Saturday 24 March 2018

Australian PM Julia Gillard's shoe held to ransom by Aborigine protesters

Julia Gillard's shoe is displayed at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra
Julia Gillard's shoe is displayed at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra
A body guard protects Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as she is taken to safety
Ms Gillard is rushed out of the Lobby restaurant near Old Parliament House
Ms Gillard appeared visbly shaken
Ms Gillard lost a shoe in the process

Jonathan Pearlman

ABORIGINE protesters have brandished the shoe lost by Julia Gillard as she was rescued from a violent rally, claiming they want it to be the symbol of a move to "give us back our country".

The shoe - a dark blue, size 36 Midas pump - has been handed to an Aboriginal elder, Pat Eatock, who says Ms Gillard should collect it within a week or it will be sold on ebay.

A shoe purported to be Ms Gillard's fetched bids of £1400 today before it was removed from sale.

"I see it sitting like Cinderella's shoe in a glass case in a museum 10 years from now as this is part of the history of race relations in Australia," said Ms Eatock, 75, who was the first Aboriginal woman to seek election to Parliament.

The ugly scenes in Canberra yesterday have caused a furore in Australia, prompting widespread media coverage, inflaming racial tensions and leading to the sacking of one of the prime minister's aides.

Protesters calling for Aboriginal sovereignty today burnt an Australian flag outside Parliament House, as indigenous leaders called for calm and some dismissed the recent violence as a disgrace.

The angry scenes in Canberra yesterday were triggered by airing of remarks by the Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, who suggested a 40-year-old makeshift Aboriginal tent embassy was no longer relevant and should be dismantled. Activists at the embassy then shifted their protests to a nearby function being attended by Mr Abbott and Ms Gillard.

Ms Gillard has won praise for her efforts during the ensuing mayhem, with a news cameraman capturing her coolly asking her security guards whether they had a plan to rescue Mr Abbott. Both were then ferried away into a waiting car in an evacuation that left the prime minister without a shoe.

However, in an embarrassment for the Prime Minister, Tony Hodges, one of her media advisers was forced to resign today after it emerged he had tipped off a "stakeholder" about Mr Abbott's presence at the function and the person had then informed the protesters. Ms Gillard's spokesman said the staff member had not encouraged violence but the tip-off was "an error of judgment".

The Prime Minister said she respected the right to protest but condemned the turn to violence.

"What I utterly condemn is when protests turn violent the way we saw the way we saw the violence yesterday," she said.

"For myself I was always very confident in the abilities of police. I knew that I'd be fine and I was fine."

And Ms Gillard said she was not fussed about reclaiming the shoe. "I'm in the fortunate situation where I am a woman with a few pairs of shoes," she said.

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News