Australia PM Scott Morrison slams ‘ugly racial protests’ in Melbourne

  • Anti-immigration rally on Saturday in St Kilda drew hundreds of demonstrators and counterprotesters, with police trying to keep them apart
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2019, 9:31am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2019, 9:31am

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday slammed “ugly racial protests” in Australia’s second-largest city, after some far-right demonstrators were seen making Nazi salutes.

An anti-immigration rally at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne drew hundreds of demonstrators and counter-protesters on Saturday, but a large Victoria Police presence was broadly successful in keeping the two groups apart.

“I thank Vic police for their efforts dealing with the ugly racial protests we saw in St Kilda yesterday. Intolerance does not make Australia stronger,” Morrison tweeted. “Australia is the most successful migrant country in the world … Let’s keep it that way, it makes Australia stronger.”

Victoria Police Superintendent Tony Silva said on Saturday there was three arrests but no officers or member of the public were known to have been hurt.

Immigration remains a hot-button issue in Australia amid concern about jobs and overcrowding in major cities.

Nearly half of Australia’s population of 25 million was either born overseas or has at least one parent who was.

The rally was organised by founders of the United Patriots Front, which conducts anti-immigration demonstrations in Melbourne from time to time.

The group claimed Saturday’s protest was against African gang violence and youth crime in the city.

Far-right independent senator Fraser Anning – who demanded “a final solution” to immigration in his maiden speech to the Senate last year – attended the St Kilda rally and said it was the “start of something bigger”.

Morrison, whose conservative Liberal-National coalition is struggling to hang on to power in a minority government, last year pledged to slash Australia’s permanent immigration intake to address congestion in the big cities.

But critics of the government said it was pandering to the views of the coalition’s right-wingers and other far-right politicians before national elections that have to be called by mid-May.