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IANS

Protesters on Thursday set fire to the Old Parliament House in Australia's capital city of Canberra, which badly damaged the front entrance of the building.

Firefighters were called to the site at about 11.30 a.m. (local time), reports Xinhua news agency.

Video footage by local media showed protesters at the front of the building.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that the Old Parliament House, which now houses the Museum of Australian Democracy, was forced to close last week when protesters started a fire at the door, which was later believed to be a ceremonial blaze.

ABC reported that crowds began gathering last week as the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, a site on the lawns outside the Old Parliament House for the political rights of the indigenous Australians, is to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The Old Parliament House was used for parliamentary purpose from 1927 to 1988, when a new building was inaugurated.

Ben Morton, special minister of state and public service minister, who is responsible for Old Parliament House, condemned the damage in a statement on his official website.

"Today's actions at Old Parliament House were not peaceful. The resulting damage undermines the message that peaceful protesters seek to deliver.

"It is the government's expectation that all illegal activity should be dealt with by the police and the courts to the full extent possible," he said.

The Minister noted that damage to the building will be fully restored back to its original condition.

Meanwhile, the ACT Policing confirmed Thursday's incident as continuation of a series of recent protests.

"Old Parliament House was evacuated earlier today after protesters started a fire at the front doors of the building - this was quickly extinguished by ACT Fire and Rescue," 7 News Australia quoted a spokesperson said.

"There has been ongoing protest activity at the front of Old Parliament House throughout the past fortnight."

Reacting to the incident, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said it was "an absolute disgrace".

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