Federal opposition spokesman for regional development Barnaby Joyce’s keynote address in Bendigo took an eventful turn when an attendee tackled a protester and forced him out of the room.
Mr Joyce was taking questions after his Victorian Rural Press Club address when 100 per cent Renewables campaigner Bernard Tonkin appeared in a sun costume.
Mr Tonkin had purchased a ticket to the event and got changed in the toilets before emerging as the sun and asked if he could give Mr Joyce a present.
Event host and press club president Ed Gannon asked Mr Tonkin to keep it brief as he unwrapped a poster and called on Mr Joyce to back large-scale solar parks.
Mr Gannon asked Mr Tonkin to leave and attempted to usher him out.
An attendee stood up, made a reference to his youth in Collingwood and grabbed Mr Tonkin, hit him with the poster and removed him from the Foundry Hotel.
Mr Tonkin reappeared with his poster and the man again pounced, tackling him and removing him a second time.
The attendee returned and made a reference to his previous dealings with slain underworld figure Les Kane.
Mr Joyce spoke to Mr Tonkin outside the building and accepted the poster.
Representatives from 100 per cent Renewables, a group that polled almost 1000 Bendigo people about solar energy, handed pamphlets to people before they entered the building yesterday.
Mr Tonkin said the nation needed to embrace solar to curb electricity prices.
“Mr Joyce needs to understand that there is a growing movement amongst Australians who are sick and tired of rising energy costs, that pursuing a renewable energy program is a positive step towards alleviating ongoing price rises in energy,” he said.
Mr Joyce told the lunch he supported solar energy but it needed scientific improvements to make it more viable. Mr Joyce told the lunch the government needed to cut “green tape” to better support the agriculture sector and innovation.
He said regional Australia needed to fight to protect its rights and the influence of the Greens was hurting farmers and their ability to manage their land. Mr Joyce also spoke of the need for new dams and called on the state government to keep fighting for cattle grazing in Victoria’s high country.