NSWCCL News

Civil Source December 2019

December 2019 Newsletter

In this issue -

  • Medevac - another shameful last week in the Australian Parliament
  • Major rethink on police strip search powers urgently needed
  • Religious Discrimination Bill – trouble ahead?
  • Government secrecy or a free media?
  • Meet the 2020 NSWCCL Committee
  • In the media

Read/Download the December Issue (PDF) HERE

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Australia's 'secret trials'

Media Coverage: ABC Radio The World Today

Are ‘secret trials’ happening in Australia more than we think?

The mysterious case of a man imprisoned in the ACT last year in a process which was hidden from the public, is raising questions over whether more such "secret trials" are taking place in Australia.

It is understood that the prisoner, given a pseudonym of Alan Johns, was a former intelligence official, but details about his crime and background have been kept suppressed.

Interview with: Stephen Blanks, spokesperson, New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Brian Toohey, author and Michael Shoebridge, defence director, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Listen HERE.

 

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Submission: Free and equal, a conversation on human rights

NSWCCL has endorsed the Human Rights for NSW Alliance's submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission's national conversation on human rights in Australia - Free and Equal. The submission makes a number of recommendations and builds the case for a Human Rights Act in NSW. 

NSWCCL is a founding member of Human Rights for NSW Alliance. Human Rights for NSW is an alliance of community, legal, rights-based and civil society organisations campaigning to ensure that the human rights of NSW citizens are expressed and guaranteed by law so we are all treated fairly, and with dignity, equality and respect.

This submission is endorsed by 33 member organisations, including Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Human Rights Law Centre, Community Legal Centres NSW, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT and the NSW Bar Association. 

Everyone in NSW deserves to be treated fairly and equally. NSWCCL supports the campaign for a Human Rights Act for NSW.

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NSW mobile phone detection bill seriously flawed

A NSW Parliamentary Committee has recommended the Legislative Council should proceed to consider the Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019, including any amendments in relation to the reverse onus of proof, the use of artificial intelligence and privacy.

NSWCCL agrees strongly that mobile phone use whilst driving is a serious issue which needs to be addressed to protect the safety of the community.

We do not, however, support this Bill on the basis that it unjustifiably reverses the onus of proof and fails to provide adequate protections to assure the public that the information captured by the cameras is used for the sole purpose of prosecuting mobile phone offences.

NSWCCL also has concerns about the inherent risks of using AI to identify criminal behaviour given the lack of transparency as to the underpinning algorithms driving the assessment.

We welcome the Committee’s recognition of these concerns in their report and single recommendation.

The Bill should be amended significantly to address these problems before the Legislative Council approves it.                                                   

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Mobile phone detection cameras, 'there's no need to reverse the onus of proof' - NSWCCL's Stephen Blanks

Media coverage: The Guardian

Legislation that reverses onus of proof described as ‘a dangerous precedent’

NSW courts could be flooded with tens of thousands of cases every year if the NSW government moves ahead with plans to roll out cameras that use artificial intelligence to detect drivers using their mobile phones, a parliamentary committee has warned.

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties’ Stephen Blanks said there was no need to reverse the onus of proof if the quality of the photographs was high enough to rule out confusion about what was in a driver’s hand.

Read more HERE.

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NSW mandatory disease testing, frontline worker attacks

Media Coverage: 7 News

NSWCCL Treasurer, Stephen Blanks, spoke to 7NEWS Sydney in relation to the NSW Government's announcement to introduce a scheme for mandatory disease testing for people who expose frontline workers to bodily fluid. The proposed scheme would test for blood borne viruses including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. "Reasonable suspicion of a police officer doesn't really provide an evidence-based, medical reason for the action."

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Review: 2019 Annual General Meeting

The 56th Annual General Meeting of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) was held at the Sydney Town Hall Council Chamber, George Street Sydney on Wednesday 23rd October.

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2019 AGM Policy Proposal - Press Freedom & Whistle Blowers

Press Freedom and Whistleblowers

Policy motion considered at the NSWCCL 2019 Annual General Meeting, 23rd October 2019

NSWCCL has for many years defended the rights of a free and uncensored press to ensure the public is sufficiently informed and able to hold those in power to account.

We support the statements of Ita Buttrose at our 2019 annual dinner that there are storm clouds gathering around the ways that information is controlled. Whistleblowers who bring stories to light must not be subjected to a public show of prosecution under the guise of national security, or be censored because their story may cause embarrassment or cost to those in power.

We believe that whistleblowers are not adequately protected in Australia. Particularly in the absence of a bill or charter of rights, specific protection should be enacted.

 

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2019 AGM Policy Proposal - Religious Discrimination Bill

Religious Discrimination Bill 2019

Policy motion considered at the NSWCCL 2019 Annual General Meeting, 23rd October 2019

NSWCCL cannot support the Religious Discrimination Bill (the Bill) as currently drafted. It has too many negative aspects which will undermine current anti-discrimination protections and it fails to address pressing issues. NSWCCL strongly opposes the privileging of religious freedoms over other rights.

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NSWCCL President (and Former DPP) urges drug overhaul

Media coverage: Sydney Morning Herald

The state's former top prosecutor has urged the Berejiklian government to decriminalise the use and possession of illicit drugs in NSW as the "first step" towards full legalisation, as the Premier maintains her opposition to overhauling drug policy to allow a pill testing trial.

Nicholas Cowdery, QC, who was Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW for 16 years, said "any coherent government drug and alcohol policy must be based on health and social foundations, not on the criminal law".

"It is the only practical and principled way to proceed, [and is] also in accordance with human rights," he said.

Mr Cowdery, who is now president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said "decriminalisation, in my view, is just a first step" and the state should eventually move to the "legalisation, regulation, control and taxation of all drugs".

Read more HERE.

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