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NSW Police has been praised for its 'textbook' approach in shutting down a 'neo-Nazi

NSW Police has been praised for its "textbook" approach in preventing a "Neo-Nazi demonstration" from spreading hate.

Dozens of balaclava-clad members of the National Socialist Network were intercepted on a train on their way into the Sydney CBD on Australia Day and police broke up separate gatherings in Sydney's north on the weekend.

Some of the group's members were from NSW, but at least 20 were from Victoria, with others from Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

Police said on Friday 54 rail infringement notices were issued for offensive behaviour and multiple people were subject to a Public Safety Order, which restricted their movements, until last night.

So what were they doing in Sydney and how should authorities crack down on these types of activities?

Why were they gathering in Sydney?

Kaz Ross, a researcher into right-wing extremism from the University of Tasmania, said the group was on its annual national meet up, which coincided with the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz during World War II.

She said the group had been around for many years, previously trying to infiltrate the Young Nationals Party in NSW and originating in The United Patriots Front (UPF), an Australian far-right extremist group that opposed immigration and multiculturalism.

"Basically they want everybody who is not white to leave Australia," Dr Ross said.

"This group wanted a high-impact stunt in the middle of Sydney … for them it's all about getting attention."

Are NSW hate laws adequate?


The premier said police are ready to act quickly to demonstrations.( ABC News: Ethan Rix )

Dr Ross said NSW Police used a very different approach to Victoria.

"The recent events in Sydney show that when police are prepared to mobilise all their resources, they can successfully thwart the group's plans," she said.

"In Victoria, police have made sure there is no interaction with bystanders or opposition protest groups and this has led to criticism the Neo-Nazis have been escorted through the streets."

"In Sydney we have seen the effective use of de-masking them, taking down their names and fining them on public transport."

However, Dr Ross noted group members had stated they would not pay the fines and their stunt had been a success because they had wasted taxpayers' money.

Deakin University researcher into political extremism, Josh Roose, said the approach to the Neo-Nazis in NSW was "textbook" in stopping people spreading hate.

"NSW has public safety legislation that worked well for police on the weekend," he said.

"This group is struggling to gain a foothold in NSW, partly because it is so multicultural and in many ways people are less likely to be drawn to these movements."

How do the laws differ in each state? 

Dr Roose said anti-vilification legislation in each state was crafted to suit particular circumstances and should work together with federal legislation as a protective framework.

Nazi symbolism is banned in NSW and the swastika is illegal, but there is as yet no specific reference to the Nazi salute.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said hate speech and fascist behaviour was emerging again and police were ready to act quickly.


Premier Chris Minns expressed concern over the "Neo-Nazi demonstration" that converged over the long weekend.(ABC News)

Mr Minns said police can act on evidence or intelligence from the public about the group's plans and emphasised that police have the power to remove balaclavas exposing members of the group as a racist to their family, friends, coworkers and employer.

"They issued a public order notice almost immediately on this group preventing them from coming to the CBD disrupting Australia Day events, preventing them from coming into North Sydney and then extended it for a further two days, as well as issuing many penalty infringement notices," he said.

Last June, the federal government introduced legislation to criminalise the public display of, and trade in, Nazi symbols.

The government said the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill sends a clear message there is no place in Australia for acts and symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust and terrorist acts.


NSW Police issued a public order notice that was extended for two additional days.(Supplied: Jase Kerr)

Amendments have since been introduced to strengthen the legislation by making the Nazi salute a criminal offence under Commonwealth law.

In Queensland publicly displaying hate symbols such as Nazi flags and tattoos is illegal, under new laws passed by state parliament last year.

Those who display, distribute or publish a banned symbol and cause others to feel harassed or offended could face up to six months' jail.

In Victoria, the Nazi salute in public is illegal with a potential $23,000 fine and up to 12 months' jail.

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