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Sydney Criminal Lawyers: Home Affairs Erodes Oversight to Spying on Citizens, Warns NSWCCL

Our president Pauline Wright voiced her concerns about the National Security Legislation Amendment (Comprehensive Review and Other Measures No 1) Bill 2021, which will expand the reach of Australian intelligence, to Sydney Criminal Lawyers. 

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Media release: Politically motivated Bill is unnecessary & will punish refugees, victims of domestic violence

The Morrison Government is attempting to push the Strengthening the Character Test Bill through parliament for the fourth time; and it is resorting to political attacks in the attempt to do so. The Bill is unnecessary and will do harm. Despite what the Government is saying, the Bill has nothing whatsoever to do with serious offences.

This Bill:

  • Targets minor offenders.
  • Is totally unnecessary.
  • Will subject people who are of no danger to society to the rigours of indefinite detention, or deportation.
    There are no exceptions for children.
  • Will discourage people from reporting family violence, when they are financially dependent on the perpetrator.

More information: Read our media release

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EGZ17 must not be sent back to Afghanistan

Remember the pseudonym EGZ17.

EGZ17 is the pseudonym of an ethnic Hazara Shia man, whom the Government, specifically Alex Hawke, wants to be able to send back to the Republic of Afghanistan. A decision that he could safely be returned to Kabul was made in 2017 by the Immigration Assessment Authority, before the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan. The Government set about to deport him. After that takeover, he appealed the decision on the grounds that the newly named Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was in effect a new country, and that the decision to deport EGZ17 was legally unreasonable. A judge of the Federal Court agreed.

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The Big Smoke: We’re the only western nation without a bill that protects us from our government

Our ex-president Stephen Blanks spoke to The Big Smoke about the need for a constitutional Bill of Rights for Australia. The article points out that the Australian Constitution protects only a handful of our human rights and for decades the major political parties have ignored calls to implement a Human Rights Act. 

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Sydney Criminal Lawyers: Liberties Council Maintains Ending Indefinite Detention Is a Moral and Legal Obligation

Dr Martin Bibby, co-convenor of our Asylum Seeker Action Group, spoke to Sydney Criminal Lawyers about Independent MP Andrew Wilkie's Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021.

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ABC: Breakfast with Scott Levi

Commenting on the Religious Discrimination bills, our President Pauline Wright told Scott Levi: "Sadly these bills do or would allow people to override existing human rights protections and anti-discrimination laws and effectively give a licence to discriminate in the name of religious freedom. So people’s fears in that regard are founded. In my view, it is a flawed proposal because it basically puts religious views above other sorts of human rights that are really important" Pauline told Scott.

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InnovationAus: Reworked data-sharing legislation returns to Parliament with Labor’s support

'Controversial legislation paving the way for a significant expansion in the sharing of public sector data will return to Parliament this week with significant amendments and newfound support from the Opposition,' writes InnovationAus. It notes that the legislation 'offers a “new path” for the sharing of data held by the federal government currently blocked by secrecy provisions'.

The Bill, in the works for nearly four years, had 'not moved since Labor labelled it “deeply flawed” and signalled it would vote against it in April last year' but is now listed for debate this week.

Our concerns about the bill were raised in the article, along with those of other civil and digital rights groups:

The New South Wales Civil Liberties Council said it was “fundamentally flawed and violates community expectations”, and that it could enable “the robodebt scenario in an accelerated form”.

Read the full article: Reworked data-sharing legislation returns to Parliament with Labor’s support

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Submission: Review of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2021

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Review of the National Security Legislation Amendment (Comprehensive Review and Other measures No. 1) Bill 2021

The Bill would amend several acts and would increase the powers of Australian intelligence agencies.

These changes raise a number of questions about what this entails for Australians and, in particular, the work of journalists and media organisations. CCL is concerned that the proposed amendments will carry undesirable consequences.

Our concerns include:

  • The breadth of circumstances in which heads of intelligence services can act without Ministerial approval, as well as their capacity to then delegate powers to junior staff members.
  • Could baking for a lamington drive or turning chipolatas at a sausage sizzle held by a local community group constitute ‘support’ for a listed organisation? Such support could be relied upon by the Minister to authorise activities to enable intelligence to be produced - despite having been provided innocently by someone unaware that the group is listed. 
  • The proposed amendments have the potential to limit the freedom of journalists and media organisations and inhibit the provision of information to the public. They could be misused and  weaponised against media organisations to hinder journalists’ abilities to freely report on legitimate news.
  • Is it appropriate for staff immunities to extinguish the rights of affected Australians to obtain a legal remedy in respect of any loss or damage they may suffer if their computer or device is affected during intelligence activities?

We fear that the proposed amendments have the potential to add to an incremental erosion of the civil rights and freedoms of Australians.

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SBS: Religious Discrimination Bill should be passed with caveats, two inquiries recommend

Our president Pauline Wright told SBS: "When you've got the ability to make a statement of belief that is going to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws, you've got something that is fundamentally flawed."

However, the Senate Inquiry recommended that 'the draft religious discrimination bill should be passed by the Senate after amendments to some of the more contentious sections of the bill'. The article notes dissent from Liberal, Labor and Green MPs, adding that 'Critics of the bill said they do not think problematic sections like section 12 on the statement of belief can be improved' calling for a 'complete overhaul of legislation'.

MS Wright noted that the whole process has revealed the importance of having a national Human Rights Act - or Bill of Rights - to deal with the issue of competing rights.

"In our view the bill should be withdrawn and taken back to the drawing board. And consult with the people who are going to be affected by it," she said.

"Consult with the LGBTI community as well as religious groups, and ensure all the competing rights are properly taken into account - because at the moment, they're not.

Full article: Religious discrimination bill should be passed with caveats, two inquiries recommend

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Submission: Anti-Racism Framework

NSWCCL made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission welcoming its plan to develop a National Anti-Racism Framework.

In particular, we support:

  • building a stronger legal framework to improve protections against racial discrimination
  • constitutional recognition of First Nations peoples
  • implementation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • effective anti-racism and racial equality initiatives
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Submission: Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration Inquiry into the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021.

In our view, passing the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill into law is morally and legally necessary. The Bill corrects the deviation from human rights and international norms in the course the government has taken in its treatment of refugees and unauthorised arrivals under the domestic legislative framework.

There are 1,513 people in immigration detention facilities, including 1,276 in immigration detention on the mainland and 237 people in immigration detention on Christmas Island. There are also 137 people effectively in detention on Nauru and another 145 people effectively in detention on Manus Island and PNG. The suffering of unauthorised entrants to this country under Australia’s system of indefinite mandatory detention is well documented. Indefinite detention is inhumane and cruel. Loss of liberty is one of the greatest punishments that humans bestow on each other. As a nation, we are guilty.

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Covid cases in Villawood Detention Centre

There are currently over 500 detainees in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre. Now that COVID has entered, they are all at risk.

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Djokovic could leave but many refugees cannot.

As the Djokovic saga ended, the media attention has moved on, but many asylum seekers and refugees remain in detention.

Some of these men have spent most of their teenage years detained by the Australian Government. NSWCCL continues to campaign for their release.

For one of their stories, view this video. 

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Six detainees in Villawood have COVID.

The Federal Government is responsible.

CCL, and numerous organisations have been warning the Morrison Government of the threat COVID-19 poses to those in detention. These include the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases and the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control.

Most have been urging the government to close immigration detention centres and release the detainees into the community, because of the risk of COVID-19 infection getting in.  The worry was, and is, that the conditions inside are such that if any detainee, or any guard for that matter, contracted the virus, it would spread quickly throughout the centre.

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The Age: ‘Dangerous in a democracy’

Our President Pauline Wright commented that 'the new reasoning used by Mr Hawke [to cancel Djokovic's visa] “smacked of arbitrariness” and highlighted the undue extent of the minister’s discretionary powers.' in The Age.

Full article: ‘Dangerous in a democracy’: Civil rights groups’ alarm at government’s Djokovic case The Age 16 Jan 2022

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A ‘wake up call’ to see Immigration Minister’s powers ‘in action’

"To see the sweeping powers that our minister does have is a wake up call for a lot of people within Australia ... It does set a dangerous precedent that people could be deported for what they believe."

Our President Pauline Wright speaking to Sky News about the deportation of Novak Djokovic.

 

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The rights of climate and environmental protestors must be respected

NSWCCL joins with other human rights groups and environmental groups in condemning the increasingly harsh and disproportionate laws and actions taken against climate and environmental protestors in recent years, and supports victims of such laws and actions. This phenomenon is not discrete to New South Wales, with a prosecution of a climate defender dismissed in Western Australia this week, and a significant public campaign against proposed changes to clamp down on protest in the United Kingdom.

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Lad Bible: Civil Rights Groups Explain Why Novak Djokovic's Deportation Is Concerning

Stewart Perrie comments in Lad Bible that the deportation of Djokovic "has raised a few eyebrows in the realm of civil liberties". He quotes our President:

Pauline Wright, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the government was drawing a long bow to think he was a poster boy for the anti-vaxx movement.

"Do the comments in 2020 disentitle him from playing a tennis game in Australia in 2022?" she said.

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The Canberra Times: NSW govt could face RAT court challenge

The Canberra Times quotes NSWCCL's secretary Michelle Falstein and ANU Associate Professor Ron Levy, discussing the potential for a legal challenge if NSW forces residents to report their positive COVID-19 rapid antigen test results.

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Submission: Inquiry into Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Inquiry into Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills

It is our view that the suite of bills, in their current form must be withdrawn for reconsideration and redrafting, or opposed. They do not get the balance right between the important task of protecting religious adherents and non-believers from religious discrimination; and protecting others from discrimination by religious adherents and non-believers.

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