UPDATE 2:30 pm: Police are investigating the action of protesters in relation to the fire at Old Parliament House at around noon today (30 December).
An ACT Policing spokesperson said there had been ongoing protest activity at the front of the building in the past fortnight.
“Old Parliament House was evacuated earlier today after protestors started a fire at the front doors of the building – this was quickly extinguished by ACT Fire and Rescue,” they said.
“A police investigation into the cause of the fire has commenced.
“Old Parliament House will remain closed until further notice.”
1:30 pm: A fire broke out at Old Parliament House at around noon today (30 December), damaging the entry to the building.
A spokesperson for the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House said the historic building would be closed for the foreseeable future due to fire damage, as well as from water used to extinguish the flames.
The museum’s social media account alleged the fire damage had been caused by protesters.
“We will let you know as soon as we have more information to share,” the museum said.
A local tour operator, who happened on the scene soon after the blaze started, said he was in total “disbelief and dismay” that an icon like Old Parliament House appeared to be targeted.
He said he saw the fire start at the base of the front doors and saw the doors and canopy above it ablaze.
There was also a “chaotic mix” of people there, he said.
“It was absolute chaos. People were all over the road, some clapping and cheering, some dismayed and in a state of disbelief that this could happen in Australia,” he said.
When he returned later, he said it looked like the front doors and canopy had been destroyed.
The building was also damaged by fire last week.