NSW Premier Chris Minns has issued a mea culpa over his role in failing to control the events in the lead up to the Opera House protests which lead to 1400 pro-Palestinian protesters storming the forecourt.

Confronted with a barrage of questions during budget estimates on Wednesday, Mr Minns said the government should have not allowed protesters to advance to the Opera House while it was being illuminated with the colours of the Israeli flag, as a tribute to the victims of the Hamas attacks.

Chaotic scenes showed some attendees chanting anti-Semitic slurs, burning the Israeli flag and throwing flares at police.

“I deeply regret that and I have to take responsibility for it,” he told the committee.

Although he had been made aware of the escalating tensions, including revised plans by the Palestine Action Group to march to the Opera House, he said he didn’t think at the time to issue orders to prevent the rally from happening.

“I should have, in retrospect, (not allowed) protests from Town Hall to the Opera House” he said.

“We should have made the Opera House Forecourt in the immediate precinct an opportunity for the Jewish community to come together and if there were other protests in other parts of the city, then that should have been allowed to happen but well away from the community that wanted to come together and grieve.

“So I’m admitting that and the only thing I can is we apologise, and we want to learn from it.”

Mr Minns also detailed the conversations he had with his staff during the day, including 11 conversations with his chief of staff, seven conversations with Multiculturalism Minister Steve Kamper, about three calls with Jewish Board of Deputies president David Ossip, plus a call with the Police Minister Yasmin Catley, and Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, Penny Sharpe.

On Tuesday, internal communications between senior NSW Police staff revealed police held concerns over the impact of illuminating the Opera House sails, and feared it could exacerbate community tensions.

In an email time-stamped at 6.10pm on Sunday October 8, a senior staffer in Police Commissioner Karen Webb’s office said the Acting Commissioner David Hudson and herself were “both equally concerned” at how lighting the sails of the Opera House would impact “our streets,” and the “potential further escalation of current tensions in the Jewish Israeli communities”.

The same email also included a request for “an urgent threat assessment” on the impact and risk.

However, the Premier said that he would have committed to the Opera House tribute regardless.

“I think we made the right decision and given the circumstances, I would have made the same decision,” he said.

“Municipalities and cities around the world would have been faced with exactly the same set of circumstances and I think it’s important for the committee to note most jurisdictions made exactly the same call.”

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