In a testy nothing-to-see-here interview this morning Minister Sussan Ley attempted to absolve herself of all responsibility for failing to respond to traditional owners on the Juukan Gorge blast in a timely and proper way – by blaming her advisers.
Hamish Macdonald: So I’m just wondering if that shed any light on this, and I’m still not clear as to why your advisor didn’t call them back?
Ley: Well not every phone call can be answered immediately and in this case the adviser actually wasn’t in the office and was away for a couple of days. So you know we would in an ideal world like to call people back straightaway Hamish, it doesn’t always happen.
MacDonald: But that’s quite a call to miss isn’t it?
MACDONALD: You said that many times, I just wonder if you wish that call had been returned.
LEY: Well I’m not going to criticise the operation of a very busy office operating in a COVID time when, unfortunately, the particular adviser at the particular time didn’t take the call but was aware as soon as possible because of subsequent communication.
Labor is calling on the Minister to provide a full explanation to the Australian people about what she knew and when, and why she appears to have no process in place for exercising emergency intervention powers.
When a Minister has emergency powers enshrined in law to prevent the destruction of heritage of national significance, there must be clear and robust processes in place to ensure they are administered in a timely and responsive way. That didn’t occur in this case and that failure needs to be acknowledged if we are to avoid the same thing happening again.
The destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters, which have been described as sites having the “highest archaeological significance in Australia”, is a tragedy and we must ensure cannot be repeated in future.