Senator Pauline Hanson has continued her campaign against the closure of Uluru to the public, claiming imminent restrictions to the tourist spot similar to shutting down Bondi Beach.
Appearing on Nine’s The Today Show on Monday morning, the One Nation leader told host Deb Knight the upcoming closure of Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, will prove devastating for the Indigenous area’s economy.
“The fact is, it’s money-making. It’s giving jobs to indigenous communities, and you’ve got thousands of tourists who go there every year and want to climb the rock,” she said.
“It employs over 400 people there, 38 per cent are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”
Uluru, considered a sacred and holy place by traditional landowners, will close permanently to the public in October.
The impending closure has sparked a wave of tourists to the site, desperate to climb the rock before it gets shut off.
But Ms Hanson argued Uluru should be enjoyed by all, whether it be Australians or tourists visiting form overseas, allowing the area to capitalise on its popularity and repay the taxpayer for the government’s investment in the area in recent years.
“It is an iconic site for all Australians,” she said.
“I can’t see the cultural sensitivity when people have been climbing the rock for all these years, and all of a sudden they want to shut it down?
“I don’t get it, I really don’t get it.”
Ms Hanson has previously called on Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt to reconsider the closure, suggesting it will “cripple” tourist areas such as Alice Springs.
And the politician was particularly vocal over the contribution fears for climbers’ safety at the site made towards the decision to restrict access.
“It’s no different to coming out and saying, ‘We’re going to close down Bondi Beach because there are some people that have drowned’. How ridiculous is that?”
There have been 35 recorded deaths at Uluru, while many others have been injured while embarking on the climb.
Radio personality Steve Price, who also appeared on the Today Show agreed with Ms Hanson, saying the Indigenous population need to understand utilising the rock would bring much needed finances to the area.
“If it’s well managed... I don’t have an issue with it. We need to sit down with them and explain this could be a positive for them,” he said.
Backlash over lack of Indigenous voice
Following the debate, there was significant backlash online about The Today Show’s choice of guests to discuss the matter, with a lack of an Indigenous voice concerning to many.
“How about you get an Indigenous persons perspective on this?” one person asked on Twitter.
“This show should get a gold Logie for ‘whitesplaining’” another said.
Many suggested Ms Hanson’s inclusion on the show was merely to stir controversy.
“If you can give a reason other than for the controversy, why would you ask Hanson anything about this?” one person asked.
Indigenous community eager to protect sacred site
Despite the pair’s viewpoint, the stance from the local Anangu Indigenous community hasn’t changed, and since the site was returned to the original landowners in 1985, visitors have been urged not to step foot on Uluru.
The site has great spiritual meaning to Anangu, who believe that during the time when the world was being formed, the Uluru climb was the traditional route taken by Mala men when they arrived at site.
The influx of tourists as well as the ongoing debate over its closure has caused anger among Australia’s Indigenous community.
A spokesperson from the Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation told News Corp last week that images of lines of tourists making the ascent disgusted them.
“It makes me sick looking at this photo at the disrespect and disregard shown for the traditional owners’ wishes,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said visitors “defecate, urinate, and discard nappies and rubbish on it” at the site, in stark contrast with the behaviour expected from the local community.
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