There are calls for a local mayor to stand down after he compared Greater Sydney lockdown restrictions to living under the genocidal regime of Nazi Germany.
The comments have been slammed as “disgraceful and reprehensible”.
Mayor Steve Christou of Cumberland Council, which is located in Sydney’s west and includes Merrylands and Auburn where many of the current cases are cropping up, made the shocking comparison on Friday in response to the NSW government’s tightening of lockdown rules for the worst-hit areas.
Sharing a graphic with new rules announced for the 12 “areas of concern”, which included Cumberland, Mr Christou tweeted, “Welcome to Nazi Germany”.
Residents of Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta and Strathfield local government areas, and some suburbs of Penrith LGA face stricter restrictions than elsewhere.
‘Disgraceful and reprehensible’
Police Minister David Elliott said Mr Christou’s comment was “the most abhorrent thing I have seen in my 35 years of political activism”.
“To liken any Australian government to the horrors of Nazi Germany not only shows a blatant ignorance of history but insults the memory of those who suffered at the hands of Fascism,” he said.
“The mayor should step down and apologise given he is clearly unfit for public office.”
Chief executive officer of the Jewish Board of Deputies Darren Bark told news.com.au that Mr Christou’s comments were a false comparison and “cheapen the horrors of the millions of Jews” who were killed at the hands of the Nazi regime.
“Mr Christou’s comment is as disgraceful as it is reprehensible.
“Any comparison to the deportation and murder of six million Jews and many others by a totalitarian and genocidal regime is absurd and deeply offensive,” Mr Bark said.
“A comparison cannot be made between what happened during World War II, and the efforts of our officials to balance our health and economic needs while under threat from a worldwide pandemic.”
The response online wasn’t much better, with the mayor labelled a “disgrace” for making such an insensitive post.
“Seriously, and you’re a mayor, what a disgrace you are to your job. How pathetic are you to put this out there? You should be sacked for saying such crap,” one person responded.
“To compare this to Nazi Germany is a low act, Mr Mayor. Thousands of people died simply because of their race. Rather than commenting and attacking, maybe you could accept the health advice from public health experts,” another person said.
Mr Christou has been outspoken about his opposition to vaccine passports and mandating vaccinations for people who wanted to continue working in Sydney’s west.
“Dictatorial madness. What is this Zimbabwe or Kazakhstan? Now is the time that strong willed elected representatives need to stand up and fight for people’s rights,” he said on Friday.
On Saturday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was the “most concerning” day of the pandemic the state had experienced so far.
NSW recorded 466 new cases and four deaths, the highest case spike in the state’s history.
Changes to lockdown rules
Fines for breaching public health orders, including lying to contact tracers, will be raised from $1000 to $5000.
A $3000 on-the-spot fine will be issued to people who breach the two-person exercise rule.
A permit will be required for anyone leaving Greater Sydney entering regional NSW.
People in singles bubbles in the 12 “areas of concern” within Sydney’s west and southwest must register their buddy, and they must live within five kilometres.
For Greater Sydney, exercise is now limited to a 5km radius or within the LGA of residence.