Protestors on cue with rally

Prime Minister Julia Gillard in conversation with Ben Elton.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard in conversation with Ben Elton.

Ms Gillard was in the port city for the sold out event A Conversation with Ben Elton, originally scheduled to be held at John Curtin College of the Arts before the independent public school pulled out at the last minute, forcing a change to Victoria Hall.

A range of groups used the visit to rally over a number of issues including cuts to university funding and single parent payments, mandatory detention of refugees and the denial of same-sex marriage rights.

The school venue was cancelled after Education Minister Peter Collier said he did not realise it was a Labor fundraiser.

The fundraiser was in support of Fremantle MHR Melissa Parke, who said the event was sold out after 250 attendees bought tickets, 20 per cent of which were purchased after the venue change.

‘Political protest is a legitimate and valuable part of the democratic process and I will always support people’s right to peacefully express their views on issues that concern them,’ she said.

‘I understand some people were protesting in support of Aboriginal rights and reconciliation, which I have always supported, and there also were people concerned about support for single parents, marriage equality and animal welfare.

‘I have been strongly supportive of the Fremantle community on all of these issues.’

The Gazette asked the City of Fremantle and Ms Parke how Victoria Hall had been acquired at short notice and whether it had been paid for.

Ms Parke said a number of Fremantle organisations had gotten in touch to offer their venue for the event after hearing about the school pulling out and Victoria Hall was secured from City of Fremantle on a fully commercial arms-length basis.

Curtin Student Guild Education vice president Sam Cavallaro, who was amongst the protestors, said the solidarity shown between groups was a good aspect of the night.

‘I think that there was an important message that we brought to the protest that was made strongly,’ he said.

‘The issues we raised are all things that both the major parties have appalling stances on.

‘We showed Julia Gillard that there are people in the community who could no longer stand to live with the lesser evil of the Labor Party.’