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Statement: NSW Auditor General's Report on privacy, Service NSW

On 18 December 2020, the Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford, released a report criticising the effectiveness of Service NSW’s handling of customers’ personal information to ensure privacy. NSWCCL has long held concerns over the manner of the use, collection, and storage of personal information of NSW citizens by the NSW government. The damning report highlights the lack of understanding and commitment to proper privacy practices in the NSW public service.

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Submission: Review of Section 293 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986

The Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) thanks the Department for Communities and Justice for its invitation to make a submission concerning the Review of Section 293 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986.

Excerpt:

'It is submitted that rather than providing a specific exception in relation to false complainants (as proposed by option 2) it is more desirable to consider what the principles and objectives that are sought to be achieved by this reform, rather than reactive reform in relation to a single factual scenario. Each case will bring its own unique factual issues and circumstances. Specific exceptions will often fall short of adequately dealing with the breadth of circumstances and issues of particular cases. Rather, an appropriately drafted discretion has the capacity to deal with a broader range of cases, provide protections in relation to the factors which must be taken into account and prevent piecemeal reform as other issues and factual scenarios arise in the future.'

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COVID-19 regulations for compliance, rather than criminalising mistakes

Media coverage: Daily Mail

'Heavy-handed fines should be reserved for people who deliberately, flagrantly
and dangerously flout the rules, not for people who are confused and make
an innocent mistake.'

- NSWCCL Spokesperson Stephen Blanks

A young couple accused of 'fleeing' quarantine at Melbourne Airport on New Year's Day could sue Victoria's Health Minister for defamation if found innocent, experts claim.

The couple, from Goulburn in NSW, have apologised for leaving the airport but said they had a green zone permit and made an innocent mistake due to the confusion caused by the rapidly changing regulations.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said on Saturday that the pair would each be fined at least $19,000 for breaching Victoria's public health state of emergency. 

But both Victoria Police and Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that their organisations were still investigating.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Stephen Blanks said the pair may have an action for defamation when outed as being guilty despite ongoing investigations. 

'Government ministers need to be careful to ensure not to accuse people of being guilty until all the relevant investigations have been carried out,' he told Daily Mail Australia on Sunday.

Mr Blanks said while it was possible Victoria could issue the pair on-the-spot fines, they still have the right to go to the courts and dispute the alleged offense - and that right had to be respected.

He said heavy-handed fines should be reserved for people who deliberately, flagrantly and dangerously flout the rules, not for people who are confused and make an innocent mistake.

'When these rules change day-by-day as they are at the moment, it's very onerous for people to know what they are and aren't allowed to do,' he said. 

'The objective here is to generate community compliance with the orders and criminalise people with heavy fines who may well have made an innocent mistake - if they made a mistake at all.

'It doesn't create the right environment in the community to create co-operation and compliance.' 

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NSW Police Force strip search practices, LECC Final Report

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission furnished its report: Inquiry into NSW Police Force strip search practices to Parliament on Tuesday 15th December, 2020. 

It is the final report in the Commission’s ongoing inquiry into police strip search practices. The Inquiry represents a significant body of work, comprising a total of seven investigations, as well as analysis of NSW Police Force policies and training, and oversight of police investigations of complaints about strip searches.

 

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Senate Committee Interim Report - Oversight of emergency-related delegated legislation

Senate committee calls on Parliament and government to remove barriers to oversight of emergency-related delegated legislation

The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation has today tabled the interim report of its ongoing inquiry into the exemption of delegated legislation from parliamentary oversight, repeatedly referencing the NSW Council for Civil Liberties submission.

The interim report makes 18 recommendations to government and the Parliament to address systemic barriers to parliamentary oversight of delegated legislation made in times of emergency.

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NSWCCL writes to Senators re filing fee increase for migration-related matters

NSWCCL wrote to ALP and Cross-bench Senators regarding the increase in filing fees in the Federal Circuit Court for migration-related matters. The fee will rise from $690.00 to $3,300.00. NSWCCL urged Senators to vote to disallow this instrument.


1 December 2020

Dear Senator,

Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Amendment (Fees) Regulations 2020

On October 29 this year, the Government introduced a swingeing increase in filing fees in the Federal Circuit Court for migration-related matters. The fee will rise from $690.00 to $3,300.00 on January 1 next year.

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned by this change, as it will prevent many people from obtaining a review and reversal of unlawful, unjust, adverse decisions.  It will prevent others from being able to afford legal representation too, thus lessening their chances of having mistakes exposed.

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Open letter to cross-bench Senators re Strengthening the Character Test Bill

Update 18 October 2021: with this legislation now listed for a second reading this week, we again wrote to all cross-bench senators reiterating our opposition to this bill and encouraging them to vote against it.

 

NSWCCL wrote to cross-bench Senators urging them to oppose the Strengthening the Character Test Bill.


1 December 2020

Dear Senator,

I am writing on behalf of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, asking you to vote against the Strengthening the Character Test Bill, when, and if, that returns to Parliament.

Despite what has been said in the Explanatory Memorandum, this bill is not about outlaw motorcycle gangs, murderers, people who commit serious assaults, sexual assault of aggravated burglary. People who are convicted of such crimes do not receive sentences of less than a year, unless their actual offences are minor—and if so, they are known not to be a danger to the community.  People who receive sentences of a year or more are dealt with by the existing legislation.

 

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Moves for compulsory COVID travel vaccines should be government-led

Media coverage: 9News

NSWCCL spokesperson Stephen Blanks said any moves to make vaccines compulsory for travel should be government-led.'

"The Federal Government would need to regulate this to ensure that appropriate allowances are made for people who have legitimate reasons for not getting vaccinated," he said.

Those reasons could be health, religious or conscientious based, he said.'

The comments come after Qantas boss Alan Joyce told A Current Affair on Monday he foresaw a future where Australians must be COVID-19 vaccinated if they wish to board his airline's international jets.

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NSWCCL on COVID-19 vaccine

Media coverage: 7News

Could your boss make you get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The answer is more complicated than you think.

'NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Stephen Blanks agreed the issue was a complex one.

“[It] depends on the circumstances of the employment and the employee; there is no blanket rule for everyone,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.

“There could be more justification [for a mandatory jab] for staff working in a high-risk environment who have exposure to many members of the public, but there needs to be recognition that some employees may have a legitimate reason for not having the vaccine.

“These may range from religious belief through to personal health reasons, meaning a vaccine is not appropriate,” Blanks said.'

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NSWCCL on NSW Drug Supply Prohibition Order legislation

Media coverage: The Echo

'The Drug Supply Prohibition Order Pilot Scheme Bill 2020 [NSW] was recently introduced to parliament, which if passed, would allow a police officer ‘to stop, detain and search a person… who has been convicted of a serious drug offence, without the requirement for a warrant’.

As it’s a pilot scheme, the presumption of guilt and lack of basic civil rights would apply to those living in Bankstown Police Area Command and the Coffs-Clarence, Hunter Valley and Orana Mid-Western Police Districts.

The NSW Law Society told The Guardian that if passed, it could lead to people previously convicted of lower-level drug offences being harassed by police. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties said in their submission that the 10-year period within which police can apply for an order may, ‘have the unintended impact of interfering with rehabilitation efforts’.'

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Statement: Drug Supply Prohibition Order (DSPO) Pilot Scheme Bill 2020

PUBLIC STATEMENT – 9 NOVEMBER 2020

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) is opposed to the Drug Supply Prohibition Order (DSPO) Pilot Scheme Bill 2020 (the Bill) which provides police with extraordinary powers in circumstances where adequate powers currently exist to search and seize items related to drug activity.

The Second Reading Speech highlights that the purpose of the Bill is to “assist police to gather evidence of drug supply and drug manufacture effectively and efficiently”. The Bill is designed to have a “deterrent effect on a person subject to a DSPO, who may reconsider whether re‑engaging in a lifestyle involving the manufacture or supply of illicit drugs is worth the increased risk of police detection and further conviction”.

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Statement: NSWCCL welcomes introduction of Climate Change Bill 2020

9 November 2020

NSWCCL warmly welcomes the introduction to Parliament of the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020 (“the Bill”) by the independent member for Warringah Zali Steggall.

We are living in a climate emergency. Calling the multifaceted and serious crises a warming planet is precipitating “global warming” or “climate change” no longer does justice to the urgency of our circumstances. As we gradually move out of one global emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic, we should reflect on the value of rapid, high-quality emergency governance in defeating large scale, complex problems facing our societies. We should ask why we have not seen similar quality governance in Australia with respect to the climate emergency.

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Submission: NSW Department of Education 2020 Code of Conduct Review

The right to free speech and the right to openly participate in political debate are rights which must be available to all residents of NSW whether or not they are employed by the Department of Education. NSWCCL is concerned that the proposed changes to the Code of Conduct by the NSW Department of Education (the Department) has the potential to reduce the civil liberties of Departmental Employees through a restriction on their rights to communicate through personal social media channels.

In this submission the NSWCCL has chosen to concentrate on question 2 in the discussion paper:

2. Where should the department set standards in respect to recognising an employee’s choice to engage with social media but ensuring the reputation of the department and public sector?

In the opinion of the NSWCCL any standards regarding the use of social media by Departmental employees should ensure their right to free speech including the right to participate in political discourse, by not going further than absolutely necessary in limiting such rights.

The proposed social media guidelines should be restricted to matters where an employee is conducting illegal behaviour, such as committing criminal offences, through their speech. No further burden on free speech is necessary for the public interest, nor justified in this context.

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Submission: Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2020

NSWCCL submission to the Joint Select Committee Inquiry into the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2020 - 22 August 2020

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties [NSWCCL] considers it is very important to respond in some detail to this Joint Select Committee’s inquiry into the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 [the Bill].

The issues encompassed by this Bill religious freedoms and protection from discrimination on the grounds of religion - are of great significance in a democracy such as ours. They are also extremely complex and potentially deeply contentious issues. Legislation on human rights must always be carefully considered and balanced, and this is especially so in relation to religious rights and protections. If all rights are not considered in a fair and balanced way the outcome is likely to be discriminatory and harmful to some groups and individuals and to over-privilege the rights of others.

 

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Policy: Human Rights and Technology

2020 NSWCCL AGM

Item 8.3        Policy on Human Rights and Technology

Human Rights and Digital Technology

Australia has experienced an exponential uptake and increased sophistication of surveillance methods, AI informed decision making, and other modern technologies collecting vast amounts of data (Digital Technology). At the same time, laws protecting individuals against breaches of their privacy rights have not kept pace with those technologies. There has been a “drift towards self-regulation in the technology sector, as laws and regulators have not effectively anticipated or responded to new technologies” [1]. While there will always be some degree of regulatory lag with regards to policy design and implementation, capacity-building programs should specifically target policy makers to ensure the development of a policy framework that is remains relevant as technology progresses.

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Policy: ICAC role and funding

2020 NSWCCL AGM

Item 9.2 Policy on ICAC

 NSWCCL strongly affirms the crucial role of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW. As Richard Ackland writes, the episode currently playing out with respect to Daryl Maguire, and incidentally, Gladys Berejiklian, is “a timely reminder of the disinfecting sunlight that ICAC is capable of shining”.[1] To quote our President, “while the present proceedings may not encourage federal parliamentarians to move forward more speedily with a federal ICAC, they are certainly encouraging the electors to push for one.”[2]

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Policy: Visa cancellation on character grounds

2020 NSWCCL AGM

Item 8.2        Policy on visa cancellation on character grounds.

Preamble

Section 501 of the Migration Act enables the Minister for Home Affairs or his delegates to cancel the visa or to refuse a visa of any person who is decreed to have failed what is termed ‘the character test’.  The grounds on which this can be done are many:  they include inter alia serving a total of 12 months’ imprisonment; conviction for any offence, no matter how inconsequential, while in immigration detention; being a person who has been or is a member of a group or organisation, or has had or has an association with a group, organisation or person, and that group, organisation or person has been or is involved in criminal conduct; being a person whose criminal or general conduct is such that the person is not of good character; or having been ordered by a court to participate in a drug rehabilitation scheme.  If a court has found a person guilty of an offence against a child, or found a charge against the person proved for an offence against a child, whatever the penalty or  even if the person was discharged without a conviction, they fail the character test.  Persons can also be found to have failed the character test if there is only a risk that that they may engage in criminal conduct, vilify a section of the Australian community,  or incite discord in a section of that community.   Harassment, which is defined as including threats to the property of a person, also constitutes a failure of the character test.



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Assange: Extradition hearings, freedom and democracy

The proposed extradition of Julian Assange
The extradition hearing for Julian Assange continues in London. Assange is currently being held in Belmarsh Prison, a category A jail on the outskirts of London, where men convicted of terrorism offences are held. He has limited access to his legal counsel, relegated to sit behind a glass window in the dock. For Assange and his family, the situation is dire. 

 

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2020 Winners NSWCCL Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism

Congratulations to the winners of NSWCCL's 2020 Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism. The standard of those nominated has been exceptionally high, which made the task of the judges so much more difficult.

From the nominees, the judges named shortlists of 3 in the Young Journalists category and 4 in the Open category. We compliment all entrants on their work and hope that you will continue in similar vein in the future.

The winner of the Young Journalist's category: Luke Henriques-Gomez of The Guardian for a series of articles on the Robodebt scheme.

'This young journalist’s articles on the Robodebt debacle exposed federal governmental policy inadequacy and ministerial failure regarding the use of technology and data management in social support programs. They opened a window on current approaches to welfare policy and their failure to observe the principles of democratic governance by being evidence-based and according procedural fairness to affected persons. This failure and indifference led to official cruelty which the articles helped to change by opening up broad debate on the issues raised.'

Congratulations Luke.


 

The winner of the Open category is shared: Kate McClymont and Jacqueline Maley of the Sydney Morning Herald for their piece on the Dyson Heydon affair.

'These journalists’ exclusive article on the Dyson Heydon affair demonstrated how deeply entrenched attitudes towards the abuse of women remain in our social and employment structures. They also raised wider critical questions concerning professional transparency, governance and power in the legal profession. This was courageous reporting that was respectful of sources and affirmed freedom of the press in Australia.'

Congratulations to Kate and Jacqueline.

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NSWCCL 2020 Fundraiser: First Nations justice webinar

NSWCCL’s online First Nations justice panel discussion was held on 11 September 2020, and featured Judge Myers AM, Sarah Hopkins, Teela Reid and NSWCCL President Nicholas Cowdery AO QC. Our panelists generously shared their knowledge, expertise and heart in speaking about over-incarceration of Indigenous Australians, systemic racism, 'just' policing, the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the black lives matter movement.

The panel discussion was a call to action in relation to the implementation of the recommendations of the ALRC’s report “Pathways to Justice”, including a focus on the crucial need for a commitment to justice reinvestment and specialty courts (such as the Walama Court in NSW).

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