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Borsak bill offends democratic principles

The voting changes proposed in the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 (the ‘Borsak Bill’)
offend basic civil liberties principles.

The Bill proposes to give 2 votes to owners of rateable land, 2 votes to rate paying lessees, and 2
votes to occupiers of rateable land in the City of Sydney, for that council’s elections.

The NSWCCL supports the fundamental democratic principle of one person one vote.

We do recognise that corporations and businesses have long been entitled to non-residential voting
rights in the City of Sydney. This is not our preferred position which is that democracy is about
representing people not property. 

In the context of the current Bill, we register our strong opposition to the profoundly undemocratic
proposal to increase the current entitlements for corporations owning, leasing or occupying rateable
land in the City of Sydney from one to two votes.

This is a move in precisely the wrong direction for democratic government. The notion of the
property franchise should be being rejected in the interest of effective democracy- not strengthened
as proposed in the Borsak Bill.

NSWCCL urges the NSW Parliament to reject the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014
(the ‘Borsak Bill’)

We note the alternative private members bill has been introduced into Parliament by the
independent MP Alex Greenwich: City of Sydney Amendment (Business Voting and Council Elections)
Bill 2014 (the Greenwich Bill). This Bill is preferable in that it maintains the current entitlements for
eligible corporations and businesses to one vote.

If the parliament considers improvements are necessary to the current arrangements for registration on the electoral roll then the Greenwich Bill is acceptable in that it does not further offend against the fundamental democratic principle at stake.

 

 CCL statement to MPs


NSW bail amendments strongly opposed

The NSW Parliament has today resumed debate on the Government's Bail Amendment Bill 2014. NSWCCL strongly opposes the Bill.

The Government’s decision to respond to a narrow section of the media and hastily and prematurely review the new Bail Act is now history.  It acted with indecent and unwise haste in the face of widespread professional and expert advice that review of the Bail Act was seriously premature and would have to reach conclusions without access to meaningful operational data.

This unsound process has produced a Bill which should be rejected by Parliament as unwarranted and retrograde draft legislation. If the amendments to the Act are passed, the effect will be to graft onto a coherent, unified, clearly grounded and eminently workable system under the 2013 Act a number of qualifications of the kind that wrecked the original 1978 Act.

NSWCCL has two major principled objections to the Bill.

The creation of so-called “show cause” offences constitutes a reintroduction of presumptions against bail for prescribed offences by the back door. The presumption scheme was soundly criticised in the revamp of the Bail Act and this grafts presumptions against bail, with all their faults, back onto the scheme of the 2013 Act. It introduces complications for no clearly discernible legitimate benefit. The effect will be to transfer more power to the police, by their selection of charges before the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has a chance to exercise independent judgment in charge selection.

Further – and more seriously – the onus of proof has been reversed in relation to those offences. Article 9 of the ICCPR states (in effect) that remand in custody is not to be the default position for people – any people – charged with offences, yet this creates such a position and imposes upon the accused to prove that it should not apply.

If one’s right to liberty is to be taken away, then the onus has always been on the party that seeks to remove it to establish lawful grounds for doing so. This will no longer be so in respect of these offences. The mischief done by these provisions is tacitly acknowledged by the exemption of juveniles from the scheme.

NSWCCL has recommended the Bill be withdrawn by the Government or failing that rejected by Parliament. If the Bill is to proceed we have further recommended it should be referred to a Parliamentary Committee for consideration of its implications in relation to the reversal of the onus of proof and the reintroduction of ‘show cause ‘offences and to allow proper public consideration of the Bill

Read CCLs full statement 

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CCL's give testimony at Joint Committee inquiry into National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014

NSWCCL Secretary Dr Lesley Lynch and Civil Liberties Australia CEO William Rowlings have given testimony on behalf of Australian Civil Liberties Councils at the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security public hearing, following a recent joint submission by the councils regarding the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.

Dr Lynch raised a number of concerns with the bill, including the lack of evidence-based justification for some of the enhanced powers, lack of effective oversight, the startling degree of ambiguity and loose definitions throughout and also an apparent lack of consideration of longer term impacts of legislation introduced to allegedly address short-term terrorist threats but ultimately remaining for the longer term. 

Read the transcript here

Read the submission


Joint submission to PJCIS inquiry into Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014 - August 2014

NSWCCL has collaborated with other Australian civil liberties groups in making a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.

The CCLs accept that ASIO and other intelligence and security organisations must have the powers and resources necessary for the protection of national security including protection against the very real threat of terrorist activity in Australia- consistent with democratic values. However, where the proposed changes expand existing ASIO powers and/or weaken balancing safeguards and protections our endorsement is dependent upon persuasive evidence justifying such changes and clear demonstration that rights and liberties are not being unwarrantedly or disproportionately encroached upon

In our view, such persuasive evidence has not been provided to justify some of the new or enhanced security powers being proposed in this Bill.

Read the joint CCL submission here

Dr Lesley Lynch (NSWCCL Secretary) and Bill Rowlings (Civil Liberties Australia) gave testimony at the inquiry's public hearing on the 18th of August 2014. A supplementary submission was subsequently compiled offering more detailed comment regarding the discard of ministerial oversight of particular intelligence sharing between agencies

Read the supplementary submission here

 


Proposed amendment to NSW bail laws : indecent and unwise haste

The Bail Act 2013 was a product of two years’ work by the Law Reform Commission and a team of experts. The Report was tabled in 2012. The Government then carefully considered it and in 2013 passed a new Act which did not merely rubber-stamp the LRC Report. The Act was passed unanimously – no politician, from any party, in either House, voted against it.

There was then a delay while the criminal justice agencies absorbed the changes, trained staff, prepared processes and documentation and got ready for implementation. A great deal of administrative work was done by Police, DPP, Legal Aid, Bar Association, Law Society, Courts, etc.

The Act came into force on 20 May 2014, with much fanfare from the Attorney General. Soon after there were three high profile cases of bail being granted (Hawi, Fesus and Ibrahim). The tabloid media agitated. The DPP appealed the Ibrahim matter and his bail was refused – the system was working as it was intended to. A reading of the judgments in the other two cases would show that principles were properly applied and the decisions were uncontroversial.

On 27 June 2014, just over five weeks after the Act came into effect and before any meaningful data had accumulated (as acknowledged by Mr Hatzistergos), the Premier announced a review, supposedly because the Act was not protecting the community as much as had been intended.

The review was done in just over four weeks by one person. His Report was published today (5 August 2014), a Bill is ready (implementing all the reviewer’s recommendations) and it will go to Parliament next week.

The Government has acted with indecent and unwise haste. There has been no consultation with anyone about the recommendations or the substance of the Bill.

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Newsletter June-July 2014

In this issue:

  • Message from the Secretary 
  • Racial vilification legislation 
  • Independent monitor of counter-terrorism laws abolished
  • Senate election reform
  • Telecommunications interception and access
  • Police powers - safeguard weakened
  • Mandatory minimum sentencing
  • Independence of attorney general and police ministries
  • Racial vilification report deferred
  • Police consorting law reform
  • Oversight of police critical incidents

Click here to view the newsletter online


NSWCCL comments on national security proposals

Attorney-General George Brandis has delivered a press conference introducing the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, which seeks to expand the powers of Australian intelligence agencies. NSWCCL has compiled a list of comments in response to the matters addressed by the Attorney-General at the press conference.

Read the NSWCCL comments in response to AG press conference

View the press conference here

National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014


NSWCCL rejects police commissioner's casual dismissal of privacy concerns

It is disappointing to see the Commissioner of Police's comments in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning defending warrantless access to databases containing personal information.  The police are opportunistically taking advantage of the proliferation of electronic databases which do not have strong privacy policies to protect members of the community against inappropriate release of their personal information.  In the absence of strong data protection laws and personal privacy protection, the only protection the public can get is through privacy policies which require law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants from an independent judge or magistrate before personal information is released.

Read the article here


Civil liberties councils demand scrutiny of national security legislation

Public statement from The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Liberty Victoria, The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, The SA Council for Civil Liberties, Civil Liberties Australia

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CCLs demand scrutiny of national security laws

Civil Liberties Councils across Australia urge the Government- and failing that- the Australian
Parliament to ensure that the foreshadowed national security legislation is subject to proper scrutiny
and not rushed through parliament next week-as some media suggest is the Government’s intention.

The, as yet unseen, legislation will implement most of the 22 recommendations from chapter 4 of
the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Surveillance (PJCIS) report.

This is important legislation with significant implications for national security and for the workings of
our democracy. It is of fundamental importance that we get the balance right in this area.

Members of Parliament and the Australian public must have the time to consider and take advice
on these national security proposals before they are enacted into law.

Parliament must be certain the new laws are necessary, that they include strong protections for privacy and effective independent oversight of the use of these new powers by the intelligence agencies.

The Government should abide by the recommendations of the PJCIS and:

  • release the proposals as an exposure draft bill for public consultation
  • refer the draft legislation for review by an appropriate parliamentary committee (the CCLs consider the PJCIS most appropriate)

 

Read CCLS Public Statement