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.

We also track Australia's human rights violations.

A current focus area is our right to protest


Policy statement (2017) - national integrity (anti-corruption) commission

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, alarmed at the corrosive effect of pervasive and serious corruption within, and related to, Government and public administration at the national level, strongly supports the urgent need for a national anti-corruption body.

This body should have a broad ambit across public administration (core public service bodies and public sector corporations), public sector contractors and parliament and politicians.

While such a body must have effective power to address current corruption, there must also be effective constraints and transparent oversight to ensure that the balance between the protection of individual rights and the fight against serious corruption is as well balanced as can be devised.

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Policy statement (2017) - national human rights charter

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties reaffirms its long standing active support for a national human rights charter.

The recurrent resistance of Australia’s politicians to a number of widely supported attempts to introduce a national human rights bill/charter over the last 44 years has left Australia as the only liberal democracy without either constitutional or statutory broad protection for fundamental human rights.

This has been a significant factor in allowing the proliferation of national laws which seriously and unwarrantedly breach human rights and liberties. The extreme manifestations of this trend in the areas of counter-terrorism and refugee law and policy in recent years necessitates a renewed community effort.

The NSWCCL will again give priority to joining other progressive bodies to campaign for an Australian Human Rights Bill in the context of the next federal election.

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Policy statement (2017) - marriage equality

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, consistent with its long-standing support for GLBT rights, strongly supports marriage equality and urges the Australian Government and/or the National Parliament to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to achieve this equality. 

The current same sex marriage statistical survey is an inappropriate, seriously flawed and undemocratic exercise intent on delaying Parliament addressing the issue and generating divisive and harmful debate. Nonetheless, NSWCCL strongly urges the community to register a “Yes” vote so that Government has no excuse to further delay legislative action on this matter.

Regardless of the outcome of the flawed survey, NSWCCL urges the Australian Government and/or Parliament to address the issue in this parliamentary term and introduce and pass a marriage equality amendment consistent with clear majority support within the Australian community.

CCL opposes any weakening of anti-discrimination laws in connection with the passage of the legislation.

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Policy statement (2017) - defence of the union movement

NSWCCL affirms the role of unions as an essential part of the Australian democracy in the defence of workers’ rights and affirms their right to support other organisations whose activities accord with their own.

 

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National human rights bill resurfaces in Australian Parliament!

Australians might be surprised to know there is a new Bill proposing an Australian Bill of Rights before the Australian Parliament.

There has not been much stomach for active campaigning in support of a national Bill of Rights in Australia since the bitter and crushing disappointment of the Rudd Government’s failure in 2010 to act on the recommendation of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee (the Brennan Report) for a federal human rights act.  This surprising and weak betrayal of community expectations, following a year of extensive consultation and clear public support for a human rights act - and the subsequent loss of the 2013 election to the Abbott Government – put a long term dampener on the enthusiasm of all but the most determined of campaigners. 

Australia remains alone among western democratic states in not having a human rights act or charter.

In recent years the Australian Parliament has enacted numerous new laws - and the Australian Government has enacted numerous new policies and programs - which unwarrantedly infringe individual liberties and rights and are in clear breach of our international human rights obligations.

Without the protections afforded by a Bill of Rights, strong and persistent opposition to these laws from many sections of the community has been powerless to stop their passage. Professor Gillian Triggs, the recently retired President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, repeatedly warned of the dangerous consequences for the rights and liberties of Australians of this situation – and was outrageously vilified by the Government and sections of the media for so doing.

So it is with tentative optimism that NSWCCL applauds the introduction of the Australian Bill of Rights Bill 2017 into the Federal Parliament by the independent MP Andrew Wilkie -  with the support of independent MP  Cathy McGowan.   

It is a wide ranging Bill which Wilkie says is closely modelled on an earlier private member’s Bill introduced in 2001 by Dr Theophanous which did not get past a first reading. (2R speech 14/8/17)

 

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Submission: Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017

Hundreds of submissions were made to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee on the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017.

CCL views the Bill as dangerous, undemocratic and unfair. In brief we argued that the Bill:

  • creates a class of permanent residents who are denied recognition as citizens
  • requires new citizens to accept arbitrarily defined "Australian values"
  • confers unwarranted extraordinary powers on the Minister for Immigration
  • requires that applicants for citizenship have a knowledge of English which is set at an unfairly high level.

This cannot be to the benefit of Australian society. The extended powers create a high risk that they will, by error or design, be subject to misuse and the creation of unfairness. No Minister should have such unfettered powers.

Read our submission here.

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Human Rights for NSW

We have been working with Amnesty International on a campaign to generate support for a NSW Bill of Rights. Victoria has one. The ACT has one. Queensland is getting one. It is time we had a human rights act in New South Wales. There have been two previous attempts to introduce a human rights act in New South Wales. The last attempt was over 10 years ago.

It is time to try again. Go to humanrightsfornsw to find out more.

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Statement: Parliament debates abortion law reform

The push for abortion law reform in NSW takes another step tomorrow (Thursday 11/05/17).  The Legislative Council will debate and vote on the Abortion Law Reform Bill introduced by Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi. ALP members will have a conscience vote- and there is just a chance that it might get passed in the Council.

This would be a significant step in NSW –even though it is unlikely that it will get majority support in the current lower house.

NSWCCL has publicly supported the Bill. Yesterday we wrote to all members of the NSW Parliament urging them to give this Bill proper and positive consideration and to support its passage through Parliament so that matters relating to abortion in NSW are treated primarily as a health rather than a criminal matter. 

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Government overreach on s18(C)

On Wednesday last week (22/3/170) the AG George Brandis introduced the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 into the Senate with the intention of its being considered very quickly. It immediately generated a wave of community opposition – especially from ethnic/multicultural community groups.  

On Thursday, the Bill was referred to the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee for a ridiculously rushed ‘review’ with the Committee having to report by the following Tuesday (28/3/17).

This was a provocative time frame, effectively barring the community from any meaningful input into assessing the implications of the proposed changes on the ambit and operation of the Act. 

NSWCCL strongly opposes the proposed amendments in this Bill which will seriously and unnecessarily weaken protections against race hate speech  currently provided by s18(C ) of the Act.

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s18C survives Parliamentary review

The right to protection against race hate speech 

The Freedom of Speech in Australia Report (28th January 2017) will bring no joy to those urging wholesale repeal  or major  weakening  of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act  which prohibits racially motivated hate speech. 

At the end of another (unnecessary and rushed) review process, which attracted 11460 responses, the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee was unable to make a recommendation to the Government on this core provision.  Instead it restricted itself to listing 6 options that had the support of at least one Committee member. (R3).  Neither abolition nor major weakening of the provision appears in this list of options. Not one Committee member supported an extreme option.

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