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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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Inaugural Awards for Civil Liberties Journalism 2019

(Photo L to R, Kate Allman, Richard Ackland, Paul Farrell and 2019 NSWCCL President Pauline Wright)

The 2019 NSWCCL Annual Dinner (held on September 10th) was marked by the presentation of the Council’s Inaugural Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism. Two awards were presented for an article or series of articles, or a radio, television or podcast presentation, promoting civil liberties. One award was for young journalists under the age of 30, and the other an Open award. Criteria for the awards included both the excellence of individual items and, particularly in this inaugural year, the significance of a sustained body of work. The judging panel was drawn from Journalism, Academia, and the Law.

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Farewell to the Hon. Jane Hamilton Mathews AO

Vale the Hon. Jane Hamilton Mathews AO (1940 - 2019)

It is with sadness that we add our farewell to the chorus of voices paying tribute to the Hon. Jane Hamilton Mathews AO, former barrister, judge, life member of the Bar Association, and CCL member, who passed away last Saturday night after an illness.

Jane made an impact on many during her career. Although well-known for her achievements in law, Jane will also be remembered as a music lover, a mentor, a woman of tremendous wit, and someone devoted to meaningful causes.

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Submission: Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) thanks the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for its invitation to make a submission concerning the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019. 

Recommendation: All three proposals under the Bill should be condemned, and the Bill itself should not be passed.

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Government acts on religious discrimination

Media Statement: 30 August 2019

The Federal Government yesterday released an Exposure Draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 (and two subsidiary Bills) which would make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of their religious beliefs or activities in areas of public life. The NSWCCL welcomes it being released as an exposure draft to allow community consideration and input before the Bill is finalised.

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Submission: Inquiry into the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the NSW Parliament Standing Committee on Social Issues inquiry into the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019.

The passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 through the NSW Legislative Assembly with a vote of 59 to 31 is a long awaited, historic moment for NSW women and the NSW Parliament. We are hopeful this will be followed by the its passage through the Legislative Council without amendment leading to the removal of abortion from the criminal law in NSW.

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NSWCCL President at the Magnitsky Thought Leadership Forum

Recently NSWCCL President Pauline Wright, joined a thought leadership forum presented by the Law Society of NSW - A Magnitsky Act for Australia – Human rights bombshell or Frankenstein’s monster?

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Submission: Regional Processing Cohort Bill 2019 - August 2019

The Bill proposes to ban permanently from Australia any person who entered Australia as an unauthorised maritime arrival after 19 July 2013, was transferred to the Republic of Nauru (Nauru) or Papua New Guinea (PNG) for “regional processing”, and was at least 18 years of age at the time of their first (or only) transfer (the Cohort). Such people were forcibly transferred to Nauru or PNG against their will, detained indefinitely, and subjected to serious human rights violations after their transfer.

Recommendation: The Bill should be rejected.

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Submission: Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019

The Bill responds to a series of political protests that occurred around Australia in April 2019 in which activists sought to draw attention to the legitimate political issue of animal cruelty and the slaughter of animals for human consumption. The protests involved a series of conventional street rallies and less conventional ‘sits-ins’ that saw animal rights activists trespass upon and briefly occupy private property used for the slaughter of animals.

The NSWCCL is proud that Australia has, recently, become an international leader in protecting freedom of speech and expression. To remain at the forefront of these issues, the Commonwealth should not proceed with these reactionary laws.

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Submission: Free and Equal, Human Rights in Australia

A NSW Council for Civil Liberties Submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Free and Equal: An Australian conversation on human rights project. This submission argues that human rights have not been respected in Australia, are not protected, and suggests some methods to improve human rights in Australia.

This submission intends to address the following questions from the Issues Paper:

2. How should human rights be protected in Australia?
3. What are the barriers to the protection of human rights in Australia?

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NSWCCL urges parliament to pass new abortion reform bill

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties applauds the initiative of Alex Greenwich MP in bringing forward the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019.  If passed by the NSW Parliament this Bill will  decriminalise abortion in NSW and provide the women of NSW with the right to make their own choices about their reproductive health and options.

NSW is the only state or territory which still treats abortion as a criminal act. To obtain a legal abortion in NSW women have to establish exceptional circumstances – ie. that it is necessary to preserve a woman from serious danger to her life or to her mental or physical health and it is not out of proportion to the danger to be averted.

Having to rely on this limited defence is a deeply flawed and unsatisfactory legal position for both women and medical practitioners and results in many women not being able to access safe abortions.

It is well-beyond time for the NSW Parliament to act in the interests of women in this state. Our current law dates from 1900.

The Greenwich Bill, which is closely modelled on Queensland’s and Victoria’s laws, is clear, balanced and sensible.  The provisions in the Crimes Act relating to abortions will be repealed and common law offences relating to abortion abolished.

It will be legal for medical practitioners to perform a termination on a person who is not more than 22 weeks pregnant. The vast majority of terminations occur before 22 weeks.

For a person who is more than 22 weeks pregnant, the medical practitioner and one other must both consider if the termination ‘should be performed’.  In making this decision they are required to consider all relevant medical circumstances, current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances and professional standards and guidelines.

The Bill respects the rights of medical practitioners with conscientious objection but requires them to refer the person to a practitioner who, in their belief, does not have a conscientious objection.

This Bill will bring much needed certainty to NSW women and medical practitioners and make it easier and safer for women choosing to have a termination of pregnancy.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties expresses its appreciation to the Parliamentarians who have come together to progress this Bill: Trevor Khan (National Party), Penny Sharpe (Deputy Leader ALP) and Jo Haylen (ALP)  and to the Health Minister Brad Hazzard who has given his public support to the Bill.

We urge the NSW Parliament to do the right thing by the women of NSW and pass this Bill.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has campaigned for this reform for over 50 years. Over the last two years we have been proud participants in the WEL Round Table – and more recently the Pro- Choice Alliance – of 60 organisations dedicated to persuading the NSW Parliament that they must act on behalf of the women of NSW and reform our archaic and cruel abortion laws.

 

Draft Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

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Australia's mass data retention regime under review

The PJCIS is reviewing the legislation that established the excessive mandatory data retention regime in 2015.

This review is happening at a timely moment as the Australian community ponders the implications of the extraordinary AFP raids on the ABC and a News Limited journalist a few weeks ago. We were not surprised at the AFP raids on the ABC and other journalists. These intimidatory raids are an inevitable consequence of  Australia's large expanding suite of surveillance and secrecy laws.

 

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Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism

New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties is proud to announce two new 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 will be:

  • for young journalists under the age of 30 on 2 August, 2019, and
  • in the open category.
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Regulation of poppers has discriminatory effect on gay community

28 June 2019

Poppers, also known as amyl nitrite, are inhalants. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, they cause a high for about 2-3 minutes. They are also used to “enhance sexual experience”. Specifically, they are muscle relaxants, commonly used by gay men to facilitate anal sex. One study found that poppers were used among gay and bisexual men at a rate of 32 per cent in the last six months. Another study found that two thirds of gay and bisexual men had used it in their lifetimes.

In September last year, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), responsible for regulating drugs and medicine, released an interim report. The report proposed criminalising poppers, classifying alkyl nitrites as Schedule 9 under the Poisons Standard. This would make them the same sort of drug as heroin and cannabis.  Possession of poppers could mean 12 months in jail, or a fine of $2200 under this proposal.

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NSW Council for Civil Liberties condemns unjust detention of innocent people, urges return to 2013 bail law reforms

17 June 2019

Statistics released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics (BOCSAR) have shown a significant increase since 2014 in the number of people refused bail, and then later found innocent. There has been an increase of 30 per cent in people denied bail, held in prison, and then later being acquitted.  In 2018, this meant 204 people, including 21 children.

Since 2014, there has been a significant increase in the number of prisoners held on remand, from a quarter of prisoners in 2012, to a third in 2018. Some adults had to wait over 500 days. The children had to wait an average of 124 days last year.

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Ita Buttrose comes out fighting for ABC independence and public's right to know

NSWCCL has reproduced below the full statement made today by the Chair of the ABC in defence of the independent public broadcaster in response to the intimidating raids by the Australian Federal Police on the ABC and a News Corporation journalist.

We do so because of the profound threat to a free press, to legitimate whistle blowers and to the public's right to know posed by these extraordinary raids. 

We do so also because we are greatly relieved that the independent broadcaster has a chair who appears to understand the significance of 'independent' in this context. 

 

ABC Chair Ita Buttrose's statement in full

On behalf of the ABC, I have registered with the Federal Government my grave concern over this week's raid by the federal police on the national broadcaster.

An untrammelled media is important to the public discourse and to democracy.

It is the way in which Australian citizens are kept informed about the world and its impact on their daily lives.

Observance of this basic tenet of the community's right to know has driven my involvement in public life and my career in journalism for almost five decades.

The raid is unprecedented — both to the ABC and to me.

In a frank conversation with the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, yesterday, I said the raid, in its very public form and in the sweeping nature of the information sought, was clearly designed to intimidate.

It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this week's events: raids on two separate media outfits on consecutive days is a blunt signal of adverse consequences for news organisations who make life uncomfortable for policy makers and regulators by shining lights in dark corners and holding the powerful to account.

I also asked for assurances that the ABC not be subject to future raids of this sort. Mr Fletcher declined to provide such assurances, while noting the "substantial concern" registered by the Corporation.

There has been much reference in recent days to the need to observe the rule of law.

While there are legitimate matters of national security that the ABC will always respect, the ABC Act and Charter are explicit about the importance of an independent public broadcaster to Australian culture and democracy.

Public interest is best served by the ABC doing its job, asking difficult questions and dealing with genuine whistle-blowers who risk their livelihoods and reputations to bring matters of grave import to the surface.

Neither the journalists nor their sources should be treated as criminals.

In my view, legitimate journalistic endeavours that expose flawed decision-making or matters that policy makers and public servants would simply prefer were secret, should not automatically and conveniently be classed as issues of national security.

The onus must always be on the public's right to know.

If that is not reflected sufficiently in current law, then it must be corrected.

As ABC Chair, I will fight any attempts to muzzle the national broadcaster or interfere with its obligations to the Australian public.

Independence is not exercised by degrees.

It is absolute.

 

 

 

 

 

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NSW Council for Civil Liberties condemns police raids on journalists

5 June 2019

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has condemned the raids on journalists by the Australian Federal Police.

NSW CCL President Pauline Wright said “Today, the Australian Federal Police raided the ABC office. Yesterday, they raided the office of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. Two raids in two days cannot be a coincidence. We are witnessing what amounts to a state crackdown on journalism. It strikes at the heart of the freedom and independence of the press, which are a cornerstone of democracy."

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NSW Council for Civil Liberties condemns prosecution of whistleblower Richard Boyle - 2019

5 June 2019

NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) is disturbed by and condemns the prosecution of Australian Tax Office (ATO) whistleblower Richard Boyle.

In April 2018, Mr Boyle told the ABC that the ATO was inappropriately and excessively seizing the funds of people assessed as owing the ATO money, regardless of personal circumstances, in an attempt to raise money for the end of the financial year.

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NSW Council for Civil Liberties urges reform of NSW strip search laws

5 June 2019

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) calls for the urgent reform of strip search laws in NSW.

CCL President, Pauline Wright, said “A strip search is an incredibly distressing experience and should only be used as a last resort. Unfortunately, strip searches are increasingly being used by police in NSW as a more or less routine procedure. Many innocent people are being hauled aside and subjected to this indignity with deep and lasting feelings of shame and trauma being suffered by some individuals.”

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Geoffrey Rush’s $3 million judgment may have unfortunate implications for #MeToo

4 June 2019

On 24 May 2019, Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush was awarded $2.87 million for his defamation case against the Daily Telegraph. This includes $850 000 in damages, almost $2 million in past and future economic loss, and $42 000 in interest. It is the second highest defamation pay-out ever, and the highest ever awarded to a single individual. This sum does not include costs.

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