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Politicians' visit blamed for Aboriginal riot

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 23 September 2004

Two Federal Country Liberal Party (CLP) candidates have been accused of provoking a riot in an Aboriginal community in Central Australia.

The fight broke out yesterday in the community of Willowra, 300 kilometres north of Alice Springs.

The community's chief executive officer, John Bennett, says the fight involved spears, machetes and nulla nullas and began in the community store.

He says a house was set on fire, a car trashed and people were injured.

Mr Bennett says a visit by CLP Senator Nigel Scullion and the CLP candidate for Lingiari, Maisie Austin, provoked the riot because the two politicians had brought a family with them that had been asked to leave three weeks earlier after a meeting of local elders.

Mr Bennett says he was not made aware of the visit.

"You must have permits et cetera," he said.

"I'm presuming because it's a political party that everything is in order, and no one knew about this meeting until the fights erupted."

Police will return to the community today to conduct further inquiries.

However, Mr Scullion says the riot had nothing to do with his visit and he rejects any claims that it did.

He says tension was in the community before he arrived and he does not need to follow any protocols or require a permit to visit the community.

"Look, I don't think I need to talk to anybody, particularly not the administrator, when I go out to a community," he said.

"I've spoken to members of community already and I was on the way out.

"I don't know about any other protocols, I certainly don't necessarily inform anybody [in] particular."

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