8 April – Police have used capsicum spray on protesters outside a Liberal Party dinner to mark the 20th anniversary of the election of John Howard’s government.
However, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is suspected to have avoided the skirmish in Melbourne’s Docklands by arriving by boat and entering the back of Shed 14 behind a police line.
About 150 people gathered outside the Central Pier function venue about 6pm on Friday to protest the federal government’s changes to higher education and the treatment of asylum seekers.
Students, unionists and refugee activists held placards and chanted slogans such as “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts.”
The demonstrators scuffled with police, including about 50 uniformed officers, as well as five mounted police and some Australian Federal Police.
The protesters yelled “scum” and “shame” at guests and jostled them as they arrived at the venue and were ushered around the rear of the venue by security guards.
Some of the building’s windows were broken, with officers using pepper spray on about 20 people, including an ABC cameraman.
Matt Munro, 46, from Hoppers Crossing, said he was sprayed in the eyes and mouth at close range after questioning an officer who had allegedly punched his friend.
“I was just trying to protect a friend and there was no need to spray me,” he said.
He and other people were treated by ambulances at the scene.
— Paul Dowsley (@pauldowsley7) April 8, 2016
— Jacqueline Felgate (@Jacquifelgate) April 8, 2016
Mr Howard, as well as Mr Turnbull and Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy were due to speak at the $1100-a-head party fundraiser, held at the Harbour Esplanade venue, Peninsula.
Several state and federal ministers and MPs were also expected to attend the event.
One of the rally’s organisers, Kim Stern, 20, from the Monash Student Association said it had been a success because those who had tickets had an “absolutely horrible time” getting in.
“I don’t think the fat cats and the Liberal Party deserve a peaceful night out when they have abused refugees and attacked students through deregulation and fee hikes,” Stern said.
On Wednesday, riot police clashed with student protesters at the University of Sydney during an event attended by federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham.