Australia’s trade minister Simon Birmingham has joined Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take aim at vandals who defaced statues of Tony Abbott and John Howard over the weekend.
The statues of the former Australian prime ministers were sprayed with red paint on Saturday morning along the Prime Ministers Avenue in the Ballarat Botanical Garden.
Victoria police say they are investigating after the busts were damaged and sprayed with messages.
Mr Howard’s statue was painted with the words “homophobe” while Mr Abbott’s read “pig” and “fascist”.
The statues have since been covered and fenced off and a conservator will assess the damage on Monday.
“I’m devastated about the statues,” the chair of the Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens foundation Elizabeth Gilfillan told the Courier.
“We value each each prime minister in that avenue. To single any out is a shame.”
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Appearing on Channel Seven’s Weekend Sunrise, Mr Birmingham labelled the destruction of statues “very sad” and “inappropriate vandalism”.
“It shouldn’t occur and no doubt it will be investigated,” Mr Birmingham told the program.
He said the Prime Minisers Avenue “celebrates them all regardless of their politics, and it’s a key part of our history as a nation.
“None of us are perfect and none of the figures in history were perfect either.
“But just because of their imperfections, their failings or failures, that doesn’t mean you go about vandalising or tearing down those statues.
“We should learn from history, not seek to airbrush it or shove it away.”
Any normal person would be disgusted at the mindless vandalism of the statues in our Botanical Gardens last night.
— Amy Johnson (@01AmyJohnson) June 13, 2020
The PM told the Sunday Herald Sun the vandalism was “as pathetic as it is disappointing,” and called it “attention-seeking behaviour”.
“Those carrying on in this way are determined to divide and offend Australians at a time when we are bringing our country together to restore to Australians their jobs and livelihoods taken by the COVID-19 crisis.”
It comes as two women were charged after a Captain Cook statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park was allegedly defaced.
Police were alerted to graffiti on the statue about 4am on Sunday and arrested two women – aged 27 and 28 – nearby on College Street in the CBD, NSW Police said in a statement.
The women were allegedly found with several spray cans in a bag. They were charged with destroying or damaging property and possessing a graffiti implement and were refused bail to appear at Parramatta Bail Court later on Sunday.
A Captain James Stirling statue in Perth, Western Australia was on Friday also defaced and a 30-year-old man has been charged with criminal damage or destruction of property.
The statue’s neck and hands were painted red and an Aboriginal flag was painted over the inscription at the base.
Historical monuments across the world have been toppled over the past two weeks as Black Lives Matter protesters marched through the streets to call out racism following the death of African American man George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
In Australia, people have defied public health warnings amid the COVID-19 pandemic and turned out to protest indigenous deaths in custody and to rally in support of the BLM movement in Sydney, Perth, Darwin, Adelaide and Melbourne.
– with AAP
Originally published as Anger at defaced Howard, Abbott statues
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