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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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Mass data retention - the fight is on

Last year civil liberties and human rights groups resisted, with limited success, the worst elements of the veritable tsunami of new counter-terrorism laws the Abbot Government brought in swift succession to the Parliament.  Now we are fast approaching a decision point in the highly significant and contentious debate as to whether the Australian Parliament will legislate the mandatory collection and retention of mass telecommunications data for the bulk of the population to enable retrospective access by authorities.

Help us fight mass data retention - donate to the CITIZENFOUR screening and send a message to our politicians

It would be a major negative step for a democracy. It will be a major intrusion every citizen’s right to privacy - including those not suspected of any unlawful activity. This will have major flow-on implications for other freedoms and democratic values. In particular, it will undermine a robust and free press and constrain legitimate whistle-blowers by removing any confidentiality from all phone and internet communications.  

The combined CCLS consider it to be a step too far. We strongly oppose the policy concept and urge the Parliament to reject it. 

 

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Vale Kep Enderby

It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of one of NSWCCL’s founding members, Kep Enderby QC, on 8 January 2015. Kep was lifelong advocate for civil liberties and an active progressive force in Australian politics for decades. 

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NSWCCL endorses Law Council of Australia Asylum Seeker Policy

NSWCCL has endorsed the Law Council of Australia’s Asylum Seeker Policy released in November 2014. The Law Council highlights the importance of respecting international human rights principles in the development and implementation of asylum seeker policy in Australia.

The Law Council calls on the Australian government to treat asylum seekers in a dignified and humane manner. The Council stresses the fact that all asylum seekers (regardless of mode of arrival) have a legal right to seek asylum from persecution according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Furthermore, the Council emphasizes the importance of adherence to the principle of non-refoulement. Non-refoulement prohibits States who are signatory to the Refugee Convention from expelling or returning refugees to States where their life or freedom would be threatened. Accordingly, Australia must respect the internationally recognised right to asylum by enacting legal safeguards to protect refugees from refoulement.

The Law Council advocates for the clear legal processes for determining whether an asylum seeker invokes Australia's protection obligations. The Policy also calls for publicly funded legal and migration advice for asylum seekers.

Read the Law Council of Australia Policy


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