AAP news wire, Tue 06 May 1997

German chancellor ignores protesters in nazi uniforms

By Shoshana Lenthen of AAP

SYDNEY, May 6 AAP - German Chancellor Helmut Kohl ignored protesters wearing Nazi SS uniforms as he boarded a boat for a Sydney Harbour cruise this afternoon.

A group of 30 noisy demonstrators, members of the Australian branch of the US-based Church of Scientology, some wearing Nazi SS uniforms and carrying placards reading 'Hands Off Our Religion' and 'Is Germany Really A Free Country?', heckled Dr Kohl before his cruise.

One protester, Liz Reeve, said the German government was orchestrating a campaign against Scientologists, even taking their children from schools.

"That shouldn't be happening to children in any country," Ms Reeve said.

The German Scientologists have accused the German government of discrimination, by not recognising it as a legitimate religion with the attendant tax advantages.

The chancellor and his delegation, including 15 German business leaders, were rushed past the protesters to the Captain Cook cruiser, the John Cadman II.

On board, NSW Premier Bob Carr showed off his ministers including "his youngest one", Sports Minister Gabrielle Harrison.

Others introduced were Roads Minister Carl Scully, Community Services Minister Ron Dyer and Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor.

Earlier, Mr Carr introduced Opposition Leader Peter Collins to Dr Kohl as as "leader of the conservative bloc" of parliament, "like your Christian Social Democrats".

Mr Carr was to have given a short speech welcoming the chancellor but for reasons not told to accompanying media this was put aside, probably so Dr Kohl could enjoy a meal of Tasmanian salmon, washed down with Tyrells Champagne, while taking in the views of a sunny Sydney harbour.

Other guests on board included former prime minister Paul Keating - who is believed to have talked about German architechure with the chancellor - NSW Chief Justice Murray Gleeson and former NSW premiers Neville Wran and Barrie Unsworth.

After the cruise, Dr Kohl was shown around the Sydney Opera House.

Despite a threat of rain earlier today, warm sunshine greeted Dr Kohl on his arrival in Sydney for the final leg of his five-day Australian tour.

A police motorcade escorted the chancellor through the streets of Sydney to the Inter-Continental Hotel, where he and his entourage are staying.

Later today, Dr Kohl and the man described as his likely successor, education and finance minister Dr Jurgen Ruttgers, will host a series of business meetings with the Australian-German Chamber of Commerce.

Dr Kohl will host a function for 1,000 people at the Sheraton on the Park Hotel tonight.

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