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.