Serious questions have been asked about the safety of Australia’s Prime Minister after a protester managed to elude security and storm the stage as Malcolm Turnbull delivered a major speech.
Mr Turnbull was in the process of delivering his first major economic speech since the federal election on Wednesday when a female protester wielding a placard got within metres of the PM and stood for some time shouting loudly right next to him.
Protester Agnes Prest – whose sign read “FFS close the bloody camps” [Nauru and Manus Island Detention Centres] – was able to yell out the slogan as fellow protesters joined in the commotion at the back of the Grand Hyatt’s reception room where the Committee for Economic Development of Australia speech took place.
“For f***’s sake Malcolm, close the f***ing camps,” Ms Prest shouted at Mr Turnbull.
Watch the protest:
The protesters, from the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), were calling for the closure of the Nauru and Manus Island detention facilities.
A WACA spokesperson told Sky News the group needed only claim they were media at the door to be admitted to the gathering.
Former police officer and security consultant Dr Tony Zalewski told The New Daily the security breach was potentially serious enough for someone to lose their job over.
“I remember a few years back a protester got up close to then-prime minister Tony Abbott,” Dr Zalewski said.
“My thought at the time was ‘someone is going to get into trouble’, well it turned out someone lost their job.
“It might well happen here. It is very poor, nobody should get that close. If it was a pop star I guarantee she would not have got that close.
“Irrespective of what the protester looks like, you can’t just make a quick on-the-spot assessment and think ‘Oh it’s just a woman who will hold up a sign and call out’.”
Dr Zalewski said the Prime Minister was “lucky not to be harmed” given the protesters had only non-violent intentions.
How they got in
WACA entered Mr Turnbull’s speech by showing up to the front desk and claiming they were media, a group spokesperson told Sky News.
“I was surprised that Agnes [the protestor] was able to get on the stage,” WACA representative Sam Castro said. “It is not the first event we have disrupted. AFP security is fairly slack.
“They pinched me, pushed me, forced us to the ground. We were clearly non-threatening,” she said of their removal.
“Once we got out into the foyer they pushed me and another person to the ground.
“I think it was their own embarrassment that made them behave in that way.”
Bizarrely, while the protesters at the back of the room were swiftly removed from the venue, Ms Prest on the stage was initially dealt with more softly.
“You’ll find sometimes they [personal security] get a bit lazy and they don’t maintain the level of control,” Dr Zalewski said.
“The view might have been ‘most people who are in this event have been screened’. Well that makes no difference, you still have to maintain that safe approach distance around whoever you’re protecting.”