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


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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Police must not obstruct Legal Observers

Recent incidents in Sydney indicate that NSW Police don't uniformly understand and respect the role of Legal Observers - that must change.

Police have obstructed Legal Observers; instructed them to direct protestors; directed one to stop filming; and questioned their presence at a protest. 

In the absence of any police misconduct, police should have no concerns regarding the presence of Legal Observers or their recording of events.

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NSWCCL calls on NSW Government to rethink approach as army called in

NSWCCL notes with concern a request from NSW police for support from the Australian Defence Force to enforce COVID-19 restrictions. While the army has previously been used to enforce border restrictions and hotel quarantine, the use of the army to control citizens as they go about their daily lives is an unprecedented escalation.

This is a health crisis, not a national security crisis, and it must be approached as such. As noted by NSWCCL committee member Lydia Shelly in an article in the Guardian, the disproportionate policing of lower socio-economic areas that historically have a strained relationship with police is not the answer. 

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Climate Bill report

The rejection of Independent MP Zali Steggall's climate action legislation by a Government-dominated parliamentary committee shows how far out of touch the Government is with most Australians' views on climate action.

Polling routinely shows the majority of Australians support climate action: for example, a recent Essential Report shows support ranging from 62% to 81% in support of a range of propositions including preventing new coal mining, zero-carbon targets and developing green industry.

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NSWCCL statement on Sydney's weekend protests

This weekend saw some disturbing incidents playing out in Sydney during protests against the current lockdowns.

NSWCCL has reviewed some of the footage with concern.

We support the right to peaceful protest - irrespective of whether we agree with the demands of those protesting.

But rights are not absolute and protest should be made in a responsible way that takes account of prevailing circumstances.

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Are lockdowns unconstitutional?

We've fielded many queries in the past weeks about the impact of the recent COVID19 lockdowns on our civil liberties. With some help from George Williamsan Australian academic specialising in Australian constitutional law, here are some answers.

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Letter: Bring Julian Assange home

Though he is not convicted of any offence under UK law, Julian Assange continues to be held as a prisoner in the same conditions as convicted murderers. His mental and physical health have been seriously compromised.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has written to the Prime Minister calling on the Australian Government to bring home Julian Assange and exert its diplomatic influence to end his unjust prosecution.

Similar letters were sent to the Leader of the Opposition and the Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home Group. 

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Submission: Inquiry into environmental planning instruments (SEPPs)

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the NSW Legislative Council Regulation Committee Inquiry into Environmental Planning Instruments (SEPPs).

NSWCCL makes this submission for a number of key reasons:

a. To ensure that adequate safeguards are in place for the creation of SEPPs in recognition that parliament is the supreme law making body in the state;

b. In recognition that the climate change poses a significant and increasing threat to the ability for citizens’ and others residents’ civil liberties and human rights, and that any decisions made which concern the environment should be appreciative of the adverse effects of climate change; and,

c. In recognition that First Nations communities voices should be recognised and afforded significant weight in the development of environmental and planning policy.

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