NSWCCL held its annual dinner last Friday night to celebrate 54 years of civil liberties advocacy and to raise funds for its ongoing work. Around 260 members and supporters were present to celebrate and to hear speeches from two luminaries of the Australian legal fraternity – the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG and Bret Walker SC.
The gathering was, as usual, a fabulously diverse one including civil libertarian and human rights supporters from many walks of life and activists and advocates deeply engaged in current related causes.
There was a stronger legal contingent than usual, including a goodly number of current or past judges of the High Court, and the Federal and Supreme courts and senior counsels, the President of the NSW Law Society and senior members of the NSW Bar Association - presumably drawn by the stellar legal profile of the speakers.
There were also leading trade unionists, politicians past and present, senior bureaucrats, teachers and academics, journalists and numbers of community and human rights groups.
Most significantly – the gathering included a large number of students and younger civil libertarian supporters. This is heartening for obvious reasons – and, in so far as it reflects the presence and growing influence of younger civil libertarians on the CCL Committee and Executive – it foreshadows a transition already underway in the focus of CCL to civil liberties issues of concern to young people and new approaches to advocacy.
The highlight of the evening was of course the speeches.
The President's message
CCL President Stephen Blanks recalled some of the major issues facing Australians in the past year which had ‘struck deep civil liberties chords’. These encompassed counter-terrorism, indigenous recognition, human rights abuses on Nauru and Manus Island and with NT youth detention, prospective detention / administrative detention, citizenship qualifications for Australian parliament, privacy and government mass surveillance.
Stephen warned that each of these issues ‘eats away at our democracy and makes it more fragile’.
Among the few wins of the past year he flagged the recent striking down by the High Court of the Tasmanian anti Protest Laws and the huge public affirmation of marriage equality – and the now likely passage of the Victorian euthanasia legislation.
For the future, Stephen suggested the forthcoming debate around the passage of the marriage equality legislation might provide some opportunity for a renewed focus on general human rights legislation – if, that is, we can counteract the push for religious-specific protections with the dangerous possibility of unwinding current anti-discrimination protections in Australia. We will also explore the implications of the High Court decision on the Tasmanian protest laws for a challenge to the appalling anti- protest and 'public safety' laws introduced in NSW this year.Read more
National issues | Marriage Equality Postal Survey | Counter-terrorism laws back on the agenda | National Integrity Commission - Senate Committee Equivocates | An Australian Human Rights Charter – worth trying again? | Reform to Federal Custody Notification Service | Australian citizenship changes |
NSW Issues | Martin Place – cruel and unnecessary response | Euthanasia – NSW VAD Bill returns to Parliament
News from CCL | Submissions | Make a Difference: Join an Action Group
National issues | Citizenship and Australian Values | Migration Act changes | A national integrity commission? | No access to telecommunications data in civil proceedings
NSW Issues | Decriminalisation of abortion in NSW | Revenge Porn Bill
CCL Issues | Join our new Submissions group | Join an Action Group
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the
Consultation Paper by the NSW Sentencing Council: Victims’ involvement in sentencing.
(September 2017) (The Paper).
The Paper provides a useful summary of the range of issues around victims’ involvement in
sentencing. CCL has focussed on responding briefly to questions relevant to the issues we regard
as important from a civil liberties perspective. We have focussed on answers rather than
reworking the arguments for various possible responses – as these are reasonably familiar and
are well covered in the Paper.
We have not responded at this time to the questions relating to restorative justice but hope
there may be a later opportunity to provide some input as to our views on this very important
There are calls for New South Wales Police to urgently review a secretive policy that targets children with house calls and public searches.
The Suspect Target Management Plan - or STOMP as it's known - is a program that aims to prevent crime by pre-emptively targeting people thought to be at risk of offending.
Sample data from 10 Local Area Commands, published in a recent report, reveals 45 per cent of people on the plan were Indigenous, and children as young as 10 were being targeted.
The Aboriginal Legal Service and the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties are calling for the program to be partially suspended until a review can take place.
NSW CCL President, Stephen Blanks says there is no publicly available evidence that the program works to prevent crime. "The police are structured in a way that there are no statistics recorded, no information provided, no oversight, just no accountability at all. The community has no way of knowing if its doing more harm than good."
He continued "It's disappointing that the police haven't reacted to the release of this report so far. There is an opportunity for the police to start a new chapter of community engagement and respond to this report by saying that they will allow some accountability, oversight and assessment of the program to see whether it is achieving its objectives. If the police don't do that themselves, than the government should step in and make it happen.
In the interim, some of the more obviously abusive elements of this program, the way that it's aimed at children for example, should be suspended until there is proper accountability and assessment.
The Minister has the power to direct the police in relation to implementation of programs of this kind. So, if the police don't reform themselves, then the Minister should be stepping in."
Source: ABC Radio PM
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has long supported the legalisation of Voluntary Assisted Dying measures. While noting that, compared with existing VAD legislation in other jurisdictions, it is very conservative, the NSWCCL will actively campaign for the passage of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill currently before the NSW Parliament.
Stephen Blanks comments that what is not before the public is advanced legislation in NSW and it will come to the table 15 November or sometime later next month. We have a motion which is very timely and in reflection in our long support the bill before the NSW parliament.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, alarmed at the corrosive effect of pervasive and serious corruption within, and related to, Government and public administration at the national level, strongly supports the urgent need for a national anti-corruption body.
This body should have a broad ambit across public administration (core public service bodies and public sector corporations), public sector contractors and parliament and politicians.
While such a body must have effective power to address current corruption, there must also be effective constraints and transparent oversight to ensure that the balance between the protection of individual rights and the fight against serious corruption is as well balanced as can be devised.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties reaffirms its long standing active support for a national human rights charter.
The recurrent resistance of Australia’s politicians to a number of widely supported attempts to introduce a national human rights bill/charter over the last 44 years has left Australia as the only liberal democracy without either constitutional or statutory broad protection for fundamental human rights.
This has been a significant factor in allowing the proliferation of national laws which seriously and unwarrantedly breach human rights and liberties. The extreme manifestations of this trend in the areas of counter-terrorism and refugee law and policy in recent years necessitates a renewed community effort.
The NSWCCL will again give priority to joining other progressive bodies to campaign for an Australian Human Rights Bill in the context of the next federal election.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, consistent with its long-standing support for GLBT rights, strongly supports marriage equality and urges the Australian Government and/or the National Parliament to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to achieve this equality.
The current same sex marriage statistical survey is an inappropriate, seriously flawed and undemocratic exercise intent on delaying Parliament addressing the issue and generating divisive and harmful debate. Nonetheless, NSWCCL strongly urges the community to register a “Yes” vote so that Government has no excuse to further delay legislative action on this matter.
Regardless of the outcome of the flawed survey, NSWCCL urges the Australian Government and/or Parliament to address the issue in this parliamentary term and introduce and pass a marriage equality amendment consistent with clear majority support within the Australian community.