Arrest in Sydney
An activist has been arrested for picking up a flare as thousands of angry federal budget protesters brought Sydney’s CBD to a standstill.
The man, aged in his 20s, was forcefully bundled to the ground by police and put in handcuffs as thousands of protesters marched from inner city Ultimo to Town Hall on Wednesday afternoon.
The man picked up a lit orange flare off the ground and held it aloft before being swarmed by about six police officers, who pushed him against a wall and handcuffed him.
Hundreds of angry protesters surrounded the group and chanted “let him go, let him go” before mounted police moved in and dispersed the crowd.
The man was led away as protesters, mostly students from five different NSW universities, staged an impromptu sit-in at the junctions of George and Hay streets.
After about five minutes, they continued marching – surrounded by police – along George Street, bringing the CBD’s main thoroughfare to a standstill.
They were protesting the federal government’s budget cuts and fears that university prices will rocket under the Abbott government.
Students and their supporters had gathered earlier at the University of Technology Sydney in Ultimo, before marching through the city.
The group chanted “F*** you Tony Abbott, f*** you” and waved placards reading “Pyne you shameful grub” – a reference to Education Minister Christopher Pyne.
There was a person dressed as the Grim Reaper and wearing a Christopher Pyne mask, carrying a coffin with the words “our education” emblazoned on the side.
President of the National Union of Students Deanna Taylor said that the budget had been “cruel”.
“It was a cruel, harsh, mean budget and it’s going to absolutely savage higher education in Australia,” she told the crowd.
“In one swoop on Tuesday, the federal government not only attacked the universal healthcare system as we know it, schools, pensioners, hospitals, they also attacked higher education and young people,” Ms Taylor said.
NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has advocated, in some circumstances, for university campuses to be made no-go zones for conservative politicians.
It comes after Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Mr Pyne cancelled a visit to Victoria’s Deakin University on Wednesday on the advice of police.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Mr Pyne and ex-Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella have all been targeted by protesting university students since the budget was handed down.
Drama in Melbourne
Protesters have charged at a police line during a rally against federal budget cuts to education in Melbourne.
As many as 2000 people rallied on the steps of the State Library before walking through the CBD to Parliament House.
A group then ran towards a police line on the steps of Parliament House, with some scuffling with officers who held them back.
The clash was brief and protesters then stood peacefully on the road before leaving.
The protest was organised by the National Tertiary Education Union and the National Union of Students.
One speaker at the rally indicated the protest would be the first in a series of “rallies, sit-ins and civil disobediences” in the fight against the budget cuts.
Some protesters carried black flags and colourful placards to highlight their opposition to the cuts.
Protesters at Wednesday’s rally chanted slogans including “no cuts, no fees, no corporate universities”.
Around 4pm protesters staging a sit-in on the road outside Parliament House were being picked up and removed by police after refusing to leave.
Students ‘forced to steal’
University students may be forced to steal to make ends meet under harsh federal budget cuts, Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt says.
Mr Bandt said already struggling students may be forced to do “unsavoury things” to pay their way as increasing university fees and changes to the dole take effect.
He questioned how a young person struggling to find a job was supposed to make ends meet.
“Don’t be surprised if people start stealing things in order to keep themselves,” Mr Bandt told reporters before the student protest in Melbourne.
“That’s the message coming from the welfare groups and the groups representing young people because they know people are doing it tough and this is going to make life even tougher.
“The jobs are just not there for young people at the moment and if the answer to that is to make them live in poverty, don’t be surprised if they start doing things that they would otherwise find unthinkable.”
Access to affordable tertiary education should be a right for all, Mr Bandt said.
“Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and the rest of their associates have all enjoyed a free education, and now they’ve got it you can see them pulling up the ladder behind them to make it tougher for everyone else to get to university.
“If university education becomes something that only the rich can afford, then they are going to start to govern for themselves and stuff everyone else, and sadly we are seeing a preview of that from this government.”