Week in Brief: 3–9 June 2018

11 June 2018

Week in Brief: 3–9 June 2018

Australia

Victoria on track to enact indigenous treaty law

The Victorian Government has agreed to make amendments to its Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018 to ensure it is passed by both houses of the Victorian Parliament.

The bill establishes a framework and system of representation within which treaties with Aboriginal Victorians can be negotiated. The amendments will add a definition of ‘treaty’ in the bill, define ‘traditional owners’ (who will be required to form part of the Aboriginal Representative Body), and guarantee the independence of the Treaty Authority.

Government minister Lily D’Ambrosio said: “The generational atrocities committed against Australia’s first people cannot be undone, nor can it be solved overnight, but this bill will begin to heal those wounds. The Government acknowledges that telling the indigenous community what they need is not self-determination, and too often it is an easy pattern to fall into, and it’s nothing more than condescending paternalism.”

Barnaby Joyce to recontest New England seat at next federal election

Embattled MP Barnaby Joyce has confirmed that he intends to recontest his NSW seat of New England at the next federal election, scheduled for 2019.

Mr Joyce — formerly Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the National Party and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport — has been on the backbenches since his resignation in February, following a much-publicised affair with former staffer Vikki Campion, which has resulted in ongoing inquiries into his conduct and travel expenses.

Despite reports that the National Party has been looking for alternative candidates, Mr Joyce said he was “disappointed to hear some people speaking about me not contesting the next election.”

“I will certainly be contesting, and have been humbled by the support I have received so far from around the New England electorate.”

Queensland Government approves $1 billion wind farm

The Queensland Government has granted development approval for up to 195 wind turbines at Clarke Creek, 150 km northwest of Rockhampton. The wind farm will cost $1 billion to construct, and will be one of the largest in Australia.

It is expected that 350 jobs will be created during the three-year construction period, which Lacour Energy is hoping will begin in early 2019.

The wind farm will produce more than 800 megawatts which will feed into the grid, and help Queensland achieve its renewable energy target of 50% by 2030, alongside other projects.

Supermarkets commit to further reductions in non-recyclable plastics

On Monday Woolworths and Coles announced they are expanding their commitment to reducing the use of non-recyclable plastics.

Having previously committed to phasing out single-use plastic bags, Woolworths will also ditch plastic straws and plastic wrapping on a further 80 fruit and vegetable products. Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci indicated further initiatives aimed at reducing waste, increasing energy efficiency, and promoting sustainable production are being explored.

Coles will also reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and vegetables, as well as meat and poultry products. It has set a deadline of 2020 to halve food waste from its supermarkets, and all packaging of its Homebrand products will be recyclable.


World

First Saudi Arabian women receive driving licences

On Monday, Saudi Arabia issued its first driving licences to women in decades, ahead of the end of the kingdom’s ban on female drivers on 24 June.

The lifting of the ban is one of many liberal policies being promoted by the powerful Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in an effort to modernise the state.

The Information Ministry’s Centre for International Communication expects at least 2,000 more women will become licensed in the first week.

Saudi Arabia has long been critised for its highly conservative laws that oppress women, but this appears to be slowly changing under reforms introduced by the Crown Prince, which include allowing mixed-gender concerts and sporting events.

Guatemalan eruption death toll rises to nearly 100

Multiple eruptions of Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego has claimed the lives of at least 99 people, with nearly 200 still missing and further eruptions expected.

In the deadliest series of eruptions in Guatemala since 1929, the volcano erupted around midday on Sunday. Rocks the size of baseballs began raining on nearby towns and villages, and an ash column 15 km high was produced.

A second eruption on Tuesday and new volcanic flows on Thursday prompted further evacuations, and there are fears that in addition to more eruptions heavy rain in the area could provoke avalanches.

Organic matter found on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected organic compounds on Mars, indicating that the red planet may have harboured life.

The rover found complex organic matter preserved in sediment that once formed a vast lakebed on the planet. This discovery suggests that the lakes of Mars were rich in carbon-based compounds necessary for life.

“While we don’t know the source of the material, the amazing consistency of the results makes me think we have a slam-dunk signal for organics on Mars,” Jennifer Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist at NASA said.

“It is not telling us that life was there, but it is saying that everything organisms really needed to live in that kind of environment, all of that was there,” she explained.

550-million-year-old animal tracks found in South China

Tiny animal tracks have been found in the Yangtze Gorges area of South China which scientists say are the oldest footprints found on Earth, being around 550 million years old.

What left the tracks is unknown, however, because no traces of the bodies of the one-millimetre long creatures have been found. Scientists believe that the animals may have been a type of arthropod, the family of animals that includes insects and crustaceans.