Protesters heckle Australian leaders
Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and conservative rival Tony Abbott were both raucously heckled by refugee advocates on Saturday as Australia voted in a general election.
In south Sydney, a group of protesters tried to block the path of the poll favourite opposition leader, screaming: “Refugees welcome, Abbott is not”.
Security men intervened and ushered Abbott safely through the jostling crowd and into his car, cutting short a visit to the safe Labor seat of Barton.
The demonstrators included Labor supporters, refugee advocates, and backers of an independent candidate, the Australian Associated Press reported.
Several refugee advocates also yelled at Rudd when he tried to cast his vote in Brisbane amid chaotic scenes when he showed up unannounced at a polling booth in a church, an AFP photographer said.
“Free the Refugees, End mandatory detention,” read one placard referring to the government policy of detaining all asylum-seekers who arrive by boat.
Rudd later took to Twitter, writing: “Another colourful day in Australian democracy at my local polling booth.”
Asylum-seeker policy has been a key election issue, with Labor enforcing tough new policies in July sending all those arriving by boat to Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the Pacific for processing and resettlement.
Hecklers had also greeted Abbott when he voted in northern Sydney during the morning. A woman held up a sign reading: “Tony Abbott. Sexist, racist, bigot. Do not go there Australia.”
However, the smiling Liberal party leader, who is tipped for a landslide victory, appeared unconcerned and noted he would rather be out surfing.
“You will be pleased to know I am in a suit not in budgie smugglers,” he told Channel Nine, referring to his trademark name for swimming trunks.
“I wish I was out in the waves, it is a nice swell for an elderly long boarder,” Abbott added.