- Peter Martin: An education plan for the upper crust
- Christopher Pyne suggests collecting HECS debt from the dead
- Read the Herald's original 1987 report on the protest
It is 1987 and the Labor government, led by prime minister Bob Hawke, is introducing university fees which threaten the free universal education introduced by his Labor predecessor Gough Whitlam.
It is no surprise that students are outraged. It is a surprise to learn who rushes first to the barricades: Joe Hockey, then a 22-year-old Arts/Law student at the University of Sydney, who was protesting against the introduction of a $250 administration fee.
The student Joe Hockey addresses the media in 1987, while protesting against a new university fee.
Fast forward 27 years and now that student is the Treasurer, who used his first budget to introduce higher education reforms that will deregulate fees and make students pay their student loans back sooner and with higher interest.
His student protest from 1987 is featured in an old Channel Nine news report, obtained by Fairfax Media, which shows him staunchly defending free education for all.
"We will continue to go out onto the streets and to protest, and actively encourage the public to support us in our campaign for free education," says the young Hockey, who was the president of the Sydney University Student Representative Council.
Many education experts believe the Treasurer's higher education budget changes will cause the cost of degrees to increase to more than $120,000 and may discourage poorer people from attending university.
The measure Mr Hockey was protesting against was the introduction of a $250 "administration" fee, which he feared would threaten the universal free higher education that he and his contemporaries enjoyed.
In a 1987 article in the University of Sydney newspaper Honi Soit, Mr Hockey also criticised the same university deregulation measure his own government is now proposing.
"The Liberal Party, which released its education policy two weeks ago, promised to cut back funds to universities and, at the same time, leave the universities to charge whatever fee they wished," he wrote.
"Such a policy is suicidal for student welfare. We will have no effective voice in our own fortune."
When asked about his student protesting days on television last week, Mr Hockey said that in your 20s you complain and in your 40s, you explain.
"We obviously were concerned about the fact we were paying fees upfront which no student has to do now," he told Channel Ten.
Mr Hockey said, in response to the unearthed footage: "My involvement in student rallies is well-documented and well-known and there was no HECS scheme at the time. We had to pay upfront without any loan scheme."
On Thursday, Mr Hockey said: ''When I was 21 I thought things would be free and now in my 40s I know they are not.''
The Treasurer brushed aside criticism that he was a hypocrite, telling the Seven Network ''fair dinkum we are a bit more mature in our debate. What we are doing now is very different to 27 years ago''.