December 2019 Newsletter
In this issue -
- Medevac - another shameful last week in the Australian Parliament
- Major rethink on police strip search powers urgently needed
- Religious Discrimination Bill – trouble ahead?
- Government secrecy or a free media?
- Meet the 2020 NSWCCL Committee
- In the media
Read/Download the December Issue (PDF) HERERead more
NSWCCL has endorsed the Human Rights for NSW Alliance's submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission's national conversation on human rights in Australia - Free and Equal. The submission makes a number of recommendations and builds the case for a Human Rights Act in NSW.
NSWCCL is a founding member of Human Rights for NSW Alliance. Human Rights for NSW is an alliance of community, legal, rights-based and civil society organisations campaigning to ensure that the human rights of NSW citizens are expressed and guaranteed by law so we are all treated fairly, and with dignity, equality and respect.
This submission is endorsed by 33 member organisations, including Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Human Rights Law Centre, Community Legal Centres NSW, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT and the NSW Bar Association.
Everyone in NSW deserves to be treated fairly and equally. NSWCCL supports the campaign for a Human Rights Act for NSW.
A NSW Parliamentary Committee has recommended the Legislative Council should proceed to consider the Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019, including any amendments in relation to the reverse onus of proof, the use of artificial intelligence and privacy.
NSWCCL agrees strongly that mobile phone use whilst driving is a serious issue which needs to be addressed to protect the safety of the community.
We do not, however, support this Bill on the basis that it unjustifiably reverses the onus of proof and fails to provide adequate protections to assure the public that the information captured by the cameras is used for the sole purpose of prosecuting mobile phone offences.
NSWCCL also has concerns about the inherent risks of using AI to identify criminal behaviour given the lack of transparency as to the underpinning algorithms driving the assessment.
We welcome the Committee’s recognition of these concerns in their report and single recommendation.
The Bill should be amended significantly to address these problems before the Legislative Council approves it.Read more
The 56th Annual General Meeting of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) was held at the Sydney Town Hall Council Chamber, George Street Sydney on Wednesday 23rd October.
It is clearly important for Australia’s discrimination laws to work cohesively together and for no one right to be automatically privileged over another/others. The protection and balancing of human rights would be greatly assisted by the adoption of an Australian Charter of Human Rights and by a review of Australia’s state and federal human rights laws to ensure the appropriate coherence and consistency. The current Review by the Australian Law Reform Commission into The Framework of Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation will contribute to this from the perspective of religious rights - but the broader exercise is necessary.
One of the major disappointments with this Bill is the failure to include much needed and explicitly promised protections for LGBTQI+ students in religious and private schools. This Bill has been hastily drawn up in advance of the report from the inquiry into The Framework of Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation under way by the ALRC, but one of the most urgent and disturbing manifestations of inappropriate religious exemptions for otherwise unlawful discriminatory acts against children has deliberately not been addressed in the Bill and instead left to the ALRC review. Simultaneously the reporting date for the ALRC review has been pushed back to December 2020.
The New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make submissions to the Department of Health on the Health Legislation Amendment (Data- matching) Bill 2019 (Bill) and the Health Legislation Amendment (Permitted Information Disclosure) Regulations 2019.
NSWCCL supports the integrity of the Medicare health payments system provided that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information and the privacy of Australians is respected.
NSWCCL objects to the sharing of sensitive health information with other Commonwealth entities and opposes the Bill in its current form. NSWCCL has a number of recommendations detailed in this submission.
Civil liberties groups say bail conditions imposed on Sydney climate change activists are usually reserved for bikie gang members
Climate change protesters arrested for obstructing traffic have been given “absurd” bail conditions that ban them from “going near” or contacting members of 'Extinction Rebellion', which civil liberties groups say infringes on freedom of political communication. Some of those arrested were given a “wild” set of bail conditions that banned them from coming within 2km of the Sydney CBD or associating with Extinction Rebellion events.
“[You are] not to go near, or contact or try to go near or contact (except through a legal representative) any members of the group ‘Extinction Rebellion’,” the conditions say. “[You are] not to enter the Sydney City CBD or not go within 2km radius of the Sydney Town Hall.”
The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Pauline Wright, labelled the conditions “patently unreasonable”, “absurd” and likely unlawful under the constitution. She said the ban was so broad and unclear it would affect thousands of people.
“Where there is a legitimate political issue such as seeking action on climate change, protesters shouldn’t be seen to be forfeiting their democratic rights including freedom of association, freedom of movement and the implied right to freedom of political expression.”
- NSWCCL President, Pauline Wright.
Read the full article in The Guardian.
On Thursday 26th September the NSW Parliament at long last acted to remove abortion from the criminal law and regulate it as a women’s health issue with the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 - (now called the Abortion Reform Law 2019). This is a big and very overdue historical moment for women.
Women in NSW can now legally access terminations up to 22 weeks into their pregnancy in consultation with their doctor. After 22 weeks they can access a termination in consultation with two medical practitioners.
Achieving this in NSW has required a very, very long campaign by numerous organisations and individuals with ups and many downs since the 1960s. This most recent and successful campaign push over several years was sustained by a broad and powerful alliance of organisations encompassing women’s, legal, health, civil liberties and human rights issues. Some of these -such as WEL and NSWCCL - were long term players for abortion reform of 50 years plus.
This campaign knew it had strong, majority support in the community. The challenge was to persuade enough members of the Parliament to act on the will of the people and in the interest of NSW women. This crucial and politically fraught task was led by an expanding cross-party group of parliamentarians. The Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich sponsored the Bill. He was initially supported by MLCs Penny Sharp (ALP) and Trevor Khan (National Party) and Jo Haylen (ALP) and the Health Minister Brad Hazzard. This cross-party support grew to 15 co-sponsors - which we suspect is the largest cross-party group supporting a private members bill in the history of the NSW Parliament.Read more
A New South Wales farm trespass bill has been criticised by civil liberties organisations, environment groups and unions for turning into “a crackdown on people’s rights to protest”.
The Right to Farm Bill 2019, currently before the NSW parliament, can punish unlawful entry and disruption on “inclosed lands” with up to three years in jail, and increases the fine from $5,500 to $22,000.
Pauline Wright, the president of the NSW Civil Liberties Council, said the new law was unnecessary and the wording too broad.
“These laws, although they are expressed to be talking about people coming onto farmlands and disturbing farmers going about their business, in fact they apply to any lands that are by definition enclosed … It is a crackdown on people’s rights to protest.”
Wright said that existing laws against trespass already dealt with the issue adequately. The government had earlier increased the penalty from $550 to $5,500 in 2016.
“I can’t see the purpose of these new laws,” she said. “The existing laws already criminalise the behaviour that is targeted by this. It seems to just be grandstanding on the part of the politicians.
“We of course don’t like the notion of anyone entering on private land and acting unlawfully, and that shouldn’t be condoned. And it’s not. The law already adequately deals with that. Imposing tougher penalties won’t do anything. All the research indicates this does not act as a deterrent.”
Read The Guardian article - NSW farm trespass bill criticised for turning into a crackdown on the right to protest