Tony Abbott has ducked a question about whether it was appropriate for New South Wales Police in riot gear to forcibly remove multiple Aboriginal children from a family home in January.
Tony Abbott has dodged a question about the conduct of New South Wales police officers responsible for removing eight Aboriginal children from a family home earlier this year.
Mr Abbott took the question from NITV news reporter Myles Morgan in Arnhem Land today, after an NITV exclusive aired last week showing shocking footage of the raid.
"Prime Minister I need to take you back to January in Mooree when NSW police in riot gear raided a home to remove eight Aboriginal children,” Mr Morgan said. “Is that an appropriate use of force?"
The prime minister began his response by stating he had been on the Truancy Team in Arukune in 2009, where he was told his presence was helpful because he “looked a bit like a police officer.”
"I think that it is important to get the kids to school," Mr Abbott continued. "It is important to get the kids to school and I think all reasonable measures should be considered to get the kids to school because there’s no way they’re going to get a decent education if they don’t go to school and a decent education is the foundation of a good life."
But Mr Morgan was unsatisfied with that response, and persisted.
"That's not the answer I was looking for, prime minister," he said.
"They went to the home to remove the kids from their home, so they were given over to FACS. Is it an appropriate use of force for police in riot gear to go into homes and remove eight Indigenous children?"
Again, Mr Abbott was unwilling to address the raid itself.
"I think it’s perfectly appropriate to try to get the kids to school," he said.
"Now, I’m not here to give advice to the NSW government or NSW Police but certainly the discussions I've had with all the premiers and chief ministers on this subject are we need to try much, much harder, we need to consider new measures to try to ensure that kids go to school."
Watch the full NITV News report below:
New South Wales Police yesterday moved to clarify the details of the operation, in which officers assisted Family and Community Services in the removal of the children.
They rejected claims that they entered the house with weapons in hand and insisted that officers were not dressed in "riot gear".
Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie, the Corporate Spokesperson for Aboriginal Issues, said he had reviewed the early morning operation and was satisfied that police acted professionally.
"At no time were any firearms drawn during this operation, nor were there any long-arms or rifles carried by any of our police in this operation," he said.
“The Operational Support Group police that secured the premises were wearing their standard overalls and police appointments; their weapons and their handcuffs...that they normally wear.
"They also had long batons as part of their public order equipment and on this occasion they were wearing helmets with clear screens on the front."
Watch the original report below: