The voting changes proposed in the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 (the ‘Borsak Bill’)
offend basic civil liberties principles.
The Bill proposes to give 2 votes to owners of rateable land, 2 votes to rate paying lessees, and 2
votes to occupiers of rateable land in the City of Sydney, for that council’s elections.
The NSWCCL supports the fundamental democratic principle of one person one vote.
We do recognise that corporations and businesses have long been entitled to non-residential voting
rights in the City of Sydney. This is not our preferred position which is that democracy is about
representing people not property.
In the context of the current Bill, we register our strong opposition to the profoundly undemocratic
proposal to increase the current entitlements for corporations owning, leasing or occupying rateable
land in the City of Sydney from one to two votes.
This is a move in precisely the wrong direction for democratic government. The notion of the
property franchise should be being rejected in the interest of effective democracy- not strengthened
as proposed in the Borsak Bill.
NSWCCL urges the NSW Parliament to reject the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014
(the ‘Borsak Bill’)
We note the alternative private members bill has been introduced into Parliament by the
independent MP Alex Greenwich: City of Sydney Amendment (Business Voting and Council Elections)
Bill 2014 (the Greenwich Bill). This Bill is preferable in that it maintains the current entitlements for
eligible corporations and businesses to one vote.
If the parliament considers improvements are necessary to the current arrangements for registration on the electoral roll then the Greenwich Bill is acceptable in that it does not further offend against the fundamental democratic principle at stake.
The NSW Parliament has today resumed debate on the Government's Bail Amendment Bill 2014. NSWCCL strongly opposes the Bill.
The Government’s decision to respond to a narrow section of the media and hastily and prematurely review the new Bail Act is now history. It acted with indecent and unwise haste in the face of widespread professional and expert advice that review of the Bail Act was seriously premature and would have to reach conclusions without access to meaningful operational data.
This unsound process has produced a Bill which should be rejected by Parliament as unwarranted and retrograde draft legislation. If the amendments to the Act are passed, the effect will be to graft onto a coherent, unified, clearly grounded and eminently workable system under the 2013 Act a number of qualifications of the kind that wrecked the original 1978 Act.
NSWCCL has two major principled objections to the Bill.
The creation of so-called “show cause” offences constitutes a reintroduction of presumptions against bail for prescribed offences by the back door. The presumption scheme was soundly criticised in the revamp of the Bail Act and this grafts presumptions against bail, with all their faults, back onto the scheme of the 2013 Act. It introduces complications for no clearly discernible legitimate benefit. The effect will be to transfer more power to the police, by their selection of charges before the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has a chance to exercise independent judgment in charge selection.
Further – and more seriously – the onus of proof has been reversed in relation to those offences. Article 9 of the ICCPR states (in effect) that remand in custody is not to be the default position for people – any people – charged with offences, yet this creates such a position and imposes upon the accused to prove that it should not apply.
If one’s right to liberty is to be taken away, then the onus has always been on the party that seeks to remove it to establish lawful grounds for doing so. This will no longer be so in respect of these offences. The mischief done by these provisions is tacitly acknowledged by the exemption of juveniles from the scheme.
NSWCCL has recommended the Bill be withdrawn by the Government or failing that rejected by Parliament. If the Bill is to proceed we have further recommended it should be referred to a Parliamentary Committee for consideration of its implications in relation to the reversal of the onus of proof and the reintroduction of ‘show cause ‘offences and to allow proper public consideration of the BillRead more
Public statement from The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Liberty Victoria, The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, The SA Council for Civil Liberties, Civil Liberties Australia
Civil Liberties Councils across Australia urge the Government- and failing that- the Australian
Parliament to ensure that the foreshadowed national security legislation is subject to proper scrutiny
and not rushed through parliament next week-as some media suggest is the Government’s intention.
The, as yet unseen, legislation will implement most of the 22 recommendations from chapter 4 of
the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Surveillance (PJCIS) report.
This is important legislation with significant implications for national security and for the workings of
our democracy. It is of fundamental importance that we get the balance right in this area.
Members of Parliament and the Australian public must have the time to consider and take advice
on these national security proposals before they are enacted into law.
Parliament must be certain the new laws are necessary, that they include strong protections for privacy and effective independent oversight of the use of these new powers by the intelligence agencies.
The Government should abide by the recommendations of the PJCIS and:
- release the proposals as an exposure draft bill for public consultation
- refer the draft legislation for review by an appropriate parliamentary committee (the CCLs consider the PJCIS most appropriate)
The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters today released its much anticipated interim report on its inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 federal election. The interim report deals with the Senate voting practices.
NSWCCL commends this hugely important report and supports its recommendations for urgently needed reform to the Senate electoral process.
The Senate electoral system is in disrepute. In the 2013 elections, fundamental democratic principles were breached. Consequently, NSWCCL has seen reform of the Senate voting processes as one of the most significant, current civil liberties issues and has made two submissions and appeared to give evidence to the Committee.
The Committee is appropriately scathing in its assessment of the 2013 procedures -as a few quotes from the Foreward well illustrate:
'The 2013 federal election will long be remembered as a time when our system of Senate voting let voters down.’
….‘Combined with pliable and porous party registration rules, the system of voting for a single party above the line and delegating the distribution of preferences to that party, delivered, in some cases, outcomes that distorted the will of the voter.’Read more
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties expresses its disappointment with the report on Oversight of Police Critical Incidents by the former Commonwealth Attorney-General Robert McClelland, which was released on 22 January.
That report not only rejected the calls for reform of the current investigative process, which involves police investigating police, but makes recommendations which have the potential to undermine the two regulatory bodies set up following the Wood Royal Commission to protect the public-- the Police Integrity Commission and the NSW Ombudsman.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties opposes the NSW Government’s proposal for mandatory sentencing for “one-punch” assault causing death with drug and alcohol related factors.
The proposed new laws will mean that persons found guilty of drug and alcohol fuelled “one-punch” assaults causing death will be subjected to a mandatory minimum sentence of 8 years in jail with a maximum of 25 years. Mandatory sentences for “one-punch” assaults have already been enacted in West Australia and the Northern Territory.Read more
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The NSWCCL firmly opposes the Labor government’s PNG regional re-settlement agreement.Read more
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties is concerned by the apparent spread of Western Australian legislation aimed at organisers of "out of control" gatherings. The Queensland Government is currently drafting similar legislation that includes imprisonment and significant fines for organisers, including parents of children whose parties become uncontrollable.Read more