NSWCCL News

Submission: Health Legislation Amendment (Data Matching) Bill 2019

The New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make submissions to the Department of Health on the Health Legislation Amendment (Data- matching) Bill 2019 (Bill) and the Health Legislation Amendment (Permitted Information Disclosure) Regulations 2019.

NSWCCL supports the integrity of the Medicare health payments system provided that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information and the privacy of Australians is respected.

NSWCCL objects to the sharing of sensitive health information with other Commonwealth entities and opposes the Bill in its current form. NSWCCL has a number of recommendations detailed 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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Civil Source October 2019

October 2019 Newsletter

In this issue -

  • Decriminalisation of Abortion in NSW
  • 2019 Annual Dinner
  • Inaugural Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism
  • Action on Climate
  • NSWCCL Annual General Meeting
  • In the media

Read/Download the October Issue (PDF) HERE

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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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NSW farm trespass bill a crackdown on the right to protest

A New South Wales farm trespass bill has been criticised by civil liberties organisations, environment groups and unions for turning into “a crackdown on people’s rights to protest”.

The Right to Farm Bill 2019, currently before the NSW parliament, can punish unlawful entry and disruption on “inclosed lands” with up to three years in jail, and increases the fine from $5,500 to $22,000.

Pauline Wright, the president of the NSW Civil Liberties Council, said the new law was unnecessary and the wording too broad.

“These laws, although they are expressed to be talking about people coming onto farmlands and disturbing farmers going about their business, in fact they apply to any lands that are by definition enclosed … It is a crackdown on people’s rights to protest.”

Wright said that existing laws against trespass already dealt with the issue adequately. The government had earlier increased the penalty from $550 to $5,500 in 2016.

“I can’t see the purpose of these new laws,” she said. “The existing laws already criminalise the behaviour that is targeted by this. It seems to just be grandstanding on the part of the politicians.

“We of course don’t like the notion of anyone entering on private land and acting unlawfully, and that shouldn’t be condoned. And it’s not. The law already adequately deals with that. Imposing tougher penalties won’t do anything. All the research indicates this does not act as a deterrent.”

Read The Guardian article - NSW farm trespass bill criticised for turning into a crackdown on the right to protest

 

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New police device a welcome alternative

The US-designed BolaWrap 100 restraint is being considered as a painless alternative in some situations to the Taser stun gun. The restraint has been demonstrated to police in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania as well as to officers from the Australian Federal Police.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has told nine.com.au the device was a welcome alternative to being shot by a police gun or a Taser.

"The BolaWrap 100 is certainly a welcome alternative to the service revolver and the Taser. It is clearly preferable to Tasers in the sense that it does not inflict continuous pain on the apprehended person," Eugene Schofield-Georgesen, NSWCCL's vice-president, said.

But he stressed the device should only be used "as a tool of last resort" in accordance with police guidelines.

"However, it is a weapon and all weapons contain the potential for harmful misuse and abuse when provided to civil authorities."

 

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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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Review: 2019 NSWCCL Annual Dinner

Thank you to those who joined us and supported this year's NSWCCL Annual Dinner. The room was filled with hundreds of guests; civil libertarians, rights defenders and guardians of democracy.

We were delighted to be joined by Ita Buttrose AO OBE who delivered this year's keynote address. 

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Inaugural Awards for Civil Liberties Journalism 2019

(Photo L to R, Kate Allman, Richard Ackland, Paul Farrell and NSWCCL President Pauline Wright)

The 2019 NSWCCL Annual Dinner (held on September 10th) was marked by the presentation of the Council’s Inaugural Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism. Two awards were presented for an article or series of articles, or a radio, television or podcast presentation, promoting civil liberties. One award was for young journalists under the age of 30, and the other an Open award. Criteria for the awards included both the excellence of individual items and, particularly in this inaugural year, the significance of a sustained body of work. The judging panel was drawn from Journalism, Academia, and the Law.

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