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Landmark report finds police conduct of strip searches unlawful

Police officers who conducted strip searches of children hadn't been properly trained and didn't understand the law on what they were doing, a series of landmark watchdog reports has found.

The conduct of NSW Police officers in carrying out strip searches of teenagers at music festivals has been found to be unlawful in a series of landmark reports by the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.

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NSWCCL amongst civil society groups calling on NSW Parliament to resume

Six civil society groups are today calling on the NSW State Parliament to immediately reconvene regular sittings, in a way that is safe, so it can debate and address important matters of public concern.  

The NSW community is looking to their State Government to guide them through the COVID-19 public health emergency. Issues including the impact the pandemic is having on people experiencing homelessness and domestic violence and on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be open to parliamentary scrutiny. 

As NSW teachers prepare to go back to classrooms next week, NSW MPs will sit for just one day to pass rental relief measures and are then not scheduled to sit again until September. Only with regular parliamentary processes can the Government respond to the community’s needs rapidly. 

The use of the Upper House Public Accountability Committee to review the NSW Government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic was a step in the right direction. However, the Committee is yet to hold hearings since its inception in March, and is not accepting public submissions. The Committee has, so far, not put any measures in place to improve the transparency and accountability of executive decision-making. 

Nicholas Cowdery AO QC President of NSW Council for Civil Liberties:

“There is no legal impediment to the conduct of safe sittings of parliament in the coronavirus context. Accountable government is a requirement of democracy and without it, intrusive emergency measures may become manipulated and entrenched beyond this crisis.” 

Jonathon Hunyor, CEO of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre:

“In responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the NSW Government has been making major decisions with significant impact on our daily lives and fundamental rights. We need Parliament doing its job, ensuring oversight and accountability – it’s an essential part of our democracy.”

The Hon Anthony Whealy QC, Chair of The Centre for Public Integrity and former Judge of the NSW Court of Appeal:

"Parliament can and should sit during this crisis. Increased public spending and government intervention at this time calls for more scrutiny, not less. Australian Parliaments should follow examples set in the UK of MPs joining the chamber virtually to allow full representation across Parliament."

Alice Drury, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre:

“Now is the time for Parliament to shine, not shut down. We can have confidence in leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic only when decisions are transparent, open to constructive scrutiny, and responsive to the changing needs of our communities. We need regular Parliament processes back in place as soon as possible.”

See the original release from Human Rights Law Centre HERE

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Nominations open 2020 Awards for Civil Liberties Journalism

New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties announces that nominations are now open for two awards for excellence in civil liberties journalism for an article or series of articles, or a radio, television or podcast presentation, promoting civil liberties. The two awards are:

  • for young journalists under the age of 30 on 2 June 30, 2020, and
  • the open category.

Submissions are welcome, whether by self-nomination or third-party nomination. Submissions must include copies or links to the material that is the subject of the nomination. 

To be eligible, nominations must have been published or broadcast in Australia between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, and must be received by the NSWCCL by 11:59pm, on 14th July 2020.

Nominations should be made online, to [email protected].

Nicholas Cowdery AO QC
President NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Read about last year's finalists and award winners HERE

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Supreme Court rules on VIC Government COVID-19 duty of care to person in prison

The Supreme Court of Victoria has found that the Victorian Government has prima facie breached their duty to take reasonable care for the health of a person behind bars during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case, an urgent injunction brought by Fitzroy Legal Service and the Human Rights Law Centre, on behalf of a person in Port Phillip Prison with acute health needs, argued that people in prison are sitting ducks for COVID-19, and that it will only take one case to enter the prison for there to be an outbreak, which could not be stopped even if responsive measures are taken.

While the Court didn’t make any findings of fact given the case was heard as an interlocutory hearing, the Court did find that there was a prima facie case that the prison authorities breached their duty of care to safeguard the health of the person in prison, and that the Government must act compatibility with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights.

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This is an excerpt from a news article originally published by the Human Rights Law Centre, 2 May 2020.

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The right to protest should not be curtailed

4th May 2020

The right to protest should not be curtailed

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has grave concerns with the actions of the Victorian Police in the arrest of Chris Breen. To our understanding Mr Breen has been charged with incitement under section 321G of the Crimes Act 1958 for involvement in a protest car convoy. We are equally concerned with the issuing of infringement notices and fines of $1652 to 26 other participants.

On Good Friday the Refugee Action Collective planned a peaceful demonstration to highlight the living conditions for the refugees being held in the Mantra Hotel, Preston, The Mantra is being used as an Alternate Place of Detention (APOD). The purpose of the demonstration was to bring attention to the difficulties of maintaining social distancing and other hygiene concerns in the facility. NSWCCL has already voiced their concerns  with the conditions in APODs.

Acknowledging the social distancing laws in place at the time, the protestors organised a car convoy with no more than two people in each car. The previous day a similar convoy had been held by the United Voice Union and although there were threats made in the media by the Victorian Police, no arrests were made, as was appropriate for a peaceful protest

On Good Friday the Victorian Police acted otherwise, by arresting Refugee Action Collective member Chris Breen in his house, holding him for nine hours at Preston police station, seizing his electronic devices (including his son’s) and charging him with incitement under section 321G of the Crimes Act 1958 for involvement in the car convoy. Police also issued infringement notices and fines of $1652 to 26 participants in the convoy.

NSWCCL has a number of concerns with the actions of the Victorian Police.

We are concerned by the use of public health measures to respond to matters of political action.

We are concerned with the precedent these actions could have for future rallies, protests or picket lines.

In order to maintain the civil right to protest in Victoria we make the following demands:

  1. The charge against Chris Breen to be dropped.
  2. The infringement notices be revoked.
  3. The Victorian Police and Government approve future car convoys and other safe forms of political protest.

NSWCCL has also written to Victorian Police Commissioner, Graham Ashton AM regarding this matter. View the letter HERE.


Angela Catallo and Dr Martin Bibby, co-convenors, NSWCCL Asylum Seekers and Refugees Action Group

Media requests: Angela Catallo via email to [email protected].

 

See this statement as a PDF

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Police state or safety net? NSWCCL in LSJ

Media coverage: Law Society Journal

We may have flattened the curve; but have we squashed the rule of law in the process? Kate Allman, a finalist in the NSWCCL 2019 Award for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism (Young Journalists category), asks the question in this month's compelling cover story for Law Society Journal.

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime and I am not aware of any previous restriction on movement and basic freedoms, ever, such as we have seen today,” says Stephen Blanks, a spokesperson for the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

Blanks first relayed his concerns to LSJ on 31 March, the morning after the most restrictive public health order, which orders NSW citizens to stay home other than to carry out limited essential activities, was signed into law. 

“Today, being the first day of the new regulations which prohibit leaving home except with a reasonable excuse, marks an extraordinary day in our legal history,” Blanks said.

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Submission: 2020 ECOSOC High Level Segment for NGOs

NSWCCL Statement to the 2020 ECOSOC High Level Segment for NGOs 26th April 2020

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) recognises that the human rights and civil liberties of all people cannot be fully realised unless, and until, the global community meets the targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However we recognise that development, particularly economic, need not necessarily take place in a way that is human rights based.

 In times of accelerated progress towards any goal, it is clear that states can sometimes all too quickly pursue acceleration at the expense of human rights and equality. This is not to say that acceleration is itself problematic. In line with the recommendations of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, acceleration of sustainable development in relation to climate change (SDGS 7, 11- 15) is vital to prevent the most catastrophic climactic changes. Climate change will only entrench vulnerability and marginalisation. We strongly endorse rapid acceleration of the response to climate change, particularly within Australia.

We emphasise the importance of attaining progress towards meeting the SDG targets in a way that centres human rights obligations at the core of development. The United Nations Human Rights Council has resolved that attainment of the SDGs and implementation of human rights obligations by states should be ‘mutually reinforcing’, and a state should implement the SDGs consistently with their pre-existing human rights obligations (A/HRC/RES/37/24). This is also recognised in SDG 10 and SDG 16.

Turning to an example from Australia, the longstanding inequality between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians is a deplorable stain on Australia’s history. The 2020 Closing the Gap report identifies that the child mortality rate for Indigenous Australians is slightly over double the child mortality rate for Non-Indigenous Australians (p. 15). Numeracy and literacy rates for Indigenous school students are well below national standards (p. 45). Whilst we acknowledge that some progress is being made, such progress is slow and does not comply with the spirit of the SDGs and should be accelerated alongside economic development.

To ensure that the crucial acceleration of progress responding to the SDG targets takes place in a way that advances human rights we call upon states to:

  • Ensure that justice, integrity and accountability bodies within states are strengthened and properly resourced.
  • Adopt domestic legislation which enshrines fundamental human rights and affords citizens with personal remedies to protect their rights.
  • Ensure that the rights of marginalised and minority groups are given equal, if not greater, importance than the rights of others within society to remedy past injustices.

 

Michelle Falstein

Secretary

NSW Council for Civil Liberties Australia

 

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NSWCCL calls for release of those in alternative places of detention (APOD)

NSWCCL are asking members and supporters to urgently write to a group of Federal Ministers warning them of the risks involved in keeping 100 refugees in the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel, an alternative place of detention (APOD) in Brisbane, and 50 in the Mantra Hotel APOD in Melbourne.  We are calling for their immediate release into safe places in the community as part of the public health response to the COVID-19 emergency.

The risk in APODs is that they are crowded, and social distancing is impossible. Moreover, guards, service staff and others go in and out, generally without personal protective equipment. 

There are 9,900 members of I Have a Room, who have declared their willingness to look after asylum seekers and refugees in their own homes.  In APODs and Detention Centres, here, in Nauru and Manus Island, there are a few more than 1,400 asylum seekers and refugees. 

It is true that cases have been trending down: in Queensland in particular there have been no new cases of the virus in the last few days.  However, as Professor Paul Kelly, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said on the ABC’s Coronacast podcast on Wednesday 22 April, there is a risk of a second wave of the virus, which would be worse than the first.   Moreover, there may be asymptomatic cases, with people who are not aware that they have the disease able to spread it to others, who may die of it.

We thank you for taking this action to help protect asylum seekers and refugees in Australian care during the COVID-19 health crisis.

- Angela Catallo and Dr Martin Bibby, co-convenors, NSWCCL Asylum Seekers and Refugees Action Group

Media requests: Angela Catallo via email to [email protected].

 

Please write in your own words, or copy and paste the example letter below into an email, and send to:

The Hon. Alan Tudge, Acting Minister for Immigration [email protected]

The Hon. Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs [email protected]

The Hon. Anne Ruston, Services Minister [email protected]

The Hon. Greg Hunt, Minister for Health [email protected]

The Hon. David Coleman, Minister for  Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs. [email protected]


Dear Ministers,

You will be aware of the concerns expressed by Mr. Ed. Santow about the COVID-19 health risk due to overcrowding inside two alternative places of detention (APODs) for refugees and asylum seekers - that is, in the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel in Brisbane and the Mantra Hotel in South Preston, Victoria.  According to Mr. Santow, social distancing is not possible while so many are detained there, and the lives of the detainees are at risk.

APODs are not isolated from the wider community--guards, service staff, cleaners and others go in and out.  They can carry infection in, and others will carry it out.  Mr. Santow's warning should be treated seriously and the response should be urgent.

I remind you of the consequences of Donald Trump's dismissal of warnings about the novel coronavirus as fear-mongering.

I am writing therefore to urge you to rescue the people detained in those two places from their almost inevitable infection with the SARS-2 virus if they stay there, and the likely deaths of some of them.   I urge you  to act swiftly and place them in community detention, or release them to safe places in the community. 

It is true that cases have been trending down: in Queensland in particular there have been no new cases of the virus in the last few days.  However, as Professor Paul Kelly, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said on the ABC’s Coronacast podcast on Wednesday 22 April, there is a risk of a second wave of the virus, which would be worse than the first.   Moreover, there may be asymptomatic cases, with people who are not aware that they have the disease able to spread it to others, who may die of it. 

There are 9,900 members of I Have a Room who have declared their willingness to take an asylum seeker or refugee each from detention into their own homes. 

I urge you to take up their offers, and act before it is too late

Yours sincerely,

 

(SIGN HERE)


Download the letter as a PDF to print, sign and scan/photograph and send via email.

 

 

 

 

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NSWCCL on the application of COVID fines by NSW Police

Media coverage: 9News/AAP

Some NSW police are handing out fines arbitrarily to people confused about COVID-19 restrictions, with "already over-policed" marginalised groups being penalised unfairly, a lawyer says.

Under COVID-19 measures, police officers have the power to fine individuals $1000 and businesses $5000 breaching public health orders or ministerial directions.

As of April 20, state police had issued 95 court notices and 736 penalty infringement notices, with on-the-spot fines, since March 17.

And while some of these cases are for people legitimately refusing to comply with social-distancing measures, solicitor Peter O'Brien says people are confused about what they are allowed to do and are being penalised unfairly.

"The lack of real clarity from the political masters who put in place this legislation is leading to an arbitrary application in the streets. People are genuinely and sincerely not certain of what a reasonable excuse is," Mr O'Brien told AAP.

"I'm concerned it's being applied to people who are already over-policed, the mentally ill, those fairly marginalised in society, most of whom can't afford to pay those penalties," he said.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks questions why some of these fines are in areas of NSW where no known COVID-19 infections exist.

"The ultimate purpose of these regulations is for protection of community health," Mr Blanks told AAP.

"There was a couple in Cobar who were fined for being outside their home. The police should take into account if the activity engaged by the couple did put the community at risk. I'm not sure there are currently any infections in Cobar."

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Privacy and trust: The COVID-19 tracking app

Media coverage: MamaM!a

Podcast interview: The Government needs at least 14 million Australians to download the COVID19 tracing app, and if we do, they've promised we could get some of our freedoms back. 

So how will it work? What information of yours will it have access to? What will it mean for your privacy? We find out the facts on Covidtrace. 

Guests: Nigel Phair, Director of UNSW Canberra Cyber; Michelle Falstein, Secretary of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties. 

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Privacy and digital COVID-19 contact tracing

20th April 2020

CONCERNS RE PRIVACY AND DIGITAL COVID-19 CONTACT TRACING

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that the Australian government is progressing with Singapore-style digital options for contact tracing. The proposed app tracks, via Bluetooth technology, the previous close contacts of an individual who subsequently proves to be COVID-19 positive.  This applies to any contact (also with the app) who had spent 15 minutes or more in close proximity with the infected person.

NSWCCL is concerned with the potential of the app to compromise data protection, increasing illegal and inappropriate use of data and facilitating surveillance and stigmatisation of Australians. Any collection or use of a person’s sensitive personal data for digital contact tracing must come with the imposition of strict limitations.

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High Court decision - limited win for journalist Annika Smethurst

Today the High Court unanimously found the AFP warrant to enter  journalist Annika Smethurst’s home in search of information relating to the publication of classified information, was invalid on a technical ground:

“that it misstated the substance of s 79(3) of the Crimes Act, as it stood on 29 April 2018, and failed to state the offence to which the warrant related with sufficient precision. The entry, search and seizure which occurred on 4 June 2019 were therefore unlawful”

Costs were also awarded to the plaintiffs.  

NSWCCL welcomes this limited victory for Annika Smethurst today - but we remain deeply concerned that freedom of the press and effective investigative journalism continues to be under serious threat in Australia.  This decision does nothing to alleviate those concerns.

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Closures of Parliament Unwarranted: An Interview With NSWCCL President

Media coverage: Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Except for those brief moments when it has been chided during the COVID-19 crisis – think Bondi Beach – the Australian public has done extremely well in completely changing the way it goes about its everyday life, with the implementation of lockdown measures.

And in amongst the rollout of prohibitions, penalties, and stimulus packages, the Morrison government saw fit to close down federal parliament for months on end. This was sold to the public as a necessary safety measure, at the same time government was recommending schools stay open.

However, as the initial pandemic shock began to clear, the opposition, judicial officers and civil liberties advocates began to question whether the removal of parliamentary oversight at the time of an unprecedented health crisis was really the correct avenue to take.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties was calling for the launch of the senate committee in order to maintain at least some democratic process during the crisis. And the council has been keeping its usual keen watch over developments affecting the freedoms of Australian citizens.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to NSWCCL president Nicholas Cowdery about the need to increase parliamentary scrutiny during a crisis, rather than eradicate it, as well as the issues around the gaping holes in the emergency provisions that are leading to the ambiguities in their enforcement.

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Resources for those in mandatory COVID-19 quarantine

Resources for those in mandatory quarantine

As many of those who have been in mandatory quarantine are coming to the end of their periods of isolation, many in city hotels, there are others returning from overseas and entering mandatory quarantine.  NSW Health describes mandatory detention as an “inconvenience”. It is more than that. Yet, those corresponding with NSWCCL have not complained about the fact of having to be quarantined. They did not mind being inconvenienced. They had other concerns about it.

Policy about quarantine was announced without sufficient time and briefing and understanding by those who were required to provide and enforce it. It has been unnecessary for those quarantined to be the subject of arbitrary and, often, meaningless rules, seemingly made on the run, uncertain and inconsistently applied. If the government expects voluntary compliance with its policies, those policies have to be perceived as fair.

The NSW Government says that it is “determined to make the 14-day period as comfortable as possible”.[1] However, many are not being treated respectfully and with consideration and compassion. Many have no ability to have access to fresh air and daily exercise, appropriate meals and cleaning supplies. Special dietary requirements are not being met and physical and mental health needs are not being addressed appropriately. In some cases, packages are not allowed to be delivered by family and friends or arbitrary limits are placed on what they may contain. Others complain that there is no easy access to medical services or other simple requirements that have no bearing on one’s ability to be quarantined.

If you have any issues:

  1. Ensure that you take advantage of the facilities that you are entitled to according to the NSW Health page on quarantine. There are a number of resources listed in that website. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/hotel-quarantine.aspx

The website states that “Each hotel is being staffed with experienced doctors, nurses and mental health professionals. Every day travellers will have access to:

  • registered nurses
  • assistant nurses
  • a general practitioner (doctor) will do a daily round of the hotel
  • medical practitioners are on-call 24/7 with the same doctor for continuity.”
  1. Contact your local Federal and State Members of Parliament and make them aware of your situation.
  2. Contact the Attorney General, Health Minister and the Police Minister in the State or Territory in which you are quarantined.
  3. Publicise your complaint to Australian media outlets.

[1] https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/hotel-quarantine.aspx

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COVID-19 restrictions, NSWCCL calls for police to be restrained

Media coverage: Straits Times/Sunday Times

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has called on police to be more restrained regarding COVID-19 restrictions. "There is widespread community observance of the laws," said a spokesman for the council, Mr Stephen Blanks.

"If the police are seen to be enforcing them in a heavy-handed way, it will result in a loss of community support," he added.

Australian police have come under criticism for being too heavy-handed in enforcing social distancing rules after officers targeted mothers with babies and individuals sitting alone in parks.

Despite the rules being quickly and readily accepted by most Australians, there are concerns that the overzealous approach by some officers risk jeopardising community support for the measures.

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United Nations Universal Periodic Review: Australian NGO Report 2020

More than 200 not-for-profit and community organisations have backed a major report calling on the Australian Government to strengthen its commitment to human rights in its laws, policies and practices.

The report has been prepared ahead of a United Nations Human Rights Council review of Australia in a process known as the Universal Periodic Review, which each member of the UN must undergo every four years.

Edwina MacDonald, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre and one of the report coordinators, said it offers a comprehensive insight into the state of human rights in Australia, at a crucial time with the COVID-19 crisis set to exacerbate existing inequalities and create a host of new human rights challenges.

“The human rights that many Australians have taken for granted are suddenly front and centre in public consciousness – essential rights like healthcare and education are coming under enormous strain and structural economic inequalities will hit disadvantaged communities hard. This report provides a snapshot of the existing problems and is a stark reminder that Australians will not face this pandemic on equal footings,” said MacDonald.

Read/Download Australia’s Human Rights Scorecard: Australia’s 2020 UN UPR NGO Coalition Report.


Australia’s Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council will take place early 2021. The NGO Report was coordinated by the Human Rights Law Centre, the Kingsford Legal Centre and the Caxton Legal Centre, working with an Advisory Group comprised of 16 NGOs, and authors from 57 NGOs. 

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Senate establishes Committee to scrutinise responses to COVID -19 crisis

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the unanimous decision by the Senate to establish a Select Committee on COVID -19 matters.

The Committee has a wide scope. It is empowered “to inquire into and report on:

  1. a) the Australian Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  2. b) any related matters.”

It has strong powers to gain information, hold public or private hearings,  publish evidence, findings and recommendations and a direction that it be “provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee with the approval of the President”.

It will have a core membership of 7 being: 3 nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; 2 nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate; 1 nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens; and Senator Jacqui Lambie. Other Senators will be able to be nominated as participating – but not voting - members.

On the face of it, this new Select Committee should be able to make a significant contribution to democracy in oversighting the Government’s responses to the COVID -19 pandemic.  In so doing it will hopefully provide some much-needed scrutiny of Government decisions and their implementation to fill an astonishing accountability vacuum created by the closure of the Australian Parliament until 11 August 2020.

The Government’s continued refusal to amend the Parliament’s sitting schedule to provide for sittings over the intervening months is a betrayal of the people’s rights to transparency and accountability in government.

 

NSWCCL public statement


Previous statement: 6 April 2020, Call for senate committee scrutiny of government responses to COVID-19

Previous statement: 30 March 2020, Statement: COVID-19 and Government oversight - Prolonged Parliamentary Adjournment unacceptable and Dangerous for Democracy

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NSWCCL calls for Chief Medical Officer to be consulted on COVID-19 laws

Media coverage: The Canberra Times

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties has called for the state's chief medical officer to be consulted about fines issued under extraordinary laws designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It follows concern that police may be issuing infringement notices to people who do not pose a risk of spreading the virus.

NSWCCL spokesman Stephen Blanks disputed whether going for a drive should be classified as an offence. "That activity has negligible community risk, of course there could be a risk if there was an accident, but it's very remote," he said.

"The experience of the past week suggests the commissioner should be getting some guidance from the chief medical officer of NSW as to whether particular activities involve community health risk."

Mr Blanks warned maintaining community support for the laws would be essential in the weeks and months ahead.

"It's unprecedented, the idea that everyone is confined to their homes unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave. The fact is there is widespread community observance of the laws, but the most important thing is the community support for them is maintained," he said.

"If the police are seen to be enforcing them in a heavy-handed way it will result in a loss of community support and will be counter-productive."

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Call for senate committee scrutiny of government responses to covid-19

NSWCCL is engaging with the fast moving covid-19 crisis on a number of fronts. The maintenance of core democratic processes to ensure adequate parliamentary scrutiny of the government’s responses to the crisis is a high priority for us and other civil society organisations. Our intention is not to hinder the Government’s capacity to act with necessary speed in the face of the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. Rather, our aim is to give confidence to the community that government responses are being scrutinised for lawfulness, proportionality and fairness through transparent parliamentary processes. Without this confidence public trust in the Government over this period is likely to be weakened. 

Like many others, we have urged both the NSW and the Australian Governments to rethink their decisions to close down their parliaments over the next crucial months. The NSW Parliament is not scheduled to resume until 15th September and the Australian Parliament not until 11th August. The Australian Parliament will sit for one day next Wednesday (8th April) to approve the latest tranche of emergency spending.

We have also called for the establishment of a strong, bipartisan Senate Select Committee to scrutinise and report on the Government’s responses to the pandemic crisis. NSWCCL joined 7 other legal and civil society groups in a public call for such a committee to approved when the Parliament sits on Wednesday:

The Senate must establish the Select Senate Committee when it reconvenes, for potentially just one day, next Wednesday. A Select Senate Committee will provide a vital avenue to business, civil society groups and individuals to provide information to inform Government decision-making and feedback on the impact of those decisions, so that no one is left behind and no one is left in the dark. 

The NSW and New Zealand Governments have already established committees to oversee their Governments’ response to COVID-19.

A Select Senate Committee is just a part of the solution – Australians also need regular parliamentary processes to continue. It is vital that our Parliament sit, in a way that is safe, so it can make decisions rapidly as the pandemic unfolds. 

Participating groups in addition to NSWCCL were Human Rights Law Centre, Centre for Public Integrity, Amnesty International, National Aboriginal  and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, People with Disability Australia, GRATA Fund and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

Other groups – including eminent ex judges -  have made similar calls for such a committee. 

At this point of time we are hopeful that the Senate will set up such a Committee next  Wednesday to provide the much-needed and focused scrutiny on Government actions over this extraordinarily challenging and scary period in Australia’s history.

Joint media statement 

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COVID-19 resources


The pandemic has seen a raft of health orders, restrictions and emergency powers.

While some changes are required to keep us safe during this extraordinary time, NSWCCL is deeply concerned that not all measures have been proportionate or necessary.

The risk of temporary measures becoming permanent, and police power creep, is significant. 

Resources

Actions and campaigns

NSWCCL COVID-19 statements and submissions

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