Civil and human rights

This Group covers a broad range of civil liberties and human rights issues, focussing on those that don’t naturally fall within the other groups. Priority areas in the last few years have included: a Human Rights Act for NSW, along with the ongoing campaign for an Australian Charter of Rights; climate justice; LGBTIQ+ rights, women’s rights; anti-discrimination law; freedom of expression; and achieving better and more democratic governance through balanced and effective anti-corruption bodies and reform of the framework for delegated legislation.

A current focus area is our right to protest


A Human Rights Act for Australia

NSWCCL wrote to the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and the Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus to support the commitment in Labor’s national platform to review the Human Rights Framework established by previous Labor governments and consider whether it could be enhanced through a statutory charter of human rights or other similar instrument. We called for a commitment to that review in the first hundred days of the next Labor government as a catalyst to reform Australia’s ethical infrastructure.

More information: read our letter

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Common Ground: open letter condemning inappropriate policing & unlawful searches

NSWCCL joins Amnesty International, LONSW, Shelter and TUNSW in condemning the inappropriate policing and unlawful searches imposed on residents of Common Ground in Camperdown. We stand in solidarity with the residents in lockdown. Below is our joint open letter - also published on the Legal Observers NSW website

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Latham Inquiry makes a mockery of the committee process

NSWCCL condemns the report of the NSW Legislative Council inquiry into Mark Latham and One Nation’s so-called ‘Parental Rights’ Bill (the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020) released on the 7th of September. NSWCCL made a submission and gave oral evidence to the inquiry. 

At the time, we said “NSWCCL considers that the Bill should not be passed. Not a single aspect of the Bill improves upon the law as it currently stands in NSW. Moreover, the Bill is an appalling contribution to public debate and education policy in this State.… The Bill:

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The 'National Cabinet' should not be above scrutiny

On Thursday, in a blatant and cynical attempt to avoid transparency, the Government introduced a Bill that gives National Cabinet the status of a 'Cabinet' - meaning that the PMO can now keep its deliberations secret. This nullifies a recent finding by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) that the ‘National Cabinet’ was not a cabinet in any real sense of the word, so key documents should be released.

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Voluntary Assisted Dying - it's time, NSW

Nobody should have to suffer unbearable pain and loss of control and dignity at the end of their lives - but that's exactly what happens in NSW. We need to change that.

There is overwhelming support for voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in Australia. Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia have already passed VAD laws and a VAD bill is expected to pass in Queensland in September.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich is due to introduce a VAD Bill into NSW Parliament in 2021 - we need to make sure it's passed.

How can I help?

NSWCCL is part of the Dying with Dignity alliance - you can help the campaign by:

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Landmark legal victory on climate change

In a welcome landmark victory in the NSW Land and Environment Court today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been ordered to take action on climate change. This is the first time a government organisation has been compelled to act on climate change in accordance with a statutory duty in Australia.

The court found that the EPA's statutory duties include a duty to develop objectives, guidelines and policies to ensure the protection of the environment from climate change, and that it had not fulfilled its duty to protect the state’s environment. 

It may come as a surprise to many that the EPA currently does not have specific policies in place to mitigate greenhouse gas pollution, one of the most dangerous forms of pollution in the long term.

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Climate: what will it take for our Government to act?

Newspaper headlines across the world echoed the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres yesterday, announcing code red for humanity as the IPCC released its bleak Sixth Assessment Report on climate change. Meanwhile, Australia's status as a pariah nation, whose policies preclude an invitation to global summits, was cemented recently by news that a UN endorsed report ranked Australia "dead last in the world for climate action".

The IPCC report's conclusions - that human activities are unequivocally causing climate change and that urgent, concerted action is needed to limit that change to 1.5°C warming - are as alarming as they are unsurprising. Equally unsurprising was the Australian Government's response: denial and obfuscation.

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Environmental planning instruments (SEPPs) report released

The NSW Legislative Council Regulation Committee Inquiry into Environmental Planning Instruments (SEPPs) released its report today.

Unfortunately the committee has not recommended that disallowance apply to SEPPs. It is difficult to understand the basis on which the committee has not recommended that disallowance apply to SEPPs. The argument put forward by the Property Council and Minerals Council that the applicability of disallowance would be inconvenient, and unnecessary if consultation were improved, appears to have been accepted uncritically.

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Vaccine passports

Vaccine passports - or fewer restrictions for those who are vaccinated - are on the cards for Australia, although the details have yet to be worked out. While we support the right to refuse a vaccine, we also support the introduction of passports, although any restrictions must be temporary and proportionate.

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The right to peaceful protest must not be suspended via public health order

The legal right to peaceful protest is fundamental to our democracy. Protests hold governments to account and make our country better. While the powerful few are able to write cheques or call their friends in high places, protests are how the invisible or ignored can become seen and heard by government. Only after tireless, sustained protest did Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people win the right to vote, did LGBT+ people achieve marriage equality, and did unions secure the eight-hour work day.

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