A logging protester has managed to abseil down the front of Victoria’s Parliament, just a day after police moved to allay fears about public safety following the arrest of a man over an alleged New Year’s Eve terror plot.
The protester was seen hanging from the building as police and protective services officers (PSOs) watched on.
Police said four people had been arrested over the incident and were released on summons.
The breach raised concerns about security arrangements at the Spring Street landmark, particularly as police were continuing to raid four Melbourne houses as part of ongoing investigations into the New Year’s Eve terror plot.
Ali Khalif Shire Ali, 20, was arrested on a Werribee shopping strip on Monday and charged on Tuesday for plotting to carry out an attack at Federation Square.
Police on Wednesday raided homes at Tarneit, Coolaroo, Glenroy and Berwick and say their main inquiries are complete and no further arrests are expected.
The parliament’s presiding officers said they regarded trespass as a serious matter and had options to take action under the Parliamentary Precincts Act.
“The presiding officers cannot accept any protest that places people at risk and could include damage to property and involves an act of trespass,” they said in a statement.
“(We) will be requesting that the incident be assessed fully as security matters are a priority for the presiding officers to ensure that members of parliament, parliamentary staff and visitors can go about their business safely.”
The abseiling protester was part of the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance group, which wants the government to introduce more parks and reserves to protect wildlife, and create jobs in the environment sector.
Zianna Fuad, who took part in the protest, said the GROUPwanted an end to logging of native forests.
“The climber is a professional climber, so that assisted with getting up … they just walked up,” Ms Fuad said.
The protesters spread woodchips on the ground and unfurled a banner which read “Logging our forests = extinction”.
Police have stressed there is no ongoing security threat to the community this festive season but there have been concerns raised about the state’s readiness.
Police comments on deradicalisation ‘disingenuous’
Following Mr Ali’s arrest, Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton from Victoria Police said the 20-year-old was considered “not appropriate” for deradicalisation programs.
But today defence lawyer Rob Stary labelled Mr Patton’s comments disingenuous, saying those programs did not yet exist.
“[They have] never been implemented and that’s why I say it’s a disingenuous comment,” Mr Stary told ABC Radio Melbourne.
He says that a person’s not suitable for deradicalisation — that’s because nothing exists.”
Mr Stary said law enforcement agencies were focused on intelligence-gathering rather than trying to divert people away from extremist activity.
“We know internationally, the most successful way to make communities safer is to divert young people at risk.” Mr Stary said.
A expert panel examining terrorism and violent extremism recently found the state’s only deradicalisation program cannot be accessed until the latter stages of the legal process.
It recommended government funding for deradicalisation programs for adults and young people on bail and remand.
Boost to PSO numbers under consideration
Andrews Government said it was considering deploying PSOs to shopping centres and major events to boost security.
They could also be used assist police in the event of a terrorist attack.
Currently PSOs mainly patrol around train stations in Melbourne and major regional centres to respond to anti-social behaviour, property damage and other incidents.
Police Minister Lisa Neville said the Government was working with Victoria Police and the police union to see where the PSOs could be used.
“We’ve given additional resources to both PSOs and police and we want to make sure we have a highly visible and trusted presence right across different parts of our community, whether it’s a shopping centre, whether it’s a major event,” she said.
She said the government would have more to say on the PSOs early next year.