NSWCCL News

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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Hands off the ABC: Senate Inquiry finds political interference in ABC

5 April 2019

NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) condemns political interference in the ABC, in the wake of a Senate Report finding political interference in the ABC by the government.

On 1 April, on the eve of the Federal Budget, the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications published its report on “The allegations of political interference in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)”. The committee found that “political interference or the prospect of political interference, and all that that entails, is experienced to varying degrees throughout the ABC.” It also found that “the Coalition Government has been complicit in the events of 2018 and beyond, by using funding as a lever to exert political influence in the ABC.”

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Justice for Nasrin Sotoudeh: CCL urges the release of Iranian political prisoner

4 April 2019

NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has urged the Iranian authorities to release Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer.

Originally arrested in June last year, Sotoudeh has been sentenced to 38 years imprisonment and 148 lashes. The allegations against her include “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” membership in various human rights groups, “disturbing public peace and order” and “publishing falsehoods with the intent to disturb public opinion.” Amnesty International has adopted her as a prisoner of conscience.

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2018 JOHN MARSDEN LECTURE: Sacrificing Civil Liberties to Counter Terrorism - Where Will it End?

Sacrificing Civil Liberties to Counter Terrorism: Where Will it End?

2018 John Marsden Lecture, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, 22 November 2018

George Williams

 

My talk relates to a long-standing problem:

how to protect the community from terrorism, while at the same time respecting fundamental human rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to a fair trial

This problem has become especially acute in recent times. Governments around the world have responded to the tragic events of September 11, the London 2005 bombings and other attacks by enacting laws that confer extraordinary powers upon governments and their agencies. Such laws may be directed to protecting the community, but they are in the risk of undermining the very freedoms we are seeking to protect from terrorism.

John Marsden speaking at 2018 John Marsden Lecture

George Williams delivering the 2018 John Marsden Lecture.

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A glimpse into the difficulties people seeking asylum face in the courts

3 April 2019

CQX18 is the boat identification of an Iranian man, who applied for a visa in March 2018. This request was rejected, and that decision was reaffirmed in April. He appealed that decision in the Federal Circuit Court in July 2018. Judge Street heard the Iranian man’s appeal that day. Judge Street ruled against him, and ordered him to pay the Minister’s costs of $7328. Judge Street delivered his ruling orally. This presented a significant challenge to the Iranian man. He was not in the courtroom, but connected by video link from Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre.

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