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Submission: Criminal Code Amendment (Prohibition of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2023

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in regard to The Criminal Code Amendment (Prohibition of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2023 (the Bill).

Freedom of expression does not give licence to individuals to engage in expression which engenders hate and incites violence. To that end, we support the principles underpinning the bill. However, the council believes it is the promotion of Nazi ideology which should be criminalised. To the extent that this Bill falls short of that objective, it is inadequate.  It seeks to criminalise only one aspect of the promotion of Nazi ideology – the display of Nazi symbols.  That does not go to the heart of the problem.  Careful consideration of how to prevent the promotion of Nazi ideology is required – the criminal law is only one of the required tools; other tools are required – education, engagement, diversion – and the criminalised conduct should be the core of the offensive conduct, not a superficial aspect.  

 

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AAP: Church launches bid for right to sideline gay students

In a recent submission to a review of anti-discrimination laws, the Presbyterian Church of Australia argued for the right to exclude students from leadership positions, such as school captain, if they were having pre-marital sex or in a same-sex relationship arguing that "They would not be able to give appropriate Christian leadership in a Christian school which requires modelling Christian living", AAP reports. 

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties said the proposal seemed punitive and would have a chilling effect on student morale.

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The Guardian: ‘Beginning of A New Era’: Pacific Islanders Hail UN Vote On Climate Justice

The UN has adopted a historic resolution that will make it easier to hold polluting countries legally accountable for their failure to act on the climate crisis. The resolution calls for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an official opinion that will clarify that obligations that nations have to tackle the climate crisis, and the consequences they should face for inaction.

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Submission: NSWCCL response to the release the Privacy Act Review Report.

As previously submitted, privacy is a fundamental human right that is central to the maintenance of democratic societies and achieving respect for human dignity. To this end, urgent reform is required to modernise the Act and ensure it is fit for purpose in the digital age, and the NSWCCL reiterates its previous submissions outlined in its response dated 9 January 2022 to the Attorney General’s Privacy Act Review Discussion Paper.

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Sydney Criminal Lawyers: NSWCCL’s Michelle Falstein on Labor’s Proposed Digital Identity System

A meeting of the nation's various data and digital ministers resulted in the release of a communique on the 24th of February, asserting the urgency of implementing a national digital identification system which would make it easier for 'citizens to deal with the government', Paul Gregoire reports.

The 2014 Financial System Inquiry report found that many Australians are likely to object to a digital ID system due to privacy concerns, as it could be perceived as a digital version of the unpopular Australia Card initiative, which was rejected in 1987.

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NME: NSW Police say “aggressive” and “offensive” music is prohibited at Royal Easter Show, not rap in general

Organisers of the Sydney Royal Easter Show have clarified their stance on rap music being banned at this year’s event, claiming their intentions had been misconstrued upon the ban’s announcement.

Brock Gilmour – chief executive of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, said that rap music could in fact be played at the Easter Show, so long as it abides by the condition that it’s “quite pleasant and [does not contain] offensive language”. He also stressed that NSW Police had no part in establishing the ban, with the RAS having made that decision independently; the board’s president, Michael Millner, reportedly expressed support for it. 

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SMH: Rap crackdown was our call but it’s not a ‘ban’, says Easter Show boss

Police and Easter Show organisers have attempted to walk back an apparent ban on rap music at this year’s carnival, characterising it as a crackdown on offensive language and aggression rather than an entire musical genre, SMH report. 

Drill, a darker and grittier subgenre of rap, has long been targetted by NSW Police, along with its Sydney practitioners. On Wednesday, however, Royal Agricultural Society of NSW chief executive Brock Gilmour said organisers, not police, took the decision to prohibit music that contained offensive language or “aggressive tones”. He said he did not want mums, dads and children hearing swear words at a family event.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Josh Pallas said it was an example of the over policing of marginalised communities. “In a way it’s thought-policing because rap music is just another instance of free expression,” he said.

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Australia's justice systems are prioritising cost efficiency and productivity. Some experts have concerns

In 2020, it was revealed that the NSW Police had been given a quota of more than 240,000 searches, including strip searches, during the 2019 financial year, ABC News Sam Nichols reports. 

The following year, they had additional quotas to issue almost 110,000 move-on directions and detect 305,000 crimes, despite a fall in crime rates across most categories between 2019 and 2021.

But by 2022, the police scrapped the controversial target-based strategy after facing heavy criticism from legal groups and civil libertarians.

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The Guardian: Malaysia set to scrap mandatory death penalty for range of serious crimes

Reforms in mandatory death penalty legislation could see reprieves for 1300 prisoners on death row. 

The Malaysian Parliament has approved a bill that would eradicate mandatory death penalty sentences for serious crimes. Currently, the death penalty is mandated for crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, treason, kidnapping, and acts of terror. The Courts, under this new Bill, would have the discretion of handing down sentences between 30-40 years, which would also replace natural life imprisonment. 

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Canberra Times: Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus introduces bill to trigger Voice to Parliament referendum

Australia’s Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, declared that there was ‘nothing to be feared’ as she spoke alongside members of the Referendum Working Group and Referendum Engagement group after the constitutional alteration for the Indigenous Voice to parliament was announced by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. 

If passed, the Voice to parliament will become enshrined within the Australian Constitution and formally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First peoples of Australia.

Burney describes that the two critical points of consideration for the ‘yes’ vote, would be recognition and consultation, stating that this referendum was imperative for ‘completing our nation’s birth certificate’ and acknowledging that the life outcomes for First Nations people was ‘completely unacceptable’. 

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City Hub: Climate change activists defy major parties’ tough stance on protest

Both major parties doubled down on their support for anti-protest laws after receiving news last week that a District Court judge had overturned a 15 month prison sentence given to activist Deane Violet Coco last year, City Hub's Wendy Bacon Reports.

The NSW Greens however have vowed to continuing pushing for the repeal of the laws, including in any balance of power negotiations while climate activists occupied Perrottet’s office and the City of Sydney repeated its call for the repeal of the laws and an end to police harassment of protesters.

Josh Pallas, President, New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties issued a media release thanking the City of Sydney.

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Submission: COVID-19 Vaccination Status (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill 2022 (Cth) (Discrimination Bill) and the Fair Work Amendment (Prohibiting COVID-19 Vaccine Discrimination) Bill 2023 (Cth) (FW Amendment Bill)

NSWCCL supports the right to decide whether or not to receive a vaccine. We acknowledge that people have valid reasons for choosing to refuse a vaccination (including medical and religious reasons). NSWCCL also supports the objective that the broader community is deserving of the greatest level of health and wellbeing available to them.  This includes employers and business providing a safe work environment and complying with state and federal work health and safety laws, employees and other workers having the right to a safe work environment, and vulnerable and at-risk members of society who are susceptible to the effects of COVID-19 (e.g. the immunocompromised) being safe in the community.

In our view, the Bills in question, unreasonably and disproportionately protect the unvaccinated at the expense of the rights of other members of the community. Based on the generally accepted medical science, the Bills are incompatible with human rights.

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We welcome Craig Foster as our keynote speaker!

NSW Council for Civil Liberties annual dinner will be held on 20 September at Sky Phoenix!

This year, we are fortunate to have Craig Foster as our 2023 annual dinner keynote speaker. We thank Craig for taking the time to come and share his valuable insights with us.

Craig is many things, a proud Australian, a former soccerroo, a broadcaster, Adjunct Professor for Sport and Social Responsibility, and an author, but notably, he is a human rights activist. 

His professional soccer career extended from 1988 to 2003, and his career on the socceroo national team was from 1996 to 2000. Following his retirement Craif went on to have an incredible 18-year, triple logie-award-winning career as a highly talented and respected sports broadcaster, most notably working for Australia’s multicultural broadcaster and the special broadcasting service. 

Craig’s deep commitment to human rights and social justice has made him an inspiring and influential figure to many. As a member of the Australian Multicultural Council, he worked across an array of social problems from indigenous rights and self-determination to domestic violence, climate change and gender equality. He is a vocal critic of the Australian Governments treatment of asylum seekers and thus, consistently works in refugee advocacy to lobby for effective change. 

Today, Craig advises on athlete activism and is an Adjunct Professor of Sport and Social Responsibility at Torrens University, teaching students how they can utilise sport as a vehicle for social justice and is the current NSW Australian of the Year for 2023. 

We look forward to welcoming Craig to our annual dinner. Tickets are available here.

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Meredith Burgmann: A Coogee Beach Adventure

Civil Liberties President Josh Pallas has recently pointed out that NSW CCL has advocated for the rights of protesters since 1963. I can certainly attest to that. In 1968 I was a teenage protester and in those days when we were arrested for anti-Vietnam activity we were assigned various civil liberties lawyers.

This is how I first came in contact with Jimmy Staples and many other young radical lawyers and later life-long friends Rod Madgwick, Tom Kelly, Greg Woods, John Basten, Wayne Haylen, Jack Grahame and John Terry.

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Josh Pallas: NSWCCL condemns the actions of far right extremists

Over the past week there have been ugly scenes of violence and hate perpetrated by far right Christian and neo-Nazi extremists against the queer, and particularly trans, community. NSWCCL condemns these actions unequivocally and stands with the queer community in their push for stronger human rights protections in the face of rising hate. Violence has no place in our politics and must be unequivocally and universally condemned.

NSWCCL will continue to stand up for the right to freedom of belief and religious expression. But religious belief does not, and should not, afford the right to be violent, express hate, or discriminate against any other group within society. All mature democracies will see conflicts of rights from time to time, but we will never support the right to discriminate against another group within society on the basis of religious belief.

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2023 NSW Election Scorecard: Comprehensive fail for both major parties

The 25 March NSW state election comes at a time when civil liberties in this state are under siege. Our right to protest and freedom of speech have been assaulted by both major parties with their joint support for the now infamous Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022. The laws criminalise even brief obstruction of a road, train station, port or other piece of public or private infrastructure. The penalty is up to two years imprisonment and or a fine of up to $22,000. Freedom of assembly, political participation and freedom of expression should be core values and beliefs of our political leaders, instead we have leaders who are determined to shut down peaceful protest.

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Submission: Inquiry into Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws

This consultation paper, produced by the ALRC is in response to a referral from the Attorney-General
Mark Dreyfus, in November 2022, for the ALRC to review the exception provisions in the Sex
Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) that apply to religious educational
institutions.

These provisions have been of concern to NSWCCL and many other community, civil liberties, human
rights and legal groups for a long time. Calls for their review are correspondingly longstanding. The
ALRC previously commenced a review of the provisions which was regrettably suspended by a
previous Government. NSWCCL commends the current Attorney-General for moving quickly to
establish this review. It is a very significant law reform initiative of great importance particularly to
children and young people, in particular, who are connected with in religious educational institutions.

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The Guardian: AI Can Fool Voice Recognition Used to Verify Identity by Centrelink and Australian Tax Office

An investigation by the Guardian Australia has made a startling discovery that AI can fool the voice recognition technology used to verify the identity of Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) customers.

Centrelink and the ATO both use voiceprint technology as a security measure to verify customer identities over the phone, without the need for customers to answer various security questions before they can gain access to highly sensitive personal information from their accounts.

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Women's Agenda: Jail term for climate activist Deanna “Violet” Coco’ quashed

Climate activist Deanna “Violet” Coco’s 15-month jail term imposed last December has been quashed due to the 'false fact' and 'false assertation' that the NSW police had added to their case against the 32 year old climate activist regarding an ambulance had been obstructed due to the protest. 

Coco was sentenced to 15 months prison in December for blocking a lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a hired truck in April 2022 — making her the first person to be imprisoned under the new anti-protest laws, which were passed by The Coalition with Labor’s backing in the same month.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president, Josh Pallas, called the police’s actions against Coco “shocking”. 

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City Hub: Judge overturns tough sentences for climate activists

Deanna “Violet” Coco was sentenced to 15 months in prison with a non-parole period of eight months and fined $2500 by Magistrate Alison Hawkins in December 2022. Today, District Court Judge Mark Williams overturned the fine and placed her on a 12 months conditional release order with psychological counselling for the Sydney Harbour offence. For two other minor offences, Coco was convicted but no other penalty was imposed, City Hub's Wendy Bacon reports.

In response to the overturning of Coco's sentence, NSWCCL President Josh Pallas said, "A custodial sentence was neither proportionate nor fair, indeed the cost to tax-payer and waste of court time is outrageous. Justice has been done today, but at too great a cost.”

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