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Out of sight, out of mind - amnesty panel addressed by NSWCCL

Amnesty invited a panel of experts to the Wesley Theatre on 7 May 14 to address two important questions:

What is the impact of Australia’s current approach on asylum seekers? and

What are the legal implications on an international scale? And what could we be doing instead?

Jo Murphy from the NSWCCL addressed the effect of the punitive government policies on the rights and lives of the 40,000 odd asylum seekers currently living in the Australian community.

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Today: Private eye debate

Source: Today (Channel 9), 25/5/2014

This morning we talked about the pros and cons of hiring a private investigator.

Watch the video here

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Premier urged to restore independence to attorney generals and police ministries

NSWCCL has strong concerns about the recent amalgamation of the attorney generals and justice portfolio into a single cluster with the police and emergency services portfolio. Initially this arrangement specified the police minster as the senior coordinating minister above the attorney general  and minister for justice. The cluster and the department were both named 'Police and Justice'. This appeared to subordinate the attorney general and senior law officer to the police minister and will erode confidence in the rule of law in nsw. 

The unexpected resignation of the police minister led to the ministerial  relationship being reversed so that the current attorney and minister for justice, Brad Hazzard, is now the senior minister. 

This is a welcome improvement of an embarrassing arrangement for the state's first law officer  but does not address the core problem with these new arrangements. 

The amalgamation of the attorney general, justice and police ministers, functions and agencies into a single cluster and a single department is totally inappropriate - regardless of nomenclature and relative status of ministers. In a democracy robust debate between these portfolios on matters of policy is to be expected. The new administrative arrangements are likely to have a constraining impact on such debate coming to public awareness.  

The Premier needs  to restore separate administrative arrangements to these  important  ministries immediately. 

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Australia asked Americans for more help to spy on Australian citizens

Source: The Guardian, 13/5/2014

Documents from US agency show that Canberra spies pleaded for help to increase surveillance on terror suspects

Read the article here

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NSWCCL President opposes police association call for new mandatory minimum sentencing

Yesterday the  NSW Police Association called for a  two year mandatory sentence for people convicted of assaulting police.  NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has spoken strongly against this proposal:

'The Police Association should take notice of the recent debate on mandatory sentencing in the NSW Parliament.  Mandatory sentencing is unfair and not effective to reduce crime.  Judges need to have discretion when imposing sentences so that all relevant circumstances can be taken into account.' 

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NSWCCL commends parliamentary committee report on Senate election reforms

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters today released its much anticipated interim report on its inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 federal election. The interim report deals with the Senate voting practices.  

NSWCCL commends this hugely important report and supports its recommendations for urgently needed reform to the Senate electoral process.

The Senate electoral system is in disrepute. In the 2013 elections, fundamental democratic principles were breached. Consequently, NSWCCL has seen reform of the Senate voting processes as one of the most significant, current civil liberties issues and has made two submissions and appeared to give evidence to the Committee.

The Committee is appropriately scathing in its assessment of the 2013 procedures -as a few quotes from the Foreward well illustrate: 

'The 2013 federal election will long be remembered as a time when our system of Senate voting let voters down.’

….‘Combined with pliable and porous party registration rules, the system of voting for a single party above the line and delegating the distribution of preferences to that party, delivered, in some cases, outcomes that distorted the will of the voter.’

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NSWCCL reaffirms argument for urgent democratic reform of the Senate electoral system

NSWCCL has made two submissions and given oral evidence to the various stages of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 federal election.  Initially we responded to a useful private members bill introduced by Senator Xenophon advocating optional preferential voting for the Senate. NSWCCL supported that bill in a submission made in December 2013.  Subsequently on 7 February 2014 NSWCCL gave oral evidence before the Federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in which we articulated a set of civil liberties principles that guided our analysis and which we believed had been breached by the 2013 voting processes.

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Supplementary Submission: Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Above the Line Voting) Bill 2013 - Inquiry into all aspects of the conduct of the 2013 Federal Election

NSWCCL has made a supplementary submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters on the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Above the Line Voting) Bill 2013.

There is a need to reform the electoral system to ensure that it translates cast votes into a Parliament truly reflecting the collective view of voters.

The following reforms must be made:

  • Introducing optional preferential voting in Senate elections both above and below the line
  • Abolishing group voting tickets for Senate elections
  • Reforming the party registration system.

Failure to reform the electoral system is not an option. Doing so would bring it into further disrepute.

Click here for the supplementary submission

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NSWCCL opposes abolition of independent monitor of counter-terrorism laws

NSWCCL has made a submission to the senate committee inquiring into the Government’s proposal to abolish the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM)  as part of its  ‘red tape bonfire’.

The INSLM is an important independent position set up in 2010 with broad review functions relating to the intensely sensitive and complex area of counter-terrorism laws: whether these laws remain proportionate to the threat of terrorism in Australia and whether they contain appropriate safeguards to protect the rights of individuals.  

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Submission: Inquiry into the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) Repeal Bill 2014 [Provisions] - NSWCCL

The INSLM is an important independent position set up in 2010 with broad review functions relating to the intensely sensitive and complex area of counter-terrorism laws: whether these laws remain proportionate to the threat of terrorism in Australia and whether they contain appropriate safeguards to protect the rights of individuals. It is most inappropriate that such a significant statutory role was proposed for repeal in this covert way without forewarning, substantive rationale or public consultation.

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Call for Ombudsman to review blacklist rejections

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 3/5/2014

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has been called on to review possibly thousands of unsuccessful partner migration cases following the discovery of a secret blacklist of lawyers and agents used by the Department of Immigration.

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Submission: Exposure draft Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Freedom of Speech Repeal of S.18C) Bill 2014

NSWCCL totally opposes the amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Freedom of Speech Repeal of S.18C) Bill 2014 issued as an exposure draft by the Commonwealth Attorney-General on the 25th March 2014.

The amendments will dramatically narrow the definition of unlawful racist speech and the contexts in which racial vilification will be allowed are so broad as to include almost every context in which public racist abuse could occur. The Act will effectively be gutted removing vital protections against racial vilification that have worked well for 20 years.  

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NSWCCL gives evidence in Senate review of Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, represented by the President, Stephen Blanks, executive committee member Dr Martin Bibby and assistant secretary Jackson Rogers, gave evidence to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in its review of the Telecommunications Interception Act on 23 April 2014.  Transcript of CCL’s evidence will be available shortly.

Article: Civil liberties advocates call for "the right to be forgotten" online

Read the NSWCCL submission (pdf)

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Submission: Comprehensive revision of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979

CCL made an extended submission to the Senate’s review of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act (the TIA Act). We emphasized the importance of privacy as a fundamental right, central to the maintenance of democratic societies and essential for the formation of dissent and the exercise of freedom. Surveillance is a tool of tyranny.

 

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Are you being watched?

Source: 2SER Radio, 19/4/14

Glenn Greenwald's book No Place To Hide, which came out last week, revealed that in 2011 the Australian government asked the NSA and the US to help them spy on Australian citizens.

You probably didn't know that we were being watched, but it is really happening. To find out more, 2SER Breakfast spoke to Stephen Blanks, secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

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Trivial and vexatious police prosecutions

Last year David Heilpern a senior NSW Magistrate inferred that there were possible collateral (political) reasons for a police prosecution against two coal seam gas protestors on the North Coast. 

In November the Council wrote to both the Ombudsman and the Minister for Police calling for an investigation into the issues involved which go to the very heart of the administration of criminal justice in NSW.  Copies of the correspondence are attached.  No response has been received from the Police Minister.  Council members met with the deputy Ombudsman and a principal investigator from that office in December last year.  No information has yet been forth coming.

The Council will not let this rest and will be seeking a further meeting with the Ombudsman upon the return of the principal investigator at the end of April.

NSWCCL Letter to Ombudsman

NSWCCL Letter to Police Minister

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NSWCCL Opposes Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws

The proposed new laws will mean that persons found guilty of drug and alcohol fuelled “one-punch” assaults causing death will be subjected to a mandatory minimum sentence of 8 years in jail with a maximum of 25 years.  Mandatory sentences for “one-punch” assaults have already been enacted in West Australia and the Northern Territory. 

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NSWCCL requests withdrawal of repeal of INSLM role from red tape bonfire

Independent Monitor of counter-terrorism laws and intelligence agencies should not be abolished in Government’s ‘red tape bonfire’. NSWCCL urges Government to rethink, and failing that, parliament to block this unflagged repeal of an important and independent player in the oversight and monitoring of extraordinary counter-terrorism laws and the ways intelligence agencies interpret and use them.

NSWCCL Statement (pdf)

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Oversight of Police critical incidents

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties expresses its disappointment with the report on Oversight of Police Critical Incidents by the former Commonwealth Attorney-General Robert McClelland, which was released on 22 January.

That report not only rejected the calls for reform of the current investigative process, which involves police investigating police, but makes recommendations which have the potential to undermine the two regulatory bodies set up following the Wood Royal Commission to protect the public-- the Police Integrity Commission and the NSW Ombudsman.

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Submission: NSW Ombudsman's review of the use of the consorting provisions by the NSW Police Force - Division 7 Part 3A of the Crimes Act 1900

NSWCCL has made a submission to the  NSW Ombudsman's review of the use of the consorting provisions by the NSW Police Force - Division 7 Part 3A of the Crimes Act 1900 - November 2013.

The current NSW consorting laws impinge on human rights to a degree that far exceeds any benefit that may be obtained from them. The NSW Ombudsman is currently reviewing the police use of these laws, these laws should be repealed and/or radically amended.

Read our full submission

 

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