A young man ran out of a crowd Wednesday and fired two blank shots from a starter's pistol at Prince Charles.

The 45-year-old heir to the British throne was startled but unharmed.Police said the man was a student who had written Charles last month to complain about Australia's treatment of Cambodian boat people.

The assailant dashed 30 yards onto an outdoor stage where the prince was about to speak to 10,000 people at sunset celebrations marking Australia's national day. The man tripped and fell over a lectern on the stage as security guards and dignitaries wrestled him to the ground only feet from the prince, who was whisked off the platform by a cordon of police.

Channel 9 television news identified the man as David Kang, 23, an Australian-born ethnically Chinese student.

South Wales state Police Minister Terry Griffiths described the attack as a "stunt, not an assassination attempt."

"There was no risk to the prince's physical being at any stage," he said.

Griffiths blamed Buckingham Palace for restricting the prince's security. Palace instructions were "that there are to be no security forces between the prince and the public," Griffith said.

Security will be stepped up for the rest of the tour, he said.

The crowd at the national day celebration was mainly made up of families, including hundreds of children waving Australian flags.

The man fired one blank in the air as he stood in the crowd. He then jumped a barricade and ran toward the stage, firing the second blank as Charles rose from his seat and moved toward a microphone.

The prince appeared momentarily frozen as the man ran toward him. Nearby dignitaries were knocked from their seats in the melee but no one was hurt.

Although startled, the prince continued with a prepared speech that began with him joking about how pleased he was to be in Australia.

The attack on Charles is the second time a gun has been fired at a British prince touring Sydney.

One of Charles' ancestors and a son of Queen Victoria, Prince Alfred, who was Duke of Edinburgh, was shot at by a would-be assassin while at a picnic on the shores of Sydney Harbor on March 12, 1868.

Like Charles, the duke escaped unhurt. The attacker, described by police as a "mentally disturbed Irishman" was later hanged.