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

Submission: Inquiry into Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Inquiry into Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills. 

It is our view that the suite of bills, in their current form must be withdrawn for reconsideration and redrafting, or opposed. They do not get the balance right between the important task of protecting religious adherents and non-believers from religious discrimination; and protecting others from discrimination by religious adherents and non-believers.

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Submission: Review of the Legislation Act 2003

Update 17 August 2022: The Commonwealth Government has completed its 2021-2022 review of the Legislation Act 2003. NSWCCL continues to hold the view that the recommendations of the committee could have and should have gone much further. Read our blog post here.

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Review of the Legislation Act 2003

It is extremely concerning that the Government has chosen - in the wake of the powerful arguments made in the Committee report on the overreach of exemptions to disallowance - to double down on the notion that the Executive should have untrammelled powers to rule by decree without parliamentary oversight.

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Letters: Parliament’s Inquiry process must be respected.

NSWCCL strongly objects to the LNP's outrageous attempt to rush the religious discrimination bills through the lower house today. 

The bills have been referred to an Inquiry, which will report before the next sitting of parliament.

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Why the Religious Discrimination Bill must be opposed…for the third time

Update - a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into the Bills has now been announced.

The third version

Last week the Government introduced the third version of its contentious Religious Discrimination Bill into Parliament. NSWCCL has always supported religious freedom and supports the protection of persons from discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs, but for the third time we are unable to support the Government’s Bill.

Despite some improvements (e.g. the removal of the Israel Folau provision) we remain strenuously opposed to core elements of the proposed legislation - which are in some cases worse than in the previous bills.

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Letter: Voter ID Bill

NSWCCL opposes the Government’s proposed changes to electoral legislation that would require registered voters to show ID prior to casting their vote at the polling booth on election day.

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Letter: Lack of diversity on the bench

Over 37,000 solicitors hold a practising certificate in NSW, including First Nations people and those from a multitude of other ethnic backgrounds. Lawyers from this diverse range of backgrounds are applying for positions in the Magistracy yet only a small proportion of Magistrates in NSW represent these backgrounds. We wrote to the the NSW Attorney General, who is currently undertaking a process for the recruitment of Magistrates to the Local Court of NSW, to urge him to work to break any real or perceived barriers to justice posed by discrimination and unconscious bias.

Submission: Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021

On 18 November NSWCCL made a submission to the Inquiry into the Provisions of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021.

We encourage NSW residents to let the Inquiry know how you feel via its online questionnaire (closing date Monday 22 November).

NSWCCL strongly supports the Bill, which has very strong public support and is long overdue. Death may be inevitable, but it need not be cruel. 

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UN recognises right to healthy environment

In a landmark development for environmental activists, the UN recently recognised the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. 

With 24% of global deaths linked to environmental threats according to the WHO, it is to be hoped that this right could be used at this week's COP-26 meeting in Glasgow and beyond to further climate action

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Letter: Age of criminal responsibility

NSWCCL wrote to David Shoebridge MLC to express support for his draft Children (Criminal Proceedings) Amendment (Age of Criminal Responsibility) Bill 2021.

Raising the age of criminal responsibility to fourteen years and prohibiting the exposure of all children under the age of sixteen to the detention system will fundamentally improve the rights of children in New South Wales and Australia’s compliance with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We have asked some questions about the draft bill to make sure it covers all bases for keeping children out of custody, but the bill would be a great step forward for children’s rights in New South Wales if it were to pass.

You can have your say about the draft bill here (link no longer available).

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Policy: Delegated legislation

Adopted at the 2021 AGM

For the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in a future crisis, the NSW and Commonwealth parliaments ensure that our system of crisis law-making is fit for purpose, including by:

  • embedding human rights scrutiny into all emergency responses, including through the operation of a charter of human rights;
  • subjecting all delegated legislative crisis powers to legislative tests for likely effectiveness, necessity, and proportionality;
  • eliminating the presence of poor regulation-making practices such as Henry VIII clauses or ‘skeleton legislation’ in crisis legislation;
  • mandating that changes to the law that seriously affect our core civil and human rights are enacted in primary legislation; 
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