updated

Parliament House protest: Probe launched into pro-Palestinian protesters’ brazen security breach

Katina Curtis and Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
Pro-Palestine protesters unfurled banners and threw paper planes off the roof of Parliament House.
Pro-Palestine protesters unfurled banners and threw paper planes off the roof of Parliament House. Credit: Dan Jervis-Bardy

Federal police will investigate how pro-Palestinian protesters managed to scale Parliament House before unfurling banners above the front entrance, including one with a red triangle that glorifies Hamas.

Four protestors are expected to be charged with Commonwealth trespass offences after the extraordinary security breach on Thursday morning.

It comes seven years after a $126 million upgrade to beef up security at Parliament House.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

As a result of the protest activity, Speaker Milton Dick limited access to Question Time on Thursday, and told MPs he had spoken with the AFP commissioner and had ordered an investigation into the day’s events and a wider review of security arrangements.

“I do not want a repeat of today’s events,” Mr Dick said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declared those responsible should “feel the full force of the law”.

“Peaceful protest has an important place in our society but this was not a peaceful protest,” he said.

“These actions have done absolutely nothing to advance any cause, indeed they have hurt the cause that those engaged in this reckless activity believe they are advancing.”

Opposition leader Peter Dutton thanked the AFP and welcomed the investigation, adding that “serious questions need to be answered about how these people were permitted entry into the building”.

“We are concerned that those flags were up there for at least 1.5 hours, and they should have been taken down immediately... It sends exactly the wrong message. We welcome the outcome, as belated as it was, and we hope never to see a repeat of it,” he said.

One of the banners unfurled on the roof of Parliament House.
One of the banners unfurled on the roof of Parliament House. Credit: Sky News Australia/Sky News Australia

Mr Dutton and shadow foreign affairs minister Simon Birmingham had earlier written to Mr Dick and Senate President Sue Lines, urging a full investigation into the “security lapse”.

The protest came amid heightened domestic political tensions around the Middle East, and as senator Fatima Payman quit the Labor Party over the issue.

“This is not a protest of a normal nature,” Mr Dutton and Senator Birmingham wrote.

“This was a protest that was designed to inflict fear and instil chaos in Australia’s society.”

The protestors managed to jump the 2.6 metre security wall on the grass hill to the right of the building’s front entrance, before scampering onto the balcony overlooking the Parliament House forecourt.

The masked protestors then unfurled large black banners, which read “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, “West Papua, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine - enabled here” and “No peace on stolen land, genocide since 1788”.

Pro-Palestine protesters unfurl banners from the roof of Parliament House in Canberra.
Pro-Palestine protesters unfurl banners from the roof of Parliament House in Canberra. Credit: Dan Jervis-Bardy/Dan Jervis-Bardy

A group named Renegade Activists has claimed credit for the protest.

One of the four masked protesters read a lengthy statement, in which he accused the Federal Government of enabling and committing war crimes as a “lackey” of the United States.

They also threw paper planes off the roof with their statement.

The protesters wanted to use July 4 — which is Independence Day in the US — to call for Australia to sever ties with America.

“On the fourth of July, we emphasise the point that Australia relentlessly continues to enable and commit war crimes as an ally of our great and powerful friends,” they said.

“Australia can and should play a positive role in securing true peace, justice and equity: at home, in the region and globally.”

After issuing the statement, the masked protesters are standing in silence with their fists raised in the air.

The front entrance to Parliament House remains open to the public.

Pro-Palestine protesters at Parliament House in Canberra threw paper planes off the roof with their statement of demands.
Pro-Palestine protesters at Parliament House in Canberra threw paper planes off the roof with their statement of demands. Credit: Dan Jervis-Bardy/Dan Jervis-Bardy

An ACT Policing spokesperson said protestors inside the building had been removed but no arrests had been made at that time.

“However, a small number of people remain in unsafe locations at the front of the building,” the spokesperson said.

The fact the quartet were able to scale the building represents a significant security breach.

Nationals MP Keith Pitt said there were “serious questions” to answer after protestors managed to get large banners through parliament security and get on to the roof.

Mr Pitt said he had seen just one similar security breach in more than a decade in Parliament.

“I’m sure the presiding officers will take the appropriate action but what we can see is that the current measures are clearly failing,” he said.

Pro-Palestine protesters at Parliament House in Canberra threw paper planes off the roof with their statement of demands.
A paper plane thrown off the roof of Parliament House. Credit: Dan Jervis-Bardy/Dan Jervis-Bardy

This responded to media reports on Thursday morning that the Government brought in Israel’s ambassador to Australia for a dressing down over the ongoing conflict.

Shadow defence minister Andrew Hastie recalled the bipartisan motion passed in Parliament shortly after the October 7 attacks by Hamas which stood by Israel and lamented the loss of innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives.

“We don’t want to see violence and death and destruction. We want peace. But Hamas started this and Hamas continues this by refusing to release the hostages surrender lay down its arms and cease to be a movement,” he said.

Colleague Aaron Violi said it was a vital debate to have as the fallout from the Middle East conflict spilled into Australian communities.

“There are anti-Semitic signs being hung in front of the Parliament, the heart of democracy in Australia, right now. If this government is not prepared to debate this and show their support for the Israeli people, they stand condemned,” he said.

The Coalition lost its bid to have the motion further debated.

The lower house passed a Government motion on Wednesday evening endorsing the recognition of the state of Palestine “as part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace”.

Coalition and Greens MPs voted against it.

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 23-07-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 23 July 202423 July 2024

Australia’s top cyber cop lashes big tech firms for profiting from alarming scourge amid calls for further action on online image abuse.