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
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties condemns the Prime Minister’s attack on the credibility of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), and Commissioner Gillian Triggs following the release of the Commission’s damning report into the detention of asylum seeker children.Read more
NSWCCL calls on the Australian government to make all diplomatic efforts to stop the executions of the two Australian citizens on death row in Indonesia facing imminent execution. The NSWCCL has signed a joint letter with a range of other organisations to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, urging such efforts be made, and to the Indonesian Ambassador in Australia seeking mercy for the two Australian citizens facing imminent execution.Read more
Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2015, comments on the Australian government’s human rights record in 2014, stating that the government's failure to respect international standards protecting asylum seekers and refugees continues to take a heavy human toll and undermines Australia’s ability to call for stronger human rights protections abroad. HRW reports on the introduction of new counterterrorism measures, describing them as 'overboard,' stating that the measures would infringe on freedoms of expression and movement. The report also highlights the government's failure to take action to address indigenous rights and disability rights.Read more
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
NSWCCL has made two submissions and given oral evidence to the various stages of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 federal election. Initially we responded to a useful private members bill introduced by Senator Xenophon advocating optional preferential voting for the Senate. NSWCCL supported that bill in a submission made in December 2013. Subsequently on 7 February 2014 NSWCCL gave oral evidence before the Federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in which we articulated a set of civil liberties principles that guided our analysis and which we believed had been breached by the 2013 voting processes.Read more
Supplementary Submission: Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Above the Line Voting) Bill 2013 - Inquiry into all aspects of the conduct of the 2013 Federal Election
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.
Submission: Exposure draft Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Freedom of Speech Repeal of S.18C) Bill 2014
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
Independent Monitor of counter-terrorism laws and intelligence agencies should not be abolished in Government’s ‘red tape bonfire’. NSWCCL urges Government to rethink, and failing that, parliament to block this unflagged repeal of an important and independent player in the oversight and monitoring of extraordinary counter-terrorism laws and the ways intelligence agencies interpret and use them.
NSWCCL has called for major reform of the Senate electoral system to ensure Senators are only elected if they have enough voter support and not due to inter-party preference deals.
We made a submission to a parliamentary inquiry calling for the introduction of optional preferential voting in Senate elections and abolishing inter-party preference deals. This would mean that voters could vote for as many or few Senate parties and candidates as they wished and their preferences would be counted exactly as the voter indicated on the ballot instead of following an inter-party preference deal.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has written to the Commissioner of Police and Minister for Police asking for an explanation for issuing a ‘trivial’, ‘weak’ and ‘vexatious’ charge against CSG demonstrators, and for assurance that no political purpose or pressure was involved. CCL has also asked the Ombudsman to investigate.Read more