NSWCCL: Heavy Handed Policing a Cause For Concern

Yesterday, police visited a camp site at Colo Valley, resulting in several arrests of climate campaigners and the reported detention of approximately 30 people at the property.

“The reported policing over the weekend at Colo Valley appears to be heavy-handed and is cause for concern,” said NSWCCL spokesperson Stephen Blanks.

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Submission: Application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) seeks to provide protection to First Nations peoples worldwide. It establishes guidelines setting minimum standards for individual, cultural, and collective rights.  The UNDRIP was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 and was adopted by Australia two years later in 2009. 

On 29 March 2022, the Senate referred an inquiry into the application of the UNDRIP to the Legal and Constitutional References Committee. NSWCCL has welcomed the opportunity to present a submission to the Committee, declaring that more can be done to better incorporate the principles and aims of UNDRIP into Australian law.

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Sydney Criminal Lawyers: “Cautiously Optimistic” NSW Council for Civil Liberties Josh Pallas on Albanese

Josh Pallas, President NSWCCL, sat down with Sydney Criminal Lawyer's Paul Gregoire to discuss Josh’s take on the new Albanese Government. Josh wrote last week that NSWCCL welcomes the end of the Morrison government, while it’s “cautiously optimistic” about the coming of Albanese and the changes it could bring.

"My views haven’t changed, I remain cautiously optimistic. The picture of the Nadesalingam family back in Biloela over the weekend were great and social services minister Amanda Rishworth’s early end to the trial of the cashless debit card for welfare recipients was another excellent news story.

The attorney general also sounds like he’s busy at work making preparations for the introduction of a national integrity commission. So, there are definitely promising signs." Josh Pallas said. 

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Star Observer: What next for Queer Politics under the Albanese Government?

Josh Pallas, President NSWCCL, unpacks how things may look for queer politics under the Albanese Government. Before the election Prime Minister Albanese committed to reintroducing a form of protection for religious persons from discrimination, while at the same time protecting queer students from expulsion from schools. Labor’s policy platform speaks to strengthening anti-discrimination laws, not weakening them. But until we see the details of any proposed bill we won’t know whether queer rights are curtailed or removed in favour of religious rights.

For more information, read the full article.


Letter to the Attorney-General

NSWCCL joined with peak civil liberties organisations across Australia to congratulate The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP for his re-appointment as Attorney-General of Australia. We prioritised the following issues:

  • A federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
  • Uluru Statement from the Heart
  • Treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum
  • Privacy
  • LGBTIQ+ rights
  • The need for a Federal Charter of Human Rights
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Politicisation of Tribunals
  • Ending political prosecutions
  • Mandatory sentencing
  • Prisoner voting rights
  • Raising the age
  • Increasing the rights of the crossbench

For more information, read our full letter.


NSWCCL invites nominations for the 2022 Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism awards.

The awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism are a national program open to all journalists who have been published or broadcast in Australia between 1 July 2021 and 30 June 2022. 

“This is an opportunity to acknowledge the fantastic work local journalists are doing to support the advancement of civil liberties and human rights at a state and federal level. Journalists are so important in holding those in power accountable and must be celebrated.” Josh Pallas, President, NSWCCL said.

“We have tremendous diversity, depth and sophistication in the work being produced and it’s important to showcase this extraordinary talent.”

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Human rights under the Albanese government: The view from our President

The last two years have been unprecedented in many ways, COVID 19, escalating natural disasters, dire warnings of catastrophic climate change, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter. It is of no surprise that there was significant anxiety and anticipation around the result of this year’s federal election, particularly for civil libertarians and human rights advocates.

It may seem strange that the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties are offering our views so late in the piece, but we were waiting to see whether the Albanese government would be in majority or minority and for the Senate composition to firm up. It now seems clear that it will be in a slim majority.

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Lawyers Weekly: NSW Local Court appoints 3 new magistrates

Three new magistrates have been appointed to the Local Court of NSW bringing with them almost 90 years’ worth of collective experience.

Aaron Tang, Don McLennan and Pauline Wright will be sworn in on 7, 8 and 9 June, respectively.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman said, “These appointees bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the NSW Local Court, having worked across a range of areas in legal practice.”

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) congratulated their former President, Ms Wright, on her appointment to the Local Court of NSW.

Josh Pallas was elected to take over Ms Wright’s position as President following her resignation.

“Pauline’s departure was unexpected and will be a great loss to NSWCCL. I have no doubt that she will prove to be an outstanding and compassionate Magistrate and will serve the citizens of our state well”, Mr Pallas said.

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NSW Attorney General's response to the Ice Inquiry is too little, too late

Attorney General Mark Speakman has finally proposed a response to the 2020 recommendations of the Special Commission into the Drug "Ice" (Ice Inquiry). His proposal is that individuals caught with illegal drugs for personal use would face a $400 fine or health treatment instead of being brought before the Court.

NSWCCL is pleased to finally see a response from the Attorney General. We are heartened to see his recognition that the current approach to drug policy in NSW is "clearly not working". 

However, we are disappointed to see that the Attorney General has chosen a path forward which is only a partial response to the sound and evidence based recommendations of the Ice Inquiry. 

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LSJ: Former Law Society President appointed Local Court magistrate

Former President of the Law Society of NSW Pauline Wright will be sworn in as magistrate to the Local Court this month, as part of plethora of new appointments to the state’s busiest court system.

Wright, who is a Partner at PJ Donnellan & Co in Gosford, boasts a rich career and has been active in the areas of criminal justice, anti-terrorism and asylum seeker policy. Wright was president of the Law Society of NSW in 2017, having served on the Council since 1997. She has also held the office of President of the Law Council of Australia, and President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

The NSWCCL congratulated Wright on her appointment and thanked her for her long service and organisation. Wright’s election as President in 2019 made history for NSWCCL as the second only woman to be elected to the office since the organization was founded in 1963.

“Pauline’s departure was unexpected and will be a great loss to NSWCCL. I have no doubt that she will prove to be an outstanding and compassionate Magistrate and will serve the citizens of our state well,” Wright’s successor Josh Pallas said.

For more information, read the full article.


Congratulations to former President, Pauline Wright, on her appointment as a Magistrate

On 1 June 2022, Attorney General for New South Wales, Mark Speakman, announced the appointment of former NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) President, Pauline Wright as a Magistrate in the Local Court of New South Wales.

NSWCCL congratulates Ms Wright, who joined NSWCCL in 1988, on her appointment and thanks her for her long service with the organisation.

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Honi Soit: What are the details of the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill?

NSW has become the last state to legalise voluntary assisted dying (VAD) after a landmark bill passed the lower house on the 20th of May. The bill will allow people with a terminal diagnosis to access voluntary assisted dying, subject to a set of legislated safeguards.

The passage of the bill saw a slew of amendments proposed by its opponents in the upper house. The filibuster attempt included a failed amendment to allow aged care facilities to ban residents from accessing voluntary assisted dying.

The right to access VAD has been endorsed by organisations like the Dying with Dignity NSW, Go Gentle Australia, the NSW Nurses & Midwives’ Association, the NSW Council on the Aging, ACON and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

For more information, read the full article. 


New South Wales Parliament passes Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill

NSWCCL joins the rest of the country in a united sigh of relief as the New South Wales
Parliament passes the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill. NSWCCL has campaigned for the passing
voluntary assisted dying since 1990.

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The VAD Bill passes “second reading” stage

On Wednesday 11 May 2022, the NSW Upper House voted to progress the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Bill through to the next stage in the parliamentary process.

The majority was small (20 votes to 17) but the Bill will now progress to the “committee” stage next Wednesday.

The committee stage is where the opponents will put forward amendments designed to make the VAD law harder to access. They may also attempt to use this process to drag the debate out. Over 160 amendments were proposed in the Lower House, the majority of them hostile.

NSWCCL is a member of the NSW VAD Alliance and supports the considerable efforts of Alliance members such as Dying with Dignity NSW and Go Gentle Australia. We are all hopeful that the Bill will finally become law in the coming weeks and the people of NSW will have access to legal voluntary assisted dying.

See also Volunteering Assisted Dying - it's time, NSW.


Submission: Inquiry Into The Road Transport Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis Exemptions From Offences) Bill 2021

Update 11 August 2022:

The parliamentary inquiry has published its report here and recommended that the Legislative Council proceed to debate the Road Transport Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis-Exemption from Offences) Bill 2021.

The committee elected not to take a position on the bill, despite substantive witness evidence relating to the impact of the current law, broad community support for the use of medicinal cannabis and the availability of exemptions in other jurisdictions.

NSWCCL made a submission to the NSW Legislative Council's Standing Committee on Law and Justice Inquiry Into The Road Transport Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis Exemptions From Offences) Bill 2021

NSWCCL supports the passage of the Bill, which addresses discriminatory, inequitable and out of date presence-based drug driving practices targeting medical cannabis patients. NSWCCL agrees that those patients in Australia who are legally prescribed medicinal cannabis should be exempted from prosecution for driving with Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their system, unless there is clear evidence of impairment.

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Trusted Digital Identity Bill 2021: our concerns

The TDI Bill was tipped to be tabled earlier this year, having largely slipped under the radar. NSWCCL has concerns that this Bill lacks some important privacy safeguards.


The Australian government recently consulted the community on the draft Trusted Digital Identity Bill 2021 (Bill), a package consisting of a Trusted Digital Identity System (TDIS) and the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF).  The draft Bill encompasses a federal accreditation framework for Digital Identity services which will enable the States and Territories and the public and private sector to use the TDIF and TDIS to verify the identities of people and businesses they deal with online. It also sets out the requirements that applicants need to meet to achieve accreditation. 

Currently, Australia Post, the ATO and OCR labs have been granted accreditation. The Australian Government is accrediting a number of other businesses under the TDIF as a part of testing the readiness of the Australian Government Digital Identity System to expand beyond the Australian Government.  As of this post, the Bill is yet to be introduced into parliament.

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Call for submissions: 2022 journalism awards

Nominations are now open for:

  • NSWCCL's Excellence in civil liberties journalism awards to honour journalists producing excellent work that promotes civil liberties and holds governments to account across two categories: open and young journalist.

  • The Kafka for services to authoritarianism in Australia. This could recognise the year's most cruel and inhuman government act of the year; the most authoritarian political leader of the year; or indeed the most unhelpful media commentary by a public figure.
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Sydney Criminal Lawyers: Federal Parties and Independents on How They Plan to Uphold Civil Liberties

The close to a decade that the federal Coalition has been in power has seen an ever-increasing authoritarian creep, Sydney Criminal Lawyers reports. 

Australia is a nation that is increasing repressions against First Nations, provides no rights guarantees to all, tortures and punishes refugees, subjects women to inequity and violence, increasingly surveils its public, promotes opaque government and is actively compounding the climate crisis for profit.

So, as a federal election is looming, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) considered it a prime time to check in with all the political parties and independents running in the national vote to inquire as to how they’ll approach these pressing issues over the next term of parliament.

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SBSNews: World's first program helps Australia's football players block online trolling

In a world-first partnership, the A-League and Professional Footballers Australia, the player’s union, have teamed up with a software company GoBubble Community to shield players from abuse across multiple social media platforms, SBSNews reports. 

The technology underwent a successful trial during the A-League’s inaugural pride games, hosted by Adelaide United in February. It meant players such as Josh Cavallo, the world's only active gay player, were shielded from seeing hateful comments on social media platforms.

Our former president Stephen Blanks couldn't see any civil liberties issues with the technology but when talking to SBSNews warned:

"There will be posts that are inadvertently blocked or let through and when an organisation like the A-league adopts this technology they should be very transparent as to how it works to give the public confidence that it will operate fairly."

For more information, read the full article. 


NSWCCL's election scorecard

This election comes at a time when civil liberties in Australia are under siege. In NSW, our right to protest is under threat from draconian new legislation. Whistleblowers including Bernard CollaeryDavid McBride and Richard Boyle face prosecution for public interest disclosures and Julian Assange still languishes in Belmarsh maximum-security prison. Asylum seekers have been held for nine years then released with no rationale and less than an hour's notice, seemingly for political reasons, while others inexplicably remain locked up. Australia has been named and shamed by the UN for its track record on climate change and locking up children as young as 10 and by Amnesty International for its failure to ensure basic human rights for Indigenous people amongst other marginalised groups. Meanwhile, our ranking on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index hit an all time low in 2021.

Against this background, we asked political parties and independent candidates about their stance on a range of civil liberties topics.

The results speak for themselves, with a comprehensive fail for the Liberals and Labor scraping a pass mark on just under half the issues (download PDF version).

NSWCCL thanks those who participated for their time and thoughtful responses. Sadly other parties did not respond to our repeated requests for input. We have scored the Liberals based on their published policy, but as a volunteer led organisation were unable to resource this research for other parties.

How the parties scored on protecting civil liberties - click to download PDF

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