NSWCCL News

Media coverage: Canberra Times

As state governments ease restrictions to varying degrees, Mr Blanks said that similar principles needed to be applied to exiting self-isolation as going in.

"That is you need very, very careful, sensitive enforcement from the police," Mr Blanks said.

"The police have to perform their role in a way that does not undermine community support (of restrictions) because one thing which could lead to a very quick loss of community support is if the police are seen to be picking on people unfairly, imposing fines as a first line of response instead of a last line of response, and imposing fines in ways that are not really relevant to the community health control aspect."

 

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The Australian Government has released the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020 (COVIDSafe Bill) which will be considered by Parliament this week. The COVIDSafe Bill largely reproduces the biosecurity orders which made it possible to begin to download and operate the COVIDSafe App (App).

The NSW, Queensland and South Australian Councils for Civil Liberties, along with the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, support the introduction of effective digital contact tracing if it is underpinned by robust privacy and transparency legislation.

The joint statement has been sent to the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and Opposition Leader, along with all MPs and Senators. 

In the statement we recommend that a number of issues should be considered by Parliament for incorporation into the Act – or for Government action - to more adequately protect the privacy of Australian citizens who have voluntarily participated in this tracking exercise.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the statement - 'The civil liberties groups want the government to change the design to ensure personal data is not stored on a central database, arguing this increases the danger from a single cyber attack.'

'More needs to be done to ensure that the app does not compromise data protection and thereby increase the risk of illegal and inappropriate use of data or surveillance of Australians.'

Read the full statement HERE. 

 


Police officers who conducted strip searches of children hadn't been properly trained and didn't understand the law on what they were doing, a series of landmark watchdog reports has found.

The conduct of NSW Police officers in carrying out strip searches of teenagers at music festivals has been found to be unlawful in a series of landmark reports by the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.

The reports also criticised the use of police discretion in finding appropriate grounds to justify a strip search; and then the subsequent conduct of the strip search as it applies to people under the age of 18. 

The NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission said police couldn't justify ordering people to strip naked on a general belief that some music festival patrons would conceal drugs.

NSWCCL Vice President, and convenor of CCL's Police Powers action group, Eugene Scofield-Georgeson, said the report confirms that strip searches of minors at festivals must end. 'These findings are further evidence for halting the practice of invasive police searches of children, led by drug dogs, at music festivals'. 

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The report comes only days from an announcement that police chief Mick Fuller is to receive an $87,000 pay rise at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, making him one of the state's highest paid public servants.

NSWCCL is alarmed by the recent $87,000 pay rise of the NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, who is now the highest paid NSW public servant, well ahead of the pay of the NSW Chief Justice by more than $100,000 per year. This pay increase also comes at a time when pay for public servants has been capped at 2.5% per annum.

NSWCCL is crowdfunding for a podcast series, Strip Searches and the Law, that will address rights and privacy for festival goers, and those approached by drug dogs/police. Pre-production of the podcast has been postponed during the COVID-19 health emergency.

 


Six civil society groups are today calling on the NSW State Parliament to immediately reconvene regular sittings, in a way that is safe, so it can debate and address important matters of public concern.  

The NSW community is looking to their State Government to guide them through the COVID-19 public health emergency. Issues including the impact the pandemic is having on people experiencing homelessness and domestic violence and on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be open to parliamentary scrutiny. 

As NSW teachers prepare to go back to classrooms next week, NSW MPs will sit for just one day to pass rental relief measures and are then not scheduled to sit again until September. Only with regular parliamentary processes can the Government respond to the community’s needs rapidly. 

The use of the Upper House Public Accountability Committee to review the NSW Government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic was a step in the right direction. However, the Committee is yet to hold hearings since its inception in March, and is not accepting public submissions. The Committee has, so far, not put any measures in place to improve the transparency and accountability of executive decision-making. 

Nicholas Cowdery AO QC President of NSW Council for Civil Liberties:

“There is no legal impediment to the conduct of safe sittings of parliament in the coronavirus context. Accountable government is a requirement of democracy and without it, intrusive emergency measures may become manipulated and entrenched beyond this crisis.” 

Jonathon Hunyor, CEO of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre:

“In responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the NSW Government has been making major decisions with significant impact on our daily lives and fundamental rights. We need Parliament doing its job, ensuring oversight and accountability – it’s an essential part of our democracy.”

The Hon Anthony Whealy QC, Chair of The Centre for Public Integrity and former Judge of the NSW Court of Appeal:

"Parliament can and should sit during this crisis. Increased public spending and government intervention at this time calls for more scrutiny, not less. Australian Parliaments should follow examples set in the UK of MPs joining the chamber virtually to allow full representation across Parliament."

Alice Drury, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre:

“Now is the time for Parliament to shine, not shut down. We can have confidence in leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic only when decisions are transparent, open to constructive scrutiny, and responsive to the changing needs of our communities. We need regular Parliament processes back in place as soon as possible.”

See the original release from Human Rights Law Centre HERE

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