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NSWCCL welcomes A-G's commitment to release children from immigration detention

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the Attorney-General’s announcement tonight, on International Human Rights Day, that all children in immigration detention, including those held on Christmas Island, will be released into the community within the next 2 or 3 months.

This announcement shows the government is listening to the Australian community.  The community rejects punitive treatment of asylum seeker children. 

The number of children in immigration detention should be zero.

The 2014 winner of the Human Rights Medal, Dorothy Hoddinott AO, shows what can be achieved when we treat children with dignity.    

Let’s hope that there will be more positive announcements from the government in relation to asylum seekers that shows that Australia is truly are a country of compassion, fairness and human rights.

Update: Sadly it has become clear that the Attorney-General was referring to the release of ONLY the children on Christmas Island. All others will remain in detention.  Also doubts have also been raised as to whether the Christmas Island children will be released into the community when they arrive in Australia. The Attorney should clarify this immediately. Seems we still have a way to go before the number of children in immigration detention is zero.


NSWCCL condemns the proposed amendments to the Migration Act

NSWCCL's submission into the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014, condemns the proposed amendments to the Legislation, as it is clear the changes intend to punish those who seek asylum from persecution, and who arrive in Australia by boat. In doing so, this Bill perpetuates the myth that asylum seekers who arrive by boat are ‘illegal’ and have no legal right to seek asylum.

Moreover the CCL condemns the amendments which suspend the rules of natural justice as they apply in the Maritime Powers Act. Such suspension removes the possibility of oversight by the judiciary, limiting the challenges to keep the actions of government in check, particularly with respect to the implementation of punitive policies on asylum seekers and refugees.

Click here for the submission


Joint Submission to the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014 - November 2014

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties and the Muslim Legal Network of New South Wales have joined in this submission to highlight the fact that the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014, like the government’s other counter-terrorism laws, are simultaneously an attack on the civil liberties of all Australians and are, rightly or wrongly, perceived as a targeted attack on the Muslim community in Australia.

Summary of Recommendations:

  • We strongly oppose the provisions regarding Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (“the Control Order Regime”).
  • We strongly oppose the provisions regarding the amendments to the Intelligence Service Act (“the Intelligence Act”).

The submission also attacks the unreasonable haste with which these new laws are being introduced, allowing a mere ten days for review and submissions. This does not allow reasonable time for public debate or informed decision making by members of parliament, which we believe amounts to an abuse of process by the Australian Government resulting in reckless lawmaking.

Click here for the submission


National call for proper debate on 'foreign fighters' bill

There is growing alarm that the Australian Government is intent on rushing through Parliament very significant new counter-terrorism legislation - The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014- without allowing the community or the Parliament adequate time to understand or debate this legislation.

This is a reckless approach to legislating in any context- but particularly so when the proposed laws will have very significant implications for Australian's rights and liberties.  Today, 43 civil liberties, human rights, ethnic, academic and other civil society groups and significant academics and lawyers have published a joint statement calling on the Government to slow down:  

'Given the extraordinary nature of this Bill, the undersigned call on the Australian Parliament to not pass the Bill without a more comprehensive public consultation on the necessity of the laws and their compliance with domestic and international human rights obligations.'

NSWCCL, along with Liberty Victoria, Queensland CCL, South Australia CCL and the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, signed this public statement. Two week ago we desperately scrambled to put together a submission on this bill in the ridiculously short time of the 8 days allowed by the Government. This is the largest of the counter-terrorism bills. It amends 20 existing statutes, the explanatory memo runs to 227 pages and the actual bill alone constitutes 158 pages of amendments. 

Plainly, the Government was not intent on a serious or genuine consultation process for this review. There is no urgency in relation to the vast majority of proposed laws in this bill. It is a manifest lack of respect for civil society organisations and their legitimate and important voice in the democratic process of lawmaking- and for the role of Parliament as there is no chance that members will have the opportunity to gain an informed understanding of this large bill and its complex and multitudinous provisions. 

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2014 NSWCCL Annual Dinner

This year’s NSWCCL fundraising dinner was a ripper. It was a success on all fronts.  

There was a splendid turnout of over 250 friends and supporters.  The lively crowd appeared to be having a very enjoyable evening. A strong contingent of students and young members made their presence felt and overall the vibes were terrific.

Most significantly, the gathering was treated to a riveting address by the keynote speaker: Professor Ben Saul. His topic -‘The ideological war on human rights. Why are politicians so hostile to basic freedoms?”-  was spot on for the times. It was directly relevant to the efforts of civil liberties organisations across Australia to temper the Government’s unwise and reckless over-reach in its avalanche of new counter-terrorism laws, its shameful asylum seekers policies and its general attack on traditional rights and liberties.   

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Joint submission to PJCIS inquiry into Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014 - October 2014

Councils for civil liberties across Australia (New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Liberty Victoria, Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, South Australia Council for Civil Liberties, Australian Council for Civil Liberties) have come together to make a joint submission on the Australian Government’s Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014 (the Bill).

The submission address the following issues:

  • Inadequate review timeframe
  • Extension of sunset clauses to 2025
  • Loose definitions and discretionary enforcement related to foreign incursion offences
  • Freedom of travel to 'No-Go Zones'
  • Scope of personal jurisdiction
  • Potential for indefinite arbitrary detention in lieu of timely consent for prosecution from Attorney-General
  • Advocacy offences an unreasonable imposition upon free speech
  • Potential abuse of delayed notification warrants
  • Unjustifiable revisions concerning travel document cancellation
  • Unnecessary enhancement/broadening of customs officers detention powers
  • Suspension of welfare payments retains right of review

NSWCCL has issued extensive public comment regarding this bill - read more here

Click here for the submission


Attorney-General reveals more counter-terrorism decisions

On Monday the Attorney-General held a press conference in which he provided more information on the two ‘tranches’ of counter terrorism legislation he is bringing into the Parliament this week. NSWCCL like other concerned organisations is struggling to stay on top of the fast moving agenda and is increasingly disturbed at what appears to be hasty decision making. 

On the basis of yesterday's press conference we have put out a statement updating our reactions to AG's latest information. This covers the Government's response to the PJCIS report on its review of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (Tranche 1) and the so called bundle of new laws to deal with the threat of Australian jihardist fighters here and overseas - the 'Foreign Fighters Bill (Tranche 2). 

While we, of course, support ASIO and the AFP having adequate powers and resources  to protect Australians against the real threat of terrorist activity - as long as it is consistent with the maintenance of a healthy democracy - there is much to be concerned about in the proposals coming forward.  

Tranche No 1  The National Security Legislation Amendment Act

  • Torture and ASIO immunity in Special Intelligence Operations context

NSWCCL joined others in protesting the potential for the proposed immunity provisions to permit ASIO officers to carry out acts of torture. We therefore welcomes the AG’s decision to explicitly prohibit torture from the immunity provisions associated with the proposed ‘Special Intelligence Operation’.

The explicit prohibition in the legislation is necessary as the existing draft legislation clearly encompassed the possibility of ASIO officers having immunity for acts of torture. The issue was not a ‘red herring’ as the AG claimed, but a significant and relevant concern to remove serious ambiguity from the legislation. 

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Alarmist push on C-T powers –need for considered approach

Next week the Abbott Government will be seeking Parliamentary approval of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2014.  

NSWCCL and the other civil liberties organisations across Australia- along with human rights, legal, media and community bodies- are deeply concerned about and opposed to major elements of the new counter-terrorism proposals in this bill. But at least we have had some time to consider them and present our views–even though the time (20 days) to react to a large and complex bill with such significant new powers and offences was seriously inadequate.

Now it appears the Government will also seek to rush through the, as yet unseen, new bundle of counter-terrorism proposals it has been flagging piecemeal over recent weeks.

This has become clearer in the aftermath of the major counter-terrorism raids in Sydney last Thursday and the resulting very high level of media hype and commentary by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. This is precisely the wrong moment and the wrong kind of context to be rushing through as yet unseen significant new counter-terrorism legislation.  

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Redrafted Borsak bill defiant on multiple property vote

Despite strong protestations from businesses and the public, the NSW Government is proceeding with its City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014  -the ‘Borsak Bill’ - to grant multiple votes to owners of rateable land in the City of Sydney council elections.

NSWCCL joined many other deeply concerned voices in opposing the bill which Robert Borsak from the Shooters and Fishers Party introduced into the Legislative Council with the agreement of the Government. We intervened because the bill is such an obvious and disturbing affront to democratic principle.

The bill was withdrawn from Parliament earlier this month for “redrafting”. There was some hope- given the extent and strength of the opposition to it – that its most offensive elements might be amended. Certainly it was hoped the anti-democratic and retrograde proposal to give two votes to non-residential voters would be amended.  

Astonishingly, the Government has not responded to the criticism. Instead, its redrafting is only at the margins and does not remove the multiple voting rights for non-residential voters.

CCL maintains its opposition to this bill. The proposed changes offend basic civil liberties principles and should be rejected. NSWCCL supports the fundamental democratic principle of one person one vote. It is greatly disappointing that the NSW Parliament appears set to move away from democratic principles towards a local government franchise more strongly based on property.

It is even more disturbing that the Bill will allow these anti-democratic provisions to be extended to other councils by future regulation.

The Bill is currently being debated in the Legislative Council. The Labor Party and the Greens in the LC yesterday both argued strongly and convincingly against the redrafted bill.  As Fred Nile has signalled his support – and a Shooters and Fishers Party member is the lead proponent – the opposition of Labor and Greens will not be enough to block this very bad legislation.

The Greens have proposed amendments which would remove the 2 votes proposal. The independent member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich has an alternative bill which would deliver the administrative improvements which the Government believes are needed, without offending against the fundamental democratic principle of one vote one value.  Labor has indicated its support for the Greenwich Bill. 

Failing any of these gaining support in the Parliament, NSWCCL urges Labor to commit to repealing this legislation as soon as it regains Government.

 CCL statement to MPs

Read Labor and Greens LC speeches 


Ill-conceived bail bill set to become bad law

CCL is strongly opposed to the Governments much criticized Bail Amendment Bill 2014. We oppose it because a flawed policy making process has produced unjust and retrograde draft legislation. We expressed our opposition to the knee-jerk review process to the Government and the review chair and when the bill was debated in the assembly.  

The bill is now being debated in the Legislative Council. It looks certain to be passed with little opposition. Sadly, only 3 members of the lower house voted against it (Alex Greenwich independent, Jamie Parker Greens and Greg Piper independent). Disappointingly, the Labor Party did not oppose the bill.

Given the Shadow Attorney-General Paul Lynch’s robust, detailed demolition of the ill-conceived review of the new Bail Act and the main proposals in the Bill, Labor should support a vote to block the Bill in the upper house. The shadow AG in his second reading speech, correctly described the process leading to the bill:

'The Government's solution was to institute a bail review, which resulted in the bill presently before the House.....there are some obvious points that should be made. Most obviously, the Government does not have the slightest idea what it is doing. Then it went through an extremely exhaustive process to get the Law Reform Commission reform. It then went through another lengthy period and process to respond. After settling on its position, it took 12 months to implement the Act and ensure that practitioners and stakeholders understood it and could implement it. A very lengthy and considered approach, a cautious, careful and serious attempt to implement a change in the law—all blown away by a few weeks of bad publicity. It was a knee-jerk reaction totally at odds with the cautious, considered approach that predated it; a reaction, as was made clear by the comments of Don Weatherburn of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR], that was not based upon any proper statistical analysis.'

T'he speed of its change made clear that the Government had no commitment to the scheme in which it had invested a vast amount of time and to which it devoted a great deal of consultative resources. It did not know what it actually supported, and it will probably change it again at the drop of a hat. ' 

The shadow AG concluded his critique with these words:

'The Opposition does not oppose the bill but it thinks the Government has not the slightest idea what it is doing. The Government flip-flops all over the place about this legislation. There will inevitably be another set of amendments because the Government cannot manage to keep its hands off the legislation; it has no clear idea of what it wants to do and how it will do it. The Government is driven by a number of factors, none of which have anything to do with serious and proper policymaking. The Opposition does not oppose this bill, but it will watch with considerable interest what happens to it over time.'

CCL urges Labor to rethink this decision. It would be an extraordinary manifestation of hypocrisy for Labor to 'not oppose' the legislation, as it has suggested it will do. 

The NSW community is in search of good government.  Labor will only be able to position itself as an electable party if it demonstrates it is capable of acting on principle and sound policy analysis.

Labor knows there was no sound reason for the review.    Labor knows that the Bill is not good law. Labor knows the changes will lead to unjust outcomes for individuals.  Labor knows that the increased gaol population will be an unnecessary cost to Government. 

Labor knows that this whole knee-jerk process to review and amend a new law after 3 weeks is a travesty and a depressing return to the appalling process that generated the 85 amendments that made the old Act unworkable.

The Government should not have introduced this Bill.  Attorney General Brad Hazzard was correct in saying a review was not warranted  (Daily Telegraph 19/6/14).  The law and order auction fuelled by shock-jocks is not in the public interest.

NSWCCL will continue to lobby the Government and the Parliament to withdraw this bill and, in the longer term, to take a more principled and responsible approach to policy development and the making of our laws.