Civil and human rights

Submission: Religious Freedom Bills 2019

NSWCCL welcomes the opportunity to make a submission on the Drafts of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 [the Bill], the Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religion) Bill 2019 and the Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019.

This submission focuses on the draft Religious Discrimination Bill 2019, making 12 recommendations in total, including a recommendation that the Australian Government should move quickly to the development of an Australian Charter of Human Rights to provide a strong and effective framework for the protection of the rights of Australians.

NSWCCL opposes many aspects of the proposed Bill, most significantly the over privileging of religious rights in relation to all other rights.  Although the Bill has a number of positive aspects, NSWCCL cannot support the Religious Discrimination Bill as currently drafted. It has too many negative aspects which will undermine current anti-discrimination protections, and in its present form, the Bill fails to address pressing issues that are outlined in this submission.

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Bail conditions imposed on Sydney climate change activists a step too far

'Absurd' bail conditions prevent Extinction Rebellion protesters 'going near' other members

Civil liberties groups say bail conditions imposed on Sydney climate change activists are usually reserved for bikie gang members

Climate change protesters arrested for obstructing traffic have been given “absurd” bail conditions that ban them from “going near” or contacting members of 'Extinction Rebellion', which civil liberties groups say infringes on freedom of political communication. Some of those arrested were given a “wild” set of bail conditions that banned them from coming within 2km of the Sydney CBD or associating with Extinction Rebellion events.

“[You are] not to go near, or contact or try to go near or contact (except through a legal representative) any members of the group ‘Extinction Rebellion’,” the conditions say. “[You are] not to enter the Sydney City CBD or not go within 2km radius of the Sydney Town Hall.”

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Pauline Wright, labelled the conditions “patently unreasonable”, “absurd” and likely unlawful under the constitution. She said the ban was so broad and unclear it would affect thousands of people.

Where there is a legitimate political issue such as seeking action on climate change, protesters shouldn’t be seen to be forfeiting their democratic rights including freedom of association, freedom of movement and the implied right to freedom of political expression.”

- NSWCCL President, Pauline Wright.

Read the full article in The Guardian.

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Submission: Right to Farm Bill 2019

CCL is concerned by what would appear to be a crackdownagainst free speech and basic principles of democratic governance.

The proposed legislation is draconian and disproportionate and might be said to infringe at least two of the four core principles of criminal law

  • that the criminal law should only be used to censure people who have committed substantial wrongdoing, and
  • that laws be enforced with respect for proportionality.

This bill appears to be designed to discourage lawful demonstrations and protest contrary to the implied constitutional right to peaceful protest and its constitutionality is for that reason questionable.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) joins with a number of other civil society organisations including unions, environment groups and civil liberties advocates in making the additional submission (set out in Annexure A).

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Historic Abortion Reform Bill passed by NSW Parliament

On Thursday 26th September the NSW Parliament at long last acted to remove abortion from the criminal law and regulate it as a women’s health issue with the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 - (now called the Abortion Reform Law 2019). This is a big and very overdue historical moment for women.  

Women in NSW can now legally access terminations up to 22 weeks into their pregnancy in consultation with their doctor. After 22 weeks they can access a termination in consultation with two medical practitioners.

Achieving this in NSW has required a very, very long campaign by numerous organisations and individuals with ups and many downs since the 1960s. This most recent and successful campaign push over several years was sustained by a broad and powerful alliance of organisations encompassing women’s, legal, health, civil liberties and human rights issues.  Some of these -such as WEL and NSWCCL - were long term players for abortion reform of 50 years plus.

This campaign knew it had strong, majority support in the community. The challenge was to persuade enough members of the Parliament to act on the will of the people and in the interest of NSW women. This crucial and politically fraught task was led by an expanding cross-party group of parliamentarians. The Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich sponsored the Bill. He was initially supported by MLCs Penny Sharp (ALP) and Trevor Khan (National Party) and Jo Haylen (ALP)  and the Health Minister Brad Hazzard. This cross-party support grew to 15 co-sponsors - which we suspect is the largest cross-party group supporting a private members bill in the history of the NSW Parliament.

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NSWCCL writes to MLCs re Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

NSW Council for Civil Liberties has today written to select MLCs to urge them to resist the threats from those who oppose the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019, and to be guided by their conscience.


17 September 2019

Re: Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

Reports of the high level of aggression and threats currently raging around the conscience vote for the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 are deeply disturbing.

Conscience votes within our Parliaments have a very special place in that they allow our representatives the rare opportunity to act on their conscience, free of Party constraints. It has been observed, with some justification, that they bring out the best in our politicians.  Sadly this has not been the case for this Bill.

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Government acts on religious discrimination

Media Statement: 30 August 2019

The Federal Government yesterday released an Exposure Draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 (and two subsidiary Bills) which would make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of their religious beliefs or activities in areas of public life. The NSWCCL welcomes it being released as an exposure draft to allow community consideration and input before the Bill is finalised.

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Submission: Inquiry into the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the NSW Parliament Standing Committee on Social Issues inquiry into the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019.

The passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 through the NSW Legislative Assembly with a vote of 59 to 31 is a long awaited, historic moment for NSW women and the NSW Parliament. We are hopeful this will be followed by the its passage through the Legislative Council without amendment leading to the removal of abortion from the criminal law in NSW.

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Submission: Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019

The Bill responds to a series of political protests that occurred around Australia in April 2019 in which activists sought to draw attention to the legitimate political issue of animal cruelty and the slaughter of animals for human consumption. The protests involved a series of conventional street rallies and less conventional ‘sits-ins’ that saw animal rights activists trespass upon and briefly occupy private property used for the slaughter of animals.

The NSWCCL is proud that Australia has, recently, become an international leader in protecting freedom of speech and expression. To remain at the forefront of these issues, the Commonwealth should not proceed with these reactionary laws.

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Submission: Free and Equal, Human Rights in Australia

A NSW Council for Civil Liberties Submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Free and Equal: An Australian conversation on human rights project. This submission argues that human rights have not been respected in Australia, are not protected, and suggests some methods to improve human rights in Australia.

This submission intends to address the following questions from the Issues Paper:

2. How should human rights be protected in Australia?
3. What are the barriers to the protection of human rights in Australia?

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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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