Fresh footage has captured a new side to the police role in the Survival Day protests.
NATIONAL: The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council has called on the Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda to probe the actions of police following the Survival Day protests this month.
Aboriginal Tent Embassy supporters converged on the nearby Lobby Restaurant on January 26th after hearing Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s comments that the embassy should move on from the events of the past.
It’s since emerged that Tent Embassy supporters were informed Mr Abbott was at the nearby restaurant by ACT unions official Kim Sattler, who was called by Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s press secretary Tony Hodges.
The rally at the restaurant followed a peaceful protest through the heart of Canberra which attracted nearly 2000 people.
But while much of the media has labeled the protestors violent and riotous, and both sides of politics have condemned their actions, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council says it is far from the truth.
“This has been a fiasco from the start,” CEO Geoff Scott said today.
“It’s a public relations and security disaster.
“Some sanity needs to be restored to public debate around the issue. We need to get to the truth.”
His comments follow the release of fresh footage showing police inciting and attacking protestors.
“The available footage of the Prime Minister’s exit from the Lobby restaurant clearly shows that police were fending off photographers and journalists, not Aboriginal protestors.
“It’s now also clear from new video footage that has emerged that there are some serious questions that need to be addressed about the conduct of officers, particularly after the Prime Minister and Opposition leader had been removed from the demonstration.”
Mr Scott has called on Mr Gooda to conduct an independent investigation into the role of police. He says that it was appropriate given Mr Gooda’s role was created as part of a broad response to the Naitonal Inquiry into Racist Violence.
“We believe Mr Gooda is an appropriate person to conduct an independent investigation for a number of reasons.
“Firstly, there is a long and unfortunate history in this country of police investigations into police actions falling short of the sort of transparency and probity the public demands.
“Secondly, it’s only through an independent investigation that we will be able to rule a line under this incident, and move on to talking about the issues that really matter.
“Aboriginal people want to talk about issues of economic development, sovereignty, land rights and treaty. These may be uncomfortable issues for the Australian people, but they are issues that must be resolved, sooner rather than later.”
Mr Scott said that the political attention on Mr Hodges was regrettable.
““It’s clear that the event was manipulated for political gain. While it back-fired, the resignation of Prime Ministerial adviser Tony Hodges is unfortunate because as we all know, he was simply playing the political game that occurs in Canberra every day. The difference is he got caught.
“I don’t believe there was any malice in his actions, or that of the Opposition. It was merely a game of one-upmanship.
“However, Aboriginal people deserve better than being used as a political football, and Mr Hodges deserves better than being made a sacrificial lamb.”
He also took aim at the media’s role in reporting events.
“The misreporting of the Opposition Leader’s comments also contributed to what occurred, and the journalists’ responsible should be called to account for their roll in this fiasco.”
To see the fresh footage, please see below:
*Tracker is published by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council.