NSWCCL News

Correspondence with the NSW AG

In August CCL wrote to the NSW Attorney General on a number of matters relating to the administration of justice. We recently received a response from the Attorney General

We remained deeply concerned that, despite the Government Commissioning reports to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody, the statistics remain shamefully high. We remain uninformed about the details of the specific additional funding/initiatives. It is important that these initiatives are detailed to the community so that the community, in particular the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, are in a position to evaluate government action in relation to this crucial issue.

We call upon the government, as a starting point to:

  • Fund the Walama Court (specific sentencing court for Aboriginal people); 
  • Fund residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres in a regional areas (noting many regional areas simply do not have a residential rehabilitation facility, making it difficult if not impossible for people to access the assistance they need thus leaving individuals, families and communities vulnerable to the devastating impacts of serious addiction)     
  • Establish a committee led by the advice and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice and health professionals to implement the recommendations of the ALRC pathways report (insert link). The committee should include Federal and State representatives to ensure there is a whole of government response to addressing this important issue.

 

NSWCCL letter to Mark Speakman, Attorney General (26th August 2019)

Return correspondence from the Attorney General (Dated January 2020)

 

NSWCCL Action Group Convenors, First Nations Justice - Rebecca McMahon, and Criminal justice, police powers and mental health, Dr Eugene Schofield-Georgeson

 

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Concerning additions to census collection topics

NSWCCL provided a submission to the Australian Treasury on the Census and Statistics Amendment (Statistical Information) Regulations 2019 (Regs) amending the Census and Statistics Regulation 2016. This amendment makes significant and concerning changes to the regulation which we oppose on privacy grounds.

Whilst NSWCCL supports the updating of the statistical information topics for inclusion in the census we oppose mandatory collection of sensitive health information and its storage for 4 years by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The amendment proposes the insertion of a new topic relating to health conditions diagnosed by a doctor or a nurse which must be answered by all respondents.  The rationale is that this information will assist health service planning and delivery.

We oppose this proposal is given the retention of that information by the ABS.

In 2016 the Australian government reinstated a plan to retain names and addresses from the census, a move which leaves open the opportunity for a future government to access sensitive personal information. NSWCCL appreciates the need for longitudinal studies but considers these can be conducted on a sample basis.  We continue to support the prior approach to the census which collected important census information but which was disassociated from the individual identification data.  

As a minimum we recommend the ABS conduct an adequate, independent, publicly available, Privacy Impact Statement (PIA).

We also registered our objection to the timing of the consultation period which ended on 10th January to the Xmas/NY holiday period.  This does not suggest a serious desire to generate community input to the review process.

 

NSWCCL submission

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Australian doctors' plea for Assange

Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans has rallied a group of over 100 doctors who have written to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Marise Payne asking that the Australian government meet its obligation to its citizen and intervene for wellbeing of Julian Assange.

The doctors' action follows warnings from medical and human rights experts that Mr Assange’s health is rapidly deteriorating and that he might die in a UK prison where he is being held pending US extradition hearings that begin in February.

Extract from the #Doctors4Assange letter:

'We call upon you to intervene as a matter of urgency. As Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, you have an undeniable legal obligation to protect your citizen against the abuse of his fundamental human rights, stemming from US efforts to extradite Mr Assange for journalism and publishing that exposed US war crimes.

“The evidence is overwhelming and clear.. Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.” - UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Professor Nils Melzer

On 1 November 2019, Professor Melzer was forced to intervene once more: “What we have seen from the UK Government's outright contempt for Mr Assange’s rights and integrity... Despite the medical urgency of my appeal, and the seriousness of the alleged violations, the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law.” He concluded: “Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.”

These are extraordinary and unprecedented statements by the world’s foremost authority on torture. The Australian government has shamefully been complicit by its refusal to act, over many years. Should Mr Assange die in a British prison, people will want to know what you, Minister, did to prevent his death.

We urge you to negotiate Julian Assange’s safe passage from Belmarsh Prison to an appropriate hospital setting in Australia, before it is too late.'

 

If you are a doctor and wish to join the campaign, please contact - doctors4assange@gmail.com

Read the letter HERE and the ADDENDUM.

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Civil Source December 2019

December 2019 Newsletter

In this issue -

  • Medevac - another shameful last week in the Australian Parliament
  • Major rethink on police strip search powers urgently needed
  • Religious Discrimination Bill – trouble ahead?
  • Government secrecy or a free media?
  • Meet the 2020 NSWCCL Committee
  • In the media

Read/Download the December Issue (PDF) HERE

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Medevac – another shameful last week in the Australian Parliament

This time last year we lamented the reckless proceedings in the last sitting day of the Australian Parliament as the ALP allowed the Government to force through the widely opposed encryption-breaking legislation without even discussing the amendments they and others in the Senate had put forward as essential  to reduce the excesses in the bill.

There was, however, one stunningly positive parliamentary act, brilliantly initiated by determined independents with the support of the ALP: the passage, against extreme warnings as to disastrous consequences by the Government, of the Medevac law.  A rare, compassionate intervention to remediate aspects of our shameful, ongoing off-shore incarceration of asylum seekers. 

This year we witnessed the shameful and gratuitous repeal of this legislation.

It had worked well. It had not led to an influx of asylum seekers. The Government had no motivation other than assertion of its power. The Government’s utter determination to repeal this one compassionate asylum seeker law reeks of vindictiveness.

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Religious Discrimination Bill – trouble ahead?

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.

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Australia's 'secret trials'

Media Coverage: ABC Radio The World Today

Are ‘secret trials’ happening in Australia more than we think?

The mysterious case of a man imprisoned in the ACT last year in a process which was hidden from the public, is raising questions over whether more such "secret trials" are taking place in Australia.

It is understood that the prisoner, given a pseudonym of Alan Johns, was a former intelligence official, but details about his crime and background have been kept suppressed.

Interview with: Stephen Blanks, spokesperson, New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Brian Toohey, author and Michael Shoebridge, defence director, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Listen HERE.

 

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Submission: free and equal, a conversation on human rights

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.

View submission


 

 

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NSW mobile phone detection bill seriously flawed

A NSW Parliamentary Committee has recommended the Legislative Council should proceed to consider the Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019, including any amendments in relation to the reverse onus of proof, the use of artificial intelligence and privacy.

NSWCCL agrees strongly that mobile phone use whilst driving is a serious issue which needs to be addressed to protect the safety of the community.

We do not, however, support this Bill on the basis that it unjustifiably reverses the onus of proof and fails to provide adequate protections to assure the public that the information captured by the cameras is used for the sole purpose of prosecuting mobile phone offences.

NSWCCL also has concerns about the inherent risks of using AI to identify criminal behaviour given the lack of transparency as to the underpinning algorithms driving the assessment.

We welcome the Committee’s recognition of these concerns in their report and single recommendation.

The Bill should be amended significantly to address these problems before the Legislative Council approves it.                                                   

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Mobile phone detection cameras, 'there's no need to reverse the onus of proof' - NSWCCL's Stephen Blanks

Media coverage: The Guardian

Legislation that reverses onus of proof described as ‘a dangerous precedent’

NSW courts could be flooded with tens of thousands of cases every year if the NSW government moves ahead with plans to roll out cameras that use artificial intelligence to detect drivers using their mobile phones, a parliamentary committee has warned.

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties’ Stephen Blanks said there was no need to reverse the onus of proof if the quality of the photographs was high enough to rule out confusion about what was in a driver’s hand.

Read more HERE.

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