Transcript - Rio Tinto Juukan Gorge Blasting

12 June 2020

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: My name's Linda Burney and I have Terri Butler, my parliamentary colleague with me, who has responsibility for the issue that we want to put in front of people today.
Yesterday Labor was successful in the Senate of establishing a Terms of Reference to put an inquiry to the Northern Australia committee, a joint parliamentary committee on the destruction of Aboriginal cultural heritage, certainly brought on by the by the explosions that Rio Tinto undertook in the Juukan Gorge. Terri will have responsibility for the carriage of that. I'm going to ask her to speak about that inquiry in a moment.
This is a very significant outcome.
This Inquiry will look into the issues around Aboriginal cultural heritage and the relationship with mining companies. We believe that the resources industry is incredibly important to the Australian economy, and we want to see better practices. But most importantly, this is about self-determination. It is what the decisions are made between mining companies and the Traditional Owners. We also make the point very strongly that Aboriginal cultural heritage, as pointed out by UNESCO two weeks ago, is the heritage of all Australians. And it is something that has very much captured the hearts and minds of Australians.
The other point that I'd like to make before handing over to Terri Butler to talk more deeply about this inquiry, is that this is a very serious inquiry. We have not undertaken this lightly. We have undertaken it because there has been so much reaction to the destruction of cultural heritage in the case of the Gorge, 46,000. We know that BHP has put on hold any further destruction of sites. And it is something that Labor is not going to play politics on. This has to be a joint approach between government and the Labor party. And it serves no purpose for anyone to throw rocks from the side to score political points. This is a serious issue. I'm going to now ask Terri Butler to make some more comments. Thank you.
TERRI BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Thanks Linda. And of course, it has been a very distressing episode in the history of our nation to see the loss of some of the culturally significant sites, 46,000 years of history in relation to the blasted area. And I think all Australians expect the Parliament to take a very serious approach and a bipartisan approach to investigating what occurred, but very importantly, seeking to prevent it from occurring again.
That means we need to work together, we need to elevate this issue above partisan politics and come together as a parliament and as a nation. And that's why we extended the hand of bipartisanship and it's why we are pleased that the Government has agreed that this is a matter that should be dealt with by a joint standing committee of the Parliament. The most senior type of committee. A committee that forms itself using members from both houses of the Parliament and of course, from both sides of the Parliament.
We think it's important to work with the Government to assess the effectiveness of cultural heritage in jurisdictions including in Western Australia, of course, but we also think it is important to make sure that the voices of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people in the north are at the centre of decision making when it comes to preserving cultural heritage, and we believe in and support the important principle of self-determination.
So Linda has played a very strong leadership role, of course, as she always does, in the Shadow Cabinet. And it's been a great pleasure to work with her in working towards having this committee start to undertake this this inquiry. We were delighted to the motion went through yesterday. And we now look forward to working in a bipartisan way to seek to solve one of the really important challenges for our country, to elevate it above partisan politics and political point scoring, and actually come up with constructive outcomes.
Thanks everyone.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask, will this inquiry be looking at the circumstances that saw Rio Tinto dynamite that site?
BUTLER: Yes, the way the inquiry is being established does deal with that particular site, but we think it's important to take a broader approach to look at cultural heritage preservation more generally.
Thanks, everyone. Thanks, everyone.