Civil and human rights

Australia marked down on human rights by Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2015, comments on the Australian government’s human rights record in 2014, stating that the government's failure to respect international standards protecting asylum seekers and refugees continues to take a heavy human toll and undermines Australia’s ability to call for stronger human rights protections abroad. HRW reports on the introduction of new counterterrorism measures, describing them as 'overboard,' stating that the measures would infringe on freedoms of expression and movement. The report also highlights the government's failure to take action to address indigenous rights and disability rights.

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NSWCCL commends parliamentary committee report on Senate election reforms

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters today released its much anticipated interim report on its inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 federal election. The interim report deals with the Senate voting practices.  

NSWCCL commends this hugely important report and supports its recommendations for urgently needed reform to the Senate electoral process.

The Senate electoral system is in disrepute. In the 2013 elections, fundamental democratic principles were breached. Consequently, NSWCCL has seen reform of the Senate voting processes as one of the most significant, current civil liberties issues and has made two submissions and appeared to give evidence to the Committee.

The Committee is appropriately scathing in its assessment of the 2013 procedures -as a few quotes from the Foreward well illustrate: 

'The 2013 federal election will long be remembered as a time when our system of Senate voting let voters down.’

….‘Combined with pliable and porous party registration rules, the system of voting for a single party above the line and delegating the distribution of preferences to that party, delivered, in some cases, outcomes that distorted the will of the voter.’

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NSWCCL reaffirms argument for urgent democratic reform of the Senate electoral system

NSWCCL has made two submissions and given oral evidence to the various stages of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 federal election.  Initially we responded to a useful private members bill introduced by Senator Xenophon advocating optional preferential voting for the Senate. NSWCCL supported that bill in a submission made in December 2013.  Subsequently on 7 February 2014 NSWCCL gave oral evidence before the Federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in which we articulated a set of civil liberties principles that guided our analysis and which we believed had been breached by the 2013 voting processes.

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Supplementary submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters on the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Above the Line Voting) Bill 2013 - May 2014

NSWCCL has made a supplementary submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters on the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Above the Line Voting) Bill 2013.

There is a need to reform the electoral system to ensure that it translates cast votes into a Parliament truly reflecting the collective view of voters.

The following reforms must be made:

  • Introducing optional preferential voting in Senate elections both above and below the line
  • Abolishing group voting tickets for Senate elections
  • Reforming the party registration system.

Failure to reform the electoral system is not an option. Doing so would bring it into further disrepute.

Click here for the supplementary submission

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NSWCCL condemns government proposals on racial vilification legislation

NSWCCL totally opposes the amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Freedom of Speech Repeal of S.18C) Bill 2014 issued as an exposure draft by the Commonwealth Attorney-General on the 25th March 2014.

The amendments will dramatically narrow the definition of unlawful racist speech and the contexts in which racial vilification will be allowed are so broad as to include almost every context in which public racist abuse could occur. The Act will effectively be gutted removing vital protections against racial vilification that have worked well for 20 years.  

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NSWCCL requests withdrawal of repeal of INSLM role from red tape bonfire

Independent Monitor of counter-terrorism laws and intelligence agencies should not be abolished in Government’s ‘red tape bonfire’. NSWCCL urges Government to rethink, and failing that, parliament to block this unflagged repeal of an important and independent player in the oversight and monitoring of extraordinary counter-terrorism laws and the ways intelligence agencies interpret and use them.

NSWCCL Statement (pdf)

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Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters on the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Above the Line Voting) Bill 2013 - December 2013

NSWCCL has called for major reform of the Senate electoral system to ensure Senators are only elected if they have enough voter support and not due to inter-party preference deals. 

We made a submission to a parliamentary inquiry calling for the introduction of optional preferential voting in Senate elections and abolishing inter-party preference deals. This would mean that voters could vote for as many or few Senate parties and candidates as they wished and their preferences would be counted exactly as the voter indicated on the ballot instead of following an inter-party preference deal.

Click here for the submission

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NSWCCL asks for explanation for 'vexatious' charges against CSG protestors

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has written to the Commissioner of Police and Minister for Police asking for an explanation for issuing a ‘trivial’, ‘weak’ and ‘vexatious’ charge against CSG demonstrators, and for assurance that no political purpose or pressure was involved. CCL has also asked the Ombudsman to investigate.

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NSWCCL urges Premier and NSW Parliament to defer or amend Bill extending police 'arrest without warrant' powers

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties today wrote to the NSW Premier, Minister for Police and Attorney General urging the deferral and amendment of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Amendment (Arrest Without Warrant) Bill 2013. A copy of the letter was also sent to all NSW MPs.

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NSWCCL urges NSW Parliament to reject Zoe's Law No. 2

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties has written to all NSW State MPs, urging them to heed to widespread concerns of civil society and reject the Crimes Amendment (Zoe's Law) Bill (No. 2) 2013.

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