Minns open to stronger laws to combat neo-Nazi behaviour

Premier Chris Minns has indicated he is open to strengthening the state’s laws on extremist and hateful ideology after police were called to a Sydney train station on Friday to prevent a group of black-clad men from attending Australia Day events in the CBD.

A total of 61 infringement notices were handed out for intimidation on the New South Wales public transport network yesterday with another five people detained to verify their identity.

The men were released without charge and investigations and inquiries are continuing.

Police questioned men wearing black at North Sydney train station on Australia Day.

Police questioned men wearing black at North Sydney train station on Australia Day.

“[These] idiots frankly tried to destroy[Australia Day] for millions of ordinary Australians,” Minns said. “We’re prepared to strengthen laws when we see a gap as it relates to community harmony.”

The group of about 60 boarded a train at Artarmon before midday yesterday wearing balaclavas and items to conceal their faces and carrying shields and flags,police said.

After members of the public alerted police,the train was slowed down with police stopping the group at North Sydney and issuing move-on orders.

The self-appointed leader of Australia’s neo-Nazis,Thomas Sewell,30,was ordered to stay away from the city’s Australia Day events.

“This is the first time many of them have been unmasked before,and that’s a result of NSW[Public Order certifications] legislation. I think that came as a shock to many of them … their anonymity is a weapon that they use,” Minns said.

In 2022,both NSW and Victoria banned the public display of Nazi flags and symbols. Intentionally bearing swastikas can result in a fine of more than $100,000 and a year’s jail,however,the Sieg Heil salute has yet to be criminalised.

“We are opening to strengthening the laws,particularly in relation to the so-called White Power salutes … we’re prepared to move further,” Minns said.

The premier stressed a number of the organisers had travelled from interstate and had “imported their hate” into NSW.

He thanked the NSW Police and members of the public who reported the group.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joined Minns in condemning the group.

“I don’t want to see people in balaclavas dressed in black from head to toe who are engaged in Neo-Nazi activity in this country,” he said. “It has no place,and it is rightly being condemned by all decent people.”

He said the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had been warning of an increase in neo-Nazi and extremist right-wing activity for some time.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said the Jewish community was heartbroken on Saturday,which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day,following the incident.

“Yesterday we saw uniformed neo-Nazis on the streets of Sydney and chants for boycotts of Jewish businesses and the destruction of the Jewish state,” he said,referencing the incident at Artarmon and Free Palestine protesters in attendance at January 26 marches across the country.

Ryvchin described the audacity of the group to present itself in public and the fact it had faced “virtually no consequences” as “particularly chilling”.

with Mary Ward

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Amber Schultz is a reporter for The Sun-Herald in Sydney.

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