Thursday, 08 November 2012 17:05
Protesters have hijacked a major political speech for the second time in a week, with Energy Minister Martin Ferguson the latest target of anti-coal activists.
Two protesters walked onto the stage holding paper masks of Mr Ferguson as he launched the federal government's energy white paper in Melbourne on Thursday.
While the minister stood aside, staff took several minutes to get the protesters off the stage, during which time Mr Ferguson was "congratulated" on his energy white paper.
The protesters were from Quit Coal, the same group that crashed a speech by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last Friday.
"Thank you so much for your ongoing support of the fossil fuel industry," one said, patting the minister on the back and shoulder when he finally returned to the lectern.
One sang a song apparently related to the impact of carbon emissions on climate change.
"Fergo, Fergo. Don't worry about that global warming. It's just those hippies moaning. It's all about coal. You make a great big hole," he sang.
Resuming his speech, Mr Ferguson said it was "good to see our taxpayer dollars" being spent on educating the young men, drawing laughter and applause from the audience.
The minister did not address the incident in a news conference after the speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event.
But a spokeswoman for Mr Ferguson said his advice to the protesters would be to read the white paper.
Another staffer said the minister's security was a matter for the Australian Federal Police.
The two protesters were among about six members of the Quit Coal group at the event, some of whom were sitting in the media section.
All were eventually ejected from the Hilton Hotel in central Melbourne.
Outside the hotel one of the men, who called himself Fregmonto Stokes, told AAP he had taken to the stage "to support Mr Ferguson and congratulate him for developing the brown coal industry in Victoria".
A statement from Quit Coal said Mr Stokes and Dominic O'Dwyer had been protesting against the government's prioritising of gas expansion and industry deregulation.
"The government has firmly placed the interests of the fossil fuel industry above that of Australian families," the statement said.
Mr O'Dwyer was among a group of several protesters who disrupted the start of a speech by Mr Abbott in Melbourne last Friday.
He was also involved in the scaling of Victoria's Parliament House in September, when protesters unfurled an anti-coal sign.
A few minutes into Mr Abbott's speech, Mr O'Dwyer appeared on the stage saying he was happy to see Mr Abbott and looked forward to him becoming prime minister.
He noted the opposition leader thought global warming "is a bunch of crap".
Mr Abbott was also mobbed by a small group of protesters as he reached his car when leaving the conference.
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