'Leave the knife at home': new laws to keep people safe

NSW police will be able to stop and search people for a weapon without reasonable suspicion or a warrant under new laws designed to make the public feel safer and deter people from carrying knives.

Premier Chris Minns said the changes were "commonsense" after a spate of high-profile stabbing attacks, including a massacre at Sydney's Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre in which six people were killed by a knife-wielding man last month.

"The fear or the sense that they may be 'wanded' or searched or scanned at a NSW train station, we hope changes the culture," Mr Minns told reporters on Tuesday.

Emergency services at Bondi Junction after a mass stabbing
Six people were killed when a man went on a stabbing rampage at Westfield in Bondi Junction. (Steve Markham/AAP PHOTOS)

The Queensland-style regulations allow police to use hand-held metal detectors without warrants in designated night precincts and around transit hubs.

The premier is hoping the laws will prompt a culture change and ensure the public feels safe in major areas of crowds or public spaces.

"What it will do is for a certain cohort that are at the moment routinely taking with them a knife, my hope is the fear of being intercepted by NSW Police would lead them to leave their knife at home," he said.

Designated areas to be covered by the laws include transport hubs, shopping centres and other public places where knife crimes had taken place in the past six months.

A high-ranking police officer would need to issue the authority, which would last for 12 hours but could be extended when needed.

Mr Minns likened the use of wands to police deployment of random breath tests to target drink-driving.

"The threat of being caught as a result of an RBT unit on the way home is a major disincentive to drinking and driving and I hope to see the same results as a result of these changes to the law and implementation of Jack's Law in NSW," he said.

NSW Premier Chris Minns
Chris Minns is hoping the new laws will send the message it's unacceptable to carry a knife. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

The legislation will be similar to powers in Queensland that were named after teenager Jack Beasley, who was stabbed to death on the Gold Coast in 2019.

More than 500 weapons have been seized in Queensland since the laws were introduced in March 2023.

The proposal shows public safety is paramount, Police Association of NSW president Kevin Morton said.

"Using wands will give police an additional preventative tool in their kit to detect these dangerous implements in designated areas and keep the community safe," he said.

The legislative changes will also make it illegal to sell knives to anyone under 18, with exemptions for those who need them for work or study.

But the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said the laws would disproportionately impact vulnerable communities and subject them to increased surveillance, harassment and intervention.

President Lydia Shelly pointed towards official figures showing knife-related offences, including assaults and robberies, had consistently trended down in the state over the past two decades.

"There is simply no evidence supporting the introduction of these laws," she said in a letter to the attorney general on Tuesday.

"Proactive policing does not serve as a deterrent for crime, nor does criminalisation and increased penalties."

There were 4258 violent knife incidents recorded in 2004 compared to 1518 on 2023, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

The NSW opposition believes the laws don't go far enough.

Police spokesman and former police minister Paul Toole called for wanding powers to be used by police "anywhere at any time".