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2019 AGM Policy Proposal - Religious Discrimination Bill

Religious Discrimination Bill 2019

Policy motion considered at the NSWCCL 2019 Annual General Meeting, 23rd October 2019

NSWCCL cannot support the Religious Discrimination Bill (the Bill) as currently drafted. It has too many negative aspects which will undermine current anti-discrimination protections and it fails to address pressing issues. NSWCCL strongly opposes the privileging of religious freedoms over other rights.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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. (Link no longer available)

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Submission: Right to Farm Bill 2019

CCL is concerned by what would appear to be a crackdownagainst free speech and basic principles of democratic governance.

The proposed legislation is draconian and disproportionate and might be said to infringe at least two of the four core principles of criminal law

  • that the criminal law should only be used to censure people who have committed substantial wrongdoing, and
  • that laws be enforced with respect for proportionality.

This bill appears to be designed to discourage lawful demonstrations and protest contrary to the implied constitutional right to peaceful protest and its constitutionality is for that reason questionable.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) joins with a number of other civil society organisations including unions, environment groups and civil liberties advocates in making the additional submission (set out in Annexure A).

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Civil Source October 2019

October 2019 Newsletter

In this issue -

  • Decriminalisation of Abortion in NSW
  • 2019 Annual Dinner
  • Inaugural Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism
  • Action on Climate
  • NSWCCL Annual General Meeting
  • In the media

Read/Download the October Issue (PDF) HERE

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NSWCCL speaks out as Upper House examines Right to Farm Bill

Media coverage: Yahoo News The content we linked to has been removed

A bill which could see NSW farm trespassers face the toughest penalties in the country is set for an upper house probe, with civil organisations fearful the draft laws will hinder the right to peaceful protest.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties President Pauline Wright said criminal laws should only be directed against those guilty of "substantial wrongdoing". Wright labelled the bill's trespass penalties overly harsh.

"This bill is designed to have a chilling effect on people's right to peaceful protest," Ms Wright said in a statement.

 

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Historic Abortion Reform Bill passed by NSW Parliament

On Thursday 26th September the NSW Parliament at long last acted to remove abortion from the criminal law and regulate it as a women’s health issue with the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 - (now called the Abortion Reform Law 2019). This is a big and very overdue historical moment for women.  

Women in NSW can now legally access terminations up to 22 weeks into their pregnancy in consultation with their doctor. After 22 weeks they can access a termination in consultation with two medical practitioners.

Achieving this in NSW has required a very, very long campaign by numerous organisations and individuals with ups and many downs since the 1960s. This most recent and successful campaign push over several years was sustained by a broad and powerful alliance of organisations encompassing women’s, legal, health, civil liberties and human rights issues.  Some of these -such as WEL and NSWCCL - were long term players for abortion reform of 50 years plus.

This campaign knew it had strong, majority support in the community. The challenge was to persuade enough members of the Parliament to act on the will of the people and in the interest of NSW women. This crucial and politically fraught task was led by an expanding cross-party group of parliamentarians. The Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich sponsored the Bill. He was initially supported by MLCs Penny Sharp (ALP) and Trevor Khan (National Party) and Jo Haylen (ALP)  and the Health Minister Brad Hazzard. This cross-party support grew to 15 co-sponsors - which we suspect is the largest cross-party group supporting a private members bill in the history of the NSW Parliament.

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Farm trespass bill criticised as protest crackdown

Media coverage: The Guardian

New law will punish unlawful entry on ‘enclosed lands’ with up to three years in jail and fines of $22,000.

Pauline Wright, the president of the NSW Civil Liberties Council, said the new law was unnecessary and the wording too broad.

Wright said that existing laws against trespass already dealt with the issue adequately. The government had earlier increased the penalty from $550 to $5,500 in 2016.

“I can’t see the purpose of these new laws,” she said. “The existing laws already criminalise the behaviour that is targeted by this. It seems to just be grandstanding on the part of the politicians.

“We of course don’t like the notion of anyone entering on private land and acting unlawfully, and that shouldn’t be condoned. And it’s not. The law already adequately deals with that. Imposing tougher penalties won’t do anything. All the research indicates this does not act as a deterrent.”

Read more HERE.

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NSW farm trespass bill a crackdown on the right to protest

A New South Wales farm trespass bill has been criticised by civil liberties organisations, environment groups and unions for turning into “a crackdown on people’s rights to protest”.

The Right to Farm Bill 2019, currently before the NSW parliament, can punish unlawful entry and disruption on “inclosed lands” with up to three years in jail, and increases the fine from $5,500 to $22,000.

Pauline Wright, the president of the NSW Civil Liberties Council, said the new law was unnecessary and the wording too broad.

“These laws, although they are expressed to be talking about people coming onto farmlands and disturbing farmers going about their business, in fact they apply to any lands that are by definition enclosed … It is a crackdown on people’s rights to protest.”

Wright said that existing laws against trespass already dealt with the issue adequately. The government had earlier increased the penalty from $550 to $5,500 in 2016.

“I can’t see the purpose of these new laws,” she said. “The existing laws already criminalise the behaviour that is targeted by this. It seems to just be grandstanding on the part of the politicians.

“We of course don’t like the notion of anyone entering on private land and acting unlawfully, and that shouldn’t be condoned. And it’s not. The law already adequately deals with that. Imposing tougher penalties won’t do anything. All the research indicates this does not act as a deterrent.”

Read The Guardian article - NSW farm trespass bill criticised for turning into a crackdown on the right to protest

 

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New police device a welcome alternative

The US-designed BolaWrap 100 restraint is being considered as a painless alternative in some situations to the Taser stun gun. The restraint has been demonstrated to police in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania as well as to officers from the Australian Federal Police.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has told nine.com.au the device was a welcome alternative to being shot by a police gun or a Taser.

"The BolaWrap 100 is certainly a welcome alternative to the service revolver and the Taser. It is clearly preferable to Tasers in the sense that it does not inflict continuous pain on the apprehended person," Eugene Schofield-Georgesen, NSWCCL's vice-president, said.

But he stressed the device should only be used "as a tool of last resort" in accordance with police guidelines.

"However, it is a weapon and all weapons contain the potential for harmful misuse and abuse when provided to civil authorities."

 

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NSWCCL writes to MLCs re Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019

NSW Council for Civil Liberties has today written to select MLCs to urge them to resist the threats from those who oppose the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019, and to be guided by their conscience.


17 September 2019

Re: Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019

Reports of the high level of aggression and threats currently raging around the conscience vote for the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 are deeply disturbing.

Conscience votes within our Parliaments have a very special place in that they allow our representatives the rare opportunity to act on their conscience, free of Party constraints. It has been observed, with some justification, that they bring out the best in our politicians.  Sadly this has not been the case for this Bill.

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Review: 2019 NSWCCL Annual Dinner

Thank you to those who joined us and supported this year's NSWCCL Annual Dinner. The room was filled with hundreds of guests; civil libertarians, rights defenders and guardians of democracy.

We were delighted to be joined by Ita Buttrose AO OBE who delivered this year's keynote address. 

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