• Labor's Pat Dodson and Warren Snowdon with Liberal MP Warren Entsch. The committee members have censured Lidia Thorpe over social media comments. (AAP)Source: AAP
The chair of the Juukan Gorge inquiry has issued a strong rebuke to Greens senator Lidia Thorpe, saying her claims of being 'silenced' are 'dishonest and inappropriate'.
Sarah Collard

8 Jul 2021 - 5:52 PM  UPDATED 8 Jul 2021 - 6:08 PM

A war of words has broken out between committee members of the Juukan Gorge inquiry, with senator Lidia Thorpe and chair Warren Entsch trading barbs. 

The Greens senator took to social media on Tuesday with claims of being silenced in the committee process of the inquiry.

The senator said it was due to her presence as a First Nations woman, and accused the committee of being a 'boys' club'. 

Mr Entsch has hit out over the comments, labeling them 'bullshit' in The Australian newspaper on Wednesday.

He took aim again during closing remarks at Thursday's hearings, after Waanyi Native Title Aboriginal Corporation gave their evidence during the hour long inquiry.

Thorpe: 'My time was cut'

On Thursday the Greens senator told the ABC that she rejected the assertions — arguing her voice was stifled during the inquiry process. 

Senator Thorpe said she was questioning the Minerals Council of Australia about concerns over their actions on the lands of Traditional Owners. 

"I had a number of questions and my time was cut short," she told the Afternoon Briefing program.

Senator Thorpe urged the committee to ensure senators had equal question time to put to those giving evidence at the committee. 

When asked if she felt she was given less time because she was an Aboriginal woman she said it was because she was a woman. 

"I wouldn't say it's being an Aboriginal woman — I would say that it's being a woman," Senator Lidia Thorpe said. 

"I don't get much time at all and I'd like to know how we can make the system fairer."

Senator Thorpe rejected the assertions of her colleagues who had accused her of 'political grandstanding'.

"Senator Dodson has been incredible during this inquiry, might I say [but] Senator Dodson's experience on the committee is much different to mine because he gets allocated far more time than I do — That's not my experience."

'Robust conversations' 

Senator Thorpe was also addressed recent reports she left an elder Aunty Geraldine Atkinson 'shaken' and requiring medical care after a meeting at Parliament House earlier this month discussing the Victorian treaty process.

Ms Atkinson is the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria co-chair made a formal complaint to the president of the Senate but Senator Thorpe said it was part of 'robust conversations'. 

"Thousands of conversations and robust discussions happen every week, and they've only picked out the one that happened between two Blak women" Senator Thorpe told the program. 

"There'll be further discussion — but there won't be an apology because it's a conversation that happened — hard conversations happen all the time." 

'Disrespectful, dishonest and inappropriate'

The Queensland MP offered a stinging rebuke of the senator, and said she had brought the inquiry into disrepute with her comments on social media.

"The concern relates to one of the committee's members who I believe is showing ongoing disrespect to the work of the committee and its members," Mr Entsch told the inquiry.

He accused the senator of undermining the cross-parliamentary committee's work into the destruction of 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge caves in May last year. 

"It is not appropriate, and is extremely disrespectful of any member of the committee in the making social media posts about the committee's work without discussion and approval from the committee," Warren Entsch told the committee on Thursday. 

The statements were endorsed by fellow committee members and Labor representatives, senator Patrick Dodson and Warren Snowdon. 

Senator Thorpe was accused of disregarding the committee's work and the testimony of Traditional Owners who have gave evidence throughout the inquiry. 

"There is no room for political grandstanding... It compromises the credibility of the committee." 

"This could undermine the veracity... of any committee recommendations by pursuing their own agenda," he said. 

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