Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has responded cautiously to the Uluru statement calling for Australia to move toward a treaty with its Indigenous peoples. On Friday the Referendum Council convention at Mutitjulu in the Northern Territory rejected the campaign for minimalist constitutional recognition and announced their intent to to work toward Makarrata, a Yolngu word used to refer to treaty. Speaking at the National Reconciliation Week luncheon on Saturday, Turnbull warned that for any referendum to succeed, “a constitutionally conservative nation must be persuaded that the proposed amendments respect the fundamental values of the constitution”. Speaking at the same event, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said politicians “owe those that participated the time and the space to finish their work ... an open mind on the big questions”, but stopped short of declaring support for the Uluru statement. The Referendum Council will make formal recommendations to parliament in a report before June 30.
Environmentalists have raised concerns that two board members of government bodies tasked with assessing a proposed $900 million loan to mining giant Adani may have conflicts of interest with connections to the mining sector. Karla Way-McPhail, who is on the board of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, also serves as CEO of mining labour contractor Undamine Industries and training firm Coal Train Australia. Annabelle Chaplain sits on the board of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, a government credit agency assessing the loan, while also serving as a non-executive director of the Downer Group, an infrastructure provider with more than $2 billion worth of agreements tied up in the success of Adani’s Carmichael mine project. David Barnden, a lawyer with Environmental Justice Australia, said government officials “dealing with such large amounts of taxpayers money” should “be held to a very, very high standard of disclosure and transparency”.
Senate estimates will hear from Navy officials today as to why two of Australia’s largest and most expensive warships remain docked in Sydney due to mechanical problems. HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide, which cost $1.5 billion each to build and are only in the early stages of their expected useful sea lives, were dry-docked in March after engineers identified a problem with Adelaide’s propulsion systems. The Navy has contested suggestions by Labor backbencher David Feeney that the ships’ incapacitation had a detrimental effect on Defence’s ability to provide disaster relief during the Queensland cyclone season, but admitted earlier this month the ships’ problems may be due to design flaws.
And environment minister Josh Frydenberg has confirmed Australia will still support the Paris climate agreement even if the United States abandons its commitments. While US President Donald Trump has publicly said he will make a decision on the US’ climate obligations “this week”, news outlet Axios is reporting Trump has privately told several administration figures he intends to withdraw from the Paris Accord after a confrontational meeting with European leaders at the G7 summit in Sicily. Speaking to the Guardian, Frydenberg said Australia will be “going on and trying to meet” its emissions reduction obligations regardless of US domestic policy.