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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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Is Australia failing children accused of crimes?

27 May 2019

On Monday 13 May, ABC’s Four Corners aired a harrowing exposé about the detention in Queensland of youths suspected of criminal wrongdoing in watch houses. Watch houses are adult maximum security facilities, which are used to hold a range of offenders who have been charged with offences ranging from minor street offences to the most series offences, such as paedophilia, and murder.

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Was systemic racism a factor in the death of Aboriginal woman Tanya Day?

24 May 2019

Yorta Yorta woman Ms Day died in hospital on 22 December 2017. Around 3pm on 5 December 2017, she was arrested for allegedly being intoxicated on a train in Castlemaine, Victoria. There is conflicting evidence about the charge. The conductor said Ms Day was unruly, and called police, further alleging she did not have a ticket. The Guardian reported that Ms Day did have a ticket. Other witnesses said Ms Day did not appear intoxicated, though CCTV suggested Ms Day was slightly unsteady on her feet.

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NSWCCL priorities for the incoming federal government

Civil liberties and human rights priorities for the incoming government 

The Federal Elections will be held on the 18th May 2019.  In recent years civil liberties and human rights have come under unprecedented attack from federal governments in Australia. It is to be hoped that the incoming government will be more supportive of our liberties and rights and perhaps even give consideration to remedying some of these previous decisions.

In this spirit NSWCCL has conveyed to members of parliament and political parties our priorities for action by the elected Government and the new Parliament in the first term of the government.

We have focussed on 9 areas of action

  • legislate a strong Human Rights Charter for Australia immediately
  • establish a broad based National Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission with strong powers and the right to hold public hearings when that is in the public interest
  • halt the excessive flow of National Security and Counter-Terrorism legislation and review the cumulative impact of the very large body of these laws on civil liberties, human rights and democracy in Australia
  • act to better protect a free and independent media - and especially the independence and viability of the ABC
  • work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to achieve better outcomes on their priority issues including:  enshrine an indigenous Voice in the constitution, establish a Makarrata Commission, implement the Pathways to Justice recommendations
  • respect the rights of Asylum seekers: end off-shore detention, implement the medevac policy on the Australian mainland in the spirit of the legislation; accept the NZ settlement offer
  • protect merit appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
  • shut down the Witness K and Bernard Collaery Conspiracy Case or, if it continues, ensure that the court is open to the public and the media
  • ensure more robust and effective privacy practices in the digital era, remove exemptions for political parties from the Privacy Act, legislate the right to sue for invasion of privacy, set up an internet regulatory body,  

You can read the detail of our analysis and recommendations in the NSWCCL Priorities for the Incoming Government public statement.

We will be contacting the new Government and relevant Ministers after the election to continue our advocacy on these matters.

We invite you to raise them directly with the new Government. We also invite you to join us in working on our campaigns on these issues – become a member and/or an active supporter.  

 

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NSWCCL submission to Productivity Commission on Mental Health

The Productivity Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into mental health. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) submission to this inquiry is now online.

Our submission focuses on two issues. First, it addresses features of the justice system, and Aboriginal people with disabilities. It then turns to considering the social security systems, and how these contribute to mental health issues in Australia.

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Where do the parties stand on asylum seeker policies?

9 May 2019

Interested in Asylum Seekers issues and wondering where to send your preferences?

This question led the NSWCCL Asylum Seekers Group to send the same five questions to all parties standing for NSW Senate Seats. The questions were:

  1. How will you support the implementation of the Medivac Bill to provide medical assistance to sick and injured Men currently in detention on Manus and Nauru?
  2. New Zealand had offered to settle up to 150 refugees currently in off shore detention. Will your party accept this offer? Why or Why not?
  3. Reports have been made of Australian Border Force Officers approaching single women travelling from Saudi Arabia. These women are then questioned about the whereabouts of their guardians under Saudi law. Do you agree or disagree with Australian Officers implementing Saudi law in our airports?
  4. At present it is easier to visit a prisoner in gaol than in immigration detention. What is your opinion on the strict rules placed on visitors to on shore detention centres such as Villawood.
  5. By reducing access to the Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) in the second half of 2018, the Federal Government left many refugees without the support they needed to be able to access basics such as housing and food while they are settling into Australia. What plans do you have to support refugees as they strive to become part of our society?

We received no responses from the Labor, Liberal or National Parties as well as any other minor parties not mentioned below.

Some parties, Greens, Australian Democrats, Science Party and the Australian Workers Party returned detailed answers to the questions. To provide a couple of points from each:

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Statements from political parties in response to questions on asylum seeker policies

9 May 2019

Greens:

  1. How will you support the implementation of the Medivac Bill to provide medical assistance to sick and injured Men currently in detention on Manus and Nauru?

 The Greens sponsored the Medivac amendment to the Home Affairs Bill that created the process to allow sick refugees and people seeking asylum, on medical advice from two or more treating doctors, to be transferred from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia for medical treatment. We fully support those currently detained in Australia's offshore detention regime being able to receive urgent medical treatment in Australia. 

The Greens do not support offshore detention, and outsourcing our responsibilities and duty of care to people seeking asylum in Australia. We believe the most appropriate healthcare for these traumatised and vulnerable people is on mainland Australia, provided by established medical and allied health services. But until every refugee and person seeking asylum held in offshore detention is brought to safety and freedom in Australia, the Australian Greens will do all it can to ensure all people in offshore detention have access to appropriate GP and specialist medical care, including telemedicine.

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New and coordinated push for abortion law reform in NSW

A major coordinated campaign to decriminalise abortion in NSW was launched today by a new advocacy coalition - the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance. 

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is a foundation member of this new broad-based Alliance and will continue our half century of advocacy for abortion law reform through active participation in the Alliance campaign.

The formation of this Alliance around a renewed campaign to achieve the long overdue decriminalisation of abortion in NSW is an exciting and significant development.

There is reason to hope this alliance of over 60 organisations will be able to persuade members of the NSW Parliament across political divisions to remove the current archaic and cruel law criminalising abortion and allow the women of NSW the right to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.

After all, this is a right which is available to women in every other state and is supported by a clear majority of the community in NSW.

Pro-Choice goals 

The NSW Pro-­Choice Alliance represents expert legal, health and community voices across NSW. We are campaigning to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act and to ensure that abortion is regulated like any other health procedure.

 We recommend the repeal of sections 82­-84 of the NSW Crimes Act 1900 and the implementation of legislation similar to Queensland’s Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 and Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2008. 

We seek changes so that the law will:

  • Regulate abortion as a health procedure
  • Ensure consistency with contemporary clinical practice, and public health standards
  • Empower women with the right to choose what happens to their own bodies, and guarantee equal access to safe, high quality healthcare, and
  • Align with international human rights obligations

Next steps

The Alliance will be discussing the proposed reforms with the Government, Opposition and other members of Parliament as well as seeking further community support.

NSWCCL urges CCL members and supporters to contact their local members and members of the Legislative Council and discuss the urgent need for decriminalisation of abortion in NSW.  

 

PCA media statement 2/5/19

List of supporting organisations

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New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties welcomes ALP support for Aboriginal legal aid and justice reinvestment

29 April 2019

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has welcomed a pledge by the Australian Labor Party to invest $107 million to address the disproportionate incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The announcement by Labor’s shadow Indigenous Affairs spokesperson Pat Dodson and shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus includes $44 million in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal Services, $21.5 million for family violence prevention legal services, $21.75 million for justice reinvestment programs in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory. Labor has also committed to adopting justice targets as part of the Closing the Gap framework.

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