Without question, the most internationally famous, influential and impactful Australian in 2016 is Julian Assange.
Through Wikileaks, Assange had a big hand in the 2016 US presidential race through the publications of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.
E-mails published by Wikileaks, which Assange has confirmed did not come from a state actor, including the Russians, exposed systematic mass corruption and criminality throughout the American as well as the global power structure.
Wikileaks’ publications demonstrated that American political, financial and media elites were working in concert to rig the American political system in favour of Hillary Clinton in order to serve domestic and global political interests.
Assange ultimately destroyed Hilary Clinton’s candidacy by providing multiple smoking guns to millions of Americans who suspected that the political, media and financial systems were rigged against them.
The impact of Wikileaks’ recent publications will be long lasting throughout America and the world. The creditability of institutional American media outlets such as CBS, NBC, ABC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN has been irrevocably damaged.
Trust in these organisations to faithfully inform the public has collapsed and demand for alternative media outlets is now surging. This has significant long-term ramifications for the formation of public opinion and the development of public policy.
Given the non-responsiveness of the American political system and gross public policy failures which have ravaged America for the past three decades, Wikileaks’ publications now provide Americans with a basis to demand action that restores trust in America’s political, economic and cultural institutions.
Wikileaks’ contributions have also served Australia’s national interest in two important ways.
Firstly, Assange exposed that the Clinton Foundation has been significantly funded by the same Middle Eastern governments who, in Hillary Clinton’s assessment, have also been funding Islamic State.
This revelation now provides the western world, under a Trump administration, the best opportunity to destroy Islamic State and its affiliates, as Trump does not have any conflicts of interest hindering his ability to protect America and its allies from radical Islamic terrorism.
Secondly, through the political destruction of Hillary Clinton, major war, death and destruction between America (and its allies) and Russia has been avoided.
Over many recent months, Putin and his Government repeatedly warned publicly that the build-up of missile installations near the Russian border by NATO with offensive capability and Clinton’s insistence of an American dominated no-fly zone in Syria would lead to major armed conflict with the possibility of nuclear confrontation between Russia and America if Clinton were elected.
Trump’s longstanding commitment to restoring relations between Washington and Moscow is a welcomed development to world peace.
With such a record of achievement, there should be no question that Assange clearly deserves the 2017 Australian of the Year award.
The award’s criteria are threefold: a contribution to the community locally, nationally or globally, an inspirational role model and demonstrated excellence.
Assange exceeds across all these categories through liberating the citizens of the world with the truth, demonstrating phenomenal moral and physical courage and creating the world’s leading international publishing house of secrets with a perfect 10-year publishing record of authentic and original source material.
Of all the named finalists for the 2017 award, their efforts pale into insignificance compared with what Assange has accomplished in 2016.
After three consecutive years of controversial award recipient selections designed to promote an ideologically tainted political agenda, the Prime Minister and the Australian Day Council would be wise to restore the award’s creditability by bestowing the award to Assange on a meritorious basis.
To millions around the world, Assange is a noble hero risking his life to expose the truth, consistent with humanity’s highest ideals.
He is my Australian of the year.
John Adams is a former Coalition advisor. This op-ed was first published in The Spectator.