Last year civil liberties and human rights groups resisted, with limited success, the worst elements of the veritable tsunami of new counter-terrorism laws the Abbot Government brought in swift succession to the Parliament. Now we are fast approaching a decision point in the highly significant and contentious debate as to whether the Australian Parliament will legislate the mandatory collection and retention of mass telecommunications data for the bulk of the population to enable retrospective access by authorities.
It would be a major negative step for a democracy. It will be a major intrusion every citizen’s right to privacy - including those not suspected of any unlawful activity. This will have major flow-on implications for other freedoms and democratic values. In particular, it will undermine a robust and free press and constrain legitimate whistle-blowers by removing any confidentiality from all phone and internet communications.
The combined CCLS consider it to be a step too far. We strongly oppose the policy concept and urge the Parliament to reject it.
NSWCCL's submission into the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014, condemns the proposed amendments to the Legislation, as it is clear the changes intend to punish those who seek asylum from persecution, and who arrive in Australia by boat. In doing so, this Bill perpetuates the myth that asylum seekers who arrive by boat are ‘illegal’ and have no legal right to seek asylum.
Moreover the CCL condemns the amendments which suspend the rules of natural justice as they apply in the Maritime Powers Act. Such suspension removes the possibility of oversight by the judiciary, limiting the challenges to keep the actions of government in check, particularly with respect to the implementation of punitive policies on asylum seekers and refugees.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties and the Muslim Legal Network of New South Wales have joined in this submission to highlight the fact that the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014, like the government’s other counter-terrorism laws, are simultaneously an attack on the civil liberties of all Australians and are, rightly or wrongly, perceived as a targeted attack on the Muslim community in Australia.
Summary of Recommendations:
- We strongly oppose the provisions regarding Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (“the Control Order Regime”).
- We strongly oppose the provisions regarding the amendments to the Intelligence Service Act (“the Intelligence Act”).
The submission also attacks the unreasonable haste with which these new laws are being introduced, allowing a mere ten days for review and submissions. This does not allow reasonable time for public debate or informed decision making by members of parliament, which we believe amounts to an abuse of process by the Australian Government resulting in reckless lawmaking.
Submission to the Senate inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Character and Visa Cancellation) Bill 2014
NSWCCL has made a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Australian Senate concerning the Migration Amendment (Character and Visa Cancellation) Bill 2014. The main points of the submission are that:
- The procedure for applying the character test should be taken out of the hands of the minster and his or her delegates and given instead to a new, genuinely independent body. There should be an appeal on the merits on leave to the Federal Magistrate’s Court.
- The various proposals to allow the minister to override the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) should be rejected.
- The proposals to prevent an appeal to the AAT and other tribunals concerning decisions of the minister should be rejected, and replaced by entitlements to appeal.
- Where convictions by foreign courts bear on the character test, provisions should ensure that only convictions for actions that would be criminal and subject to similar penalties in Australia may count. Furthermore, only convictions where the court procedures and standards of proof adopted are up to Australian standards should be accepted.
- The whole bill is so full of faults and poor proposals it should be rejected.
Joint submission to PJCIS inquiry into Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014 - October 2014
Councils for civil liberties across Australia (New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Liberty Victoria, Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, South Australia Council for Civil Liberties, Australian Council for Civil Liberties) have come together to make a joint submission on the Australian Government’s Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014 (the Bill).
The submission address the following issues:
- Inadequate review timeframe
- Extension of sunset clauses to 2025
- Loose definitions and discretionary enforcement related to foreign incursion offences
- Freedom of travel to 'No-Go Zones'
- Scope of personal jurisdiction
- Potential for indefinite arbitrary detention in lieu of timely consent for prosecution from Attorney-General
- Advocacy offences an unreasonable imposition upon free speech
- Potential abuse of delayed notification warrants
- Unjustifiable revisions concerning travel document cancellation
- Unnecessary enhancement/broadening of customs officers detention powers
- Suspension of welfare payments retains right of review
NSWCCL has issued extensive public comment regarding this bill - read more here
Joint submission to PJCIS inquiry into Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014 - August 2014
NSWCCL has collaborated with other Australian civil liberties groups in making a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.
The CCLs accept that ASIO and other intelligence and security organisations must have the powers and resources necessary for the protection of national security including protection against the very real threat of terrorist activity in Australia- consistent with democratic values. However, where the proposed changes expand existing ASIO powers and/or weaken balancing safeguards and protections our endorsement is dependent upon persuasive evidence justifying such changes and clear demonstration that rights and liberties are not being unwarrantedly or disproportionately encroached upon
In our view, such persuasive evidence has not been provided to justify some of the new or enhanced security powers being proposed in this Bill.
Dr Lesley Lynch (NSWCCL Secretary) and Bill Rowlings (Civil Liberties Australia) gave testimony at the inquiry's public hearing on the 18th of August 2014. A supplementary submission was subsequently compiled offering more detailed comment regarding the discard of ministerial oversight of particular intelligence sharing between agencies
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
Supplementary submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters on the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Above the Line Voting) Bill 2013 - May 2014
NSWCCL has made a supplementary submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters on the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Above the Line Voting) Bill 2013.
There is a need to reform the electoral system to ensure that it translates cast votes into a Parliament truly reflecting the collective view of voters.
The following reforms must be made:
- Introducing optional preferential voting in Senate elections both above and below the line
- Abolishing group voting tickets for Senate elections
- Reforming the party registration system.
Failure to reform the electoral system is not an option. Doing so would bring it into further disrepute.
NSWCCL has made a submission to the senate committee inquiring into the Government’s proposal to abolish the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) as part of its ‘red tape bonfire’.
The INSLM is an important independent position set up in 2010 with broad review functions relating to the intensely sensitive and complex area of counter-terrorism laws: whether these laws remain proportionate to the threat of terrorism in Australia and whether they contain appropriate safeguards to protect the rights of individuals.Read more
NSWCCL totally opposes the amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Freedom of Speech Repeal of S.18C) Bill 2014 issued as an exposure draft by the Commonwealth Attorney-General on the 25th March 2014.
The amendments will dramatically narrow the definition of unlawful racist speech and the contexts in which racial vilification will be allowed are so broad as to include almost every context in which public racist abuse could occur. The Act will effectively be gutted removing vital protections against racial vilification that have worked well for 20 years.Read more