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Media Release: NSWCCL calls on the State Government to enable prisoner voting rights

Today, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties is appearing before the NSW Electoral Matters committee to call on the Committee to recommend that the current restrictions on prisoners right to vote in the NSW Electoral Act be removed.

The Council strongly believes that any exclusion of a person’s right to vote is a grave curtailing of the right to participate in a healthy democracy. This has a de-facto consequence of creating “tiers of citizenship” and does little to assist in the rehabilitation of incarcerated people when they have served their time.

The Council is also concerned about the disproportionate impact that the current restrictions on prisoners’ right to vote has on First Nations communities.

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Submission: Right wing extremist movements in Australia

The Council notes the concerningly growing threat of violent right wing extremism both overseas and in Australia, as well as the major impact of the online environment in radicalising young people towards extremist behaviour. There have been many incidents of right wing terrorist attacks which have caused large death tolls in Western countries. If not properly addressed, the spread of hateful and xenophobic far-right ideology will discernibly continue to threaten democracy, the rule of law and safety of citizens.

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Media Release: 34 organisations join together to demand open review of NSW Anti-Protest laws

The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right that allows us to express our views, shape our societies, and press for social change. In NSW and nationally across Australia, it is under attack.

In April 2022, the NSW Parliament passed legislation to prevent ‘illegal protesting’ on major roads, bridges, tunnels, public transport and infrastructure facilities. The new legislation amends section 144G the Roads Act 1993 which criminalises causing serious disruption by entering, remaining on or trespassing on prescribed major bridges and tunnels, to now include all “main roads”. Offences carry a maximum penalty of $22,000 or two years in gaol, or both.

The legislated review of the undemocratic “anti-protest” law is scheduled to take place after 1 April 2024 and will be carried out by the Department of Roads and the Attorney-General’s Department - the NSW Government has so far refused to commit to the review being open to the public and transparent. The right to protest cannot and should not be scheduled merely for a “departmental” review. 

The diversity of the organisations that have signed the open letter is significant. It evidences the grave concerns that are held by civil society organisations, unions, faith bodies, environmental and human rights organisations.

READ our open letter HERE.

READ our petition HERE.

 

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Open letter: Civil Society demands an open review of Anti-Protest Laws

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has joined forces with 40 other advocacy and civil society organisations to send an open letter to Premier Chris Minns MP, demanding that he respect democratic process and conduct a public inquiry in the draconian NSW Anti-Protest Laws. Sign our Petition calling for an open and transarent reivew of these laws here.

To Premier Chris Minns, Attorney General Michael Daley and the Hon. John Graham:

We the undersigned call on you to address the vital issue of protecting the right to protest in our state. The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right that allows us to express our views, shape our societies, and press for social change. In NSW and nationally across Australia, it is under attack.

Two years on from the introduction of the draconian 2022 anti-protest laws, these laws are creating a chilling effect on civil movements and social progress. The barriers for a diverse range of groups to participate in protest action have been raised to an unattainable height due to risk of police interaction and escalated police violence, especially for groups such as First Nations people and individuals on temporary visas.

The review of these laws is scheduled to take place after 1 April 2024 and will be carried out by the Department of Roads and the Attorney-General’s Department. We call for the repeal of these anti-democratic laws - barring repeal, we call on you to ensure that this review will seek public submissions and be undertaken in a clear and transparent manner.

It is essential that members of the community, civil society organisations, legal experts, protesters and protest movements and other stakeholders are given the opportunity to publicly explain the grassroots impacts of these laws. We call on the government to commit to introducing a community consultation component into the statutory review of the 2022 amendments.

We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you regarding the conduct of the legislative review and the opportunity for community consultation on the issue.

Signed,

Australian Democracy Network Amnesty International Australia  Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
NSW Council for Civil Liberties Human Rights Law Centre Socialist Alliance
Community Legal Centres NSW Inner City Legal Centre City of Sydney for Palestine
Animal Liberation NSW National Justice Project Water for Rivers
Redfern Legal Centre Australia Palestine Advocacy Network Tomorrow Movement
Public Interest Advocacy Centre NSW Young Labor Left Muslim Women Australia
Sydney Knitting Nannas Australia National Imams Council Pride In Protest
Pittwater Knitting Nannas Tzedek Collective Trade Unionists for Palestine
Wage Peace Legal Observers NSW NSW Teachers Federation
Jews Against the Occupation ‘48 Human Rights Act for NSW Jewish Council of Australia
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW Australian Services Union NSW ACT Services Branch Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney Branch
Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union NSW Branch United Workers Union  Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union NSW Branch
Electrical Trades Union Finance Sector Union Hunter Workers
Construction & General Division of CFMEU NSW NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Tamara Smith, Member for Ballina
Abigail Boyd MLC Amanda Cohn MLC Cate Faehrmann MLC
Sue Higginson MLC Jenny Leong, Member for Newtown Kobi Shetty, Member for Balmain

 

Background:

In April 2022, the NSW Parliament passed legislation to prevent ‘illegal protesting’ on major roads, bridges, tunnels, public transport and infrastructure facilities. The new legislation amends section 144G the Roads Act 1993 which criminalises causing serious disruption by entering, remaining on or trespassing on prescribed major bridges and tunnels, to now include all “main roads”. Offences carry a maximum penalty of $22,000 or two years in gaol, or both.

NSWCCL condemns these legislative changes in totality. Protest should not be confined to back roads.  We especially condemn the lack of proportionality of the punishment that can be imposed for offences committed by protesters. 

The review of these laws is scheduled to take place after 1 April 2024 and should consider the views of all stakelholders and community. Join us in the call for an open and transparent review!

 

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Open letter: Civil Society joint letter calls on Government to explain poor behaviour

We write as leading civil society organisations, reflecting a broad and diverse membership across Australia, to express our deep concern and disappointment regarding the recent introduction of the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024.  

We are particularly troubled by the objectives apparently underpinning the legislation, including exclusion of entire nations from migration to Australia, further criminalisation and exposure to imprisonment and detention of people seeking safety in Australia, and circumvention of the impact of a prospective High Court decision regarding unlawful administrative detention.

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CityHub: Nineteen arrested at Port Botany after blocking arrival of Israeli cargo ship

Recently 19 individuals were arrested by police at Port Botany during a protest against the arrival of an Israeli cargo vessel responsible for transporting weaponry and resources for the Australian defense force. This protest was organised by the Palestine Justice Movement and Trade Unionists for Palestine. There were hundreds in attendance at the protest on Sunday evening, which finished with a march towards the primary access point on Penrhyn Road.

According to NSW Police, the protest was unauthorised, and some individuals disregarded police instructions.

The 19 individuals arrested were transported to Surry Hills Police Station and subsequently charged with offenses including obstructing roads or paths, failure to comply with police orders, and and remaining “near or on [a] major facility causing serious disruption”.

Those arrested were served court attendance notices to appear at Downing Centre Local Court in early May.

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Submission: Public Consultation on Doxxing and Privacy Reforms

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties provides this submission with a view to highlighting the inadequacies of the multi-pronged approach to combatting doxxing, which contextualises the need for a statutory tort for invasions of privacy.

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Media Statement: Police Response to Anti-Genocide Protests in Sydney

We are witnessing the largest Anti-War protest movement in Australia since the Vietnam War in response to the genocide occurring in Palestine.


The Council are aware that New South Wales police have arrested three protestors on Saturday 23 March 2024 at the Sydney protest, allegedly as a result of being unintentionally sprayed with drops of red dye as part of a “die in” at the front of the march.


We are also aware that New South Wales police arrested approximately seventeen protestors at the Port Botany protest late last night on Sunday 24 March 2024 and Legal Observers New South Wales are reporting that several police officers were allegedly wearing an “Australian flag patch with a thin blue line through it” that has been associated with right wing extremism.

 

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CityHub: Calls for transparency on Australian visa cancellations

The recent reports of the Australian government cancelling Australian visas of Palestinians fleeing Gaza mid flight has sparked calls for transparency.

Figures from the Department of Home Affairs show that the Australian government granted 2,273 temporary (subclass 600) visas for Palestinians with family in Australia between October 7 and February 6 this year. But there are reports of Palestinians having their visas cancelled mid flight or upon arrival to the airport. The reasons for the callelations are currently unclear. 

Since the beginning of the Israel Palestine conflict more that 31,000 Palestinians have been killed. Visa cancellations have left Palestinians stranded.

There is an injured 23-year-old man stuck in an Istanbul airport after his visa was cancelled en route to Australia. He cannot return to Egypt or leave the airport without a valid visa.

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CityHub: “Punitive measures simply don’t work”: Premier criticised for new youth crime laws

Premier Chris Minns is under intense scrutiny following the NSW Government's announcement of new legislation aimed at toughening the stance on youth crime, which will tighten the criteria for granting bail to young offenders.

The premier has dismissed the possibility of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14, a move criticised as “knee-jerk law and order response”.

Moreover, teenagers who engage in "post and boast" behavior on social media will now face an additional two years added to their prison sentences.

These policy changes are framed as efforts to address rising crime rates in regional NSW according to government statements.

However, there are widespread concerns that these reforms may result in more children being incarcerated and could exacerbate the state's challenges in meeting the"Closing the Gap" targets.

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Joint letter to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus urging freedom of information reform

Dear Attorney-General,

Freedom of information reform is long overdue.

We write to urge the Government to act on the recommendations made in the recent report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee’s inquiry into the operation of the Commonwealth Freedom of Information (‘FOI’) laws.

As you will be aware, the Committee unanimously acknowledged the need for urgent reform to the FOI system. The Committee’s report describes a highly dysfunctional, under-resourced FOI regime, citing multi-year delays, excessive use of exemptions, problematic interpretations of FOI laws, prohibitive expenses, and cultural issues within the Australian Public Service (‘APS’) and at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (‘OAIC’).

While in opposition, Labor rightly decried a culture of secrecy and impunity that thrived under the Morrison Government. Now in government, your department has taken positive steps toward remedying this, including establishing the National Anti-Corruption Commission and introducing legislation to establish the new Administrative Review Tribunal.

While we welcome these reforms, we note that the Albanese Government has continued to under-resource and under-prioritise the reform of FOI— a core transparency function, vital for restoring integrity and public trust in government.

The recommendations contained in the Senate Committee’s report represent a comprehensive, actionable blueprint for reform, and an opportunity for the Albanese Government to demonstrate its election commitment to open government and a strong democracy.

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CityHub: New LGBTQ+ legislation is welcome, but not enough, says Dr Amanda Cohn

The long-awaited legislation to ban LGBTQ+ conversion practices was finally tabled by the Attorney General on Wednesday.

Dr. Amanda Cohn, spokesperson for NSW Greens spokesperson for LGBTQIA+ affairs described the changes as "overdue" and "welcome," yet emphasised the need for further progress. She highlighted the legislation's origins in the tireless advocacy of conversion practice survivors over the years, noting that while it now aligns NSW with standards seen in other states and territories, NSW still harbors the worst laws for LGBTQ+ individuals.

"As one example, NSW is the only jurisdiction that forces people to have invasive and medically unnecessary genital surgery to change their gender on official documents,” she said.

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Open letter: Refugees still languishing on PNG - we need answers

We understand that there are approximately 64 refugees remaining in Papua New Guinea, people we put there and have seemingly forgotten. 

We believe that to say that Australia has fully complied with the mutually agreed arrangement to support PNG’s independent management of people remaining in PNG is meaningless if it is not backed up with actual information about the welfare of this group.

Australia has an obligation to the people who remain in PNG. To believe otherwise would be dishonest and a failure of leadership, after all, we sent them there in the first place.

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Open Letter: Seeking clarification on the absurd decision to cancel Palestinian refugee visas

We think the Department of Home Affairs conduct towards the refugees from Palestine who have had their visas cancelled is outrageous. Not only does conduct like this undermine public confidence in the Department, the Government and the entire immigration process, it further punishes a group of traumatised people how have been through the most horrendous imaginable ordeal. We wrote to the Minister to ask why?

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Media Statement - NSW laws should not harm children

NSW Council for Civil Liberties is horrified about the announcement by the Minns Government to tighten NSW bail laws for children. 

Tightening bail laws to keep children locked up hasn’t worked in a single place it’s been tried. Prisons are no place for children and young people, this is a step backwards for criminal justice in NSW not a step forwards.

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Sydney Criminal Lawyers: Mardi Gras May Have Passed, But NSW Police Remains a Rogue Force

The Mardi Gras Board recently requested members of the NSW Police Force to refrain from participating in the 2024 parade, to allow for a period for collective mourning after the tragic shooting of two gay men allegedly by Senior Constable Beau Lamarre-Condon.

Despite this, pressure from the NSW Premier Chris Minns and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese resulted in a compromise where LGBTIQA+ officers participated in the parade wearing plainclothes. On the night of the parade, their section was additionally accompanied by armed riot squad officers. 

This compromise sparked debate and scrutiny, underscoring broader issues within the NSW Police Force that extend beyond the recent tragedy.

 

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Echo: Editorial – Prosecuting publishers

For those new to the world of whistleblowing, it’s proven to instigate positive change and instigate positive change.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, may be facing his final court hearing in the UK High Court of Justice soon. The hearing concerns if he will be extradited to the US to face spying charges. 

In 2010, Julian Assange published classified US military information provided by Chelsea Manning, a US Army whistleblower, to WikiLeaks. This information included details of war crimes, torture, assassinations, and the identities of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Despite the publication of this sensitive information, there is no evidence indicating that it directly led to any deaths or compromise of security of the United States. However, it did cause significant embarrassment for the US government and stirred widespread concern globally.

Assange spent seven years within the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK, followed by nearly five years of confinement in Belmarsh maximum security prison, all without formal charges.

Critics have pointed out that the federal Labor government's management of Assange's case lacked significant efforts towards negotiation for his release. Speculation has arised, suggesting that the political ramifications on the relationship with the US could be the primary reason for this. Additionally, recent geopolitical events, such as the controversial AUKUS pact, have provided potential leverage points for negotiation, yet no progress has been seen.

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Guardian: Calls for independent review of police weapons after alleged murders of Sydney couple

Sen Const Beau Lamarre allegedly used a force-issued firearm to murder Jesse Baird, 26, and Baird’s partner, Luke Davies, 29, in Paddington on the 19th February. On February 16th Lamarre retrieved the firearm from Miranda police station for a protest policing assignment, according to police statements. 

This will be the subject of an internal NSW police review with oversight from the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (Lecc) and the Victoria police.

Civil liberties advocates are calling for the review of firearm regulation within the NSW police to be independent to ensure transparency, accountability, and impartiality in the investigation process.

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StarObserver: Activists angered by Mardi Gras board’s backflip decision

The recent charges laid on Senior Constable Beau Lamarre for the murders of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies had previously prompted the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras board to request the NSW Police to not march in the parade. 

Last Wednesday this decision was altered, allowing police to march out of uniform in Mardi Gras

This change has angered activists who feel it is a betrayal to the community and who claim the decision was made because of pressure from the police. 

Pride in Protest have said they are “horrified and outraged” at the board’s new decision, "Whether in uniform or not, police participation in the Mardi Gras parade is unacceptable". 

The Greens similarly called for the police force to exclude itself “as a sign of respect, deference, and commitment to change.”

Liz Atkins, Greens Councillor has said the decision to backflip was  “really disappointing” and has outlined “NSW Police are still marching as an institution, even if they’re not in uniform, LGBTQI cops are part of the community like the rest of us. But take part with their community, not as part of the institution of NSW Police.”

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Honi Soit: Queer and civil rights groups hold a conference after NSW Police’s disinvitation from Mardi Gras

The recent disinvitation of the NSW Police from the Mardi Gras parade following the murder of  Luke Davies and Jesse Baird by a police constable has sparked significant discussion concerning accountability and justice within the NSW Police, as well as safety within the LGBTIQA+ community. 

On the 27th of February, NSW Council for Civil Liberties gathered at Taylor Square with Pride in Protest, Blak Caucus, Latoya Aroha Rule, and the NSW Greens to discuss this topic. This event happened in the wake of reports that the bodies of Luke Davies and Jesse Baird were discovered near a property in Bungonia.

Charlie Murphy from Pride in Protest opened the conference, welcoming the Board's decision, stating that disinvitation is the “bare minimum in terms of addressing police oppression.”. 

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