4 June 2019
On 24 May 2019, Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush was awarded $2.87 million for his defamation case against the Daily Telegraph. This includes $850 000 in damages, almost $2 million in past and future economic loss, and $42 000 in interest. It is the second highest defamation pay-out ever, and the highest ever awarded to a single individual. This sum does not include costs.Read more
27 May 2019
On Monday 13 May, ABC’s Four Corners aired a harrowing exposé about the detention in Queensland of youths suspected of criminal wrongdoing in watch houses. Watch houses are adult maximum security facilities, which are used to hold a range of offenders who have been charged with offences ranging from minor street offences to the most series offences, such as paedophilia, and murder.Read more
24 May 2019
Yorta Yorta woman Ms Day died in hospital on 22 December 2017. Around 3pm on 5 December 2017, she was arrested for allegedly being intoxicated on a train in Castlemaine, Victoria. There is conflicting evidence about the charge. The conductor said Ms Day was unruly, and called police, further alleging she did not have a ticket. The Guardian reported that Ms Day did have a ticket. Other witnesses said Ms Day did not appear intoxicated, though CCTV suggested Ms Day was slightly unsteady on her feet.Read more
The Productivity Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into mental health. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) submission to this inquiry is now online.
Our submission focuses on two issues. First, it addresses features of the justice system, and Aboriginal people with disabilities. It then turns to considering the social security systems, and how these contribute to mental health issues in Australia.Read more
A major coordinated campaign to decriminalise abortion in NSW was launched today by a new advocacy coalition - the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is a foundation member of this new broad-based Alliance and will continue our half century of advocacy for abortion law reform through active participation in the Alliance campaign.
The formation of this Alliance around a renewed campaign to achieve the long overdue decriminalisation of abortion in NSW is an exciting and significant development.
There is reason to hope this alliance of over 60 organisations will be able to persuade members of the NSW Parliament across political divisions to remove the current archaic and cruel law criminalising abortion and allow the women of NSW the right to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.
After all, this is a right which is available to women in every other state and is supported by a clear majority of the community in NSW.
The NSW Pro-Choice Alliance represents expert legal, health and community voices across NSW. We are campaigning to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act and to ensure that abortion is regulated like any other health procedure.
We recommend the repeal of sections 82-84 of the NSW Crimes Act 1900 and the implementation of legislation similar to Queensland’s Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 and Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2008.
We seek changes so that the law will:
- Regulate abortion as a health procedure
- Ensure consistency with contemporary clinical practice, and public health standards
- Empower women with the right to choose what happens to their own bodies, and guarantee equal access to safe, high quality healthcare, and
- Align with international human rights obligations
The Alliance will be discussing the proposed reforms with the Government, Opposition and other members of Parliament as well as seeking further community support.
NSWCCL urges CCL members and supporters to contact their local members and members of the Legislative Council and discuss the urgent need for decriminalisation of abortion in NSW.
New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties welcomes ALP support for Aboriginal legal aid and justice reinvestment
29 April 2019
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has welcomed a pledge by the Australian Labor Party to invest $107 million to address the disproportionate incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The announcement by Labor’s shadow Indigenous Affairs spokesperson Pat Dodson and shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus includes $44 million in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal Services, $21.5 million for family violence prevention legal services, $21.75 million for justice reinvestment programs in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory. Labor has also committed to adopting justice targets as part of the Closing the Gap framework.Read more
A controversial Local Court judgment in Western Australia in relation to indecent assault has been upheld by the Western Australia Supreme Court. The judgment turned on an agreed set of facts. After a charity wheelchair basketball event, members of the police team prepared to take a group photo. One of the men in the photo said something like “don’t take this the wrong way”, and as the photo was about to be taken, pinched a woman on the side of her right buttock. The woman accepted that this action was intended to be “in some way humorous" and was done "in order to provoke a startled reaction”.
It was agreed that there was an unlawful assault, however the prosecution needed to also show the assault was indecent. Indecent assault carries up to 5 years imprisonment, and a fine of $24,000. For an assault to be indecent, it must have a sexual connotation, and offend against prevailing contemporary community standards of decency and propriety. The Magistrate made a series of findings, concluding that touching a person’s bottom was not necessarily or inherently indecent and the pinch in this case was an example of unlawful but not indecent touching.Read more
On Thursday 11 April 2019, Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange was arrested by British police after the Ecuadorian embassy withdrew Assange’s asylum. Assange is currently facing two charges – one concerns failing to surrender to the British courts in 2012. The other charge is at the behest of the United States government, which is seeking to extradite him in relation to an alleged conspiracy between Assange and Chelsea Manning over the leaking of secret documents in 2010.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties President, Pauline Wright, said “No matter what our personal views of Julian Assange may be, there are important matters of principle at stake that go beyond the personalities involved. We must condemn the decision of the United States to seek the extradition and prosecution of a non-citizen who published truthful information about US war crimes. This has clear implications for the protection of whistle-blowers into the future and the independence of the press.” She said “What is to stop more authoritarian regimes claiming a similar right to prosecute Australians in the future, including journalists exposing war crimes or corruption? The Australian government should urge the United Kingdom to block Assange’s extradition to the United States.”Read more
High Court protects women’s safe access to abortion clinics
Today the High Court of Australia made a decision which maintains greatly needed legal protections for women seeking reproductive health care - including abortion- in Tasmania and Victoria. NSWCCL welcomes this unanimous upholding of the current laws in these states.
The provisions, which provide these protections within a 150-metre safe access zone, had been challenged by anti - abortion campaigners who argued they infringed their right to free speech and political protest.
In rejecting this line of argument, the High Court found that any impediment to free speech or political protest caused by its prohibition within this limited 150 metre zone was ‘negligible’.
This accords with the position NSWCCL took in supporting the passage of the NSW Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics legislation in 2018. We took this position as an organisation which has defended civil liberties for over 50 years and approaches any law which limits free speech or political freedom with great caution. We considered the NSW legislation to be necessary and reasonable.
The High Court decision today provides a very welcome level of certainty as to the constitutionality of the NSW safe access zone provisions.
The decision not only provides clarity as to the constitutionality of existing provisions it also provides a context which should facilitate the extension of these much-needed legal protections to women in Western Australia and South Australia.
We extend our thanks to the Human Rights Law Centre and the Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic for their submissions to the High Court in defence of the safe access zones.
In NSW we must now turn our attention to the achievement of abortion law reform in this term of government.
5 April 2019
NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) condemns political interference in the ABC, in the wake of a Senate Report finding political interference in the ABC by the government.
On 1 April, on the eve of the Federal Budget, the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications published its report on “The allegations of political interference in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)”. The committee found that “political interference or the prospect of political interference, and all that that entails, is experienced to varying degrees throughout the ABC.” It also found that “the Coalition Government has been complicit in the events of 2018 and beyond, by using funding as a lever to exert political influence in the ABC.”Read more