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The Guardian: Aboriginal groups call on NSW government to end cultural fishing prosecutions

The Guardian reports that a coalition of legal, social justice and Aboriginal groups (including NSWCCL) says the New South Wales government should cease prosecuting Aboriginal people for exercising their cultural fishing rights.

'The NSW Council for Civil Liberties president, Pauline Wright, said the government’s attitude was indicative of “systematic racism”. “If the aim was truly to protect the marine environment, they wouldn’t be allowing commercial fishing to expand at the same time as prosecuting Aboriginal fishers,” she said.'

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COVID & immigration detention: a disaster waiting to happen

A COVID out break inside immigration detention centres was a disaster waiting to happen. The Australian Government and Border Force cannot claim they had not been warned, nor that they had insufficient time to respond.

Civil rights organisations, including the NSWCCL have, for months, been bringing our concerns to the Minister and his Department, however our representations fell on deaf ears. 

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Mondaq: Calls on Police Minister to curb officers flaunting insignia linked to white supremacy

Sydney Criminal Lawyers writer Paul Gregoire comments that reports of police officers wearing symbols associated with white supremacy or being captured on camera making symbols conveying the same racist message, have been increasing throughout a number of Australian jurisdictions over the past couple of years.

He examines recent incidents across Australian jurisdictions and covers our recent letter to the Police Minister on this topic (we are still waiting for a response).

Read the full article: Calls on Police Minister to curb officers flaunting insignia linked to white supremacy

 

 

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Joint media release: NSW Government must suspend prosecutions of Aboriginal cultural fishers  

Released by NSWCCL with the Nature Conservation Council and Oxfam Australia 

The NSW government has been condemned for its targeting of Aboriginal fishers following revelations that its unjust actions, which have led to massive over-representation of First Peoples in criminal penalties, coincides with giving an increased take to commercial operators.  

A coalition of concerned leaders and interest groups has called for an immediate moratorium on prosecutions after learning of a strong bias against Aboriginal fishers in NSW crime data and the recent decision to increase the commercial take.   

Aboriginal people make up 4 per cent of people living on the South Coast, but they account for 80 per cent of jail terms for fisheries offences since 2009.  

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Protests should be subject to the same limits as commercial events

Under the latest Public Health Order, protests are limited to 50 people - or 200 if the protest is COVID safe.

Meanwhile, ticketed events of up to 3000 people are permitted.

Our right to protest should not be limited in this way: if it's safe for 3000 people to attend commercial events, larger COVID-safe protests are surely safe too.

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2021 Annual fundraiser & awards

And the winners were:

  • Excellence in civil liberties journalism - open: 
    Paul Gregoire 
  • Excellence in civil liberties journalism - young journalist: 
    Kate Allman
  • The Kafka award for the most egregious public statements or acts offensive to civil liberties and human rights:
    Clubs NSW for demanding via their lawyers that an ex-employee whistleblower facing financial ruin over court costs stop crowd funding to finance his court case and return donations already received - or face further court action.
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Witness K and Bernard Collaery: civil liberty and rule of law concerns

This is a transcript of a presentation given by President Pauline Wright at a Centre for Public Integrity webinar.

There are a number of civil liberty and rule of law concerns raised by the prosecutions of Witness K and Bernard Collaery including:

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Notice of 2021 AGM

The 58th Annual General Meeting of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) will be held electronically, in accordance with Article 29(1) of the Constitution and as approved by the Committee, at 6pm on Wednesday 27th October 2021.

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Mondaq: COVID-19 restrictions and the Civil Liberties - Human Rights quagmire

Writing for Mondaq, Paul Gregoire notes one positive outcome of the pandemic is that it's brought human rights and civil liberties to the fore.

"For some in the community, the fact that rights protections in this country are fairly weak might come as a surprise. For others – such as First Nations peoples, refugees and asylum seekers – this was well understood long before COVID-19 ever disembarked at an Australian airport."

"Civil liberties advocates have been warning of a general erosion of rights that's been occurring due to the passing of numerous national security bills over the past two decades, with the last such piece of legislation – the Identify and Disrupt Bill – being passed during the extended NSW lockdown."

The article notes NSWCCL's clear support for those who do not wish to get a vaccine, balanced by its recognition that a requirement to demonstrate vaccine status to, for example, cross a border is not unreasonable in the circumstances.

More information:

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Hack: vaccine passports

Our President Pauline Wright was a guest on today's Hack for an interesting discussion about vaccine passports: how will they work? What about our privacy and rights?

Listen here

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Letter: Police officers should not wear white supremacy symbols

It goes without saying that it's unacceptable for police officers to wear symbols associated with white supremacy on their standard issue Police uniforms.

However, over the past couple of years, our members have observed, consistent with increasingly frequent media reports, NSW Police Officers displaying symbols and icons associated with white supremacy.

Today we wrote to the Police Commissioner and Minister asking them to explain:

1) What policies and processes are in place to respond to members of the NSW Police Force who are found to be displaying symbols and icons associated with white supremacy?

2) What steps are being taken to ensure that NSW Police Force members do not hold white supremacist ideologies, participate in white supremacist groups or display their symbols or icons?

More information: read our letter
(The photos sent with our letter showed identifying details of the officers in question - you can see cropped versions on the right of this page).

We're looking at doing more work around displays of white supremacy and NSW Police as a result of recent complaints, so please get in touch if you have examples or stories that you could share: [email protected]

 

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City News: More secrets being hidden in national cabinet

Political columnist Michael Moore examines planned legislation to ensure definitions of cabinet includes the national cabinet, and therefore keep its deliberations secret. 

"While a small number of protestors are using the streets and violence to make a point about their right to freedom from vaccination, much more important civil liberties are being eroded. Should this legislation be successful, the reasons behind decisions taken in the “national cabinet” will remain secret for 30 years."

He quotes CCL: 

“This cannot be seen as anything other than a blatant and cynical attempt to avoid transparency by including within the definition of cabinet something that cannot properly be called a cabinet at all.” (Read our full piece The 'National Cabinet' should not be above scrutiny)

Read the full article: More secrets being hidden in national cabinet

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Nikkei-Asia: Australia border relief brings unease over 'Orwellian' quarantines

Eric Meijer reports that Australia's spreading pilot programs to let travelers quarantine in the privacy of their own homes are drawing criticism from some quarters for invading that privacy.

"Across Asia and elsewhere, countries have deployed various technologies to help fight COVID-19, from contact tracing apps to QR-code check-ins for entering establishments. But some see Australian authorities' use of facial recognition and geolocation to enforce home quarantines as a step down a slippery slope, even as efforts to reopen borders come as a relief."

The article quotes NSWCCL's Secretary Michelle Falstein:

"We would be concerned greatly at how facial recognition information is shared amongst other government departments, how it's stored, how easily it's hacked, a number of issues about how the information is dealt with and how it's also used for other purposes. So those sorts of things are really not covered off under legislation in this country at the moment."

Read the full article: Australia border relief brings unease over 'Orwellian' quarantines

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The Age: Freedom, interrupted: Will the liberties we lost to COVID be regained?

Chip Le Grand asks whether in our singular determination to protect life from the spread of a virus, we were at risk of losing something just as precious. 

This opinion piece for The Age quotes our Victorian sister organisation"

"Liberty Victoria president Julia Kretzenbacher says the pandemic has exposed the weakness of Australia’s human rights protections and the toothless nature of Victoria’s 15-year-old human rights charter, which doesn’t enable individuals to sue for damages when their human rights are unlawfully breached."

"Kretzenbacher says a central problem with the Victorian government’s public health response is the lack of transparency surrounding its decisions and their compatibility with human rights. She says it is difficult to draw a line between public health orders which are reasonable and those which are not because of the lack of information made publicly available about them."

It also notes that "The NSW Council of Civil Liberties has also warned about the overreach and disproportionality of stay-at-home orders imposed on some of Sydney’s most ethnically diverse suburbs".

Read the full article: Freedom, interrupted: Will the liberties we lost to COVID be regained?

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Media release: 21 community organisations unite on harmful education bill

A diverse group of community organisations has come together once again to continue efforts to stop One Nation from harming our education system and the wellbeing of our children.

In our joint media release, we condemn the inquiry into the Bill, which was run by Mark Latham himself in an abuse of democratic process. 

We are fighting One Nation's Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 because it is:

  • discriminatory and cruel.

  • incompatible with existing laws and protections.

  • injurious to fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression.

  • harmful to teachers, students and education in NSW.

  • unnecessary and, in some areas, incoherent.

More information:

 

 

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Channel 10: restrictions & rapid testing

Channel 10 considers the road map out of lockdown, looking at planned restrictions on unvaccinated people. 

Our President Pauline Wright called for rapid testing: “If [people] can prove that they are covid free they should be able to go about their normal business just as you or I can”.

She also commented that, while restrictions on the unvaccinated are legal for now, “when they cease to be proportionate, if they outlast the crisis and outlast the threat, then that might not be the case any more.”

More: view the Channel 10 coverage

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Letter: Delayed discharge of isolating COVID patients

According to an ABC report, people who have tested positive for COVID are being forced to stay inside their homes for weeks longer than the typical 14-day isolation period because of delays in paperwork, according to a member of a NSW public health call centre in a Sydney hotspot. 

We wrote to Health Minister Brad Hazzard about this and our concerns about vaccine passports.

More information: Read our letter to the Health Minister

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Vaccine passport concerns

UPDATE 1 October: The Secretary of NSWCCL met with representatives of the Department of Customer Services yesterday (31 Oct 21) and received assurances about some of the matters raised in our letter.

Significantly the vaccination certificate as part of the Service NSW check in tool (QR code) is just one option to use as entry to hospitality venues and events. For example, vaccinated residents of NSW will be able to show the vaccination certificate on their phone and use paper alternatives. It is envisaged that the venue will only register a tick without any sensitive health information being imparted.

Medical exemptions will be catered for and children under 16 will not require any evidence for entry to venues otherwise accessible by them.

Other assurances were given in regard to certain privacy safeguards including non-retention or collection of data which will only be held on the personal device and the temporary nature of the scheme. Push of data from the Australian Immunisation Register remains of concern, however detailed information about the scheme will be available next week for greater scrutiny ahead of its introduction.

At the National Cabinet meeting on 17 September 2021 all states and territories agreed to include people's COVID-19 vaccination status in their check-in apps, meaning the apps will act as vaccine passports. 

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Incarcerated people are at risk as COVID spreads in prisons

Urgent action is required in response to the news of the worsening outbreak of COVID cases in prisons and the tragic death of a NSW youth corrections officer. 

We understand from media reports on 17 September 2021, that more than 40 NSW corrections staff were Covid-positive (not including staff at the privately-run Parklea prison, where the outbreak began) as well as more than 300 inmates across the prison system also testing positive, including 84 First Nations people. 

The risk we flagged in August, of Covid spreading rapidly in prisons, is becoming more likely by the day and it is crucial that all necessary measures be taken immediately to mitigate the risk of this happening. 

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Concerns over policing practice and equipment

We are increasingly concerned with the policing practice of the NSWPF as it responds to the pandemic. Watching the escalation of violence in Victoria, we are also concerned with the possible possession and use of pepper pellets and hard squash-ball like missiles.

Disproportionate police response

In a series of recent media clips members of the NSWPF have approached and/or arrested several young men visibly of racial and/or ethnic minority backgrounds. In these incidents, the NSWPF have alleged the young men have not been wearing face masks. Police intervention of this nature directly undermines the common law principle that arrest is indeed a sanction of last resort.

Possession and use of pepper pellets etc

Prompted by recent events in Victoria, the NSWCCL is alarmed about the possible possession and use by the NSWPF of pepper pellets and hard squash-ball like missiles in the community.

NSWCCL wrote to Commissioner Fuller to urge him to ensure that NSW Police use the powers granted to them under the Public Health Act 2010 in a manner that respects human rights. We also asked whether equipment similar to that seen deployed in Victoria is being held in reserve in NSW and in what circumstances we are likely to see it used.

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