‘Combustible situation’: Chris Minns reveals ‘enhanced’ police patrols at shopping centres, religious sites

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NSW Premier Chris Minns revealed he is “not prepared to say” he has full confidence in the state’s multibillion-dollar mental health network, after Sydney was rocked by two horrific alleged knife attacks.

Six people were killed at the Bondi Junction Westfield on Saturday after Queensland man Joel Cauchi attacked shoppers with a knife, before a second separate alleged attack at a Sydney church on Monday.

Asked if there needed to be a rethink around the handling of mental health issues, Mr Minns told Sunrise on Wednesday morning he admitted “change may be needed and we’re certainly open to that”.

“The government spends about $2.7 billion on mental health programs across the state every year. I have to be confident the money spent is going to the right areas and being deployed in the right ways,” he said.

“I’m not prepared to say this morning that we have full confidence that that is happening, but we are prepared to, of course, work with the experts. If changes need to be made, that’s exactly what we will do.”

A coronial inquest has been announced following Saturday’s deadly knife attack at Bondi that left six people dead, including two mothers, a security guard, and millionaire John Singleton’s daughter, Dawn.

A subsequent and unrelated alleged knife attack at an Assyrian Christian church in southwest Sydney on Monday, labelled as a “terrorist-related” incident, has also sparked an increased police presence.

Mr Minns told Sunrise on Wednesday that NSW Police would be conducting “enhanced patrols” targeting religious institutions throughout the week and into the weekend, especially in Western Sydney.

Speaking later to Today show’s Karl Stefanovic, Mr Minns confirmed the AFP, ASIO, and NSW Police would investigate whether any “red flags should have been obvious to law enforcement agencies”.

“I understand there’s real community concern about this event, and it’s a combustible situation in Sydney at the moment. But, we’ve got very senior, experienced people looking at it right now,” he said.

“We are united in the face of what’s been a terrible week, and there will be no tolerance for anybody that commits a violent act, whether it’s a retaliatory act or it’s an act of terrorism. It’s a difficult situation.”

The Premier rebuffed concerns, including from MP Dai Le, that labelling Monday night’s alleged attack as a terror-related event would only inflame tensions, telling the Today show it was “necessary”.

“It’s not a performative gesture. We’re not interested in labelling one crime higher than another. That designation needed to happen to unlock powers for NSW Police to investigate this crime,” he said.

We need to look at radicalisation. We need to look at this young man’s history prior to these offences. The commissioner deemed it necessary to have access to those powers, and that was supported by the AFP.

“It was co-signed off by the Police Minister … It’s my judgment that the absolute right decision was made, and I just hope people don’t second guess the police. They’ve got a big job ahead of them.”

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was allegedly stabbed multiple times during a live-streamed service at the Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley in Sydney’s west on Monday, and remains in hospital.

NSW Health officials have remained mum on the bishop’s condition, with the church issuing a statement to Instagram on Tuesday requesting privacy and urging “anyone at Liverpool Hospital to vacate”.

A 15-year-old who was reportedly known to police was arrested at the scene, though no charges have been laid. The incident kicked off a violent riot involving a large number of police outside the church.

Speaking to Today on Monday, Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone revealed the teen was “not from Fairfield” as he called on police and the government to be transparent in its investigation of the matter.

“Today it’s Fairfield, tomorrow it could be any town or city across Australia. Keeping people safe is a priority of the NSW government, and we need to make sure that that continues to happen,” he said.

“We’ve seen youth crime spiralling out of control … We want more resources to make sure people are kept safe. We can’t have people going into shopping centres or places of worship and allegedly stabbing people.

He later added: “I am 100 per cent behind the police, because we need to give them all the resources that they need to keep us safe, but we need to be as it was previously said, there needs to be transparency.”

Read related topics:Sydney