Two Royal Australian Air Force fighter jets were involved in an airstrike that killed up to 18 civilians in Iraq, Australian Defence Force officials have admitted. During a battle between coalition forces and Islamic State for the northern city of Mosul in June 2017, two F/A-18F Super Hornets were called in to drop guided missiles on a group of ISIS fighters. Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, chief of joint operations, said on Thursday that “between six and 18 civilians may have been killed, and that's based on an assessment of population densities”. Civilian deaths in the strike were first reported by non-profit organisation Airwars, which tracks civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq from coalition airstrikes. Airwars director Chris Woods said “all of the victims came from one extended family and four families within that larger family”. In March last year, the ADF admitted that an RAAF Super Hornet most likely killed a newly married couple and two young children in an airstrike on a Mosul house in May 2017.
The head of the South Australian royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has accused the Murray-Darling Basin Authority of being “unwilling or incapable of acting lawfully”. In the royal commission’s final report, released on Thursday, commissioner Bret Walker SC found that climate change could lead to a “catastrophic” reduction in water run-off throughout the basin, that the authority’s plan “was not based on the best available scientific knowledge”, and is “an indefensible decision from a policy perspective”. Walker also found that “politics rather than science” drove the decision to fix the amount of water set aside for conservation purposes, accusing the MDBA board of “maladministration”.
Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto have declared support for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament recommended in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development Australia in Perth on Thursday, BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said “the Constitution should be amended so that the voices of Indigenous Australians can be fully heard”, and that “this great country has unfinished business with the Indigenous peoples of Australia”. In a statement, Rio Tinto managing director of Australia, Joanne Farrell, said “enshrining the First Nations Voice in the Constitution is important to ensure continued participation in decisions about Indigenous rights and interests”. Prime minister Scott Morrison responded cautiously, saying it was “practical things that matter most to me when it comes to Indigenous Australians”.
More than 100 Aboriginal residents of a Queensland housing estate have been told to vacate their homes so their properties can be sold at auction. The 37 Toowoomba properties were previously owned by Aboriginal housing company Downs Aborigines and Islanders Company Ltd, and were transferred to holding company Downs Housing in 2016. Wakka Wakka traditional owner Patricia Conlon told NITV many tenants in the estate, some of whom have lived in their homes for four decades, were “distraught, they don’t know who to turn to or what to do”. A Change.org petition urging the state government to step in and purchase the homes has gathered more than 1800 signatures.
And Kurdish Iranian refugee journalist Behrouz Boochani has been awarded the Victorian Prize for Literature at the Premier’s Literary Awards. Boochani won both the $100,000 literature prize and the $25,000 prize for non-fiction for his memoir, No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. Boochani, who has been held on Manus Island since 2013, told Nine newspapers he did not “want to celebrate this achievement while I still see many innocent people suffering around me”. “This award is important because it brings enormous shame to the Australian government,” he said.