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
Like many others, NSWCCL scrambled to make a submission to the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department on the Religious Discrimination Exposure Draft Bill 2019 in early October. The Department says it received around 6000 submissions – of which it has to date only published c100.
The Government had wanted to have the Bill brought before this sitting of Parliament. But following very soon after a joint letter from most church leaders indicating their strong opposition to the Bill, the Attorney General has now indicated the Government will release an amended version of the Bill before the end of the year but postpone Parliamentary consideration of the issue until next year.Read more
NSWCCL has endorsed the Human Rights for NSW Alliance's submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission's national conversation on human rights in Australia - Free and Equal. The submission makes a number of recommendations and builds the case for a Human Rights Act in NSW.
NSWCCL is a founding member of Human Rights for NSW Alliance. Human Rights for NSW is an alliance of community, legal, rights-based and civil society organisations campaigning to ensure that the human rights of NSW citizens are expressed and guaranteed by law so we are all treated fairly, and with dignity, equality and respect.
This submission is endorsed by 33 member organisations, including Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Human Rights Law Centre, Community Legal Centres NSW, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT and the NSW Bar Association.
Everyone in NSW deserves to be treated fairly and equally. NSWCCL supports the campaign for a Human Rights Act for NSW.
Religious Discrimination Bill 2019
Policy motion considered at the NSWCCL 2019 Annual General Meeting, 23rd October 2019
NSWCCL cannot support the Religious Discrimination Bill (the Bill) as currently drafted. It has too many negative aspects which will undermine current anti-discrimination protections and it fails to address pressing issues. NSWCCL strongly opposes the privileging of religious freedoms over other rights.Read more
It is clearly important for Australia’s discrimination laws to work cohesively together and for no one right to be automatically privileged over another/others. The protection and balancing of human rights would be greatly assisted by the adoption of an Australian Charter of Human Rights and by a review of Australia’s state and federal human rights laws to ensure the appropriate coherence and consistency. The current Review by the Australian Law Reform Commission into The Framework of Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation will contribute to this from the perspective of religious rights - but the broader exercise is necessary.
One of the major disappointments with this Bill is the failure to include much needed and explicitly promised protections for LGBTQI+ students in religious and private schools. This Bill has been hastily drawn up in advance of the report from the inquiry into The Framework of Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation under way by the ALRC, but one of the most urgent and disturbing manifestations of inappropriate religious exemptions for otherwise unlawful discriminatory acts against children has deliberately not been addressed in the Bill and instead left to the ALRC review. Simultaneously the reporting date for the ALRC review has been pushed back to December 2020.
CCL is concerned by what would appear to be a ‘crackdown’ against free speech and basic principles of democratic governance.
The proposed legislation is draconian and disproportionate and might be said to infringe at least two of the four core principles of criminal law –
- that the criminal law should only be used to censure people who have committed substantial wrongdoing, and
- that laws be enforced with respect for proportionality.
This bill appears to be designed to discourage lawful demonstrations and protest contrary to the implied constitutional right to peaceful protest and its constitutionality is for that reason questionable.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) joins with a number of other civil society organisations including unions, environment groups and civil liberties advocates in making the additional submission (set out in Annexure A).
On Thursday 26th September the NSW Parliament at long last acted to remove abortion from the criminal law and regulate it as a women’s health issue with the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 - (now called the Abortion Reform Law 2019). This is a big and very overdue historical moment for women.
Women in NSW can now legally access terminations up to 22 weeks into their pregnancy in consultation with their doctor. After 22 weeks they can access a termination in consultation with two medical practitioners.
Achieving this in NSW has required a very, very long campaign by numerous organisations and individuals with ups and many downs since the 1960s. This most recent and successful campaign push over several years was sustained by a broad and powerful alliance of organisations encompassing women’s, legal, health, civil liberties and human rights issues. Some of these -such as WEL and NSWCCL - were long term players for abortion reform of 50 years plus.
This campaign knew it had strong, majority support in the community. The challenge was to persuade enough members of the Parliament to act on the will of the people and in the interest of NSW women. This crucial and politically fraught task was led by an expanding cross-party group of parliamentarians. The Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich sponsored the Bill. He was initially supported by MLCs Penny Sharp (ALP) and Trevor Khan (National Party) and Jo Haylen (ALP) and the Health Minister Brad Hazzard. This cross-party support grew to 15 co-sponsors - which we suspect is the largest cross-party group supporting a private members bill in the history of the NSW Parliament.Read more
NSW Council for Civil Liberties has today written to select MLCs to urge them to resist the threats from those who oppose the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019, and to be guided by their conscience.
Re: Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019
Reports of the high level of aggression and threats currently raging around the conscience vote for the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 are deeply disturbing.
Conscience votes within our Parliaments have a very special place in that they allow our representatives the rare opportunity to act on their conscience, free of Party constraints. It has been observed, with some justification, that they bring out the best in our politicians. Sadly this has not been the case for this Bill.Read more
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.Read more
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.
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.