Aust Day protesters' plea to meet premier

Australia Day protesters in Sydney are being urged to gather in groups of no more than 500 people.
Australia Day protesters in Sydney are being urged to gather in groups of no more than 500 people.

Activists are vowing to march in anti-Australia Day rallies despite the police minister's warning that participants will be fined if they breach public health orders.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott says police will be enforcing COVID-19 public health orders on Tuesday.

"We've issued a number of fines (for previous protests) and people have been before courts and people tomorrow will be exposed to fines because they'll be in breach of public health orders," Mr Elliott told 2GB Radio on Monday.

Outdoor gatherings are currently limited to 500 in NSW, and organisers estimate between 2000 and 3000 people will turn up for the rally.

"I can't believe any organisation, let alone one that pretends to advocate for individual rights, would say 'let's set aside the risks associated with COVID-19, let's breach public health orders, let's get together in spite of the pleas from the community'."

Rally organisers say the government has stonewalled their efforts to agree on a safety plan.

"Organisers have a detailed COVID-safety plan that they have given the NSW government," Greens MP David Shoebridge said on Monday.

"But there has been no response from the NSW government, no response from NSW Health, no response from the NSW Police other than the threats of violence through the police minister."

Mr Shoebridge has published the six-page plan, which was sent to Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Friday.

He said in a statement that it was "every bit as stringent" as the plan governing the recent Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground and "more detailed than that used by shopping malls in NSW".

The plan includes compulsory mask wearing, more than 85 marshals, pre-registration by QR code, hand sanitiser and social distancing.

Mr Shoebridge said it would be a "political crime" not to grant an exemption to the rally when the government has suggested it will lift restrictions later this week.

Organisers have called on Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Police officials to meet with them to agree on the plan.

On Monday evening, they flagged their intention to ask the NSW Supreme Court to intervene and give the protest the green light.

Earlier on Monday, Ms Berejiklian said she respected people's strong feelings on the issue but urged them to respect the public health orders on large gatherings.

"People can express a view within the health orders and that is key," she told reporters.

"Our strong preference is for people to express their views without those gatherings because any gathering is a risk at a time when we have just got through a major outbreak."

Meanwhile, the Bangarra Dance Theatre planned to hold a vigil on Monday evening at Sydney's Barangaroo Reserve, with dance performances and writing from Stan Grant and Adam Goodes.

It's the third year in a row the dance troupe has held the vigil, which it describes as "an opportunity to gather together and experience a night of performance and reflection...(and) a time to consider Australia's Indigenous heritage, as well as its colonial institutions and contemporary multicultural migration, from dusk on 25 January until dawn on 26 January."

Police said a "highly visible and mobile" operation would be in place on Tuesday for outdoor revellers.

Sydney's Circular Quay will be closed to the public by 6pm on Tuesday, with exemptions for those with bookings at restaurant or other venues.

NSW residents are being told to prepare for sweltering conditions with temperatures of up to 40C forecast.

Australian Associated Press