The Guardian • Issue #2052


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2052

Courtesy of the Morning Star comes news that imprisoned journalist Julian Assange has written to Charles Windsor inviting him to visit him in His Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh, where the WikiLeaks founder has been incarcerated for more than four years while fighting extradition to the United States. He offered tongue-in-cheek congratulations to the King for technically being host to the biggest prison population in Europe. Mr Assange has been wanted by Washington since WikiLeaks exposed US war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere. If extradited, he could face life in prison. In his letter to Mr Windsor, he wrote: “It is here [in Belmarsh] that 687 of your loyal subjects are held, supporting the United Kingdom’s record as the nation with the largest prison population in western Europe. As your noble government has recently declared, your kingdom is currently undergoing “the biggest expansion of prison places in over a century,” with ambitious projections showing an increase in the prison population from 82,000 to 106,000 within the next four years. Quite the legacy, indeed. I am honoured to reside within the walls of this world-class institution. Truly, your kingdom knows no bounds.” Assange sarcastically refers to prison conditions such as HMP Belmarsh’s “culinary delights prepared for your loyal subjects on a generous budget of £2 per day. Savour the blended tuna heads and the ubiquitous reconstituted forms that are purportedly made from chicken. Here, you will marvel at sensible rules designed for everyone’s safety, such as the prohibition of chess, whilst permitting the far less dangerous game of checkers,” he wrote. Thousands of people attended events on Thursday highlighting Mr Assange’s plight on World Press Freedom Day. Mr Windsor was not available for comment.

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: Young renters on youth allowance sharing a typical two bedroom flat have only $13 a day to cover food transport, medicine, utilities, and other costs, according to an analysis by Homelessness Australia. To coincide with Youth Homelessness Matters Day, the peak body conducted a two-year longitudinal analysis, cross-referencing the cost of 50 per cent rent of a two-bedroom apartment against the maximum income support payment available to a young person living away from home. While overall income support payments increased 10 per cent in two years (due to CPI indexing), rents surged 24 per cent. A young person who paid 64 per cent of their income two years ago to share a two-bedroom unit will now have to pay 73 per cent of their income. “After paying rent, a young person on income support in Australia has only $13 a day to cover food, transport, medicine, power, and other costs. Unless there’s some magic pudding we’re not aware of, this is a ridiculous expectation,” says Kate Colvin, CEO of Homelessness Australia. “The reality is landlords will not rent to a young person whose budget is stretched this thinly, making it almost impossible for young people who can’t live safely at home to find somewhere to live. We urgently need to lift Youth Allowance and Commonwealth Rent Assistance so young people have the income they need to avoid homelessness. By failing to act, we are condemning growing numbers of young people to homelessness and poverty. It’s impossible to develop skills and experience or attain an education when you’re hungry or unsure of where you will sleep.”

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