Pauline Hanson has told ABC Alice Springs radio that, having visited the site herself on Wednesday, she now backs the ban on climbing Uluru.
“There’s no safety on the rock,” Hanson said, saying she respected the decision to close Uluru to climbing.
The option to climb the famous red rock will be closed from October 26, after a decision of the management board of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in November 2017.
The local Anangu people have long called for tourists not to climb, citing the “spiritual significance” of the site as a sacred part of their culture. Even Parks Australia, the government body which manages the national park, has a section on its website titled ‘Please don’t climb Uluru’.
“The climb can be dangerous. Too many people have died while attempting to climb Uluru,” the website states.
Chief among the opponents of the climbing ban has been One Nation senator Hanson, who recently claimed the decision was “ridiculous”. She compared the climbing ban to blocking off Bondi Beach to tourists.
On Wednesday, Hanson travelled to Uluru to meet with local Indigenous people. She said she had been invited by the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders, a group which, according to NITV, ” appears to have no official recognition”.
Hanson said she would attempt to climb Uluru, weather depending, after saying she had been “given permission” to do so by the tribal elders.
However, in a Thursday morning interview with ABC Alice Springs, she said she had backflipped on her earlier opposition, and now says she understands and supports the ban on climbing — but still wants the climb to stay open anyway.
“I respect the decision that there is not enough safety in regards to the rock. I respect their decision,” she said.
“It’s quite scary. I was surprised. I’d never been out there before. There are issues. The main issue is security and safety.”
Hanson said her experience climbing was “very interesting” but declined to say how high she climbed — saying that she was accompanied by a commercial TV crew, who were capturing her experience, and that the story would be aired next week.
Hanson said she now can “understand” the decision to close the climb, for safety reasons. More than 30 people are recorded to have died on the climb, and Uluru safety advisories at the site and online warn of this safety record.
She said she had “respect for people and their culture and their land” and that if the elders who she met had not given her permission, that she “wouldn’t have climbed the rock”.
“There is no real safety, at all… there’s no safety on the rock,” Hanson said.
However, despite saying she understood the safety concerns, she said she still wanted the climb to be open. She shrugged off questions about whether further safety precautions could be installed, but said that she would “work with them [traditional owners]” to “deal with the problems”.
“Of course I respect the decision but the whole fact is I’m going to try to work with them. If we can find the answers to this, and if we can, I’d like to see the climb opened again,” she said.
In April, 10 News First reported the park’s attendance figures are the highest in 16 years. Around 380,000 people visited in 2018 — a 20 percent increase on the previous year — and recently, photos have circulated of long lines of people snaking down the rock, waiting to climb to the summit.