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Australia: Protesters shut down question time

Australia: Protesters shut down question timeThe Turnbull government has ordered an investigation into how dozens of pro- refugee protesters forced the temporary shutdown of parliament's question time as some glued their hands to railings.

The 30-strong group labelled government MPs cowards for walking out of the lower house chamber during their protest.

Speaker Tony Smith suspended the session amid a chorus of shouts soon after question time started on Wednesday.

Proceedings resumed about 30 minutes later when security officers removed the last of the protesters, some of whom glued their hands to railings in the public gallery, from the House of Representatives.

'We are here today because your policies are breaking our hearts, because every day on Manus and Christmas Island is another day in hell,' one of the protesters said.

Most government MPs, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left the chamber during the protest but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and other Labor MPs remained.

The group, from the Whistleblowers Activists and Citizens Alliance, said offshore detention represented a 'state of emergency' as asylum seekers continued to be abused.

They boasted about 'shutting down parliament' on Twitter.

A protester named Sally described her treatment by the police as appalling after her hand was ripped off a balustrade .

'I said my hand was superglued and (the police) said 'Well, that's your problem,' she told AAP.

Another, Samantha Castro, displayed bruises on her arms.

'Like the cowards they are, the Turnbull government walked out,' she said.

It's understood none among the group was charged by police.

When proceedings resumed, the government described the disruption as the most serious intrusion of the parliament since union riots in 1996.

'This is a very serious occurrence,' house leader Christopher Pyne said.

Mr Pyne speculated the group of 'miscreants' may have been invited by an MP.

Ms Castro insisted the group they came through the public entry.

Mr Smith said every aspect of the protest would be investigated and he would report back on the matter.

Mr Shorten said his MPs stayed put during the disruption, sending a signal they would never give in to those who wanted to shut down the parliament.

'This is the exact opposite of democracy.'

But the Australian Greens praised the protesters, with leader Richard Di Natale embracing several of them as he lauded their actions.

'We want to thank you for all that you have done for those poor helpless people,' he told them.

'They don't have a voice, you've given them a voice today.'

Greens senator Nick McKim will move a motion in the Senate on Thursday congratulating and thanking the protesters and supporting their right to

peaceful protest.

Greens MP Adam Bandt praised the actions of the protesters.

'Question Time brought to a halt as peaceful protesters hold MPs to account demanding gov #CloseTheCamps. Brave. Powerful. Proud,' he wrote on Twitter.

Labor MP Tim Watts said it was 'poor form'.

'Preventing elected Members of Parliament from meeting is a poor form of democratic protest,' he tweeted.

Nationals MP George Christensen praised the work of security officers.

'Well done to security for dealing so professionally and calmly with these pro- illegal immigrant protesters who have shut down parliament,' he tweeted.

Members of the group earlier in November chained themselves to the roof of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's electorate office in Brisbane.

The same group disrupted a business speech Malcolm Turnbull gave in Melbourne in August, with one protester making it onto the stage next to the prime minister holding a sign reading 'FFS close the bloody camps'.

Ms Castro said they had a right to protest in parliament.

'We came in as taxpaying citizens into the public gallery to make a statement in the house of democracy that it's no longer acceptable - it's a humanitarian crisis,' she said.

An unidentified protester said in a video posted on the group's Facebook site there was a 'good reason' for the action.

'The Australian government is keeping people in concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru,' she said.

'The recent announcement by the Australian government about the US deal is a one off - it does not solve the problem and creates an island prison for the next 20 years on Nauru for many of the people that won't be taken off.

'So we came here today to tell the Australian government: stop the madness, close the camps.'

A delegation from Papua New Guinea was also in the chamber during the protest.
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