Protester charged in Australia for striking PM with an egg

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A 24-year-old woman who struck Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with an egg on Tuesday as he campaigned for a May 18 general election has been charged with assault, police said.

Security guards pounced on the protester, who was wearing a beanie and casual clothes, and dragged her away moments after the attack.

“The prime minister was attending an event at Albury Entertainment Centre, when a woman approached him from behind and allegedly struck him with an egg to the back of his head,” New South Wales police said in a statement.

Police, who initially said the woman was 25, said they had been arrested her but they did not identify her nor give any details about her motive.

The woman told reporters moments after the incident that her action “speaks for itself” and she referred to Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, where Australia has long detained refugees, according to a reporter with the Australian newspaper.

She was charged with common assault and drug possession, after police found cannabis on her. The woman was released on bail and ordered to appear in court on May 27.

Morrison rubbed his head briefly after being grazed by the egg, which did not break, and then helped an elderly woman who was pushed to the floor in the scuffle, television images showed.

No injuries were reported, the police said.

“We will stand up to thuggery whether it’s these cowardly activists who have no respect for anyone, or militant unionists standing over small businesses and their employees on work sites,” Morrison tweeted after the incident.

Later, he joked when asked about it, saying he did not want to “over-egg” it.

“Just because you have a difference of view to someone, doesn’t mean you have to engage in these sorts of ugly types of protests ... We have to learn to disagree better,” he told reporters, referring also to recent protests by vegans against farmers.

Opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten called the protester’s action unacceptable.

“This is appalling and disgraceful behavior,” he told reporters.

The incident occurred during a visit by the prime minister to Albury, a New South Wales constituency where an independent candidate is the bookmakers’ favorite as rural voters desert the government.

In March, a teenager smashed an egg onto the head of a controversial right-wing Australian lawmaker who had blamed New Zealand’s mosque shootings on its immigration program.

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Robert Birsel, Michael Perry and Darren Schuettler