Victorian premier accuses pro-Palestine protesters of bringing ‘violence, homophobia and antisemitism’ to Labor conference

<span>Placards are seen as demonstrators gather during a pro-Palestine rally outside the 2024 Victorian Labor state conference in Melbourne on Saturday.</span><span>Photograph: Con Chronis/AAP</span>
Placards are seen as demonstrators gather during a pro-Palestine rally outside the 2024 Victorian Labor state conference in Melbourne on Saturday.Photograph: Con Chronis/AAP

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, has accused pro-Palestinian protesters of bringing “violence, homophobia and antisemitism to the front door of state conference”.

On Saturday morning, ahead of speeches by Allan and the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, a group of protesters entered the Moonee Valley Racecourse building and began chanting outside the conference room filled with MPs, unionist and other rank-and-file members.

Protesters had earlier been rallying outside, with Senator Lidia Thorpe and Brunswick MP Tim Read among speakers.

As attendees arrived at the conference, protesters attempted to bar their entrance.

Footage shows Fraser MP Daniel Mulino being shoved by members of the crowd before security guards stepped in and began escorting Labor members. One guard fell on to a moving escalator as protesters pushed past.

Guardian Australia understands at least one state minister was taunted with homophobic slurs as they arrived.

In a post on X after her appearance at the event, Allan said she was “disgusted” by the protesters’ behaviour at Victorian Labor’s state conference.

“Today, protestors and intruders brought violence, homophobia and anti-Semitism to the front door of state conference,” she wrote.

“I’m disgusted. No one should be cowered by these bullies.

“As premier, my priority is a cohesive society where all Victorians feel safe and respected. That’s what I’m fighting for.”

Allan, surrounded by plain-clothed personal security, was in the conference room as some members of construction union the CFMEU and the Industrial Left faction formed a barricade inside.

The room remained locked for about 15 minutes and the chanting continued throughout the in memoriam section of the conference, marking the deaths of former Labor minister Simon Crean, Dunkley MP Peta Murphy and Senator Linda White.

State MP Sonia Kilkenny, whose seat of Carrum partly overlapped with Murphy’s, said her neighbouring MP for Frankston, Paul Edbrooke, was meant to join her on stage but had been locked out of the conference room.

After Kilkenny’s speech concluded, Labor official Alice Smith told the room that “the protesters who were outside have been moved on”.

She sought to reassure parents that the protesters “did not enter” the on-site childcare, which she said remained “secure and safe”.

A group called Trade Unionists for Palestine said it had called the rally along with other community groups to protest against state and federal Labor “aiding and abetting the genocide of Palestinian people”.

Later on Saturday afternoon, the Labor rank and file carried six urgency motions calling for an end to the Israel-Hamas war.

One motion called on the federal government to “support the inalienable right of self-determination for the Palestinian people” and to “immediately recognise Palestine as a fully independent sovereign state” within the current term of parliament.

Another urged the Albanese government to introduce visa bans for “violent Israeli settlers” and to make it illegal for Australian citizens, companies and organisations to fund settlement activity.

The Allan government, meanwhile, has been urged to scrap a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with the Israel ministry of defence in 2022 and “end co-operation and investments with Israeli weapons companies”, including Elbit Systems, in another successful motion.

Two Labor members, Garth Head and Nick Dyrenfurth, spoke against the motions, with the latter describing them as “a gesture of opposition to Israel, which means de facto a gesture of support for Hamas”.

But Kat Hardy, a supporter of the motions, told the conference floor Paul Hamer, a co-chair of the parliamentary friends of Israel group, “played a constructive role in engaging in the debate”.

While the motions are non-binding on either state or federal Labor MPs, they provide an opportunity for rank-and-file members to shape policy.

The federal government has strengthened its language on the Gaza war in recent months. After calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in December, Albanese joined his Canadian and New Zealand counterparts to urge Israel not to commit what would be a “devastating” and “catastrophic” ground offensive on Rafah in southern Gaza.

Other motions passed on Saturday opposed the federal government’s new gas strategy, urged the state government to guarantee no public land would be sold to private developers when it knocks down the state’s 44 public housing towers, and urged Labor to “vocally and consistently” oppose the Liberal party policy to allow people to access superannuation for housing.

Delegates also passed a motion calling on the state to mandate presumption of bail for children charged with any offence in Victoria and abandon plans to trial ankle bracelets for youth offenders.

• This article was amended on 18 May 2024. A previous version incorrectly attributed a quote by Alice Smith to Labor party member Pamela Anderson.