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NSWCCL has recommended the Bill be withdrawn by the Government or failing that rejected by Parliament.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
The attorney general, George Brandis, has denied referring lawyer Bernard Collaery and a former intelligence officer to the Australian federal police after they revealed that Australia spied on Timor-Leste during negotiations over a lucrative oil and gas pipeline.
The head of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said the lack of a public-interest defence available to Collaery or the agent was “a gaping hole in Australia’s legal system”.
“Some of the most important breachers of classified info have been totally justified because of those being in the public interest,” he said.
“What this prosecution will do is have a chilling effect on potential whistleblowers and the media and if it continues, there will be self-censorship and the media will not live up to its obligation of being a fearless investigator and reporter on matters of national importance.”
Source: The Guardian 1/9/2014
Twelve months after the United Nations Human Rights Tribunal criticised the indefinite detention of more than forty refugees with negative security assessments from ASIO, the Abbott government has failed to respond to the tribunal's report.
"Australia's Government is thumbing its nose at the UN, saying, 'We're not interested in what you think about human rights.' "
Source: ABC 'Lateline', 21/8/2014
CCL's give testimony at Joint Committee inquiry into National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014
NSWCCL Secretary Dr Lesley Lynch and Civil Liberties Australia CEO William Rowlings have given testimony on behalf of Australian Civil Liberties Councils at the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security public hearing, following a recent joint submission by the councils regarding the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.
Dr Lynch raised a number of concerns with the bill, including the lack of evidence-based justification for some of the enhanced powers, lack of effective oversight, the startling degree of ambiguity and loose definitions throughout and also an apparent lack of consideration of longer term impacts of legislation introduced to allegedly address short-term terrorist threats but ultimately remaining for the longer term.
The Bail Act 2013 was a product of two years’ work by the Law Reform Commission and a team of experts. The Report was tabled in 2012. The Government then carefully considered it and in 2013 passed a new Act which did not merely rubber-stamp the LRC Report. The Act was passed unanimously – no politician, from any party, in either House, voted against it.
There was then a delay while the criminal justice agencies absorbed the changes, trained staff, prepared processes and documentation and got ready for implementation. A great deal of administrative work was done by Police, DPP, Legal Aid, Bar Association, Law Society, Courts, etc.
The Act came into force on 20 May 2014, with much fanfare from the Attorney General. Soon after there were three high profile cases of bail being granted (Hawi, Fesus and Ibrahim). The tabloid media agitated. The DPP appealed the Ibrahim matter and his bail was refused – the system was working as it was intended to. A reading of the judgments in the other two cases would show that principles were properly applied and the decisions were uncontroversial.
On 27 June 2014, just over five weeks after the Act came into effect and before any meaningful data had accumulated (as acknowledged by Mr Hatzistergos), the Premier announced a review, supposedly because the Act was not protecting the community as much as had been intended.
The review was done in just over four weeks by one person. His Report was published today (5 August 2014), a Bill is ready (implementing all the reviewer’s recommendations) and it will go to Parliament next week.
The Government has acted with indecent and unwise haste. There has been no consultation with anyone about the recommendations or the substance of the Bill.Read more
It is disappointing to see the Commissioner of Police's comments in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning defending warrantless access to databases containing personal information. The police are opportunistically taking advantage of the proliferation of electronic databases which do not have strong privacy policies to protect members of the community against inappropriate release of their personal information. In the absence of strong data protection laws and personal privacy protection, the only protection the public can get is through privacy policies which require law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants from an independent judge or magistrate before personal information is released.
NSW and federal law enforcement agencies have been given the power to access the travel history and home addresses of hundreds of thousands of commuters using the new Opal card.
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks comments
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 15/07/2014
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)
Following several weeks of ill-informed media agitation led by the DT criticising the release on bail of several persons charged with serious crimes, Premier Baird has set up a hasty review of the new bail law which has been in operation for only one month.
This is a distressing development. There is no reason for a review at this time. The bail law reforms implemented in 2013 by the current Government were moderate and ‘supported by the overwhelming majority of submissions to the Law Reform Commission’s review of bail, including the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Police and Legal Aid NSW." (Premier Baird launching the Hatzistergos review SMH 27/6/1).
Nothing extraordinary has happened. Numbers of legal experts have noted that it would have been possible for the persons generating the controversy to have been released under the old bail laws.
The trend data for any sensible review is not available and not much will be by the end of July when Mr Hatzistergos has to provide an interim report.
On the broader scale this is another depressing manifestation of the destructive dynamic of the law and order auction syndrome that bedevils state politics.Read more
The operation of ID scanners to collect and store the personal information of all patron's will begin this week at a number of 'high-risk' venues in Kings Cross. This data collection scheme raises concerns over privacy and security, such as the possibility for unauthorised access or the inappropriate usage of individuals' personal data. NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has commented recently in the media on this issue, visit the links below for coverage.