Civil and human rights

NSWCCL urges parliament to pass new abortion reform bill

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties applauds the initiative of Alex Greenwich MP in bringing forward the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019.  If passed by the NSW Parliament this Bill will  decriminalise abortion in NSW and provide the women of NSW with the right to make their own choices about their reproductive health and options.

NSW is the only state or territory which still treats abortion as a criminal act. To obtain a legal abortion in NSW women have to establish exceptional circumstances – ie. that it is necessary to preserve a woman from serious danger to her life or to her mental or physical health and it is not out of proportion to the danger to be averted.

Having to rely on this limited defence is a deeply flawed and unsatisfactory legal position for both women and medical practitioners and results in many women not being able to access safe abortions.

It is well-beyond time for the NSW Parliament to act in the interests of women in this state. Our current law dates from 1900.

The Greenwich Bill, which is closely modelled on Queensland’s and Victoria’s laws, is clear, balanced and sensible.  The provisions in the Crimes Act relating to abortions will be repealed and common law offences relating to abortion abolished.

It will be legal for medical practitioners to perform a termination on a person who is not more than 22 weeks pregnant. The vast majority of terminations occur before 22 weeks.

For a person who is more than 22 weeks pregnant, the medical practitioner and one other must both consider if the termination ‘should be performed’.  In making this decision they are required to consider all relevant medical circumstances, current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances and professional standards and guidelines.

The Bill respects the rights of medical practitioners with conscientious objection but requires them to refer the person to a practitioner who, in their belief, does not have a conscientious objection.

This Bill will bring much needed certainty to NSW women and medical practitioners and make it easier and safer for women choosing to have a termination of pregnancy.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties expresses its appreciation to the Parliamentarians who have come together to progress this Bill: Trevor Khan (National Party), Penny Sharpe (Deputy Leader ALP) and Jo Haylen (ALP)  and to the Health Minister Brad Hazzard who has given his public support to the Bill.

We urge the NSW Parliament to do the right thing by the women of NSW and pass this Bill.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has campaigned for this reform for over 50 years. Over the last two years we have been proud participants in the WEL Round Table – and more recently the Pro- Choice Alliance – of 60 organisations dedicated to persuading the NSW Parliament that they must act on behalf of the women of NSW and reform our archaic and cruel abortion laws.

 

Draft Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

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Regulation of poppers has discriminatory effect on gay community

28 June 2019

Poppers, also known as amyl nitrite, are inhalants. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, they cause a high for about 2-3 minutes. They are also used to “enhance sexual experience”. Specifically, they are muscle relaxants, commonly used by gay men to facilitate anal sex. One study found that poppers were used among gay and bisexual men at a rate of 32 per cent in the last six months. Another study found that two thirds of gay and bisexual men had used it in their lifetimes.

In September last year, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), responsible for regulating drugs and medicine, released an interim report. The report proposed criminalising poppers, classifying alkyl nitrites as Schedule 9 under the Poisons Standard. This would make them the same sort of drug as heroin and cannabis.  Possession of poppers could mean 12 months in jail, or a fine of $2200 under this proposal.

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Geoffrey Rush’s $3 million judgment may have unfortunate implications for #MeToo

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.

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Is Australia failing children accused of crimes?

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.

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Was systemic racism a factor in the death of Aboriginal woman Tanya Day?

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.

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NSWCCL submission to Productivity Commission on Mental Health

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.

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New and coordinated push for abortion law reform in NSW

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.

Pro-Choice goals 

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

Next steps

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.  

 

PCA media statement 2/5/19

List of supporting organisations

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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.

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Supreme Court of Western Australia rules bottom pinching isn’t indecent assault

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.

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The arrest and threatened extradition of Julian Assange

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.”

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