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3,000 students stage an angry demonstration in Melbourne against the planned graduate tax

PAUL MURPHY: It's been a day of protest around Australia as many students campaigned against the Graduate Tax. The students were angry, and in Melbourne 3,000 of them assembled in the city square and then marched to Melbourne University where they confronted a large group of police. Here's Peter Jepperson.

PETER JEPPERSON: It was a day of comedy, confrontation and farce with student factionalism saving what could have become an ugly riot. The demonstrations - there were two of them - began at 2 o'clock. The main National Union of Students protest began in the Melbourne Town Hall with about 20 students attending. Across the road in the City Square, about 3,000 students were hearing speakers from the various education action groups - they're the activists. Here's Christy Guest from Melbourne University and any relation to Kylie Mole is purely coincidental.


CHRISTY GUEST: I just think this is so great to see this many people. And this isn't being awful, but it's really great that people march. But it's only good if they march, if they decide to get involved after they have. And the education action groups cannot operate on a small amount of people doing a hell of a lot of work. Then there's hundreds of ways you can get involved. If you don't like the way DAG operates, fine, but just do something else. Don't be passively acceptant; that's accepting. That is exactly what they want.

PETER JEPPERSON: Meanwhile, Damien Smith, the education officer with the National Union of Students had left his perch in the Town Hall to try and find the demonstration.

DAMIEN SMITH: We'll be moving people across to the Town Hall, trying to get people in about 2.30 p.m. People may well want to march straight up to Melbourne Uni. If that's the case, we'll be just going up and having the benefit concert as is.

PETER JEPPERSON: What's your role? Have you missed the demonstration? All the action seems to be over here, not in there.

DAMIEN SMITH: Well, we scheduled the demonstration for 2.30 p.m. inside the Town Hall.

PETER JEPPERSON: But their all over there, aren't they?

DAMIEN SMITH: Some people have obviously decided to have their own demo.

PETER JEPPERSON: Have you lost control, have you?

DAMIEN SMITH: No, I wouldn't say that.

PETER JEPPERSON: So while Damien went to look, chaos prevailed. What to do now? March on Melbourne University? March on Allan Bond's office? March on the ALP headquarters? We all marched up Swanson Street in search of a protest venue.


STUDENTS: Free education! Free education! Free education!

PETER JEPPERSON: Finally we arrived at Melbourne University where 30 students stormed the administration building, just as they'd done one month earlier, and while they held a stand-off inside, 3,000 demonstrators gathered and confronted a solid wall of police and police horses, outside.


STUDENTS: Pigs go home! Pigs go home! Pigs go home!

PETER JEPPERSON: It was touch and go. Finally the students inside gave up and left the building. One of those occupying the building was Lyn O'Neill. She assesses the day, after she emerged from the administration block.

LYN O'NEILL: Well, it looks as though it might be over now, but what we think we've achieved - what we've achieved is that we've shown the Labor Government, we've shown Bob Hawke and all the rest of them - John Dawkins, that we are not happy with having to pay for our education, that students are angry and students will not give in.