2012-01-26 "PM dragged away after being trapped by protesters" by Dylan Welch
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, had to be extracted from a restaurant near Parliament House as angry protesters banged on the glass.
Supporters of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra picketed the Lobby restaurant over comments by Mr Abbott this morning that the tent embassy should close.
As many as 200 gathered in front of the restaurant, banging on its glass walls and yelling "shame" and "racist".
The incident, about 2.30pm at the restaurant several hundred metres from Parliament, occurred while Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott were presenting the National Emergency Medals.
The pair were forced to stay inside for 30 minutes while the protest outside continued.
As many as 1000 people had gathered as part of a march to mark the 40th anniversary of the Tent Embassy.
Ms Gillard was escorted in dramatic fashion from the building by her federal police Close Personal Protection team.
Fairfax photographer Alex Ellinghausen, who took the pictures on this page, said that, contrary to the claims of Ms Gillard's office that she merely "stumbled", she was "dragged out" by her bodyguards.
"The police were pulling her out and they were clearly a bit faster than her and along the way she lost a shoe and tumbled," he said.
One of the protesters, the chairman of the Northern Basin Aboriginal nations, Fred Hooper, spoke to Sky News shortly after the politicians’ dramatic exit, explaining why they caused the incident.
‘‘We were peacefully celebrating the 40th anniversary of the aboriginal tent embassy. The opposition leader on national television made a comment to tear down something that have built over 40 years, which is sacred to us,’’ he said.
‘‘So what do you expect us to do when we're 200 yards away from the person that makes that comment? Do you expect us to say, ‘yeah Tony we're gonna do that now? We're gonna rip it down?’’’
Earlier today one of the tent embassy's founders, Michael Anderson, addressed a rally at the site.
"To hell with the government and the courts in this country. You haven't got a high hope to take us on," he said.
"We will force these issues. Too many of our families have suffered for some bastard to get in the road."
Mr Sean Gordon, Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council leader from North West NSW, said the protest had been peaceful until an announcement was made in which Mr Abbott's comments were read to the crowd.
"It was like waving a red rag at a bull. This is the 40th anniversary of the tent embassy and these blokes are 200 metres away. If Tony Abbott is a visionary then why did he fail to see what this would do to our people."
"In answer to the Opposition Leader's comments an NSW Aboriginal Council member, Roy RC, told reporters "maybe Abbott is right and it is time for the tent embassy to go."
"And then it is time to erect a black Parliament with politicians we can choose, politicians who are going to have a say in our lives," he said.
Mr Gordon said further protests were planned for the rest of the week and that "we're going to keep the fight going. We are standing up here and we are not going away."
Mr Abbott's comments about the Tent Embassy were made during an event at the Sydney Opera House this morning in response to a question from the media about whether the Tent Embassy was still relevant.
"Look, I can understand why the Tent Embassy was established all those years ago. I think a lot has changed for the better since then," he said, in comments which appeared on Sky.
"We had the historic apology just a few years ago, one of the genuine achievements of Kevin Rudd as prime minister. We had the proposal which is currently for national consideration to recognise indigenous people in the constitution.
"I think the indigenous people of Australia can be very proud of the respect in which they are held by every Australian and yes, I think a lot has changed since then and I think it probably is time to move on from that."
After the incident at the restaurant Mr Anderson spoke to the media, saying Mr Abbott's comments were disrespectful and they wanted know if Mr Abbott was serious about removing the Tent Embassy.
"He said the Aboriginal embassy had to go, we heard it on a radio broadcast. We thought no way, so we circled around the building," he said.
"You've got 1000 people here peacefully protesting and to make a statement about tearing down the embassy - it's just madness on the part of Tony Abbott," Mr Anderson said.
"What he said amounts to inciting racial riots."
Julia Gillard is dragged away from the protest by her security officers. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
2012-01-30 "Ruckus puts referendum out of reach" by PAUL SHEEHAN
At least the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra has finally achieved one constructive thing in its 40 years as a moral eyesore: it helped kill off the proposed amendment to enshrine racial preference in the Australian constitution.
That proposed amendment is now dead. Everything else will merely be its funeral. The Australian public will not enshrine special privileges for any group on the basis of race, especially after the events of the past few days.
Even readers of the Herald and the National Times overwhelmingly expressed their disapproval of the Aboriginal ''embassy'' in an online poll conducted on Thursday and Friday. Most of 25,853 votes agreed the tent embassy's time had passed or never existed. Only 15 per cent expressed support.
And what a pack of gutless wonders contributed to this debacle.
The root cause was found within the Prime Minister's staff. One of her press secretaries, Tony Hodges, used race to make political mischief even though indigenous affairs had been an area of tacit bipartisanship between Julia Gillard and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.
On Thursday, Hodges began looking for an Aborigine to take issue with some bland remarks Abbott made during a morning interview when he was asked about the tent embassy and replied: ''Look, I can understand why the tent embassy was established all those years ago. I think a lot has changed for the better since then … I think the indigenous people of Australia can be very proud of the respect in which they are held by every Australian and … I think it probably is time to move on from that."
Hodges called Kim Sattler, the secretary of Unions ACT, and told her Abbott had said it was time for the tent embassy to move on and was attending an event just 100 metres from the demonstration.
Sattler spoke to at least two of the demonstrators at the ''embassy'', Barbara Shaw and Michael Anderson, and told them Abbott wanted the embassy gone and that he was right next door.
Within minutes, about 200 people were outside The Lobby restaurant banging on the windows and shouting abuse.
The organiser of the demonstration, Michael Anderson, ranted afterwards that Abbott ''said the Aboriginal embassy had to go, we heard it on a radio broadcast … It's just madness on the part of Tony Abbott. What he said amounts to inciting racial riots.''
Another activist, Paul Coe, a former barrister disbarred from practice for lying to a court, later brandished the shoe left behind by Gillard as she was bundled away by security. Coe said she should visit the ''embassy'' to collect the shoe as an ''act of goodwill''.
Kim Sattler crowed on her Facebook page ''a huge crowd from the embassy went to greet him [Abbott] and he had to be rushed away with a police escort!''
When all this blew up in their faces, the response was just as gutless.
Hodges was sacked - damage-control for Gillard - and delivered a mealy-mouthed apology denying he had distorted Abbott's words.
Sattler took down her crowing Facebook entry. Then she blamed Hodges, who she said told her Abbott said the tent embassy should be shut down. She also blamed the Prime Minister for saying it was Sattler, not her press secretary, who began the distortion.
Barbara Shaw, Greens candidate for the Northern Territory federal seat of Lingiari, shifted blame to Sattler, telling reporters Sattler had said she was speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister's office and that Abbott was right next door talking about closing down the tent embassy.
The most absurd response came from Anderson, who told reporters: ''Someone set us up.''
Pathetic. Which returns us to the far larger failure, the proposed changes to the constitution. An expert panel has delivered a report, commissioned by Gillard in 2010, which proposes amendments that recognise indigenous culture.
The ideal is to seek redress for some of the sweeping disruptions and pain caused to Aboriginal communities by the process of European settlement. The changes would also remove two provisions which allow the government to legislate on the basis of race.
The expert panel has delivered an inexpert political document. It has proposed four additions which should and probably would pass at a referendum. It also proposed two additions which would create an unlimited new avenue for judicial activism and human rights litigation. They read:
''Acknowledging the need to secure the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.''
''The Commonwealth, a state or a territory, shall not discriminate on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic or national origin.''
Last Thursday, this column described the advancement sentence as a blunder that monetised race. On Saturday the Herald editorialised on this proposed amendment: ''Many will ask, why should indigenous advancement be mentioned in the constitution specifically? How is it distinct from the advancement of the population as a whole?''
Also on Saturday, The Australian editorialised: '' … the government is considering a referendum to provide constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians. That task has been made difficult by the overreach of the expert panel. The Canberra activists might have put it further out of reach.''
Referendum proposals do not survive such public misgivings. Nor has any referendum ever passed without bipartisan support, and I cannot see the opposition supporting the amendments as proposed.
Abbott anticipated such a moment in his 2009 manifesto, Battlelines, when he described the chasm between the rhetoric of progressive policies and the continued failure to make real progress: ''Under the ideology of self-determination, an exaggerated respect for Aboriginal culture has coexisted with a kind of abandonment of Aboriginal people.''
A couple of indigenous women returned the Prime Minister's shoe to security guards. But it is the flag-burning, the besieged leaders and the jeering chants of ''Cinderella'' that will stick in the public mind.
2012-01-31 "Minister angry at young flag burners"
A Northern Territory minister with special responsibility for young people has labelled the Aboriginal children who burned an Australian flag in Canberra last week "little pricks".
The flag was burned at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on Friday, one day after protesters from the embassy confronted Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Julia Gillard as they attended an awards ceremony at a nearby restaurant.
The Minister for Young Territorians, Rob Knight, says he is disgusted with the children who were involved in the burning.
Mr Knight says that with the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin approaching, the children involved and their parents have defaced a flag that Australians fought under.
"For some little pricks to get there and stomp on our flag and set fire to it - there should be laws against it," he told radio station Mix 104.9.
"There should be laws against burning the Territory flag as well.
"I think it's absolutely disgusting, and they've lost my support, and I think they've lost the majority support of Australians."
The Territory Opposition says the Minister's intemperate language is unfairly targeting children, when he should be focusing his anger on the adults involved.
One of the founders of the tent embassy says Mr Knight should be disendorsed by the ALP because of his comments.
Michael Anderson says the comments are inappropriate and Mr Knight should be stood down.
"To use that sort of language against children, this man is not fit for office," he said.
"I think he should be immediately stood down and I think the Labor Party should disendorse this man."
Meanwhile, Territory Indigenous Affairs Minister Malarndirri McCarthy wants Prime Minister Julia Gillard to apologise for the Aboriginal tent embassy clashes in Canberra.
She says the scenes were disgraceful and involved "underhanded tactics" by the Prime Minister's office.
Ms McCarthy is a Yanuwa woman from the Gulf country of the Territory and has been the Labor MLA for Arnhem since 2005.
The former ABC journalist and newsreader says Julia Gillard should apologise to the nation, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and the tent embassy organisers.
"Certainly, the (actions of the) office of the Prime Minister was very questionable," she said.
"I think there were many Indigenous people who went to Canberra with genuine interest to keep the plight of Indigenous people at the forefront nationally.
"I think it is incredibly unfortunate that it descended in the way it did."
Ms McCarthy says the scenes in Canberra were disgraceful.
"I am deeply disappointed by the underhanded tactics of Labor members to really bring forth quite a messy outcome," she said.
Indigenous leader Pat Dodson says the Australia Day tent embassy protest has not harmed the campaign for changes to the Australian Constitution.
Professor Dodson is part of a panel that is recommending constitutional amendments to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Speaking in Sydney last night, he said the protest may have damaged the public's view of the tent embassy but the campaign to change the Constitution is on track.
"It is a reality of our unresolved issues," he said.
"It is a reality of the frustration.
"Let's see it for the ugliness of what it was and let's move on to dealing with the constructive things that we are capable of that can help diminish the necessity for that kind of behaviour in the future."
He says that while they were ugly, to condemn the protests outright was simplistic.
"You have got to look to why people are frustrated and why people feel that aggressive behaviour like that is required," he said.
Professor Dodson says Indigenous people still feel frustrated, and they have a right to express that.