NSWCCL has reproduced below the full statement made today by the Chair of the ABC in defence of the independent public broadcaster in response to the intimidating raids by the Australian Federal Police on the ABC and a News Corporation journalist.
We do so because of the profound threat to a free press, to legitimate whistle blowers and to the public's right to know posed by these extraordinary raids.
We do so also because we are greatly relieved that the independent broadcaster has a chair who appears to understand the significance of 'independent' in this context.
ABC Chair Ita Buttrose's statement in full
On behalf of the ABC, I have registered with the Federal Government my grave concern over this week's raid by the federal police on the national broadcaster.
An untrammelled media is important to the public discourse and to democracy.
It is the way in which Australian citizens are kept informed about the world and its impact on their daily lives.
Observance of this basic tenet of the community's right to know has driven my involvement in public life and my career in journalism for almost five decades.
The raid is unprecedented — both to the ABC and to me.
In a frank conversation with the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, yesterday, I said the raid, in its very public form and in the sweeping nature of the information sought, was clearly designed to intimidate.
It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this week's events: raids on two separate media outfits on consecutive days is a blunt signal of adverse consequences for news organisations who make life uncomfortable for policy makers and regulators by shining lights in dark corners and holding the powerful to account.
I also asked for assurances that the ABC not be subject to future raids of this sort. Mr Fletcher declined to provide such assurances, while noting the "substantial concern" registered by the Corporation.
There has been much reference in recent days to the need to observe the rule of law.
While there are legitimate matters of national security that the ABC will always respect, the ABC Act and Charter are explicit about the importance of an independent public broadcaster to Australian culture and democracy.
Public interest is best served by the ABC doing its job, asking difficult questions and dealing with genuine whistle-blowers who risk their livelihoods and reputations to bring matters of grave import to the surface.
Neither the journalists nor their sources should be treated as criminals.
In my view, legitimate journalistic endeavours that expose flawed decision-making or matters that policy makers and public servants would simply prefer were secret, should not automatically and conveniently be classed as issues of national security.
The onus must always be on the public's right to know.
If that is not reflected sufficiently in current law, then it must be corrected.
As ABC Chair, I will fight any attempts to muzzle the national broadcaster or interfere with its obligations to the Australian public.
Independence is not exercised by degrees.
It is absolute.
5 June 2019
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has condemned the raids on journalists by the Australian Federal Police.
NSW CCL President Pauline Wright said “Today, the Australian Federal Police raided the ABC office. Yesterday, they raided the office of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. Two raids in two days cannot be a coincidence. We are witnessing what amounts to a state crackdown on journalism. It strikes at the heart of the freedom and independence of the press, which are a cornerstone of democracy."Read more
5 June 2019
NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) is disturbed by and condemns the prosecution of Australian Tax Office (ATO) whistleblower Richard Boyle.
In April 2018, Mr Boyle told the ABC that the ATO was inappropriately and excessively seizing the funds of people assessed as owing the ATO money, regardless of personal circumstances, in an attempt to raise money for the end of the financial year.Read more
5 June 2019
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) calls for the urgent reform of strip search laws in NSW.
CCL President, Pauline Wright, said “A strip search is an incredibly distressing experience and should only be used as a last resort. Unfortunately, strip searches are increasingly being used by police in NSW as a more or less routine procedure. Many innocent people are being hauled aside and subjected to this indignity with deep and lasting feelings of shame and trauma being suffered by some individuals.”Read more
4 June 2019
On 24 May 2019, Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush was awarded $2.87 million for his defamation case against the Daily Telegraph. This includes $850 000 in damages, almost $2 million in past and future economic loss, and $42 000 in interest. It is the second highest defamation pay-out ever, and the highest ever awarded to a single individual. This sum does not include costs.Read more
27 May 2019
On Monday 13 May, ABC’s Four Corners aired a harrowing exposé about the detention in Queensland of youths suspected of criminal wrongdoing in watch houses. Watch houses are adult maximum security facilities, which are used to hold a range of offenders who have been charged with offences ranging from minor street offences to the most series offences, such as paedophilia, and murder.Read more
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.Read more
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.
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.Read more
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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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:Read more