NSWCCL News

NSWCCL supports school student strike

 

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties applauds school students in Sydney and across the country for walking out of schools in support of climate action.

Climate change is an important issue which will have the deepest effect on the most vulnerable people within society moving into the future.

NSWCCL Vice President, Josh Pallas, said “It is so encouraging for us to see young people mobilised around such an important issue. They are showing bravery in exercising their political rights on an issue that stands to have the greatest impact on their lives. The Prime Minister, our government, and school principals should be encouraged to see that our students are active civic citizens”.

The students have come under sustained criticism from the government for walking out of schools. Some have reported that their principals are threatening reprisals if they attend and wear their school uniforms. NSWCCL condemns any criticism of these students for exercising their democratic rights to freedom of assembly and speech.

NSWCCL President, Pauline Wright said “The Council stands in solidarity with students today. No one should stand in the way of them exercising their rights.”

NSWCCL would like any school students who face reprisals to get in contact with them.

 

Media release

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Breakthrough on national anti-corruption commission?

Today Cathy McGowan (independent MP) succeeded in having her National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 read for the first time in the Lower House.  Two hours later the House joined the Senate in calling on the Morrison Government “to establish a national anti-corruption commission.”

Even the Government appeared to give support to the broad concept.

This is the most positive stance we have had from our national politicians on this long overdue critical reform.  

However, it was short lived. 

Attorney General Christian Porter spent most of his ‘supporting’ speech trashing the model proposed by the cross-bench and warning of the dangers of such bodies.

By Question Time it was clear that the Government’s early support was nothing but a tactic to avoid being defeated on the McGowan Bill in the House. 

The momentary prospect of a serious attempt to build a broad consensus within Parliament on this critical issue has been sadly and recklessly abandoned by the Government.

The establishment of a national integrity body is an urgent and necessary reform to restore trust in our democratic processes and politicians.

The NSWCCL urges the Australian Parliament to move forward on this issue quickly - building in the enormous amount of work already been done inside and outside of Parliament on an appropriately balanced model.

We urge the Government to accept the widespread support for a strong and broadly-based anti-corruption body and give serious support to the process.

This very important reform for the public good should – and could - be achieved before the next election.   

 

To see NSWCCL's position on ICAC, see our submission to the Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission in 2017. See also our statement here from 2017.

 

Contacts in relation to this statement.

Pauline Wright

President

NSWCCL

0418 292 656

 

Stephen Blanks

Treasurer

NSWCCL

0414 448 654

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NSWCCL condemns government attempt to rush Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) condemns pressure from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) to rush its review into the Telecommunication and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018.

On 20 September, the Assistance and Access Bill was referred to PJCIS. Submissions to the Inquiry closed on 12 October, and public hearings into the bill are set to continue to 4 December. The purpose of the bill is to enable police and intelligence agencies to undermine the privacy protections of encryption. Media reports indicate that Dutton wrote to PJCIS, urging it to “accelerate its consideration of this vital piece of legislation to enable its passage by the parliament before it rises for the Christmas break."

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NSWCCL Warns Proposed Citizenship-Stripping Could Make Australians Stateless

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has condemned the push by the Federal Government to advance new laws further stripping away the rights of Australians.

The text of the new bills has not been released. According to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, they will impose conditions on the control, return and re-entry of Australians who have been in conflict zones. They will also make it easier to strip citizenship from Australians who have been convicted of terrorism offences.

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Council for Civil Liberties elects new President Pauline Wright

NSW Council for Civil Liberties is delighted to announce the election of a new
President, Pauline Wright, only the second woman to lead the organisation since its
inception in 1963. Carolyn Simpson QC, former Justice of the Supreme Court of
NSW, was the first female President, from 1975 to 1979.

Wright said “The civil liberties movement has been my life’s work. I’ve been
engaged with NSW Council for Civil Liberties for most of my adult life and I’m
deeply honoured to have been elected President. It has informed almost every aspect
of my professional career. NSWCCL is an increasingly important organisation and its
work is dear to my heart.”

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Vale Ken Horler QC

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is deeply saddened by the death of Ken Horler QC who was a major force in this organisation from its earliest days. From the 1960s to the late 1980’s Ken held numbers of key positions in the CCL including Vice President and, from 1987-92, President. His active contribution to civil liberties took on many forms and encompassed the most pressing of civil liberties issues.

Read our reflection on his contribution to the promotion of civil liberties here. Ken Horler QC Obituary

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NSWCCL demands visa for Chelsea Manning

There are rumours that the Australian Government is moving to refuse a visa to whistle-blower Chelsea Manning who is due to visit Australia soon for a speaking tour.

NSWCCL strongly opposes this as an unwarranted restriction of free speech and of the Australian community's entitlement to hear Chelsea Manning's views directly from her.  We accept that Chelsea Manning fails the character test in s.501 of the Migration Act 1958 but dispute that this is adequate grounds to deny her visa.  There can be no reasonable  apprehension that her speaking tour would cause harm to Australian community or that she will engage in criminal activity while in Australia. 

Her situation is entirely different from that of holocost denialists or advocates of violent misogyny who have been appropriately denied visas on character grounds. ,

We are disturbed at suggestions that the US Government may be pressuring the Australian Government to refuse her visa. If this is correct, it would represent foreign interference with Australia’s domestic affairs of a serious and unacceptable nature.

NSWCCL has distributed a public statement urging the Australian Government to defend and promote free speech and grant a visa allowing Chelsea Manning to come to Australia for her planned speaking tour. 

 

CCL statement on visa for Chelsea Manning 

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CCL recommends opting out of My Health Record

To increase participation by healthcare providers and patients, the health records of all Australians are being automatically uploaded onto the My Health Record database unless they opt out between 16 July and 15 October 2018. There will be ability to opt out after this date, but a My Health Record cannot be deleted, only deactivated and removed from view. Consent in an opt out model relies on apathy, rather than encouraging control by the patient. In practice, the opt out process is cumbersome to implement and, in many cases, patients do not have the capability or capacity to exercise the controls to opt out or implement access restrictions. NSWCCL recommends that, unless there are specific health reasons for not doing so, individuals opt out of the MHR.

Uploading of documents by a healthcare provider is permitted by “standing consent” until that consent is withdrawn by the patient.  It is recommended that patients exercise their right to withdraw consent and advise their doctors when certain information is not to be uploaded.  Audit measures include notification to the patient of first time use by a healthcare “organisation”. However, this and other privacy measures do not eliminate the risk of unauthorised access, unintentional breaches and unwarranted disclosure of patients’ health records, by individuals within or outside those organisations. Proper auditing needs to be specific and visible to the patient, permitting them to decide what level of notification is desired. Disclosure of records should be limited to the minimum number of persons necessary to perform a task.

The Federal “Framework to guide the secondary use of My Health Record system data” is being introduced in 2020. Patients will have to withdraw or opt out of future plans for very broad secondary use of health records, rather than being able to give explicit consent for each disclosure of medical or health data to a third party.

Read more here My Health Record Summary

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NSW CCL supports move to decriminalise abortion in Queensland

On 16 July 2018 the Queensland Labor Government released the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) Review of Termination of Pregnancy Laws report. The report made a series of recommendations, including the draft of a bill that would decriminalise abortion in Queensland.

It is currently unlawful to terminate pregnancy in Queensland, due to sections 224 to 226 of the Criminal Code. As noted in the QLRC report, a termination may be “lawful” if it is “necessary to preserve the woman from a serious danger to her life or her physical or mental health (not being merely the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth) which the continuance of the pregnancy would entail, and in the circumstances not out of proportion to the danger to be averted.” There are currently between 10 000 and 14 000 abortions in Queensland every year. They are mostly performed in the first trimester, with later terminations “comparatively rare”.

Under the current provisions, a person who causes an abortion can be imprisoned for 14 years. A woman who takes something to cause herself a miscarriage can be imprisoned for seven years. Supplying drugs or other instruments used for the purpose of abortion can result in imprisonment for three years.

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Council for Civil Liberties condemns regulations allowing for bans on public gatherings

Statement amended on 26 June: Following media interest, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has responded to criticisms from the NSW Government regarding the breadth of these regulations. CCL appreciates the government’s engagement with our concerns. This statement has been amended to incorporate the Government’s response, which is explained more fully in the final section of this statement. The regulations have also been provided at greater length, to explain other prescribed activities, and to set out penalties stipulated under the regulations.  CCL remains opposed to the regulations in question.

On 1 July, new regulations will come into effect, granting the NSW State Government incredibly wide powers to disperse or ban protests, rallies, and virtually any public gathering across approximately half of all land across the state. CCL strongly opposes these regulations. As is explained in the final section, the NSW Government has responded to our criticisms by arguing that the new regulations are broadly the same as previous regulations. This argument is factually correct, although fines that may be imposed under the new regulations have been increased. However, this does not answer criticism of the merit of the regulations.

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