White power, Nazi salutes to be outlawed in NSW

Bans on Nazi symbolism will extend to white power salutes in NSW after a group of "ridiculous" racists mounted a series of demonstrations in Sydney.

Police broke up neo-Nazi demonstrations on Sydney's north shore over the Australia Day weekend and thwarted plans for about 60 men to rally in the city centre.

Premier Chris Minns on Monday credited police for a great job but flagged legislation might need to be strengthened.

The Nazi salute is explicitly banned in some states, but the law is less clear in NSW.

A test case involving football fans that is before the courts is set to determine in April whether a law against Nazi symbolism extends to public salutes.

But should the prosecution case fail, the premier promised an explicit ban.

"I'll be looking at that case really closely," Mr Minns told reporters on Monday.

"If that legal barrier isn't cleared, we will move legislation to outlaw racist Nazi ideology and white power symbols."

Police stand outside North Sydney station (file image)
There are concerns police don't have enough legal powers against Nazis in public. (Brent Lewin/AAP PHOTOS)

Mr Minns also ridiculed neo-Nazis who gathered in Sydney over the weekend as "morons" and "idiots" espousing a demented ideology, warning those who travelled from interstate that the police could unmask people.

Earlier, he condemned their "obnoxious, objectionable, racist" behaviour.

"This sort of ridiculous behaviour is so out of keeping with the kind of culture that we have built up in this state," he said.

Opposition Leader Mark Speakman said the images of neo-Nazis on Sydney's streets were "incredibly confronting" and had no place in modern Australia.

He said he fully supported any legislative change to curtail the far-right while emphasising laws required enforcement to have an effect.

"What we saw, for example, on the steps of the Opera House in October was disgraceful," he said, referencing reported anti-Semitic chants at a snap pro-Palestinian rally.

"The problem there was not inadequate laws, but enforcement of the law."

It comes as the federal government looks to introduce new religious discrimination laws in coming months.

The proposal would seek to protect people from hate speech and vilification based on their faith.

Laws banning people from performing the Nazi salute in public or displaying symbols such as the swastika came into effect earlier in January.

The federal laws banning Nazi salutes came after similar state prohibition on the gesture in Tasmania and Victoria.

Passage of the legislation came following a rise in reports of anti-Semitism and the use of Nazi symbols by far-right groups.