One Nation leader and noted gronk Senator Pauline Hanson has backflipped on allowing tourists to climb Uluru, saying she now believes the sacred site is unsafe for wannabe alpinists.
Hanson made headlines yesterday after travelling to the Northern Territory with the intention of scaling Uluru, an act which will be banned from October 26 this year.
In its reasoning for the ban, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park points to to safety concerns, fears of environmental degradation, and issues of cultural sensitivity: the Anangu community, who serve as the site’s traditional owners, wish to preserve the site’s spiritual significance.
Those concerns didn’t seem to dissuade Hanson, who yesterday said she would “attempt to climb the Rock if the wind has dropped off.”
But speaking this morning to ABC Alice Springs, Hanson said she changed her mind after making it some distance up the climb.
“It’s quite scary. I was surprised,” Hanson said.
“I’ve never been up there before. There are the issues, and having been up there to look at it, the main issue is about security and safety because about 35 people have lost their lives by falling off the Rock.”
While Hanson did not clarify exactly how far she made it up the 348-metre tall monolith, she stated she had been given permission by senior members of the community including Reggie and Cassidy Uluru.
“They were quite happy for me to climb, we climbed the Rock. There were no problems with it whatsoever,” she said.
“It was quite respectful, and also sitting down and talking to them, the main issues are safety and there are no jobs for their people,” she said, referring to apparent concerns for the local economy should tourists be banned from climbing.
However, when pressed by host Stewart Brash over what she would have done had the elders said no to her climb, Hanson said “well, if they said no, I wouldn’t have climbed the rock.”
All of that begs the question why Hanson wouldn’t support the wholesale closure of the site to climbers, as planned by Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Regardless, she said her position really is based on a lack of safety provisions.
“It’s about understanding why the climb has been closed,” Hanson said, without directly addressing the very clear statements about cultural sensitivity made by traditional owners in the past.
Hanson’s visit has been criticised by scores of public figures, including NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Federal Labor MP and Opposition Spokesperson for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney.
Considering the unlikelihood of a Sydney Harbour Bridge climbing harness system being installed at the site, it looks like Hanson won’t be allowed to climb the thing for too much longer anyway.