‘Chaos’: Journo’s question before boilover
A SMALL gathering of reporters and photographers met Fraser Anning in Cronulla on Friday where the controversial Queenslander tried to push a familiar narrative.
In a park in Sydney's south, not far from where the Cronulla race riots broke out in 2005, the right-wing, former One Nation senator expected to discuss his concerns about immigration.
Senator Anning has been roundly criticised by both sides of Parliament and the public for recent comments about the Christchurch massacre and for attending a rally in Melbourne to support white supremacists.
He has been outspoken about Muslims and Africans who have migrated to Australia, accusing them of refusing to assimilate and suggesting they are a danger to society.
On Friday, he was discussing just that when News Corp journalist Eliza Barr took exception to his comments.
Senator Anning told reporters to "go and have a look at police reports" when Barr, a local crime and courts reporter, told him "I haven't seen a single person who is either Muslim or Sudanese charged with a hate crime of any kind" over a period of seven months.
She shared the exchange on Twitter this morning.
What followed, Barr said, was an interjection from Senator Anning's supporters, including a teenager who allegedly followed her out of the park at the conclusion of the press conference.
When News Corp photographer Dylan Robinson saw what was happening, he rushed over to intervene.
That was when a violent confrontation took place. Footage from bystanders shows Robinson walk up alongside the 19-year-old and raise his camera to take a photograph.
The teenager swatted the camera away before grabbing Robinson's shirt and throwing a number of punches at him.
"Hey, stop. Stop! Help!" a bystander shouted.
But she took the 19-year-old's side, telling Robinson: "You came up to threaten."
"No," he replied.
"Yes you did, I saw it all," she told him.
"I asked him what he said," the photographer said.
Another man then entered the picture.
"If you don't want to aggravate the situation, go that way," he said to Robinson.
"Walk away," Barr told the man.
"I don't have to walk anywhere. And you need to understand what's happening all over the world," he responded.
"He's already in trouble. He just abused me," Barr said, motioning at the 19-year-old.
"I understand that. That's not acceptable," he said.
Police, who had been monitoring the press conference after the Senator was egged during a media gathering earlier this year, eventually loaded the teenager into a police wagon and took him to Sutherland Police Station.
In a statement, NSW Police said the 19-year-old from Randwick allegedly made intimidating comments to the journalist and when her colleague tried to intervene he was allegedly assaulted.
Robinson suffered a number of injuries and saw a doctor on Friday afternoon.
Speaking on Sky News last night, Barr said it was "a very distressing day on the job" and "unlike anything else I've dealt with on the job".
She explained what happened before things turned ugly.
"The mood became increasingly volatile as we discussed events such as the Cronulla riots and his stance on immigration.
"The Senator was saying that Muslim violence was at the heart of what happened that day, but most people generally accept there was violence on both sides.
"I think that is really where he is misfiring with that platform in Sydney's south. People in Cronulla didn't like the riots … it really drove a wedge down the middle of the community.
"So when I asked if he thought he could get votes by championing that to local constituents, that's when the mood started to sour."
She said Senator Anning's supporters took exception to the questions and "it was just chaos".
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance issued a statement after the story broke on Friday.
It is unacceptable in a democracy for journalists to be physically threatened or assaulted in the course of doing their job," the group wrote.
Barr and Robinson both used Twitter to issue short statements. Barr said she was thankful to her colleague for coming to her aid and Robinson said there was no place for violence against members of the media.
"Journalists, photographers and any media should not be subject to any level of verbal or physical abuse for doing their job," he wrote.
"I hope in future people will learn to express opinion in an intelligent and constructive way, rather than derogatory comment and physical abuse."