Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sri Lankan terror toll rises

Sri Lankan authorities have confirmed a death toll of 290 from a series of terror attacks upon churches and hotels on Easter Sunday. More than 500 were injured in bomb blasts that hit four hotels and three churches in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. Another bomb was found and defused near Colombo’s Bandaranaike international airport, while detonators were discovered near the city’s main bus station. Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena declared a nationwide state of emergency on Monday, giving police and security forces sweeping powers to detain and interview suspects without warrants and imposing an 8pm curfew. A Sri Lankan government spokesperson claimed on Monday that a small jihadist group, the National Thowheed Jamath, was behind the attacks.

Prime minister Scott Morrison has resisted growing calls for a royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s controversial water buybacks scheme. Energy minister Angus Taylor and water minister Barnaby Joyce have come under increasing scrutiny over the government’s purchase of 28.7 gigalitres of water for a record $78.9 million in 2017 from a Cayman Islands-registered company that Taylor co-founded. Greens, Centre Alliance and independent politicians and candidates have demanded an investigation into the deal, with Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick saying on Sunday that he was “absolutely disturbed that the Australian government has been dealing with a company that is domiciled in a tax haven”. Taylor has threatened to sue journalists over coverage of the controversy.

Western Australian Labor senator Pat Dodson would become the first Aboriginal minister for Indigenous affairs if Labor wins the federal election. Speaking at Bathurst Island on Friday, opposition leader Bill Shorten said Dodson was “my uncle in advising me about how to get the best deal possible for First Australians”, and that “for the first time ever in the history of this country, we will have a First Australian in charge of Indigenous Affairs in Canberra”. A Yawuru man from Broome, Dodson was a royal commissioner into Aboriginal deaths in custody, former director of the Central Land Council and chair of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

And federal Labor has pledged to rescind a controversial $443 million grant awarded by the Turnbull government to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Turnbull and then environment minister Josh Frydenberg awarded the grant last year without a tender process, despite the not-for-profit organisation not soliciting the donation or submitting a grant proposal. Speaking on Monday, opposition leader Bill Shorten said “every dollar returned will be invested back in the reef and we will seek advice on the most effective way to allocate the funding”. Budget cuts over several years have seen substantial job losses for climate scientists at government institutions such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.



“For almost seven years, we have seen Julian Assange when he has wanted us to. From tactical appearances on the balcony of his asylum, to Skyped TV interviews and a fundraising series of Australian town-hall lectures – all participated in remotely, of course. But then, last week, a dramatically unmediated – or mostly unmediated – appearance.”


“Australia’s ecosystems are infected with usurpers, including most of what we eat every day. The wild deer runs at night, destroying the habitat it requires. The carp and the redfin slurp the resources of small-bodied native fish. Erosion and ringbarking are rife. In our protein-hungry society, American artist Kirsha Kaechele has a solution: reimagine the invaders as food sources, by presenting a series of feral feasts in which the audience participates.”


“The world’s most popular pop group may be one you’ve never heard of, but rest assured, much of the global population is losing its mind over BTS – the seven-piece South Korean boy band that has crossed cultural barriers to become one of the most successful K-pop groups to date, and the first to successfully take root in the oft-xenophobic American pop scene.”


“The Law Council of Australia says the federal government must step in to close the Don Dale youth detention centre and urgently replace it with a purpose-built facility fit for children, following the latest disturbance – the third in four months. The Territory Families department said the incident began ‘when young people started to be aggressive and refused to follow direction during the evening routine’ on Friday night.”


“Lawyers say physical restraints have been used on young people inside the Don Dale and Alice Springs youth detention centres after changes were rushed through Northern Territory Parliament last week. Aboriginal, health and legal groups have condemned the changes, which apply retrospectively to May last year and ease restrictions on the use of force, restraints and isolation of young detainees.”


“Akshuali Broke, now aged 60, says she is overjoyed with the news that she’s eligible to apply for the $888-a-fortnight aged pension, instead of the $538 in payments she would have received on Newstart when she started her call almost four decades ago.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.