NSWCCL Submission: Religious Freedom Review
There are four areas in which rights might be better dealt with in Australian law: freedom of speech, (for and against religions), freedom to practise, freedom from discrimination and protection against hate speech and incitement to violence.
This submission is in the way of a statement of the NSWCCL’s general views on the issue and
areas we think are in need of attention:
- Human rights and Australia’s obligations: International law
- Australian Law—a summary.
- Four areas in which rights might be better dealt with in Australian law
- The relation between freedom of religion and other rights.
- The functions of a bill of rights.
- Relevant sections of Australian bills of rights.
- Balancing principles.
New South Wales Law Reform Commission: Review of Guardianship Act 1987
We acknowledge that persons without decision-making abilities, or a limitation thereof, are
vulnerable members of society, and such persons should be supported to make decisions
concerning crucial aspects of their lives in order to be afforded an opportunity to live as
comfortably and freely as others. Hence, insofar as the draft proposals of the New South
Wales Law Reform Commission (‘NSWLRC’) on its review of the Guardianship Act 1987
(NSW) promote these individuals’ civil liberties in both the public and private domains, we
support the proposed changes to the current arrangements existing under the Guardianship
Act 1987 (NSW).
Overall, we strongly endorse the NSWLRC’s draft proposals because we believe that the new
framework, as contemplated by the Assisted Decision-Making Act, better protects and
promotes the civil liberties of persons affected than the schemes supported by the
Guardianship Act 1987 (NSW). As a result, this submission will be limited to only those
aspects of the NSWLRC’s draft proposals which could be improved to better protect civil
liberties of the persons affected.
The Legislation Review Committee (LRC) was created as an alternative to the adoption of a
Bill of Rights for New South Wales. It has not functioned well, and is no substitute for such a
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has long supported the legalisation of Voluntary Assisted Dying measures. While noting that, compared with existing VAD legislation in other jurisdictions, it is very conservative, the NSWCCL will actively campaign for the passage of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill currently before the NSW Parliament.
Stephen Blanks comments that what is not before the public is advanced legislation in NSW and it will come to the table 15 November or sometime later next month. We have a motion which is very timely and in reflection in our long support the bill before the NSW parliament.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, alarmed at the corrosive effect of pervasive and serious corruption within, and related to, Government and public administration at the national level, strongly supports the urgent need for a national anti-corruption body.
This body should have a broad ambit across public administration (core public service bodies and public sector corporations), public sector contractors and parliament and politicians.
While such a body must have effective power to address current corruption, there must also be effective constraints and transparent oversight to ensure that the balance between the protection of individual rights and the fight against serious corruption is as well balanced as can be devised.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties reaffirms its long standing active support for a national human rights charter.
The recurrent resistance of Australia’s politicians to a number of widely supported attempts to introduce a national human rights bill/charter over the last 44 years has left Australia as the only liberal democracy without either constitutional or statutory broad protection for fundamental human rights.
This has been a significant factor in allowing the proliferation of national laws which seriously and unwarrantedly breach human rights and liberties. The extreme manifestations of this trend in the areas of counter-terrorism and refugee law and policy in recent years necessitates a renewed community effort.
The NSWCCL will again give priority to joining other progressive bodies to campaign for an Australian Human Rights Bill in the context of the next federal election.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, consistent with its long-standing support for GLBT rights, strongly supports marriage equality and urges the Australian Government and/or the National Parliament to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to achieve this equality.
The current same sex marriage statistical survey is an inappropriate, seriously flawed and undemocratic exercise intent on delaying Parliament addressing the issue and generating divisive and harmful debate. Nonetheless, NSWCCL strongly urges the community to register a “Yes” vote so that Government has no excuse to further delay legislative action on this matter.
Regardless of the outcome of the flawed survey, NSWCCL urges the Australian Government and/or Parliament to address the issue in this parliamentary term and introduce and pass a marriage equality amendment consistent with clear majority support within the Australian community.
NSWCCL affirms the role of unions as an essential part of the Australian democracy in the defence of workers’ rights and affirms their right to support other organisations whose activities accord with their own.
Australians might be surprised to know there is a new Bill proposing an Australian Bill of Rights before the Australian Parliament.
There has not been much stomach for active campaigning in support of a national Bill of Rights in Australia since the bitter and crushing disappointment of the Rudd Government’s failure in 2010 to act on the recommendation of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee (the Brennan Report) for a federal human rights act. This surprising and weak betrayal of community expectations, following a year of extensive consultation and clear public support for a human rights act - and the subsequent loss of the 2013 election to the Abbott Government – put a long term dampener on the enthusiasm of all but the most determined of campaigners.
Australia remains alone among western democratic states in not having a human rights act or charter.
In recent years the Australian Parliament has enacted numerous new laws - and the Australian Government has enacted numerous new policies and programs - which unwarrantedly infringe individual liberties and rights and are in clear breach of our international human rights obligations.
Without the protections afforded by a Bill of Rights, strong and persistent opposition to these laws from many sections of the community has been powerless to stop their passage. Professor Gillian Triggs, the recently retired President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, repeatedly warned of the dangerous consequences for the rights and liberties of Australians of this situation – and was outrageously vilified by the Government and sections of the media for so doing.
So it is with tentative optimism that NSWCCL applauds the introduction of the Australian Bill of Rights Bill 2017 into the Federal Parliament by the independent MP Andrew Wilkie - with the support of independent MP Cathy McGowan.
It is a wide ranging Bill which Wilkie says is closely modelled on an earlier private member’s Bill introduced in 2001 by Dr Theophanous which did not get past a first reading. (2R speech 14/8/17)
Hundreds of submissions were made to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee on the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017.
You can read our submission here.
CCL views the Bill as dangerous, undemocratic and unfair. In brief we argued that the Bill:
- creates a class of permanent residents who are denied recognition as citizens
- requires new citizens to accept arbitrarily defined "Australian values"
- confers unwarranted extraordinary powers on the Minister for Immigration
- requires that applicants for citizenship have a knowledge of English which is set at an unfairly high level.
The Senate committee is due to report on 4 September 2017.