Western Australia's assault on the rights of Aboriginal people continues. After this week's announcement by Premier Colin Barnett that he would de-fund more than 150 remote communities, the Guardian reports on proposed amendments to the state's Aboriginal Heritage Act that would make it easier for developers to gain approval for mining and other development applications. The changes would remove the current requirement that an anthropologist sit on the committee that assesses a site's heritage value, and would allow applicants to bypass the Committee altogether by applying directly to the CEO of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
In the government's words, the amendments address "inadequacies with the current legislation" highlighted by "the pace of economic development in recent years", and would "ensure that our Aboriginal heritage can continue to be protected in an efficient and effective way." Greater efficiency, in this case, means speedier development applications and less heritage protection.
The Department has seemingly already tightened its definition of what constitutes a site requiring protection. A letter sent recently by the state heritage registrar to the Widi native title group claims that sites must be used for "a religious activity" to be considered sacred, though that definition appears to be in breach of the current Act. Since at least 1984 the federal government has acted, from time to time, as an important guarantor of Indigenous heritage against development-addicted states, though so far Tony Abbott – the self-proclaimed "Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs" – has remained silent on recent goings-on, except to imagine that Sydney was "nothing but bush" when colonists arrived.
Managing Director Mark Scott told a Senate Estimates hearing last night that the effect on jobs and programming of the Abbott government's $254 million will be "very significant", while SBS is also not ruling out programming cuts (both Fairfax).
Malcolm Fraser believes the government's cuts are part of its broader ideological agenda against public broadcasting (Fairfax).
After earlier in the week alleging that Jacqui Lambie lied to Parliament, Clive Palmer told Lateline last night that he's keen for Lambie to remain in the Palmer United Party. Lambie hasn't yet confirmed that she's left the party, and is seeking advice in Tasmania before making an announcement.
The Guardian: Parliament's Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security "has called on the Abbott government to appoint a new national security legislation watchdog as a matter of ‘absolute urgency’, warning the extended delay in filling the role ‘leaves a gap in accountability and oversight’."
As Julie Bishop took umbrage at Barack Obama's evidence-based suggestion that the Great Barrier Reef is under threat from climate change, a group of senior British Conservatives has slammed the Abbott government's climate policy and described Abbott's own attitude as "eccentric", "baffling" and "flat earther" (both Fairfax).
Greg Jericho wonders why journalists aren't holding the Abbott government to account over the China free trade agreement (Guardian), and Mike Steketee also looks closer at the deal (Drum).
Christopher Peterson suggests that Christopher Pyne's numbers on his proposed deregulation of higher education don't add up (New Matilda).
Madeline Gleeson argues that Australia's decision to stop resettling refugees from Indonesia is something of a distraction to the real question of how we treat refugees already in our care (Drum), and Nick Feik documents Scott Morrison's "immoral and unjust" response to refugees' allegations that they were assaulted on Nauru (Fairfax).
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane argues that the anti-Halal campaign looks a lot like bigotry in poor disguise (Fairfax).
And Peter Brent wonders, in response to Andrew Bolt's list of concerns about the Abbott government, whether its problem isn't...Andrew Bolt? (Australian)