NSWCCL President (and Former DPP) urges drug overhaul

Media coverage: Sydney Morning Herald

The state's former top prosecutor has urged the Berejiklian government to decriminalise the use and possession of illicit drugs in NSW as the "first step" towards full legalisation, as the Premier maintains her opposition to overhauling drug policy to allow a pill testing trial.

Nicholas Cowdery, QC, who was Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW for 16 years, said "any coherent government drug and alcohol policy must be based on health and social foundations, not on the criminal law".

"It is the only practical and principled way to proceed, [and is] also in accordance with human rights," he said.

Mr Cowdery, who is now president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said "decriminalisation, in my view, is just a first step" and the state should eventually move to the "legalisation, regulation, control and taxation of all drugs".

Read more HERE.


NSWCCL President - Morrison's plan "totally contrary" to the right to freedom of expression

Media Coverage: Sydney Morning Herald

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sparked a furore over free speech by vowing to draft new laws to ban protesters from boycotting companies, prompting claims his "feverish" talk would curb the rights of all Australians.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Nicholas Cowdery said Mr Morrison's plan was "totally contrary" to the right to freedom of expression and that existing laws could deal with unruly conduct or assault.

"Large issues such as climate change and protection of the environment encourage strong responses by citizens whose broader rights are affected," Mr Cowdery said. "Protest action may well increase if effective measures are not taken by commercial interests to address those issues. Citizens should not be criminalised for taking such action.

"The Prime Minister says that they will take their time to get it right. No matter how long they take, they cannot get right wanton infringement of the rights of Australians."

Read more HERE


Byron Bay Officer charged over 2018 teen arrest

Media coverage: Byron Bay Echo

One of the officers involved in the arrest of a teenager in the Byron CBD last year has been charged with common assault.

The extended delay in deciding whether or not to lay charges in relation to the incident has drawn widespread criticism of the NSW DPP, and the system more broadly.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties described the delay as ‘unacceptable’.

Read more HERE.


Submission: Religious Discrimination Bills 2019

NSWCCL opposes many aspects of the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, most significantly the over-privileging of religious rights in relation to all other rights.  It has too many negative aspects which will undermine current anti-discrimination protections, and in its present form, the Bill fails to address pressing issues.

It is clearly important for Australia’s discrimination laws to work cohesively together and for no one right to be automatically privileged over another/others.  The protection and balancing of human rights would be greatly assisted by the adoption of an Australian Charter of Human Rights and by a review of Australia’s state and federal human rights laws to ensure the appropriate coherence and consistency. The current Review by the Australian Law Reform Commission into The Framework of Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation will contribute to this from the perspective of religious rights - but the broader exercise is necessary.

One of the major disappointments with this Bill is the failure to include much needed and explicitly promised protections for LGBTQI+ students in religious and private schools. This Bill has been hastily drawn up in advance of the report from the inquiry into The Framework of Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation under way by the ALRC,  but one of the most urgent and disturbing manifestations of inappropriate religious exemptions for otherwise unlawful discriminatory acts against children has deliberately not been addressed in the Bill and instead left to the ALRC review. Simultaneously the reporting date for the ALRC review has been pushed back to December 2020.

View submission


Submission: Health Legislation Amendment (Data Matching) Bill 2019

The New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make submissions to the Department of Health on the Health Legislation Amendment (Data- matching) Bill 2019 (Bill) and the Health Legislation Amendment (Permitted Information Disclosure) Regulations 2019.

NSWCCL supports the integrity of the Medicare health payments system provided that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information and the privacy of Australians is respected.

NSWCCL objects to the sharing of sensitive health information with other Commonwealth entities and opposes the Bill in its current form. NSWCCL has a number of recommendations detailed in this submission. 

View submission


Former Senator has ‘absurd’ protestor bail conditions dismissed

Media coverage: The Guardian

Former Greens senator Scott Ludlam has had bail conditions – that banned him from associating with Extinction Rebellion climate change protests – dismissed by a judge following his arrest at a protest earlier this week. The strict conditions prevented Ludlam from appearing in court on Thursday, due to restrictions on coming to the Sydney CBD.

The New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties said the conditions were “absurd”, would affect thousands of people, and infringed on the constitutional right to freedom of political communication.

Read more HERE.


Climate change protesters slam ‘harsh bail conditions’

Media coverage: The New Daily

Extinction Rebellion activists have accused police of being politically motivated in their “brutal” handling of climate protests.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Pauline Wright said such bail conditions were usually reserved for members of bikie gangs – not social or political groups.

Read more HERE


Extinction Rebellion protesters bail conditions 'designed for bikie gangs'

Media coverage: Sydney Morning Herald

President of the NSW Civil Liberties Council Pauline Write said the bail conditions that the protesters were asked to sign were more commonly imposed on bikie gangs and those on terrorism charges.

"They're disproportionate to the gravity of the offences with which these people were charged, which would carry a small fine if not a section 10 dismissal," Ms Wright said.

She said it would also be difficult to identify other members of the large protest group in order to not associate with them.

"These people are also required to go into Downing Centre Court, which is in the Sydney CBD, so they'll have to breach the bail conditions to come to court or obey them by not going to court and face having a warrant issued for their arrest," Ms Wright said.

Read more HERE.


Bail conditions imposed on Sydney climate change activists a step too far

'Absurd' bail conditions prevent Extinction Rebellion protesters 'going near' other members

Civil liberties groups say bail conditions imposed on Sydney climate change activists are usually reserved for bikie gang members

Climate change protesters arrested for obstructing traffic have been given “absurd” bail conditions that ban them from “going near” or contacting members of 'Extinction Rebellion', which civil liberties groups say infringes on freedom of political communication. Some of those arrested were given a “wild” set of bail conditions that banned them from coming within 2km of the Sydney CBD or associating with Extinction Rebellion events.

“[You are] not to go near, or contact or try to go near or contact (except through a legal representative) any members of the group ‘Extinction Rebellion’,” the conditions say. “[You are] not to enter the Sydney City CBD or not go within 2km radius of the Sydney Town Hall.”

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Pauline Wright, labelled the conditions “patently unreasonable”, “absurd” and likely unlawful under the constitution. She said the ban was so broad and unclear it would affect thousands of people.

Where there is a legitimate political issue such as seeking action on climate change, protesters shouldn’t be seen to be forfeiting their democratic rights including freedom of association, freedom of movement and the implied right to freedom of political expression.”

- NSWCCL President, Pauline Wright.

Read the full article in The Guardian.


Climate protesters slapped with 'absurd' bail conditions

Media Coverage: ABC Triple J - HACK

Dr Holly Champion, a young full-time piano teacher living in Sydney, had never been in trouble with the law.

But after she and other Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters were arrested on Monday, she was slapped with the kind of bail conditions normally reserved for bikie gangs.

The conditions include staying out of the Sydney CBD and not contacting or "going near" other members of Extinction Rebellion — a loosely defined organisation that has no central membership list, induction ceremony, uniform, ID card or secret handshake.

Simply by attending court they'll be breaching their bail conditions, according to NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Pauline Wright.

"To prevent them from going into the Sydney CBD is a very harsh condition," she said."It will likely affect people's ability to go to work to go to university to go about their lawful business in the city."

She said this condition on its own was too onerous, but the condition of not associating with other members of XR was "absurd".

Read more HERE.