Australia’s prison population has hit a new high of 41,200 people, the end result of a 20-year rise in incarceration rates that has seen the number of people in Australian prisons more than double. Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Monday found the rate of people in custody has increased 40 per cent in the last five years, while 33 per cent of those currently incarcerated were unsentenced. Of particular concern was the continued rise in Indigenous incarceration rates; the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate in Western Australian prisons now exceeds 4000 per 100,000 adults, the highest of any measured demographic in the world. The figures coincide with the release of a withering assessment of Australia’s Closing the Gap targets from the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, who cited the Northern Territory’s paperless arrest laws and mandatory sentencing provisions in many states as examples of “current laws and policies [that] continue to contribute to the swift escalation in the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders”.
The government has overturned a ban on government loans to domestic mining projects, paving the way for national sponsorship of mine projects that struggle to attract private investment from major banks. Trade minister Steve Ciobo has directed ($) the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to broaden its lending criteria, saying “Australia’s national interest is being harmed” by “shareholder activism” making banks reluctant to fund resources projects. The change came as leaked documents from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility revealed the body was considering $6 billion in loans to mine projects in central Queensland and the Pilbara. Labor Senator Murray Watts said the leak exposed NAIF’s chronic lack of transparency, writing on Twitter that the “only way we get info on NAIF is from leaks like this”.
The Indian government has lodged a complaint with three Australian government departments over an “offensive” lamb industry advertisement depicting the Hindu god Ganesh eating meat. Council of Indian Relations president Mohit Kumar said the Meat and Livestock Australia ad was “a very disrespectful and insensitive depiction” of the god, whom Hindus consider to be vegetarian in accordance with the principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence against all living things. The Australian Hindu community’s angry response to the ad has been picked up by overseas publications including the Hindustan Times and the International Business Times, while the Hindu Council of Australia urged the MLA to “withdraw the offensive ad immediately and extend an unconditional apology to not only the Hindu-Australian community but to members of all religious groups that are hurt by this nonsensical ad”.
And the architect of the UN Paris climate agreement has warned Malcolm Turnbull that “time is short” for Australia to come up with a workable carbon emissions policy, saying that “ten years of dithering is enough”. Appearing on the ABC’s 7.30 last night, Figueres said the government’s efforts to extend the life of the Liddell coal plant were evidence that “things are somewhat upside down” in Australia. Figueres, who oversaw negotiations that culminated in the 2015 Paris accord, is in Australia to speak on how cities have become a major driver of climate action in the wake of delays from nations like the United States.