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
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.
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
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.Read more
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.Read more
NSWCCL welcomes the long overdue decision of the NSW Government to strengthen the existing law covering the offence of serious racial vilification.
We support the proposed provisions of the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018. They are largely consistent with the views NSWCCL put forward in its submission to the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Law and Justice in 2013. The Bill modernises the grounds relevant to this offence so that it is proposed to provide protection against vilification of persons/groups on the grounds of ‘race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex or HIV/AIDS status’. The new provisions appear likely to address the problems which have blocked any prosecutions ever being initiated under the current Act.
Read more in our statement of support:
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) welcomes the dismissal of anti-protesting law
charges against Bev Smiles, Bruce Hughes and Stephanie Luce in Mudgee Local Court on
The trio, known as the “Wollar Three”, attended a protest against the expansion of the
Wilpinjong mine in 2017. They blocked a road, and held up a banner. They faced two charges
under the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 2016, of which they were acquitted. They were also
charged with obstructing pedestrians and drivers. Magistrate David Day found them guilty of
obstructing the road, but did not record any convictions against them.
On Thursday, June 7, New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman announced that the government would adopt the recommendations of a review of the Terrorism (Police Powers) Act 2002 by the Department of Justice. The report made 13 recommendations in relation to the legislation.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) notes with concern that the recommendations make little attempt to substantively change the laws, or to otherwise restore civil liberties. There is little attempt to reign in police powers in any meaningful way, which is why CCL opposed these laws in the first place.Read more
On the use of sniffer dogs, and unacceptably broad police powers of exclusion at Sydney Olympic Park
NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has condemned the six-month bans handed out to patrons of the Above and Beyond music festival, on the basis of identification by drug sniffer dogs. NSW Police announced before the event that they would exclude patrons, regardless of whether any drugs were found after indications by the drug dogs.
CCL is deeply concerned by these bans. According to the NSW Ombudsman, when drug dogs indicate a person has drugs on them, those dogs are right about a quarter of the time. NSW Police have reportedly ripped up the tickets of people just because they were identified by drug dogs, even when no drugs were found. In effect, the police have declared a willingness to infringe on the rights of people who have done nothing wrong.Read more
At about 1:26am this morning (8th June 2018) the NSW Parliament passed the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018. It had been a long day and night. While there was little doubt that the Bill had majority support, its cross-party supporters had to fend off 19 separate amendments which would have in various ways undermined the object of and the effectiveness of the Bill.
In the end all amendments were defeated and the Parliament did the right thing by women and endorsed the Bill by 62 votes to 18 - a comfortable majority of 44.
This is a very significant and overdue win for women in NSW. They are now protected by law from the distressing harassment and invasion of privacy that so many have had to endure when entering a reproductive clinic for an abortion or other medical support about their reproductive health. Staff working in these clinics will also be spared from both direct harassment and the stress of receiving distressed clients who have had to run the gamut of such harassment.
NSWCCL joined many others in supporting this Bill since it was introduced into Parliament by ALP MLC Penny Sharpe a year ago. In doing this, we were conscious that the effect would be to constrain some rights of anti-abortion protesters around reproductive clinics offering abortion services. However given the objective was the protection of women accessing lawful services from serious harassment and intimidation in a limited zone, we consider its provisions to be reasonable and necessary.
The Bill was successful because of cross party support that was achieved in recent weeks. The Labor Party and the Greens supported it - the Government allowed a conscience vote and National Party MLC Trevor Khan gave the Bill the needed extra support by co-sponsoring it with Penny Sharpe.
It is a very welcome outcome.
Hopefully it is a prelude to the eventual decriminalization of abortion in NSW.