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Guardian: Experts slam ‘disproportionate’ NSW approach to pro-Palestine rallies as government threatens ‘full force’ of law

Catie McLeod & Tamsin RoseHuman rights and legal experts have condemned the New South Wales government’s “escalating”, “unnuanced” and “disproportionate” rhetoric and response to pro-Palestinian protesters following a rally at the Opera House.

NSW authorities have vowed to stop marches from proceeding while protesters have promised to “march next week and every week” after a “static demonstration” in Hyde Park this Sunday.

Event co-organiser Amal Naser said they would be “out, loud and proud and we’re not going to bow down to the pressures that we’ve been experiencing from police and the premier”.

Sunday’s gathering was initially billed as a march through the city before police rejected the group’s application on the grounds it was submitted with less than a week’s notice.

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Crikey: The Israel-Hamas war confirms the erosion of the right to protest in Australia

Maeve McGregor: Saying the quiet part aloud is increasingly what escalation looks like in this country.

Take for instance Tom Koutsantonis, the South Australian energy minister whose recent words to the fossil-fuel industry — “[We’re] at your disposal” — coupled with the draconian anti-protest laws which ensued will forever condemn him and the government to which he belongs in the minds of so many Australians. 

Or NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley, who on Tuesday afternoon appeared to expressly deny the rights of anyone in the state to assemble and protest. “I don’t want to see protests on our streets at all, from anybody,” she told 2GB, seemingly forgetting her state’s ostensive democratic trappings. Or federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who on Wednesday openly expressed his incredulity at the prime minister for not having declared a blanket nationwide ban on all pro-Palestinian protests, as if that’s even a legal possibility. 

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SMH: Pro-Palestine protesters won’t ‘commandeer Sydney streets’, says Minns

Olivia Ireland and Michael Koziol: Premier Chris Minns’ declaration that pro-Palestinian activists will not be allowed to “commandeer our streets” has triggered a fresh brawl about the right to protest in NSW, as the government tries to counter days of criticism over its handling of Monday’s rally in Sydney.

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Law Society Journal - NSWCCL: A bridge between activists and the legal profession

The Law Society Journal has reviewed our documentary series “60 Years Strong.” They say: It’s 1963, and Australia and the world are in the early years of what would become known as one of the most tumultuous and divisive decades. 

The Civil Rights movement in the US reached a pivotal moment as Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, inspiring many worldwide to fight for their rights.  

Closer to home, conflict in Southeast Asia intensifies and will send more than 60,000 Australians in the coming years to fight alongside their allies in the jungles of Vietnam, sparking a period of mass anti-war protests and demonstrations worldwide. 

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Opinion: Civil liberties council’s support the case for “yes”.

Statement from Michael Cope, President of the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties, Josh Pallas, President of New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, and Michael Stanton as President of Liberty Victoria.

Our organisations support the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart – a generous call from First Nations peoples for voice, treaty and truth. We also continue to urge the Commonwealth to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which requires respect for self-determination. Whilst we acknowledge ongoing debate about whether the Voice is the optimal approach to enshrining First Nations representation in the Constitution, the Voice is the only opportunity currently open. If not taken, there is no guarantee any similar or alternate opportunities will present in the near future.

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Submission: Counter-Terrorism and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023

NSW Council for Civil Liberties strongly opposes the Counter-Terrorism and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 and we consider the Bill to be a serious threat to civil liberties and the rule of law in Australia. We are deeply concerned that the Bill seeks to extend the operation of two highly problematic regimes: the secrecy provisions and the control orders. Both of which have been widely criticised for undermining fundamental rights and principles of justice.

Having regard to the serious implications the Bill has to the rule of law and to the principle of democracy, we submit that the Bill is unjustified, disproportionate, and should be rejected in its entirety. We are not persuaded by the arguments put forward by the government to justify the continuation or extension of these regimes. These arguments fail to show that the Bill is necessary, proportionate or effective in addressing the threat of terrorism.

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Submission: Review of the NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018

19 December 2023 Update: The Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 Report was published on 19 December 2023 and acknowledged the significant extent and impact of modern slavery in NSW. The committee was particularly concerned to learn that an estimated 80 to 98 per cent of victim-survivors remain unidentified out of a possible 16,400 cases each year in New South Wales.

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 is therefore an important piece of legislation enacted to address the issue of modern slavery by requiring NSW Government agencies, local councils and state-owned corporations to report on how they are addressing modern slavery risks in their supply chains, and providing for the establishment of the NSW Anti-slavery Commissioner, the first such position in any Australian jurisdiction. The Act also creates modern slavery offences.

This review examined whether the Act is adequately addressing modern slavery risks and whether the Commissioner is effectively equipped to do so. The committee acknowledged that there is clear evidence highlighting areas where the Act can be strengthened, particularly in relation to the detection and exposure of modern slavery, compliance and enforcement, support for victim-survivors and the role of the Commissioner. This aligns with the evidence from NSWCCL in both our submission and our evidence to the committee. 

Finding 1 
That the committee needs to involve people with lived experience expertise in its review of the Act before making further recommendations, noting that this has not been possible given the requirement to complete the report within 24 months of the commencement of the Act.

Recommendation 1 
That the Modern Slavery Committee continue to review the Modern Slavery Act 2018 in the next six months specifically seeking evidence from people with lived experience expertise and considering the evidence already received.
Recommendation 2 
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Modern Slavery Act 2018 to explicitly provide for the Anti-slavery Commissioner's annual and other reports to be tabled out of session or made publicly available immediately after being furnished to the Presiding Officers, as provided for in the original Modern Slavery Bill 2018.

The report can be found here. Our submission can be found here.

The Global Slavery Index 2023 estimated there are 41,000 victims of modern slavery in Australia. In financial year ended 30 June 2022, authorities received 294 modern slavery reports in Australia, which was an increase of 31% from the prior year. It is also reported that an estimated 16.400 people in NSW are victims of modern slavery.

Even with these numbers being 'low' in comparison to other jurisdictions, it is estimated only 1 in 5 victims are detected in Australia. Roughly 1670 modern slavery cases have been referred to the Australian Federal Police but only 31 offenders convicted.

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Open Letter: Peak Bodies & Trade Unions call on Premier to affirm support for the right to protest

Today NSW Council for Civil Liberties joined with Trade Unions, Civil and Human Rights Organisations calling on the NSW Premier to publicly affirm the government’s support for the right to protest.

  • NTEU NSW Division
  • Amnesty International Australia
  • Australian Centre for International Justice
  • Public Interest Advocacy Centre
  • Community Legal Centres Australia
  • Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
  • Australian Democracy Network
  • Human Rights Law Centre
  • Maritime Union of Australia Sydney Branch
  • Australian Services Union
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60 Years Strong - 2023 Annual Dinner and Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism Awards

We again thank Councillor Yvonne Weldon for taking the time to attend our dinner to Welcome us on behalf of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. It was an honour to have Cl Weldon join us on Gadigal Country and share her time so generously with us on our 60th birthday party!

We also thank the Hon Dr Meredith Burgmann for hosting our dinner. Meredith is a long time member of the Council and a constant defender of human rights and civil liberties.

Craig Foster, activist, human rights campaigner and Co-Chair of the Australian Republican Movement delivered a call to action in his keynote address to take on the big miners - “We cannot open any more coal and gas projects if we want to save our planet,” Foster said. “We need a just transition and we need it now. Our governments are not listening to us, so we need mass civil disobedience to stop them. Who will take part in this?”

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Josh Pallas: NSWCCL condemns political interference with the right to protest

Comments from Josh Pallas, President NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

"Calls in the media from politicians and public figures for police to have prohibited or closed down the Free Palestine Protest in Sydney yesterday are misplaced and fundamentally inconsistent with the right to protest which must be protected, not trashed."

"The exercise of this right should not be dependent on police approval.  Non-violent protest is fundamental to democracy and should be allowed by right."

"Of course, politicians and public figures may publicly disagree with the content of a protest, however, is also an important democratic freedom.  But it is wrong for them to call for a prohibition of the protest."

"Everyone should have the right to gather and convey political messages in non-violent protest. This right is essential to our democratic system of government. The right to protest has already been eroded enough in this State and politicians should not be given licence to erode it further on the basis of there being "good" and "bad" protest causes.  Protest itself ought to be celebrated as enriching our democracy."

"Expression of hate speech, in whatever form it takes, is neither appropriate nor consistent with democratic values.  Hate speech is not a legitimate exercise of free speech rights. Protestors should not engage in hate speech.”

ends

 

 

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Submission: Review of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the long-overdue review of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. In its nearly 50-year history, this legislation has had only one review, the recommendations of which were not fully implemented.

In our submission, the NSWCCL provides tangible recommendations that would ensure the Act is modernised to make it simpler and more efficient but also to ensure it reflects changing community attitudes.

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ABC: What taking on the tax office cost a whistleblower

Can you imagine if the tax office went into your bank account and retrieved money it says you owe, without your permission? 

Well, it can do that and it does.  

It’s a practice that distressed ATO employee Richard Boyle so much that he tried to help some taxpayers get around it. He also became a whistleblower and is now facing charges that could land him in jail for up to 46 years. 

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SMH: NSW government sorry after Yes campaigners ‘moved on’ by Sydney rangers

Michael Koziol: NSW bureaucrats have apologised after rangers ordered Yes campaigners to stop distributing flyers and move on while canvassing support for the Indigenous Voice to parliament in Sydney’s CBD.

Civil liberties advocates raised concerns with Planning Minister Paul Scully after receiving reports that Placemaking NSW – which manages some of Sydney’s major public spaces – told Yes advocates they could not hand out material about the Voice.

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NSWCCL Sticks up for Yes 23 Campaigners in Sydney's CBD

Yesterday the Council wrote to Hon Paul Scully MP,  Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, to stand up for Yes23 campaigners who have been moved along by Council Rangers while handing out information relating to the referendum to change the Australian Constitution.

It is a fundamental part of our democratic system of government that people can freely associate, distribute material, and communicate with others about changes to the Australian Constitution. We were alarmed by these actions on behalf of the State which are fundamentally undemocratic and a draconian breach of civil liberties.

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SMH: Sniffer dogs join 50,000 music fans for the start of festival season

More than 50,000 music fans kicked off the festival season on Saturday alongside a high-visibility police operation involving drug detection dogs, Amber Schultz reports.

Sniffer dog operations have reportedly returned following their apparent suspension due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  By the LAw Enforcemnet Commissions's own admission, 71 per cent of searches indicated by sniffer dogs up until June 30 this year found no illicit substances. That’s a whopping 2,859 searches out of 4,000 just during the first half of the year. Last year the number sat at 75 per cent, where almost 5,000 searches proved the dogs incorrect.

Many of these incidents result in strip searches. Police have the power to strip-search anyone they suspect has illicit drugs, including following a positive indication by the sniffer dogs.

After restrictions eased in 2020, there were reports of drug dog presences at Mount Druitt, Central and Blacktown train stations. David Shoebridge, Greens MP, commented at the time that during the pandemic the police force should seek to: “withdraw from aggressive and overt police tactics, that are clearly inappropriate during a pandemic, and we put searches and drug dog operations at the top of that list.”

Premier Chris Minns has promised to hold a drug summit within the government’s first term, but is yet to announce any details. He has ruled out implementing any drug reform until after the summit.

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NSWCCL Media Statement: Review of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 misses the mark

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the long-overdue review of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. In its nearly 50-year history, this legislation has had only one review, the recommendations of which were not fully implemented.

In our submission, the NSWCCL provides tangible recommendations that would ensure the Act is modernised to make it simpler and more efficient but also to ensure it reflects changing community attitudes.

Particularly concerning is the recently passed Religious Vilification Bill as an amendment to the Act.  We believe that the Anti-Discrimination Act should protect individuals from vilification but not institutions and not beliefs, which are just ideas, and should be freely contestable. The Religious Vilification Bill unacceptably impedes on freedom of expression, debate, and legitimate criticism and should be immediately repealed.

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SMH: ‘Serious misconduct’: Police officer allegedly assaulted Aboriginal teen in hospital

The NSW police have had four fatal interactions with people in as many months, with the tragic death of Krista Kach death being the most recent. Almost half of all deaths or serious injuries in NSW police operations are linked to mental
health crises.

Responding to mental health crises is a health issue that requires a health focused approach. Mental health professionals should be at the forefront of providing services to people in mental health distress, including those who pose a risk of harm to themselves or others.

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Green Left: NSW Civil Liberties Council celebrates 60 years of defending progressive activists

On September 20th, NSW Council for Civil Liberties celebrated its 60th birthday, with over 250 people in attendence including NSW Supreme Court judges, solicitors and barristers in the community sector and private firms, journalists and activists.

The event was MCed by Meredith Burgmann, a former Labor president of the New South Wales Legislative Council, and featured keynote speaker Craig Foster, a former Socceroo captain, former SBS journalist and author of Fighting for Hakeem, who criticised Australia’s growing inequality. “We cannot open any more coal and gas projects if we want to save our planet,” Foster said. “We need a just transition and we need it now. Our governments are not listening to us, so we need mass civil disobedience to stop them. Who will take part in this?”

The documentary Sixty Years Strong, remembering the councils history and honouring the activists who founded the Council, was also launched.

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Announcing our winners of the 2023 Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism Awards

Journalism matters, a healthy and trusted press is an essential pillar to any democracy. Since 2019 we have recognised journalists working in Australia who produce excellent work promoting civil liberties, calling out human rights abuses and holding governments and corporations to account.

Last night, emerging from an incredibly strong field, we honoured three outstanding journalists in our Young Journalist and Open Journalist categories for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism.

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The Hon. Cameron Murphy AM, MLC Honours the Council in its 60th Year

Yesterday, Past President and Life Member of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, the Hon. Cameron Murphy AM, MLC recogonised the Councils 60th anniversay celebrations.

"I recognise the important work of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, which will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary tonight with a gala dinner in Sydney. The anniversary event will be hosted by Dr Meredith Burgmann, AM, who is a former President of this House. The guest speaker will be Craig Foster, AM, who is the current chair of the Australian Republic Movement. He will be discussing the need for an Australian republic and a strong and independent Australia. It is a cause that I have a deep and abiding interest in.

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