1986: Angry PM rushes from function amid protest

April 16: Angry Otago rural people rushed a car taking an equally annoyed Prime Minister, the Rt Hon D. R. Lange, away from a tense official function at the Invermay Agricultural Centre in Mosgiel yesterday.

As Mr Lange's limousine, preceded by a police car, swept down the Invermay driveway to head for Dunedin a group broke from a 2,000-strong gathering and with a roar rushed forward.

Placards and banners flew as some of the people attempted to get to the car - some of the protesters were struck by flying placards.

The roar intensified as the cars left the drive and moved on to the highway, once again into the path of more protesters. As the cars sped away there was confusion as people rushed in different directions.

No one was hurt in the melee. The protesters had stood silently on the Invermay lawn for more than 40 minutes.

Earlier, the invited guests, who had gathered to hear the Prime Minister and two other speakers give addresses, were unaware that Mr Lange, stung by an attack on Government, had thrown out his prepared speech.

Mr Lange simply declared the complex open after thanking the dignitaries and greeting the official guest. When he turned and resumed his seat, however, there were awkward moments for officials who were expecting a message of about 20 minutes duration.

The gathering had listened to Invermay director, Dr A. J. (Jock) Allison, welcome the party, and then listened intently as the president of Otago Federated Farmers, Mr C. A. G. (Colin) Richardson, launched into a speech which reflected the anger and frustration reported in the farming community.

Giving no visible sign of the way he felt about the speech, Mr Lange performed the ceremony and then departed to a marquee where he was to mingle with the invited guests.

The guests, however, stayed away from the marquee in droves. Tables groaning with sandwiches and cakes, tea and coffee, went begging as Mr Lange, sipping coffee, talked quietly with the few people who entered.

Later, he left to speak to a delegation of rural and community concerns and then gave a swift press conference before leaving to face the crowd outside. His waving to them drew roars but the crowd remained still until the cards drew near.

After seeing the delegation for more than 40 minutes Mr Lange said they had had a chance to talk over matters of concern and he said the Government knew of the gravity of the situation.

"It is not just a matter which affects country people but farm service people and ultimately it spins back to the cities. Because of that the Government is addressing the matter as earnestly as it can," Mr Lange said.

"The Government cannot pledge a return to prices in overseas markets we used to enjoy but inasmuch as we can challenge inflation and handle the issues of the climate in which farms can prosper, we're going to get stuck into that even harder," he said.

In reference to his shortened speech, Mr Lange said he departed from it because he was due to open a centre and later was going to discuss agricultural rural politics.

"The understanding was that we would be talking about a centre which is a centre of considerable excellence and research; it is a major Government-supported institution.

"The preceding speaker chose to make a long, sustained political attack on the Government; I chose not to reply to it.

"I paid a tribute to this place; I declared the building open."



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