‘It’s time for Saudi women to drive’

Ses­sion halted by protest of asy­lum seeker treat­ment

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

Rowdy protesters demon­strat­ing against Aus­tralia’s treat­ment of asy­lum seek­ers dis­rupted Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, some glu­ing their hands to a rail­ing be­fore se­cu­rity of­fi­cers fi­nally wrested them out.

About 30 demon­stra­tors shout­ing from a pub­lic gallery drowned out the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, where law­mak­ers had gath­ered for a com­bat­ive, daily 90minute ses­sion in which op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tors ques­tion gov­ern­ment min­is­ters about their port­fo­lios.

Speaker Tony Smith ad­journed the sit­ting after the first ques­tion for 40 min­utes while se­cu­rity of­fi­cers re­gained or­der.

An­other 20 protesters linked arms in a pub­lic area at the cen­tre of Par­lia­ment House, de­mand­ing that Aus­tralia re­set­tle refugees who at­tempt to reach its shores by boat. Se­cu­rity of­fi­cers forced them into a lift and sent them to the build­ing's base­ment.

“We are here be­cause your poli­cies are break­ing our hearts,” one pro­tester said.

Aus­tralia has de­terred refugees from com­ing by boat from In­done­sian ports by re­fus­ing to ever re­set­tle them. Aus­tralia sends boat ar­rivals to camps in the Pa­cific is­land na­tions of Nauru and Pa­pua New Guinea, where they face un­cer­tain fu­tures.

The dis­rup­tion came as Par­lia­ment con­sid­ers re­duc­ing pub­lic ac­cess to the build­ing be­cause of the se­cu­rity threat posed by ex­trem­ists.

Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull and other gov­ern­ment law­mak­ers left the cham­ber dur­ing the sus­pen­sion, while most of the op­po­si­tion Labour Party re­mained through­out.

“The rea­son the Labour Party stayed in here to­day is be­cause we will never give in to those who wish to shut this Par­lia­ment down,” op­po­si­tion leader Bill Shorten said when Par­lia­ment re­sumed. “No mat­ter what the protest, no mat­ter who tries it or what the is­sue they think it is, this is the ex­act op­po­site of democ­racy.”

Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Christo­pher Pyne de­scribed the dis­rup­tion as “the most se­ri­ous in­tru­sion into the Par­lia­ment” in 20 years and asked the speaker to in­ves­ti­gate. Saudi Ara­bia’s Prince Al­waleed bin Talal has is­sued a pub­lic call for women to be al­lowed to drive in the con­ser­va­tive king­dom. Prince Al­waleed made the call on Twit­ter, tweet­ing in Ara­bic and English: “Stop the de­bate: Time for women to drive.” His tweet late on Tues­day in­cluded links to an opin­ion ar­ti­cle ar­gu­ing for the change that cited eco­nomic, so­cial and re­li­gious con­sid­er­a­tions. Al­waleed does not hold a for­mal po­si­tion in the Saudi gov­ern­ment. The bil­lion­aire leads the Riyad­hbased in­vest­ment firm King­dom Hold­ing Com­pany, which holds stakes in sev­eral West­ern com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Twit­ter. Saudi Ara­bia is the only coun­try in the world that does not al­low women to drive, and women’s rights ac­tivists have been de­tained for de­fy­ing the ban.

PROTEST: Demon­stra­tors linked arms in a pub­lic area of Par­lia­ment House in Can­berra

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