NSWCCL News

Was systemic racism a factor in the death of Aboriginal woman Tanya Day?

24 May 2019

Yorta Yorta woman Ms Day died in hospital on 22 December 2017. Around 3pm on 5 December 2017, she was arrested for allegedly being intoxicated on a train in Castlemaine, Victoria. There is conflicting evidence about the charge. The conductor said Ms Day was unruly, and called police, further alleging she did not have a ticket. The Guardian reported that Ms Day did have a ticket. Other witnesses said Ms Day did not appear intoxicated, though CCTV suggested Ms Day was slightly unsteady on her feet.

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NSWCCL priorities for the incoming federal government

Civil liberties and human rights priorities for the incoming government 

The Federal Elections will be held on the 18th May 2019.  In recent years civil liberties and human rights have come under unprecedented attack from federal governments in Australia. It is to be hoped that the incoming government will be more supportive of our liberties and rights and perhaps even give consideration to remedying some of these previous decisions.

In this spirit NSWCCL has conveyed to members of parliament and political parties our priorities for action by the elected Government and the new Parliament in the first term of the government.

We have focussed on 9 areas of action

  • legislate a strong Human Rights Charter for Australia immediately
  • establish a broad based National Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission with strong powers and the right to hold public hearings when that is in the public interest
  • halt the excessive flow of National Security and Counter-Terrorism legislation and review the cumulative impact of the very large body of these laws on civil liberties, human rights and democracy in Australia
  • act to better protect a free and independent media - and especially the independence and viability of the ABC
  • work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to achieve better outcomes on their priority issues including:  enshrine an indigenous Voice in the constitution, establish a Makarrata Commission, implement the Pathways to Justice recommendations
  • respect the rights of Asylum seekers: end off-shore detention, implement the medevac policy on the Australian mainland in the spirit of the legislation; accept the NZ settlement offer
  • protect merit appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
  • shut down the Witness K and Bernard Collaery Conspiracy Case or, if it continues, ensure that the court is open to the public and the media
  • ensure more robust and effective privacy practices in the digital era, remove exemptions for political parties from the Privacy Act, legislate the right to sue for invasion of privacy, set up an internet regulatory body,  

You can read the detail of our analysis and recommendations in the NSWCCL Priorities for the Incoming Government public statement.

We will be contacting the new Government and relevant Ministers after the election to continue our advocacy on these matters.

We invite you to raise them directly with the new Government. We also invite you to join us in working on our campaigns on these issues – become a member and/or an active supporter.  

 

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NSWCCL submission to Productivity Commission on Mental Health

The Productivity Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into mental health. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) submission to this inquiry is now online.

Our submission focuses on two issues. First, it addresses features of the justice system, and Aboriginal people with disabilities. It then turns to considering the social security systems, and how these contribute to mental health issues in Australia.

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Where do the parties stand on asylum seeker policies?

9 May 2019

Interested in Asylum Seekers issues and wondering where to send your preferences?

This question led the NSWCCL Asylum Seekers Group to send the same five questions to all parties standing for NSW Senate Seats. The questions were:

  1. How will you support the implementation of the Medivac Bill to provide medical assistance to sick and injured Men currently in detention on Manus and Nauru?
  2. New Zealand had offered to settle up to 150 refugees currently in off shore detention. Will your party accept this offer? Why or Why not?
  3. Reports have been made of Australian Border Force Officers approaching single women travelling from Saudi Arabia. These women are then questioned about the whereabouts of their guardians under Saudi law. Do you agree or disagree with Australian Officers implementing Saudi law in our airports?
  4. At present it is easier to visit a prisoner in gaol than in immigration detention. What is your opinion on the strict rules placed on visitors to on shore detention centres such as Villawood.
  5. By reducing access to the Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) in the second half of 2018, the Federal Government left many refugees without the support they needed to be able to access basics such as housing and food while they are settling into Australia. What plans do you have to support refugees as they strive to become part of our society?

We received no responses from the Labor, Liberal or National Parties as well as any other minor parties not mentioned below.

Some parties, Greens, Australian Democrats, Science Party and the Australian Workers Party returned detailed answers to the questions. To provide a couple of points from each:

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Statements from political parties in response to questions on asylum seeker policies

9 May 2019

Greens:

  1. How will you support the implementation of the Medivac Bill to provide medical assistance to sick and injured Men currently in detention on Manus and Nauru?

 The Greens sponsored the Medivac amendment to the Home Affairs Bill that created the process to allow sick refugees and people seeking asylum, on medical advice from two or more treating doctors, to be transferred from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia for medical treatment. We fully support those currently detained in Australia's offshore detention regime being able to receive urgent medical treatment in Australia. 

The Greens do not support offshore detention, and outsourcing our responsibilities and duty of care to people seeking asylum in Australia. We believe the most appropriate healthcare for these traumatised and vulnerable people is on mainland Australia, provided by established medical and allied health services. But until every refugee and person seeking asylum held in offshore detention is brought to safety and freedom in Australia, the Australian Greens will do all it can to ensure all people in offshore detention have access to appropriate GP and specialist medical care, including telemedicine.

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New and coordinated push for abortion law reform in NSW

A major coordinated campaign to decriminalise abortion in NSW was launched today by a new advocacy coalition - the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance. 

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is a foundation member of this new broad-based Alliance and will continue our half century of advocacy for abortion law reform through active participation in the Alliance campaign.

The formation of this Alliance around a renewed campaign to achieve the long overdue decriminalisation of abortion in NSW is an exciting and significant development.

There is reason to hope this alliance of over 60 organisations will be able to persuade members of the NSW Parliament across political divisions to remove the current archaic and cruel law criminalising abortion and allow the women of NSW the right to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.

After all, this is a right which is available to women in every other state and is supported by a clear majority of the community in NSW.

Pro-Choice goals 

The NSW Pro-­Choice Alliance represents expert legal, health and community voices across NSW. We are campaigning to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act and to ensure that abortion is regulated like any other health procedure.

 We recommend the repeal of sections 82­-84 of the NSW Crimes Act 1900 and the implementation of legislation similar to Queensland’s Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 and Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2008. 

We seek changes so that the law will:

  • Regulate abortion as a health procedure
  • Ensure consistency with contemporary clinical practice, and public health standards
  • Empower women with the right to choose what happens to their own bodies, and guarantee equal access to safe, high quality healthcare, and
  • Align with international human rights obligations

Next steps

The Alliance will be discussing the proposed reforms with the Government, Opposition and other members of Parliament as well as seeking further community support.

NSWCCL urges CCL members and supporters to contact their local members and members of the Legislative Council and discuss the urgent need for decriminalisation of abortion in NSW.  

 

PCA media statement 2/5/19

List of supporting organisations

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New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties welcomes ALP support for Aboriginal legal aid and justice reinvestment

29 April 2019

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has welcomed a pledge by the Australian Labor Party to invest $107 million to address the disproportionate incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The announcement by Labor’s shadow Indigenous Affairs spokesperson Pat Dodson and shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus includes $44 million in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal Services, $21.5 million for family violence prevention legal services, $21.75 million for justice reinvestment programs in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory. Labor has also committed to adopting justice targets as part of the Closing the Gap framework.

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Supreme Court of Western Australia rules bottom pinching isn’t indecent assault

A controversial Local Court judgment in Western Australia in relation to indecent assault has been upheld by the Western Australia Supreme Court. The judgment turned on an agreed set of facts. After a charity wheelchair basketball event, members of the police team prepared to take a group photo. One of the men in the photo said something like “don’t take this the wrong way”, and as the photo was about to be taken, pinched a woman on the side of her right buttock. The woman accepted that this action was intended to be “in some way humorous" and was done "in order to provoke a startled reaction”.

It was agreed that there was an unlawful assault, however the prosecution needed to also show the assault was indecent. Indecent assault carries up to 5 years imprisonment, and a fine of $24,000. For an assault to be indecent, it must have a sexual connotation, and offend against prevailing contemporary community standards of decency and propriety. The Magistrate made a series of findings, concluding that touching a person’s bottom was not necessarily or inherently indecent and the pinch in this case was an example of unlawful but not indecent touching.

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The arrest and threatened extradition of Julian Assange

On Thursday 11 April 2019, Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange was arrested by British police after the Ecuadorian embassy withdrew Assange’s asylum. Assange is currently facing two charges – one concerns failing to surrender to the British courts in 2012. The other charge is at the behest of the United States government, which is seeking to extradite him in relation to an alleged conspiracy between Assange and Chelsea Manning over the leaking of secret documents in 2010.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties President, Pauline Wright, said “No matter what our personal views of Julian Assange may be, there are important matters of principle at stake that go beyond the personalities involved. We must condemn the decision of the United States to seek the extradition and prosecution of a non-citizen who published truthful information about US war crimes. This has clear implications for the protection of whistle-blowers into the future and the independence of the press.” She said “What is to stop more authoritarian regimes claiming a similar right to prosecute Australians in the future, including journalists exposing war crimes or corruption? The Australian government should urge the United Kingdom to block Assange’s extradition to the United States.”

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High Court upholds safe access zones for abortion clinics

High Court protects women’s safe access to abortion clinics

Today the High Court of Australia made a decision which maintains greatly needed legal protections for women seeking reproductive health care - including abortion- in Tasmania and Victoria.  NSWCCL welcomes this unanimous upholding of the current laws in these states.  

The provisions, which provide these protections within a 150-metre safe access zone, had been challenged by anti - abortion campaigners who argued they infringed their right to free speech and political protest.

In rejecting this line of argument, the High Court found that any impediment to free speech or political protest caused by its prohibition within this limited 150 metre zone was ‘negligible’.

This accords with the position NSWCCL took in supporting the passage of the NSW Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics legislation in 2018. We took this position as an organisation which has defended civil liberties for over 50 years and approaches any law which limits free speech or political freedom with great caution.  We considered the NSW legislation to be necessary and reasonable. 

The High Court decision today provides a very welcome level of certainty as to the constitutionality of the NSW safe access zone provisions.

The decision not only provides clarity as to the constitutionality of existing provisions it also provides a context which should facilitate the extension of these much-needed legal protections to women in Western Australia and South Australia.

We extend our thanks to the Human Rights Law Centre and the Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic for their submissions to the High Court in defence of the safe access zones.

In NSW we must now turn our attention to the achievement of abortion law reform in this term of government. 

 

NSWCCL Public Statement on HC decision 

Detailed analysis of HC judgement

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