Recently three people in Sydney were hospitalised after taking pills that they believed to be MDMA but actually contained a powerful opioid, nitazene. Individuals taking as little as half a tablet were hospitalised.
In response to these hospitalizations, NSW Health issued an urgent warning about the tablets, describing them as orange or red, rectangular in shape, featuring a red bull logo and text.
This incident has reignited calls for drug testing.Read more
The twentieth anniversary of the passing of TJ Hickey, a young Indigenous individual, serves as yet another stark reminder of the numerous First Nations individuals who have lost their lives due to encounters with law enforcement or correctional systems.
This anniversary coincides with the release of an update on the Closing the Gap report by the Federal Government, marking the sixteenth anniversary of the National Apology to Indigenous People. This report has shown that progress on some target have gone backwards.Read more
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of First Nations teenager, TJ Hickey. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties joins his family, friends, and the First Nations community in solemn remembrance.
On February 14, 2004, TJ tragically died after being impaled on a fence during interactions with NSW Police. His death remains deeply etched in the hearts and minds of his family, friends, and the First Nations community.Read more
In 2023, a video surfaced, widely reported by outlets like Fox News, TMZ, and the Monthly, purportedly showing pro-Palestine protesters at the Opera House chanting "Gas the Jews," according to the video's captions. However, following an extensive investigation by the NSW Police into its authenticity, they have concluded that there is no evidence supporting these claims.Read more
NSWCCL endorses the draft recommendations of the Commission which will bring reforms to the Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) system, making it more transparent, simpler, fairer and more consistent. The current DGR system is complex legislation and operates under outdated categories that do not capture the diversity of modern Australian charities. In our submission we comment specifically on areas that require further action to ensure a more democratic process and that align more consistently with civil rights. Our submission also concentrates on the system that determines which entities in Australia can receive tax deductable donations rather than tax incentives encouraging donation.Read more
Submission: Review of the amendments made by the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Repudiation) Bill 2023
The Bill was introduced into Parliament on 29 November 2023, and was passed by both Houses on 6 December 2023. Now in force as the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Repudiation) Act 2023 (Act), it has repealed and replaced provisions of Subdivision C of Division 3 of Part 2 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007.
This Bill should have been referred to the PJCIS to allow proper scrutiny before, not after, the Bill passed. This legislation was rushed through both the House and the Senate with very limited consultation, no exposure drafts and very short notice. In our view, no clear or adequate justification has been given for this rushed process.
In 2015, in a highly politicised environment, where there was very little nuanced public debate regarding national security, the Australian government added citizenship revocation on terrorism-related grounds (citizenship stripping) into the Australian Citizenship Act. Citizenship revocation was introduced to both dissuade disaffected people from committing acts of terrorism, as well as addressing the anticipated risks that individuals who had been convicted of terrorism related offences may pose to the community upon their release.Read more
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties considers that the powers contained in Division 3 of Part III of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (Cth) (Division 3) disproportionately infringe on fundamental civil liberties, create a serious threat to the rule of law in Australia, and moreover, no longer have the utility which precipitated their creation. The NSWCCL submits that Division 3 should be repealed in full.
The Division 3 powers, when introduced, were cast as a transient response to an exceptional set of events, as a response to the perceived terrorism threat following the 9/11 attacks. However, more than two decades on, and what were once powers of unprecedented and exceptional reach, are now a permanent feature of Australia’s legal landscape. Given the reduction in the threat of terrorism, coupled with the fact that Division 3 powers have rarely been utilised, the powers given to Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) under Division 3 are now well beyond the scope of what is reasonably necessary. They overstep intelligence collection and veer into investigatory powers that are properly the purvey of law enforcement agencies.Read more
Three months ago, protestors gathered at the Sydney Opera House steps, illuminated to commemorate Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7. Following the protest, reports surfaced of anti-Semitic slogans. Fahad Ali, one of the organizers, confirmed these reports and stated that the small group responsible was asked to leave. However, it was the alleged chant of "Gas the Jews" that garnered significant attention with videos circulated and aired by the Australian Jewish Association and Sky News allegedly captured the chants, with both videos carrying corresponding captions.
Recently, the accuracy of the footage has come under scrutiny. While other chants were undoubtedly anti-Semitic, the specific Holocaust reference carried potential legal implications, possibly constituting incitement to violence.
Various Jewish and Palestinian organizations are urging for a deeper investigation following an announcement by NSW Police stating they lack evidence supporting claims that pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanted "Gas the Jews" during a protest at the Sydney Opera House. The publishers of the contested footage have declined to acknowledge any inaccuracies.Read more
WARNING: This blog contains the name of an Aboriginal person who has died.
Lowitja O’Donoghue, a Yankunytjatjara woman, Australian activist and leader died on Sunday on Kaurna Country in Adelaide. Today the NSWCCL pays tribute to her life and work which led groundbreaking reforms for Indigenous peoples across the nation.Read more
Since 2007 Indigenous deaths in police custody have doubled with 2023 as the deadliest year on record for First Nations people in prison. The recently published report released by The Australian Institute of Criminology, shed light on this, with over 556 Indigenous deaths in custody in the 32 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, a total of 21 Indigenous prisoners lost their lives while incarcerated. This marks the highest death-in-custody toll since 1980. Further, this report highlighted the deaths of 11 individuals who were unsentenced at the time of their passing.
The report has additionally highlighted that New South Wales is the most likely place for someone to die while being arrested, held or pursued.
Ashleigh Buckett - an associate legal director at the National Justice Project said that the government was slow to respond to a royal commission on Aboriginal deaths in custody and emphasised the necessity for change.
"There have been over 500 Aboriginal deaths in custody since 1991, but only a handful of prosecutions," she said.
"The government already has the recommendations to guide its response, the question now is whether it has the will."Read more
NSW police have conducted a review of a serious allegation of hate speech at the Opera House protest in October and found that the allegations were incorrect. Expert examination of the video evidence proves that protestors were chanting “where’s the Jews” and did not chant “gas the Jews” as was widely reported by many media outlets on the basis of a wrongly captioned video shared on social media.Read more
In NSW and Queensland, the requirement for juries to deliberate for eight hours before the possibility of a majority 11-1 verdict is longer than in all other states and territories. This extended deliberation period means that juries with a single hold-out can be repeatedly urged to "try harder" for a unanimous verdict, with judges closely monitoring the clock.
A proposed overhaul of legislation in NSW aims to halve the minimum deliberation time in an effort to reduce the number of hung juries and associated trial expenditures. Critics, however, argue that there is insufficient evidence to support the belief that these objectives would be achieved or that such changes are necessary.Read more
Biometric Update: Australian Digital ID Bill draws feedback from finance, business, civil rights groups
The Digital ID Bill, initially presented to Parliament in November following over three years of development, is now concluding its period for receiving submissions in a parliamentary inquiry.
In their submissions many civil rights groups have expressed concerns around misuse of biometric data and privacy. In contrast to these submissions buiness and financial groups argue that the proposed system could play a pivotal role in enhancing identity security and verification.
In 2023 the Digital ID Bill was redrafted after pressure from advocates, who urged the Albanese government to implement stricter restrictions on law enforcement access to biometric information. New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) says that “there should be no law enforcement access… with or without a warrant” in a submission to the parliamentary inquiry on the Digital ID Bill.Read more
The existing incitement laws in New South Wales may be strengthened following concerns raised by religious groups, who have argued that the current regulations are inadequate in safeguarding from violent threats.
Premier Chris Minns recently emphasised the government's commitment to providing legal protection for the diverse communities residing in the state. Minns highlighted the significance of enabling all communities to live peacefully without fear of violence.
This review comes at a time of heightened tension surrounding the Gaza conflict and amid controversy over sermons delivered by Islamic preachers targeting Jews and Israelis. While state and federal police have probed these sermons, investigations were halted as they found no breaches of NSW or Commonwealth laws.
Premier Minns acknowledged the profound impact of the Middle East conflict on families and communities, describing it as traumatic. He expressed confidence that the thorough review led by Tom Bathurst, a highly respected legal figure in the state, would assure the community that existing laws operate effectively.Read more
The NSW Supreme Court has declared anti-protest laws invalid, a mere year after their enactment. These regulations were introduced in response to activists obstructing traffic on the Harbour Bridge and disrupting freight lines from the world's largest coal port in Newcastle.
Also supported by the Labour party, these laws targeted protests causing interference with "major economic activity," imposing hefty fines of up to $22,000 or sentences of two years in prison. Since their implementation, activists and legal and human rights experts have criticised that these laws are excessively harsh, infringing upon a fundamental human right. Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the unprecedented increase in police authority in NSW resulting from these laws.Read more
The NSW government has recently ordered a review into the effectiveness of section 93Z of the Crimes Act 1900. Section 93Z makes it an offence to publicly threaten or incite violence on grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex or HIV/AIDS status. The maximum penalty for an individual is 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 3 years (or both).
Calls from community groups, challenging the efficacy of section 93Z, have prompted the start of this review.
“There is no place in NSW for hate speech or incitement to violence. We live in a multicultural society, and it is vital that we have laws that protect people who come from communities all around the world and call NSW home,” Premier Minns said in a statement.Read more
The Guardian: NSW police fail to deliver mental health crisis review amid scrutiny over latest shooting death
Recently, the New South Wales police have failed to produce a review of the way they have responded to mental health crises, which was promised to the government. The recent shooting of a mentally unwell man by police, has heightened pressure for police reforms.
Alexander Stuart Pinnock, was shot at by multiple officers following a two-hour standoff which began after Pinnock threatened staff with a pistol. He was treated by paramedics but died at the scene.
In 2023, the police response to mental health emergencies was criticised as officers fatally wounded or shot four people in mental health crises. In response to this, the police minister commissioned a 3 month review, which was aimed to be complete at the start of November.
Currently, the report has not been finished.Read more
In our submission about the Australian Government Digital Identity System (AGDIS) we have underscored our commitment to safeguarding civil liberties in the face of evolving digital identity systems.
While NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) endorses the codification of AGDIS, which includes the Document Verification Service and facial verification technology, concerns persist regarding the lack of an effective legal framework. Recent high-profile data breaches underscore the urgency of regulation and enforcement in identity protection. The impetus for the swift introduction of this legislation is the imperative to address cybercrime, but recent amendments fall short in addressing crucial issues.Read more
NSW Council for Civil Liberties notes the review of s93Z of the Crimes Act to be conducted by the Honourable Tom Bathurst KC AC. NSWCCL hopes that the review will involve extensive community consultation and looks forward to being involved in that consultation.
New South Wales has strong “hate speech” laws that already criminalises speech that either intentionally or recklessly, threatens or incites violence against someone based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or other characteristics. These laws should be seen in the context of both Commonwealth and State anti-discrimination laws which provide civil remedies in many circumstances. Resort to criminal law should always be a last resort. The law should not criminalize legitimate free speech.Read more
From Cat Woods: Global advocacy organisation Article 19 released their annual Global Expression Report late last year. The report tracks freedom of expression across 161 countries via 25 indicators, giving each nation a score between 0 and 100.
That score places it in an expression category between “Open” and “In Crisis”. The facts illustrated in the report reveal that more than six billion people globally live with less freedoms than they had 20 years ago.
LSJ spoke to Lydia Shelly, the president of NSW Council for Civil Liberties and director of Shelly Legal about the reasons for, and implications of, the global and national decline in freedom of expression.Read more