By Luke Voogt
A retired Ocean Grove bishop has accused a local MP of barring him from grilling Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Australia’s “secretive” Border Protection policy.
Former Anglican Bishop Peter Danaher joined about 50 people protesting outside an invitation-only community meeting at Highton Bowls Club on Monday.
“They don’t want us to be any part of the discussion,” said Rev Danaher, who is president of the Victorian Council of Churches.
“It was an absolute waste of time and an insult to people who have a view on a subject.”
Rev Danaher contacted Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson’s office when the Combined Refugee Action Group informed him on Friday about the meeting.
But Ms Henderson’s office told him the meeting was at capacity.
“I went to the venue regardless, in case there happened to be any spare seats.”
Two police officers blocked the doors to the meeting but a fellow protestor saw plenty of spare seats prior to it commencing, Rev Danaher said.
He was on Ms Henderson’s mailing list and was disappointed not to receive notice of “the so-called community meeting”, he said.
He had planned to question the minister on “women and children living in appalling conditions” on Manus Island and Nauru.
“All the issues pale into insignificance when you look at the way people are treated,” he said.
But Ms Henderson said the meeting was “at capacity” and that she worked very hard to represent her constituents’ views on asylum seekers.
“It was simply not possible to accommodate everyone who wished to attend,” she said.
“I respect Rev Danaher’s right to protest and I would be pleased to assist him in any way I can.”
Ms Henderson promoted the government’s immigration policies, which included abolishing 457 visas and deporting non-citizens who commit serious crimes.
“Our government has removed 2000 children from detention, closed 17 detention centres and is working hard to re-settle asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru who were put there by Labor.”