Juukan Gorge blast fails to shift laws

Traditional owners today mark the one-year anniversary of the destruction of the rock shelters, while still awaiting reform of the laws that allowed the demolition of the sacred site.

One year on:

  • The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people are mourning Rio Tinto’s detonation of the 46,000-year-old rock shelters in Western Australia's Pilbara region (Mandurah Mail); 
  • Less than 2% of Rio Tinto’s Pilbara iron ore reserves have been quarantined to protect heritage, as the company reassesses 1300 heritage sites in the Pilbara;
  • The company, which was aware of the significance of the caves before blowing them up for an iron ore mine, is negotiating with traditional owners over compensation;
  • “I’d rather have the rock shelter back than you write me a cheque,” said PKKP Aboriginal Corporation spokesman Burchell Hayes.
  • WA’s new Aboriginal affairs minister, Stephen Dawson, is yet to introduce new Aboriginal heritage laws, set to be debated in the second half of 2021 (Guardian Australia); 
  • He refused to commit to a moratorium on approving the destruction of heritage sites in the meantime;
  • A federal Senate committee found current laws “unfit for purpose” and is considering whether traditional owners should be granted the power of veto.

Labor licks wounds after Hunter defeat

NSW opposition leader Jodi McKay says Labor is “shell-shocked” in the wake of losing the Upper Hunter state byelection on the weekend.

What we know:

  • As counting continues, Nationals candidate David Layzell is ahead of Labor’s Jeff Drayton 55.1% to 44.9% (ABC). 
  • The Nationals recorded a 2.7% gain despite byelections typically swinging against the government.
  • The loss ramps up the pressure on McKay, with four leadership challengers tipped after she said she would not resign (SMH).  
  • Federal Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon framed the result as a consequence of the party prioritising climate change over jobs, despite Labor running a former coalminer in the seat (AFR). 
  • Felicity Wade, the national convenor of the Labor Environment Action Network, noted Labor had bled votes to independents who had proposed a transition beyond coal (SMH). 

Facebook pays $20m in tax

Facebook funnelled $559m of its $712m in Australian ad revenue last year through an offshore subsidiary, reducing its local tax bill to just $20m.

The company’s revenue is up 5.7% on a year earlier, with founder Mark Zuckerberg reporting Facebook “had a strong end to the year as people and businesses continued to use our services during these challenging times” (The Australian).

Profits rose despite Facebook coming to terms with Australian media companies, many of which have cut staff due to revenue falls, paying to display their content in newsfeeds under the mandatory news bargaining code.

The federal budget allocated $4.2m for the Australian Communications and Media Authority to support the implementation of the code (AdNews). 

Facebook has reached deals with News Corp, Seven West Media and Schwartz Media, while an arrangement with Nine is close.

Negotiations continue with ABC, SBS and The Guardian.


Samoa keeps first female prime minister waiting

The Speaker of Parliament in Samoa has disregarded a Supreme Court ruling for the Legislative Assembly to reconvene today and anoint Fiame Naomi Mata’afa as the country’s first female prime minister.

The court on Sunday declared the Head of State, Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aleto’a Sualauvi, acted unlawfully on Saturday in suspending parliament without reason (TVNZ). 

The speaker, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, announced parliament would not convene until a new proclamation had been made by the Head of State.

Incumbent Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has held the top job for 22 years and is attempting to cling to power after his electoral defeat.

It has been 45 days since Mata’afa’s FAST party won the general election, and further delays would breach Samoa’s constitution.


Italian cable car fall kills 14

Italy is in mourning after a cable car plunged about 20m and rolled several times before crashing into tree trunks, killing 14 people.

A cable snapped just as the car was completing the ascent from the Lido di Stresa piazza on Lake Maggiore to the Mottarone station, 1491m above sea level (CNN). 

Authorities believe there were 15 passengers riding on the cable car at the time.

Two children were onboard, with one killed and the other in critical condition.


It’s an international disgrace that our National Archives is resorting to passing the hat around to protect $67m of material.

Monash University professor Jenny Hocking fears that when historians look back at why the National Archives fell apart, they won’t be able to figure it out due to the woeful state of the National Archives (Guardian Australia).


Postscript: PM Promises All Australians Will Receive First Defamation Action By December 2021

With new figures showing that just 11% of Australians have received their first court summons as the result of defamation proceedings from a government MP, the Prime Minister has promised to accelerate the program, saying that all Australians will be the subject of legal action by the end of the year (The Shovel).


Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.