Despite strong protestations from businesses and the public, the NSW Government is proceeding with its City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 -the ‘Borsak Bill’ - to grant multiple votes to owners of rateable land in the City of Sydney council elections.
NSWCCL joined many other deeply concerned voices in opposing the bill which Robert Borsak from the Shooters and Fishers Party introduced into the Legislative Council with the agreement of the Government. We intervened because the bill is such an obvious and disturbing affront to democratic principle.
The bill was withdrawn from Parliament earlier this month for “redrafting”. There was some hope- given the extent and strength of the opposition to it – that its most offensive elements might be amended. Certainly it was hoped the anti-democratic and retrograde proposal to give two votes to non-residential voters would be amended.
Astonishingly, the Government has not responded to the criticism. Instead, its redrafting is only at the margins and does not remove the multiple voting rights for non-residential voters.
CCL maintains its opposition to this bill. The proposed changes offend basic civil liberties principles and should be rejected. NSWCCL supports the fundamental democratic principle of one person one vote. It is greatly disappointing that the NSW Parliament appears set to move away from democratic principles towards a local government franchise more strongly based on property.
It is even more disturbing that the Bill will allow these anti-democratic provisions to be extended to other councils by future regulation.
The Bill is currently being debated in the Legislative Council. The Labor Party and the Greens in the LC yesterday both argued strongly and convincingly against the redrafted bill. As Fred Nile has signalled his support – and a Shooters and Fishers Party member is the lead proponent – the opposition of Labor and Greens will not be enough to block this very bad legislation.
The Greens have proposed amendments which would remove the 2 votes proposal. The independent member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich has an alternative bill which would deliver the administrative improvements which the Government believes are needed, without offending against the fundamental democratic principle of one vote one value. Labor has indicated its support for the Greenwich Bill.
Failing any of these gaining support in the Parliament, NSWCCL urges Labor to commit to repealing this legislation as soon as it regains Government.
CCL is strongly opposed to the Governments much criticized Bail Amendment Bill 2014. We oppose it because a flawed policy making process has produced unjust and retrograde draft legislation. We expressed our opposition to the knee-jerk review process to the Government and the review chair and when the bill was debated in the assembly.
The bill is now being debated in the Legislative Council. It looks certain to be passed with little opposition. Sadly, only 3 members of the lower house voted against it (Alex Greenwich independent, Jamie Parker Greens and Greg Piper independent). Disappointingly, the Labor Party did not oppose the bill.
Given the Shadow Attorney-General Paul Lynch’s robust, detailed demolition of the ill-conceived review of the new Bail Act and the main proposals in the Bill, Labor should support a vote to block the Bill in the upper house. The shadow AG in his second reading speech, correctly described the process leading to the bill:
'The Government's solution was to institute a bail review, which resulted in the bill presently before the House.....there are some obvious points that should be made. Most obviously, the Government does not have the slightest idea what it is doing. Then it went through an extremely exhaustive process to get the Law Reform Commission reform. It then went through another lengthy period and process to respond. After settling on its position, it took 12 months to implement the Act and ensure that practitioners and stakeholders understood it and could implement it. A very lengthy and considered approach, a cautious, careful and serious attempt to implement a change in the law—all blown away by a few weeks of bad publicity. It was a knee-jerk reaction totally at odds with the cautious, considered approach that predated it; a reaction, as was made clear by the comments of Don Weatherburn of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR], that was not based upon any proper statistical analysis.'
T'he speed of its change made clear that the Government had no commitment to the scheme in which it had invested a vast amount of time and to which it devoted a great deal of consultative resources. It did not know what it actually supported, and it will probably change it again at the drop of a hat. '
The shadow AG concluded his critique with these words:
'The Opposition does not oppose the bill but it thinks the Government has not the slightest idea what it is doing. The Government flip-flops all over the place about this legislation. There will inevitably be another set of amendments because the Government cannot manage to keep its hands off the legislation; it has no clear idea of what it wants to do and how it will do it. The Government is driven by a number of factors, none of which have anything to do with serious and proper policymaking. The Opposition does not oppose this bill, but it will watch with considerable interest what happens to it over time.'
CCL urges Labor to rethink this decision. It would be an extraordinary manifestation of hypocrisy for Labor to 'not oppose' the legislation, as it has suggested it will do.
The NSW community is in search of good government. Labor will only be able to position itself as an electable party if it demonstrates it is capable of acting on principle and sound policy analysis.
Labor knows there was no sound reason for the review. Labor knows that the Bill is not good law. Labor knows the changes will lead to unjust outcomes for individuals. Labor knows that the increased gaol population will be an unnecessary cost to Government.
Labor knows that this whole knee-jerk process to review and amend a new law after 3 weeks is a travesty and a depressing return to the appalling process that generated the 85 amendments that made the old Act unworkable.
The Government should not have introduced this Bill. Attorney General Brad Hazzard was correct in saying a review was not warranted (Daily Telegraph 19/6/14). The law and order auction fuelled by shock-jocks is not in the public interest.
NSWCCL will continue to lobby the Government and the Parliament to withdraw this bill and, in the longer term, to take a more principled and responsible approach to policy development and the making of our laws.
The voting changes proposed in the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 (the ‘Borsak Bill’)
offend basic civil liberties principles.
The Bill proposes to give 2 votes to owners of rateable land, 2 votes to rate paying lessees, and 2
votes to occupiers of rateable land in the City of Sydney, for that council’s elections.
The NSWCCL supports the fundamental democratic principle of one person one vote.
We do recognise that corporations and businesses have long been entitled to non-residential voting
rights in the City of Sydney. This is not our preferred position which is that democracy is about
representing people not property.
In the context of the current Bill, we register our strong opposition to the profoundly undemocratic
proposal to increase the current entitlements for corporations owning, leasing or occupying rateable
land in the City of Sydney from one to two votes.
This is a move in precisely the wrong direction for democratic government. The notion of the
property franchise should be being rejected in the interest of effective democracy- not strengthened
as proposed in the Borsak Bill.
NSWCCL urges the NSW Parliament to reject the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014
(the ‘Borsak Bill’)
We note the alternative private members bill has been introduced into Parliament by the
independent MP Alex Greenwich: City of Sydney Amendment (Business Voting and Council Elections)
Bill 2014 (the Greenwich Bill). This Bill is preferable in that it maintains the current entitlements for
eligible corporations and businesses to one vote.
If the parliament considers improvements are necessary to the current arrangements for registration on the electoral roll then the Greenwich Bill is acceptable in that it does not further offend against the fundamental democratic principle at stake.
The NSW Parliament has today resumed debate on the Government's Bail Amendment Bill 2014. NSWCCL strongly opposes the Bill.
The Government’s decision to respond to a narrow section of the media and hastily and prematurely review the new Bail Act is now history. It acted with indecent and unwise haste in the face of widespread professional and expert advice that review of the Bail Act was seriously premature and would have to reach conclusions without access to meaningful operational data.
This unsound process has produced a Bill which should be rejected by Parliament as unwarranted and retrograde draft legislation. If the amendments to the Act are passed, the effect will be to graft onto a coherent, unified, clearly grounded and eminently workable system under the 2013 Act a number of qualifications of the kind that wrecked the original 1978 Act.
NSWCCL has two major principled objections to the Bill.
The creation of so-called “show cause” offences constitutes a reintroduction of presumptions against bail for prescribed offences by the back door. The presumption scheme was soundly criticised in the revamp of the Bail Act and this grafts presumptions against bail, with all their faults, back onto the scheme of the 2013 Act. It introduces complications for no clearly discernible legitimate benefit. The effect will be to transfer more power to the police, by their selection of charges before the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has a chance to exercise independent judgment in charge selection.
Further – and more seriously – the onus of proof has been reversed in relation to those offences. Article 9 of the ICCPR states (in effect) that remand in custody is not to be the default position for people – any people – charged with offences, yet this creates such a position and imposes upon the accused to prove that it should not apply.
If one’s right to liberty is to be taken away, then the onus has always been on the party that seeks to remove it to establish lawful grounds for doing so. This will no longer be so in respect of these offences. The mischief done by these provisions is tacitly acknowledged by the exemption of juveniles from the scheme.
NSWCCL has recommended the Bill be withdrawn by the Government or failing that rejected by Parliament. If the Bill is to proceed we have further recommended it should be referred to a Parliamentary Committee for consideration of its implications in relation to the reversal of the onus of proof and the reintroduction of ‘show cause ‘offences and to allow proper public consideration of the BillRead more
CCL's give testimony at Joint Committee inquiry into National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014
NSWCCL Secretary Dr Lesley Lynch and Civil Liberties Australia CEO William Rowlings have given testimony on behalf of Australian Civil Liberties Councils at the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security public hearing, following a recent joint submission by the councils regarding the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.
Dr Lynch raised a number of concerns with the bill, including the lack of evidence-based justification for some of the enhanced powers, lack of effective oversight, the startling degree of ambiguity and loose definitions throughout and also an apparent lack of consideration of longer term impacts of legislation introduced to allegedly address short-term terrorist threats but ultimately remaining for the longer term.
Joint submission to PJCIS inquiry into Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014 - August 2014
NSWCCL has collaborated with other Australian civil liberties groups in making a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.
The CCLs accept that ASIO and other intelligence and security organisations must have the powers and resources necessary for the protection of national security including protection against the very real threat of terrorist activity in Australia- consistent with democratic values. However, where the proposed changes expand existing ASIO powers and/or weaken balancing safeguards and protections our endorsement is dependent upon persuasive evidence justifying such changes and clear demonstration that rights and liberties are not being unwarrantedly or disproportionately encroached upon
In our view, such persuasive evidence has not been provided to justify some of the new or enhanced security powers being proposed in this Bill.
Dr Lesley Lynch (NSWCCL Secretary) and Bill Rowlings (Civil Liberties Australia) gave testimony at the inquiry's public hearing on the 18th of August 2014. A supplementary submission was subsequently compiled offering more detailed comment regarding the discard of ministerial oversight of particular intelligence sharing between agencies
The Bail Act 2013 was a product of two years’ work by the Law Reform Commission and a team of experts. The Report was tabled in 2012. The Government then carefully considered it and in 2013 passed a new Act which did not merely rubber-stamp the LRC Report. The Act was passed unanimously – no politician, from any party, in either House, voted against it.
There was then a delay while the criminal justice agencies absorbed the changes, trained staff, prepared processes and documentation and got ready for implementation. A great deal of administrative work was done by Police, DPP, Legal Aid, Bar Association, Law Society, Courts, etc.
The Act came into force on 20 May 2014, with much fanfare from the Attorney General. Soon after there were three high profile cases of bail being granted (Hawi, Fesus and Ibrahim). The tabloid media agitated. The DPP appealed the Ibrahim matter and his bail was refused – the system was working as it was intended to. A reading of the judgments in the other two cases would show that principles were properly applied and the decisions were uncontroversial.
On 27 June 2014, just over five weeks after the Act came into effect and before any meaningful data had accumulated (as acknowledged by Mr Hatzistergos), the Premier announced a review, supposedly because the Act was not protecting the community as much as had been intended.
The review was done in just over four weeks by one person. His Report was published today (5 August 2014), a Bill is ready (implementing all the reviewer’s recommendations) and it will go to Parliament next week.
The Government has acted with indecent and unwise haste. There has been no consultation with anyone about the recommendations or the substance of the Bill.Read more
In this issue:
- Message from the Secretary
- Racial vilification legislation
- Independent monitor of counter-terrorism laws abolished
- Senate election reform
- Telecommunications interception and access
- Police powers - safeguard weakened
- Mandatory minimum sentencing
- Independence of attorney general and police ministries
- Racial vilification report deferred
- Police consorting law reform
- Oversight of police critical incidents
Attorney-General George Brandis has delivered a press conference introducing the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, which seeks to expand the powers of Australian intelligence agencies. NSWCCL has compiled a list of comments in response to the matters addressed by the Attorney-General at the press conference.
It is disappointing to see the Commissioner of Police's comments in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning defending warrantless access to databases containing personal information. The police are opportunistically taking advantage of the proliferation of electronic databases which do not have strong privacy policies to protect members of the community against inappropriate release of their personal information. In the absence of strong data protection laws and personal privacy protection, the only protection the public can get is through privacy policies which require law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants from an independent judge or magistrate before personal information is released.