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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Australian children protest against Hanson

A school boy yells anti-racism slogans during a rally in Sydney

School children in several Australian cities have walked out of their lessons to take part in a series of protests against the right-wing politician Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party.

Reports said the protests in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide drew several hundred demonstrators opposing what they said were One Nation's racist anti-immigration and Aboriginal policies.

In Sydney, under a strong police presence, hundreds of students marched on Prime Minister John Howard's office, while in Melbourne more than 800 youngsters took to the streets carrying anti-One Nation placards.

Reports said children as young as eight joined the protests and many were still dressed in their school uniforms.

Youth have their say

"We're an organisation that fights for the rights of young people. As young people we have the right to protest," a Melbourne school student told Australian television.

"We believe that if we can get heaps of people out, then we can expose the lies of Pauline Hanson's One Nation and build an alternative to racism."

[ image: Hanson: causing a storm]
Hanson: causing a storm
But One Nation spokesman, Shaun Nelson, said the students understood nothing of his party's policies, and were being manipulated by communists out to destroy the unity of Australia.

"These young people have no idea what they're talking about. They do not understand One Nation policies at all," Mr Nelson told television reporters.

"They are being used by Communists and Socialists in their agenda to destroy the unity of Australia.

"Our young people's minds are being infected by the poison of communism. This must be stopped and stopped immediately."

Pauline Hanson's party, One Nation, which opposes Asian immigration and foreign investment in Australia, rose to prominence after winning 11 seats in the state of Queensland last month, causing turmoil in Mr Howard's Conservative ruling coalition government.

According to polls, the One Nation party now has the support of almost 13% of the Australian electorate and some political analysts have predicted it could grab the balance of power at the next election.

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