Targeting of ministers 'not very Australian': PM
Prime Minister Tony Abbott responds to a Fairfax report that Coalition ministers have had bodyguards for their personal protection at events. Nine News.PT0M0S 620 349
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has lashed the "ugly" protests directed at his senior ministers as un-Australian, after students targeted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at Melbourne University.
The comments came after Fairfax Media exclusively revealed that four senior ministers in the Abbott government have been assigned secret-service style protection amid an angry backlash over the federal budget.
The ramp-up in security measures has seen Ms Bishop, Treasurer Joe Hockey, Education Minister Christopher Pyne and junior Defence minister Stuart Robert assigned Close Personal Protection officers from the Federal Police in the month since the budget.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was accosted by protesters at a conference in Melbourne. Photo: Reuters
On Friday, a man was arrested as Ms Bishop was again targeted by a group of angry protesters, with the foreign minister surrounded by extra security guards and a close personal protection team.
Mr Abbott said it was very important that ministers could move around the country representing the government.
"Very rarely there are protests, occasionally those protests get ugly, that shouldn't happen. I don't think it's a very Australian thing to do, to prevent someone from speaking, to prevent someone from visiting some place where their duty calls them and that’s why very, very occasionally it's important there be some security,'' he said.
Asked about the man arrested for accosting Ms Bishop, the Prime Minister said: "We are a free and democratic society, Australians are free to express a view, they are free to protest, they should always do it, we should always do it in a way that is fair and respectful."
Labor treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said that in his experience as a minister in the former government, "when there is a direct threat to a minister the Australian Federal Police act very professionally and appropriately".
"Every minister of course want to be able to move freely around their community but from time to time people in the public eye and ministers do need close personal protection," Mr Bowen said.
"That was the case under the previous government, will be the case under this government and future governments."
Ms Bishop once again became the target of a group of angry protesters on Friday, forcing a university building into lockdown.
The Foreign Minister had been opening the C20 conference at the University of Melbourne on Friday when police had to surround the law building to prevent protesters from coming inside.
When she left, a protester lunged at her car with a pole and was then pulled away and arrested.
The building was reopened and police, who far out-numbered about a dozen protesters, left a short time later.
Ms Bishop, who had been surrounded by extra security guards, laughed off the continued protest.
She said the extra security had been assigned so the government could go about its business.
"That's what our security is there to do, but it's just par for the course," she told Fairfax Media shortly before the incident.
Victoria Police Inspector Geoff Colsell said one protester, a man believed to be in his 20s, refused to move off the road despite being ordered to do so.
The man was arrested and is expected to be charged on summons for obstructing a road or path, he said.
He said police had anticipated there would be protests at the conference.
''I understand why they've come out to protest, but at the end of the day it is a Civil 20,'' he told Fairfax Media.
''I hope the delegates enjoy their conference.''