Same-sex marriage and refugee activists were the main groups protesting outside the Park Hyatt hotel in Melbourne today when Prime Minister Julia Gillard was delivering a speech to a lunch of the AsiaLink and Asia Society. The main beneficiaries of the protest speeches and chants, however, were probably the large numbers of uniformed and undercover/plainclothes police on duty: however she entered the building it is certain she avoided a face-to-face meeting with the 200 or so protesters. (See report in Sydney Morning Herald. By avoiding the protest Ms Gillard deprived herself of a present some had been planning to give her for her 50th birthday on Thursday – see image below.)
The protest assembled outside the main entrance and moved back and forth between there and the side entrances. At each stop there were speakers and chants, alternating between the two main issues. In addition to speakers from Equal Love and the Refugee Action Collective the protest heard from Carl Katter, half-brother of anti-gay Independent MP Bob Katter, and Malaysian refugee activist Angeline Loh, who surprised even experienced campaigners with the revelation that the ‘protections’, such as they would be, for asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia under the swap deal would only last until the asylum seekers were assessed by UNHCR to be refugees, at which point they would become illegal immigrants under Malaysian law, and subject to the same treatment refugees experience there…
The weather took a hand not long after Julia Gillard’s presumed arrival, and the protest wound up at about 12.45.