Police “monitored the behaviour” of people on a Lock the Gate bus tour for hours on February 3 and 4 after deciding it was a “protest group”, and despite Lock the Gate publicising the event as a chance for Sydney and Newcastle supporters to meet mining-affected communities over meals at Bulga, Camberwell, Muswellbrook, Wollar and Bylong.Read more
Submission to PJCIS Inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 - February 2018
NSWCCL worked with other councils for civil liberties through January and February to respond to the large, complex and alarming Espionage and Foreign Intervention Bill 2017 and the related Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill 2017. These Bills encompassed much beyond foreign intervention and national security. They also encompass an extraordinary multi-faceted attack on civil society’s right to participate in public political discourse.
NSWCCL Submission: Religious Freedom Review
There are four areas in which rights might be better dealt with in Australian law: freedom of speech, (for and against religions), freedom to practise, freedom from discrimination and protection against hate speech and incitement to violence.
This submission is in the way of a statement of the NSWCCL’s general views on the issue and
areas we think are in need of attention:
- Human rights and Australia’s obligations: International law
- Australian Law—a summary.
- Four areas in which rights might be better dealt with in Australian law
- The relation between freedom of religion and other rights.
- The functions of a bill of rights.
- Relevant sections of Australian bills of rights.
- Balancing principles.
Members of the Council for Civil Liberties Asylum Seekers Action Group, people wanting to be members, and interested others, are invited to our meeting on Wednesday February 14 at 7.00 p.m.
We plan to meet every second Wednesday of the month.
Submission to New South Wales Law Reform Commission: Review of Guardianship Act 1987 - February 2018
We acknowledge that persons without decision-making abilities, or a limitation thereof, are vulnerable members of society, and such persons should be supported to make decisions concerning crucial aspects of their lives in order to be afforded an opportunity to live as comfortably and freely as others. Hence, insofar as the draft proposals of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission (‘NSWLRC’) on its review of the Guardianship Act 1987 (NSW) promote these individuals’ civil liberties in both the public and private domains, we support the proposed changes to the current arrangements existing under the Guardianship Act 1987 (NSW).Read more
"The moment they choose to ignore those rules, their civil liberties go out the door."
This attitude is plain wrong. The consequence of this attitude is that 2 Australian citizens were wrongfully detained because of immigration failures:
We are all entitled to civil liberties, even when we do the wrong thing.
On Thursday (25/1/18) the Australian Fair Work Commission found the planned 24 hour strike and a ban on overtime by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union to be 'unlawful'. The decision to take strike action came after a lengthy period of negotiation with the employer in support of a pay and conditions claim, had failed to deliver an acceptable outcome.
Given the disturbing stagnation in workers’ wages in recent years, NSWCCL accepts that the Union's claim is justified and that this dispute will continue until satisfactorily resolved. Our main civil liberties concern is, however, the apparent broader implication of the judgement.
On face value-noting that more detailed reasons for the decision are yet to come from the Commission – the terms of the judgement appear to render future lawful strike action relating to major service delivery almost impossible.
The Commission found that the overtime ban and the proposed strike, separately and together, ‘threatens to endanger the welfare of a part of the population’ and ‘the industrial action threatens to cause significant damage to the economy of Sydney – the largest and most economically important city in Australia.’
The Commission’s ban is in force for 6 weeks. Hopefully in that period the Government might be more open to responding fairly to the Union’s claims. Otherwise, it is difficult to see – given the wording of the decision – that any future proposed strike by the union at a later date could be deemed lawful. (Or overtime ban, given that the actions were deemed separately certain to cause the specified harms).
The right to strike is a fundamental civil liberty and human right. This decision imposes unacceptable restrictions on the right of workers to withhold their labour to negotiate terms and conditions of their employment, without an agreement of just terms between the parties.
If the Fair Work Act allows this finding it should be amended.
NSWCCL has issued a public statement expressing its concern in relation to this decision.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said he was concerned about the possibility of "function creep" with more and more law enforcement agencies pushing to use secret warrants.
"It's always disturbing when powers are given to agencies for terrorism, then another agency says they would like to use those for something else," he said.
"That is a problem with not drawing a line in the sand that says some powers are just too dangerous to be given to government agencies."
Source: Australian Financial Review
It is the latest way facial recognition technology is becoming part of day-to-day life - a move that has cybersecurity and privacy experts worried.
Stephen Blanks, from the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, says customers need to be wary about handing over their data.
"People have to understand that the data which is collected this way has potentially multiple and very valuable uses to the collector," Mr Blanks said.
He says the law is struggling to keep up with the fast developing technology, calling for better consumer protections.
This week, Aboriginal man, Eric Whittaker died in a Sydney hospital while in police custody. As he lay bedridden, he was placed in leg chains by police. This was the scene that greeted Mr Whittaker’s grieving relatives who came to visit their loved one during his final hours. The family were understandably appalled and insulted by this final indignity. The NSW CCL stands united with the family of the deceased in its condemnation of this corporal treatment which is vividly reminiscent of 19th Century colonial policing practice in this country.
The incident follows recent revelations that Aboriginal children were regularly restrained in the Northern Territory’s notorious, Don Dale Juvenile Centre, by the use of chemical injections. Referred to by prison authorities as, the ‘settlement needle’, the use of these restraints against children has been linked to developmental difficulties in children, including poor cognitive and neurological functioning and hormonal imbalances. A further side effect is suicidal ideation. Given existing rates of youth suicide in Aboriginal communities, the use of these chemicals against Aboriginal people, (against their will) is alarming to say the least. The NSW CCL condemns this practice.
Accordingly, the NSWCCL calls on both the NSW Police and the Northern Territory Department of Correctional Services to cease these damaging practices of corporal restraint against Aboriginal people immediately.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties
4 December 2017
Stephen Blanks – 0414 448 654 - President
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the findings of the Coroner into historic and ongoing police attitudes to LGBTIQ hate crimes and calls upon the NSW Police to implement the coronial recommendations wholly and completely. The Coroner today delivered findings from the third inquest into the death of Scott Johnson.
NSWCCL President Stephan Blanks said "this is a momentous occasion which provides closure for the families and communities that were affected by these poorly investigated crimes".
NSWCCL Vice President Josh Pallas said "recently there have been findings made by this Coronial Inquest and the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse which show that the NSW Police fails specific groups of society which require protection from targeted abuse and violence.”
NSWCCL Vice President Josh Pallas says that he “acknowledges the improvements made by NSW Police on LGBTIQ issues, especially with the establishments of the GLLOs, but these findings show that there is still much more to be done to ensure that LGBTIQ persons feel safe and trust the NSW Police to investigate hate crimes against them.
Josh Pallas - 0458 605 281 – Vice President
Stephen Blanks – 0414 448 654 - President
Submission to NSW Joint Legislation Review Committee inquiry into Legislation Review Act - November 2017
The Legislation Review Committee (LRC) was created as an alternative to the adoption of a Bill of Rights for New South Wales. It has not functioned well, and is no substitute for such a bill.
The Legislation Review Committee (LRC) was created as an alternative to the adoption of a
Bill of Rights for New South Wales. It has not functioned well, and is no substitute for such a
NSWCCL held its annual dinner last Friday night to celebrate 54 years of civil liberties advocacy and to raise funds for its ongoing work. Around 260 members and supporters were present to celebrate and to hear speeches from two luminaries of the Australian legal fraternity – the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG and Bret Walker SC.
The gathering was, as usual, a fabulously diverse one including civil libertarian and human rights supporters from many walks of life and activists and advocates deeply engaged in current related causes.
There was a stronger legal contingent than usual, including a goodly number of current or past judges of the High Court, and the Federal and Supreme courts and senior counsels, the President of the NSW Law Society and senior members of the NSW Bar Association - presumably drawn by the stellar legal profile of the speakers.
There were also leading trade unionists, politicians past and present, senior bureaucrats, teachers and academics, journalists and numbers of community and human rights groups.
Most significantly – the gathering included a large number of students and younger civil libertarian supporters. This is heartening for obvious reasons – and, in so far as it reflects the presence and growing influence of younger civil libertarians on the CCL Committee and Executive – it foreshadows a transition already underway in the focus of CCL to civil liberties issues of concern to young people and new approaches to advocacy.
The highlight of the evening was of course the speeches.
The President's message
CCL President Stephen Blanks recalled some of the major issues facing Australians in the past year which had ‘struck deep civil liberties chords’. These encompassed counter-terrorism, indigenous recognition, human rights abuses on Nauru and Manus Island and with NT youth detention, prospective detention / administrative detention, citizenship qualifications for Australian parliament, privacy and government mass surveillance.
Stephen warned that each of these issues ‘eats away at our democracy and makes it more fragile’.
Among the few wins of the past year he flagged the recent striking down by the High Court of the Tasmanian anti Protest Laws and the huge public affirmation of marriage equality – and the now likely passage of the Victorian euthanasia legislation.
For the future, Stephen suggested the forthcoming debate around the passage of the marriage equality legislation might provide some opportunity for a renewed focus on general human rights legislation – if, that is, we can counteract the push for religious-specific protections with the dangerous possibility of unwinding current anti-discrimination protections in Australia. We will also explore the implications of the High Court decision on the Tasmanian protest laws for a challenge to the appalling anti- protest and 'public safety' laws introduced in NSW this year.Read more
National issues | Marriage Equality Postal Survey | Counter-terrorism laws back on the agenda | National Integrity Commission - Senate Committee Equivocates | An Australian Human Rights Charter – worth trying again? | Reform to Federal Custody Notification Service | Australian citizenship changes |
NSW Issues | Martin Place – cruel and unnecessary response | Euthanasia – NSW VAD Bill returns to Parliament
News from CCL | Submissions | Make a Difference: Join an Action Group
National issues | Citizenship and Australian Values | Migration Act changes | A national integrity commission? | No access to telecommunications data in civil proceedings
NSW Issues | Decriminalisation of abortion in NSW | Revenge Porn Bill
CCL Issues | Join our new Submissions group | Join an Action Group
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Consultation Paper by the NSW Sentencing Council: Victims’ involvement in sentencing. (September 2017) (The Paper).
The Paper provides a useful summary of the range of issues around victims’ involvement in sentencing. CCL has focussed on responding briefly to questions relevant to the issues we regard as important from a civil liberties perspective. We have focussed on answers rather than reworking the arguments for various possible responses – as these are reasonably familiar and are well covered in the Paper.
We have not responded at this time to the questions relating to restorative justice but hope there may be a later opportunity to provide some input as to our views on this very important dimension.Read more
There are calls for New South Wales Police to urgently review a secretive policy that targets children with house calls and public searches.
The Suspect Target Management Plan - or STOMP as it's known - is a program that aims to prevent crime by pre-emptively targeting people thought to be at risk of offending.
Sample data from 10 Local Area Commands, published in a recent report, reveals 45 per cent of people on the plan were Indigenous, and children as young as 10 were being targeted.
The Aboriginal Legal Service and the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties are calling for the program to be partially suspended until a review can take place.
NSW CCL President, Stephen Blanks says there is no publicly available evidence that the program works to prevent crime. "The police are structured in a way that there are no statistics recorded, no information provided, no oversight, just no accountability at all. The community has no way of knowing if its doing more harm than good."
He continued "It's disappointing that the police haven't reacted to the release of this report so far. There is an opportunity for the police to start a new chapter of community engagement and respond to this report by saying that they will allow some accountability, oversight and assessment of the program to see whether it is achieving its objectives. If the police don't do that themselves, than the government should step in and make it happen.
In the interim, some of the more obviously abusive elements of this program, the way that it's aimed at children for example, should be suspended until there is proper accountability and assessment.
The Minister has the power to direct the police in relation to implementation of programs of this kind. So, if the police don't reform themselves, then the Minister should be stepping in."
Source: ABC Radio PM
For the reasons given in this submission, NSWCCL cannot support this Bill and recommends its rejection in its entirety.
In recent times, there has been an alarming extension of executive power and limitation in checks and balances, particularly in the area of immigration. This Bill reinforces the Minister’s powers to inflict harm. NSWCCL urges the Committee to consider the arguments in favour of beginning to reverse this distressing trend.
NSWCCL recommends that the Committee should carefully consider additional checks and balances on the Minister’s excessive powers to inflict harm and alternatives to the onerous restrictions currently imposed.
- NSWCCL Submission to Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Senate inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017