OPINION: What is the difference between Uluru and a livestock farm, when an outsider wants to look around?
By
Travis Akbar

25 Oct 2019 - 2:54 PM  UPDATED 25 Oct 2019 - 3:34 PM

Vegans. They’re controversial. Ten years ago, it was barely a thing. You didn’t hear about it. But these days, vegans are everywhere, they’re in the news, in the streets and if you’re reading this, we’re on your screens too – because I’m vegan – 4 weeks in and loving it. Plant based patties are the best I’ve ever had.

However, Senator Pauline Hanson doesn’t think too highly of vegans. 

In July, Hanson took aim at climate protesters, saying that magistrates are not ”tough enough” on these protesters, “like the vegans only getting a $1 fine, it is ridiculous.” Hanson also complained about sentencing of vegan protesters on her official Facebook page, 'Pauline Hanson’s Please Explain' (complete with a blue tick and all) stating “I think it’s way past time we started seeing harsher penalties for people who continue to harass our local businesses and farmers!”.

It makes sense that Hanson would comment though, she knows all too well what it takes to effectively appeal a prison sentence.  In 2003, Hanson was convicted of electoral fraud and spent 78 days in prison before the conviction was overturned upon appeal.

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On April 8th, Vegan’s protested so hard in Melbourne that streets were shut down and protesters were dragged away by the police, over 35 protesters were arrested. Back in February of this year, a West Australian man fired warning shots after a group of vegans refused to leave his farm after trespassing onto it.

Western Australia’s Attorney-General John Quigley proposed changes to law, if they haven’t been passed already, that give ‘vegan activists’ even harsher penalties if found guilty of trespass.

“I don’t know what the mushy-headed vegans think or why they think but they better get this through their mushy heads — that we are changing the law in a substantial way that spells trouble, big trouble for anyone who goes trespassing on agricultural land with the intention of disrupting agriculture,” commented Mr Quigley.

This is serious stuff.

NSW is also trying to enact laws to jail ‘animal rights terrorists’, as labelled by Robert Borsak, leader of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. Over 22,000 “DO NOT TRESPASS” signs have been bought by farmers in NSW this year.

Pauline Hanson might hate vegans, but sign makers love them.

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But it’s not just the state governments that are acting on the issue, the federal government is also taking on the issue. In April, the Prime Minister said that he would be happy for his government to take civil action against trespassing vegans to show “these green-collared criminals that you don’t get to go and pull the rug from our Aussie farmers”. 

It may seem like this article takes aim at vegans, but it’s not, that’s just the set-up. This article is about the governments continuing hypocrisy when dealing with Indigenous issues. 

You see, when someone owns land, if you go onto their land without permission, it’s trespassing, and it can cause a whole lot of trouble. So, it’s best not to do it, you know, so you can stay out of prison. Otherwise, you’ll get people like Scott Morrison, Robert Borsak and Pauline Hanson against you, and they’ll move mountains, or at least change laws, to get you put away.

Hanson claims to dislike hypocrisy.

In her maiden speech in 1996 she said “I am calling for ATSIC to be abolished. It is a failed, hypocritical and discriminatory organisation”. Using the following example to demonstrate – “Anyone with a criminal record can, and does, hold a position with ATSIC. I cannot hold my position as a politician if I have a criminal record – once again, two sets of rules”.

While I get her point, I think it’s severely misplaced. A politician should be held to much higher standards than someone that works in retail or is a tradie. Politicians are responsible for running the country after all. She also says her views are formed using “common-sense” but after using phrases like “swamped with Asians” and “reverse-racism”, I’m not too sure if she knows what common-sense means.

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For all the fuss about trespass and hypocrisy, the same fuss isn’t afforded to First Nations people. 

According to the Australian governments Parks Australia website, in 1985, the Anangu people were recognised as the traditional owners of Uluru and were handed back the deeds to their homeland. So, as well as being the traditional owners, the Anangu people are the legal owners.

As such, and in consideration of the disrespect shown to the Anangu people and Uluru by climbers, the Anangu people have decided to shut the climb down on October 26th, 2019. It wasn’t solely their decision, a vote was held with the parks board of management, and the closure was a unanimous decision.

This decision has not been well received and once again Pauline Hanson has let her opinion be known, sighting that it will cost jobs for the local Indigenous community. But not all jobs go to Indigenous people, and even then, not all jobs for Indigenous people go to local Anangu people. I am aware of job recruiters in Adelaide recently trying to recruit at least one Indigenous man who isn’t Anangu mob, to work at ‘Ayers Rock Resort’. 

Shouldn’t all the jobs be going to the Anangu people?

Hanson has since, after attempting to climb Uluru herself and getting stuck, decided she agrees that the climb should be closed. But for safety reasons only, given 35 people have died while climbing Uluru.

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Hanson went on to say “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? No, I just don’t get it, I really don’t get it”. (please explain?)

Unfortunately, Pauline Hanson doesn’t see or get a lot of things. She actually thinks that climbing a rock for a hundred years out of the tens of thousands of years that the area’s been inhabited is a lot, and she clearly doesn’t research.

The ban on Uluru has been planned since 2010 when it was decided, once the number of climbers drops below 20% of the total visitors, that it would be banned, and that time has come. 

I just hope the time comes, at some point, to end double standards because as Pauline Hanson said in 1996, there’s two sets of rules.

 

Related Reading
Uluru climb officially closed after hundreds of tourists scale sacred site on final day
A permanent climbing ban came into force at 4pm Australian Central Time on Friday, after decades of campaigning by Uluru's traditional owners.
A controversial chapter in Uluru's long history will close this weekend for good
It's the most iconic natural landform in Australia, sacred to the Anangu people and admired by tourists from around the world, but after a highly-charged debate, Uluru will be closed to climbers from Saturday.
Uluru climbing ban won't kill tourism, rangers say
The Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park has rejected criticism from commentators that closing Uluru to climbers will kill tourism in the area.

Travis is a Wongatha man living on Peramangk country. He is a Film Critic and Freelance Writer. Follow Travis @TravAkbar