Civil and human rights

Government acts on religious discrimination

Media Statement: 30 August 2019

The Federal Government yesterday released an Exposure Draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 (and two subsidiary Bills) which would make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of their religious beliefs or activities in areas of public life. The NSWCCL welcomes it being released as an exposure draft to allow community consideration and input before the Bill is finalised.

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Submission: Inquiry into the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the NSW Parliament Standing Committee on Social Issues inquiry into the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019.

The passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 through the NSW Legislative Assembly with a vote of 59 to 31 is a long awaited, historic moment for NSW women and the NSW Parliament. We are hopeful this will be followed by the its passage through the Legislative Council without amendment leading to the removal of abortion from the criminal law in NSW.

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Submission: Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019

The Bill responds to a series of political protests that occurred around Australia in April 2019 in which activists sought to draw attention to the legitimate political issue of animal cruelty and the slaughter of animals for human consumption. The protests involved a series of conventional street rallies and less conventional ‘sits-ins’ that saw animal rights activists trespass upon and briefly occupy private property used for the slaughter of animals.

The NSWCCL is proud that Australia has, recently, become an international leader in protecting freedom of speech and expression. To remain at the forefront of these issues, the Commonwealth should not proceed with these reactionary laws.

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Submission: Free and Equal, Human Rights in Australia

A NSW Council for Civil Liberties Submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Free and Equal: An Australian conversation on human rights project. This submission argues that human rights have not been respected in Australia, are not protected, and suggests some methods to improve human rights in Australia.

This submission intends to address the following questions from the Issues Paper:

2. How should human rights be protected in Australia?
3. What are the barriers to the protection of human rights in Australia?

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NSWCCL urges parliament to pass new abortion reform bill

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties applauds the initiative of Alex Greenwich MP in bringing forward the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019.  If passed by the NSW Parliament this Bill will  decriminalise abortion in NSW and provide the women of NSW with the right to make their own choices about their reproductive health and options.

NSW is the only state or territory which still treats abortion as a criminal act. To obtain a legal abortion in NSW women have to establish exceptional circumstances – ie. that it is necessary to preserve a woman from serious danger to her life or to her mental or physical health and it is not out of proportion to the danger to be averted.

Having to rely on this limited defence is a deeply flawed and unsatisfactory legal position for both women and medical practitioners and results in many women not being able to access safe abortions.

It is well-beyond time for the NSW Parliament to act in the interests of women in this state. Our current law dates from 1900.

The Greenwich Bill, which is closely modelled on Queensland’s and Victoria’s laws, is clear, balanced and sensible.  The provisions in the Crimes Act relating to abortions will be repealed and common law offences relating to abortion abolished.

It will be legal for medical practitioners to perform a termination on a person who is not more than 22 weeks pregnant. The vast majority of terminations occur before 22 weeks.

For a person who is more than 22 weeks pregnant, the medical practitioner and one other must both consider if the termination ‘should be performed’.  In making this decision they are required to consider all relevant medical circumstances, current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances and professional standards and guidelines.

The Bill respects the rights of medical practitioners with conscientious objection but requires them to refer the person to a practitioner who, in their belief, does not have a conscientious objection.

This Bill will bring much needed certainty to NSW women and medical practitioners and make it easier and safer for women choosing to have a termination of pregnancy.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties expresses its appreciation to the Parliamentarians who have come together to progress this Bill: Trevor Khan (National Party), Penny Sharpe (Deputy Leader ALP) and Jo Haylen (ALP)  and to the Health Minister Brad Hazzard who has given his public support to the Bill.

We urge the NSW Parliament to do the right thing by the women of NSW and pass this Bill.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has campaigned for this reform for over 50 years. Over the last two years we have been proud participants in the WEL Round Table – and more recently the Pro- Choice Alliance – of 60 organisations dedicated to persuading the NSW Parliament that they must act on behalf of the women of NSW and reform our archaic and cruel abortion laws.

 

Draft Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

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Regulation of poppers has discriminatory effect on gay community

28 June 2019

Poppers, also known as amyl nitrite, are inhalants. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, they cause a high for about 2-3 minutes. They are also used to “enhance sexual experience”. Specifically, they are muscle relaxants, commonly used by gay men to facilitate anal sex. One study found that poppers were used among gay and bisexual men at a rate of 32 per cent in the last six months. Another study found that two thirds of gay and bisexual men had used it in their lifetimes.

In September last year, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), responsible for regulating drugs and medicine, released an interim report. The report proposed criminalising poppers, classifying alkyl nitrites as Schedule 9 under the Poisons Standard. This would make them the same sort of drug as heroin and cannabis.  Possession of poppers could mean 12 months in jail, or a fine of $2200 under this proposal.

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Geoffrey Rush’s $3 million judgment may have unfortunate implications for #MeToo

4 June 2019

On 24 May 2019, Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush was awarded $2.87 million for his defamation case against the Daily Telegraph. This includes $850 000 in damages, almost $2 million in past and future economic loss, and $42 000 in interest. It is the second highest defamation pay-out ever, and the highest ever awarded to a single individual. This sum does not include costs.

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Is Australia failing children accused of crimes?

27 May 2019

On Monday 13 May, ABC’s Four Corners aired a harrowing exposé about the detention in Queensland of youths suspected of criminal wrongdoing in watch houses. Watch houses are adult maximum security facilities, which are used to hold a range of offenders who have been charged with offences ranging from minor street offences to the most series offences, such as paedophilia, and murder.

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Was systemic racism a factor in the death of Aboriginal woman Tanya Day?

24 May 2019

Yorta Yorta woman Ms Day died in hospital on 22 December 2017. Around 3pm on 5 December 2017, she was arrested for allegedly being intoxicated on a train in Castlemaine, Victoria. There is conflicting evidence about the charge. The conductor said Ms Day was unruly, and called police, further alleging she did not have a ticket. The Guardian reported that Ms Day did have a ticket. Other witnesses said Ms Day did not appear intoxicated, though CCTV suggested Ms Day was slightly unsteady on her feet.

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NSWCCL submission to Productivity Commission on Mental Health

The Productivity Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into mental health. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) submission to this inquiry is now online.

Our submission focuses on two issues. First, it addresses features of the justice system, and Aboriginal people with disabilities. It then turns to considering the social security systems, and how these contribute to mental health issues in Australia.

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