENT RELIEF CONTINUES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19

Small businesses who are still doing it tough across the State will continue to benefit from rent relief until 13 January 2022, ensuring ongoing support for small businesses over the Christmas and New Year’s Period.
Treasurer Matt Kean said as the economic recovery continues, many small businesses are still not back at their pre-COVID turnover and rent is still one of their biggest fixed costs.

“Small business is the engine room of our economy and as we recover from the pandemic we need to make sure we leave no one behind and support impacted businesses as they continue to recover,” Mr Kean said.
“Continuing rent relief measures for impacted small businesses will provide a necessary buffer to allow businesses time to get back on their feet and begin to thrive again.”

The Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2021 rent relief provisions will continue for eligible businesses with a turnover of less than $5 million, a more targeted level of support from the previous turnover threshold of $50 million.
Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said landlords will still be required to negotiate rent relief with eligible commercial and retail tenants that are experiencing a turnover decline of 30 per cent or more.

“Lockdown may be over but there are still small businesses, particularly in our CBDs, that are facing a slower recovery and are continuing to do it tough,” Mr Tudehope said.

“As the State continues to transition out of lockdown, 97 per cent of NSW businesses will retain access to COVID-19 rent relief provisions if they continue to experience a significant decline in turnover.”

Small commercial and retail tenants that would have continued to meet the eligibility criteria for JobSaver or the Micro-business Grant, after ending on 30 November, will remain eligible for rent relief negotiations with their landlords.
Under the Regulation, landlords are required to negotiate rent relief having regard to National Cabinet’s Code of Conduct. As a starting point, rent relief should be proportionate with eligible tenant’s decline in turnover, with at least 50 per cent in the form a waiver, and the balance a deferral.
Landlords can access the Commercial Landlord Hardship Fund, which currently provides small commercial or retail landlords with a monthly grant up to the value of any rental relief provided, to a maximum of $3,000 per month per property.
Alternatively, land tax relief is available for eligible commercial landowners who have reduced their tenants’ rent due to COVID-19, between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2021. The reduction in land tax payable is the lesser of:

  • the amount of rent reduction provided to an eligible tenant for any period between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2021, or
  • 100 per cent of the land tax attributable to the parcel of land leased to that tenant.

For more information on rent relief visit: Commercial leases https://www.smallbusiness.nsw.gov.au/get-help/covid-19/commercial-leases-and-covid-19-faqs
For more information on COVID-19 assistance for commercial and residential landlords visit: https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/campaign/covid-19-help-businesses/covid-19-assistance-commercial-and-residential-landlords

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Health News

Pharmacists ready with Moderna boosters but services must be sustainable

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The Northern Rivers own newspaper

Pharmacists ready with Moderna boosters but services must be sustainable

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes the announcement that Moderna’s SPIKEVAX vaccine has been provisionally approved as a booster dose for Australians aged 18 years and above.

Yesterday, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) confirmed that a second vaccine will be available for the National Booster Program.

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, acknowledged further enablement of the pharmacist workforce.

“With the National Booster Program well underway, this move is timely – one that provides Australians with greater vaccine choice in the lead up to early 2022 when the majority of the population becomes eligible for their booster dose.

“This announcement, coupled with Monday’s provisional approval of Pfizer for Australians aged 5-11 years, marks a week of significant progress in the pandemic response and PSA commends the Government’s approach to making these decisions.

“This development now means that the potential number of pharmacists offering booster vaccinations across Australia has more than doubled, accounting for those already participating in the Moderna program.

“However, it is imperative that pharmacists are paid fairly, and at least equally to other providers, otherwise the provision of this critical service is not sustainable. With 2.3 million children becoming eligible for vaccination, extra consultation time will be required to undertake appropriate assessment and consenting, placing further strain on service sustainability.

“Pharmacists have already administered over 2.5 million vaccinations to Australians, and as mass vaccination hubs continue to downscale their operations over the coming months, pharmacists will become an even more critical part of the vaccination strategy,” he said.

PSA is dedicated to supporting Australian pharmacist immunisers through the National Booster Program and will continue to work closely with the TGA and ATAGI to ensure pharmacists are equipped with the most up-to-date advice regarding vaccine safety and effectiveness.

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