Sydney Peace Prize Gala Reception

(8pm, Wednesday 5 November 2014, Town Hall Vestibule)

Thank you, Jane, [Singleton]. Good evening, everyone, and a very warm welcome to Town Hall.

Most especially, though, I want to acknowledge and congratulate the 2014 Sydney Peace Prize recipient, Julian Burnside.

He has been honoured for decades of work as a champion of human rights, especially for the vulnerable, those most in need of a champion.

The award comes at a time when our country has sunk low in its treatment of asylum seekers, when we seem to have abandoned the idea of our country as a place of opportunity, welcome and refuge.

Many Australians feel the shame of this, but feel powerless to do anything.

Julian Burnside is different. He has channelled all his abilities and intellect and conviction into his advocacy, insisting that we respect our international legal obligations towards asylum seekers.

The Sydney Peace Prize is about achieving peace through justice and his work is a constant reminder that the two go hand-in-hand and an effort to re-set our moral compass which has become so distorted.

I'm pleased to have this opportunity to be among the first to congratulate him, and to thank him for all that he continues to do.

I also thank the Sydney Peace Foundation for its work. For many years now it has been a forceful and well-recognised promoter of peace, honouring champions of human rights from around the world.

Through our support for the Sydney Peace Prize, the City wants to remind the people of Sydney and beyond of our desire to build a just and compassionate society. We need constantly to be alert to defend human rights, community values, and people's right to be heard.

As a symbol of our partnership, the annual lecture that the recipients traditionally deliver is called the City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture.

At a time when democracy is threatened, even here in our own City, we must fight for our voices to be heard. In many other places across the world, people continue to risk their lives to be allowed to vote - for the One Vote, One Value principle which is the basis of our democratic system.

This Council will continue to stand for that principle even though the State Government in partnership with the Shooters Party recently passed legislation to undermine it.

We will also continue to support the Sydney Peace Prize and all its represents. The presence of so many of you here tonight proves that Sydney is not the superficial and materialistic city some make it out to be. I hope you will continue to give your support - morally and practically - to the work of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

I hope you will also join me now in giving our warm congratulations to Juliann Burnside, the 2014 Sydney Peace Prize Laureate.