SYDNEY - Australia's top official on indigenous issues said crocodile safaris should be used to help fund impoverished Aboriginal communities, but the prospect of big game hunters was downplayed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Trophy hunts were knocked back by the government early last year, with Environment Minister Greg Hunt saying they risked "cruel and inhumane" behaviour.
But Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said yesterday Aboriginal people should be allowed to sell permits to shoot a small number of the hundreds of saltwater crocodiles which would otherwise be culled each year.
Mr Abbott backed away from any immediate change to policy, despite the minister's comments. "All I am going to indicate is that as far as the Commonwealth government is concerned, there are no plans to change any relevant law in this area," he said.
Saltwater crocodiles have become increasingly common in the Northern Territory since they were declared a protected species in 1971, and each year more than 500 are culled to protect the public and livestock. Each year, the crocodiles kill an average of two people in Australia.
Mr Scullion said there would be healthy demand for crocodile safaris, with hunters likely prepared to pay up to A$30,000 ($31,100) to bag one animal.