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NSW police complaints in limbo as new watchdog falls behind schedule

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said the LECC’s delay left the state without an effective oversight body.

“Given that we are already in May and its website says they will start taking complaints in May, the public has got a legitimate expectation that more information should be available about when the LECC should commence their operations,” he said.

“A properly independent body responsible for dealing with complaints about police is a critically important aspect of ensuring that police are properly accountable.

“Interactions with the police for many members of the public are often difficult and in difficult circumstances. There does need to be a proper complaints process and a proper investigatory body which can deal with complaints about the police.”

Article: NSW police complaints in limbo as new watchdog falls behind schedule

Source: The Guardian

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NSWCCL supportive of NSW renewed push for abortion criminalisation

Abortions are legally conducted under an interpretation of the Crimes Act by the NSW district court in 1971, known as the Levine ruling, which allows doctors to approve the procedure when a woman’s physical or mental health is in danger, and taking into account social, economic or other medical factors.

The ACT has decriminalised abortion completely and Tasmania and Victoria have also successfully pursued abortion law reform.

But similar attempts in Queensland ran into difficulty and were delayed earlier this year, following opposition from the state’s Liberal National party party.

The bill will also seek to establish 150-metre safe access zones around abortion clinics to protect women’s privacy and prevent harassment from protesters. 

The reforms have the backing of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Marie Stopes, Family Planning NSW and many other groups.

Article: Abortion decriminalisation to get renewed push in NSW parliament

Source: The Guardian

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Statement: Parliament debates abortion law reform

The push for abortion law reform in NSW takes another step tomorrow (Thursday 11/05/17).  The Legislative Council will debate and vote on the Abortion Law Reform Bill introduced by Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi. ALP members will have a conscience vote- and there is just a chance that it might get passed in the Council.

This would be a significant step in NSW –even though it is unlikely that it will get majority support in the current lower house.

NSWCCL has publicly supported the Bill. Yesterday we wrote to all members of the NSW Parliament urging them to give this Bill proper and positive consideration and to support its passage through Parliament so that matters relating to abortion in NSW are treated primarily as a health rather than a criminal matter. 

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Government overreach on s18(C)

On Wednesday last week (22/3/170) the AG George Brandis introduced the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 into the Senate with the intention of its being considered very quickly. It immediately generated a wave of community opposition – especially from ethnic/multicultural community groups.  

On Thursday, the Bill was referred to the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee for a ridiculously rushed ‘review’ with the Committee having to report by the following Tuesday (28/3/17).

This was a provocative time frame, effectively barring the community from any meaningful input into assessing the implications of the proposed changes on the ambit and operation of the Act. 

NSWCCL strongly opposes the proposed amendments in this Bill which will seriously and unnecessarily weaken protections against race hate speech  currently provided by s18(C ) of the Act.

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s18C survives Parliamentary review

The right to protection against race hate speech 

The Freedom of Speech in Australia Report (28th January 2017) will bring no joy to those urging wholesale repeal  or major  weakening  of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act  which prohibits racially motivated hate speech. 

At the end of another (unnecessary and rushed) review process, which attracted 11460 responses, the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee was unable to make a recommendation to the Government on this core provision.  Instead it restricted itself to listing 6 options that had the support of at least one Committee member. (R3).  Neither abolition nor major weakening of the provision appears in this list of options. Not one Committee member supported an extreme option.

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NSWCCL endorses 2017 Palm Sunday Rally

The annual Palm Sunday March this year will be a protest against the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees by Australia, both in the offshore detention centres of Nauru and Manus Island and in those on the Australian mainland.  The CCL Committee is formally endorsing this protest and march, and urges you to join us. 

Conditions for the refugees and asylum seekers dumped on Manus Island and Nauru remain intolerable.  Manus has claimed the lives of Reza Barati, Hamid Khazaei, Kamil Hussain and Faysal Ishak Ahmed, while Omid Masoumali died on Nauru.  There will be more deaths, if we do not act effectively.

There are also around 30,000 refugees within Australia seeking asylum.  At present, most will at best receive temporary protection visas, leaving them in fear of forced return to danger, and unable to reunite with their families.  

The proceedings will begin in Hyde Park North, at 2.00 p.m., on Palm Sunday, April 9.  We look forward to seeing you there. Find out more about the rally on their Facebook event page

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Police officer punched in face during routine questioning

A man was filmed allegedly punching a police officer in a full-blown assault captured on camera during a routine traffic stop in Western Sydney.

The hit occurred as Emad Khassem was being arrested at Merrylands before he fled.The officer then appears to pepper spray him in the face.

The incident is an all-too common occurrence for police on the beat, according to former detective Tim Priest. "Typical these days of what police are confronted with, there's just absolutely no respect for authority anymore," Mr Priest told 7 News.

Mr Khassem was charged with resist arrest and assaulting police although it's not clear what led to him apparently being pepper-sprayed.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks noted, "It's clearly something which is going to have to examined in its whole context when the matter goes to court."

Article/VideoPolice officer punched in face during routine questioning

Source: Channel 7 News

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February 2017 Newsletter

National issues | Defending s18C and the AHRC...again! | Asylum Seekers | Ratification of OPCAT | Civil Liberties perspective on a national integrity body | Access to telecommunications data in civil proceedings

NSW Issues | New police oversight body | Defending the right to protest | Know your Rights Booklet | Reorganisation of Justice portfolio 

CCL Issues | 10th Anniversary Marsden Lecture | Submissions | Join an Action Group 

Download February 2017 Newsletter

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November 2016 Newsletter

National issues | Asylum Seekers | Counter-terrorism  

NSW Issues | Revenge Porn Inquiry | Civil Oversight of NSW Police  

CCL Issues | Annual Dinner | Annual General Meeting 2016 | Submissions | Join an Action Group 

Download November 2016 Newsletter

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August 2016 Newsletter

National issues | Census | Asylum Seekers | Royal Commission into Northern Territory Juvenile Detention  

NSW Issues | Anti-protest legislation | Euthanasia Bill  

CCL Issues | Annual Dinner | Submissions | Update from National Security and Counter-terrorism Action Group | Join an Action Group 

Download August 2016 Newsletter

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Submission: Access to telecommunications data in civil proceedings

NSWCCL recently lodged a submission with the Attorney General’s Department and the Department of Communications and Arts in January 2017. We reiterated our view that the current metadata scheme is an affront to civil liberties and oppose its extension into civil proceedings. Extension of the uses to which metadata may be put is one of the reasons that we opposed the introduction of laws requiring collection and retention of metadata in the first place.

In our submission we noted the international experience, which suggests that metadata rarely makes a difference in criminal investigations. 

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Senate reactivates inquiry into a national integrity body

In February 2016 a Senate Select Committee was set up to ‘inquire into whether a national integrity commission should be established to address institutional, organisational, political and electoral, and individual corruption and misconduct.’ NSWCCL gave some time to considering what position –if any-  it would take on this contentious matter,  however the Turnbull-generated double dissolution meant the Inquiry lapsed.

The Committee produced an interim report of no great consequence  in that it did not go beyond recommending further research into appropriate anti-corruption systems. It did however canvass the issues with the current system in some detail and it did conclude that there were shortcomings that needed addressing. Even this cautious conclusion was too much for the two government members of the committee (Eric Abetz and David Johnson) and they included a dissenting view that there was no evidence of such shortcomings. 

The inquiry attracted  some very useful submissions - notably that of the Law Council and the NSW ICAC. 

The political debate as to the need for a national anti-corruption body is again very much alive. Not surprisingly, the Senate moved  as soon as the current session began to reactivate an inquiry into whether a National Integrity Commission is needed and if so its scope and power.  It is to report by 15th August.  Senator Gallagher moved the resolution on behalf of the leader of the ALP  in the Senate (Penny Wong). 

This Senate decision pre-empted a motion later that day from the leader of the Greens, Senator Di Natale  calling on the Senate to bypass an inquiry and  move straight to the establishment of ‘an independent federal anti-corruption commission to oversee federal members of parliament and the public service”. This was defeated.

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Calls for 'Burka Ban' from NSW backbencher

The Member for Davidson, Jonathan O'Dea, said the burka should not be worn in public and police should be given powers to enforce its removal, saying Politicians should accept "reasonable societal norms" and ban the burka.

Mr O'Dea said his stance was not racially discriminatory because it would be extended to masks and helmets.

"Unless mainstream political parties respect what are are commonly acceptable and reasonable societal norms then it gives space for people like Pauline Hanson to capitalise and play on racial or religious bigotry," he said.

Stephen Blanks from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties said the Premier Gladys Berejiklian should dismiss the calls.

"We really have to think carefully about who in society we want to criminalise [and] subject to the force of the police and the court system," he said.

"We could criminalise all sorts of things some people find annoying. But when you think about it, it just doesn't work for society to do that.

"We have to have a level of tolerance, we have to have a level of restraint."

Article: NSW MP Jonathan O'Dea says 'reasonable people' would support burka ban

Source: ABC News Online

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Oversight of NSW Police - reform or rebadging?

A new body of vital importance to the NSW justice sector -the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) – was set up in January following the passage of The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Act last year. It brings together the oversight and investigative roles of the Police Integrity Commission, the Police Division of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Inspector of the Crime Commission into a single civilian body to oversight police operations.  It has royal commission type powers in some contexts. Its oversight powers relate to the NSW Police Force and the NSW Crimes Commission.

It is the latest outcome from the long (and unfinished) campaign to achieve effective independent oversight of NSW Police operations and was largely shaped by the recommendations of the 2015 Tink Report.  There are grounds to expect this body will significantly improve some aspects of police oversight and accountability but there are gaps and weaknesses in its structure which do not augur well for the much needed reform of police culture in critical areas and may undermine its overall effectiveness. 

 

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Defending s18C of RDA -AGAIN !

Both s18c of the Race Discrimination Act and the Australian Human Rights Commission are again under serious attack from the Federal Government. 

George Brandis’ attempt to weaken s18c in 2014 was soundly repudiated by the Australian people and the then PM (Abbott) wisely retreated and abandoned the amendment.  NSWCCL strongly opposed the Brandis Bill and thought the Government unlikely to try again given the depth of community anger aroused by the proposal..

We were misguided. Emboldened by the recent rise of the far right here and overseas – and within the Liberal Party - the Government is now targeting not just the legal protections against racist abuse provided under s18C but also the processes of the AHRC which have served Australia well for 20 plus years.

This new push poses a serious threat to the protections currently provided by the RDA and to the AHRC. We have therefore again joined many others in arguing the case against weakening s18C and in supporting the overwhelmingly positive record of the AHRC in resolving the vast majority of complaints effectively through conciliation while dismissing those that are trivial or vexatious.  We are not aware of any cases under the RDA which have unreasonably constrained freedom of speech in Australia.  

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Anti-lockout rally shut down: do you have the right to protest?

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has taken the Keep Sydney Open group to the Supreme Court over their plans for a protest in Kings Cross.

Keep Sydney Open organiser Tyson Koh says he was told about the Friday court hearing on Thursday evening and scrambled to find “a silk, two barristers and two solicitors” by the next day. Police argued Keep Sydney Open hadn’t properly planned for the event and pointed to a lack of security, traffic planning and mass evacuation and crowd dispersal plans. But Koh’s lawyers argued police had never asked for these things during the permit application process.

Judge Geoff Lindsay considered both perspectives but ultimately sided with the police, in making a prohibition order to stop the protest going ahead.

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks says while protesting is generally legal, there are some conditions.

“The law is that you should give the police seven days notice of an intention to hold a public assembly or protest,” he told Hack.

“If you have given the seven days notice you cannot be prosecuted for causing obstruction. You’ve got that immunity unless the commissioner of police applies to the Supreme Court in order to prohibit the assembly,” said Blanks.

And once it’s in court, it can go either way.

"There have been occasions where protests have been planned around important international events and the court has been reluctant to allow protesters that would potentially interfere with those kinds of events.”

Stephen Blanks says there “isn’t any exact criteria” for the court to apply.

“On this occasion the court has succumbed to police pressure and the public safety line. We’ve seen that a few times in the last couple of years."

“Unfortunately (you) have no legal protection under the Summary Offences act for causing obstruction. So yes people can turn up and protest but they have to do it in a way that doesn’t cause obstruction to anyone else,” said Blanks.

“There’s no law about holding a sign. So it would be an interesting test if people do go to the area where the protest was to be held and do want to deliver a message."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the NSW Police Force said they were committed to working with all protest groups but they were not just concerned about safety - they were also taking into account any possible impacts on businesses and residents.

ArticleAnti-lockout rally shut down: do you have the right to protest?

Source: ABC (Triple J-Hack)

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Video of violent western Sydney arrest prompts concerns over police use of force

In a video posted to social media, a NSW police officer is seen using pepper spray while another knees a man to the ribcage during an arrest in Mount Druitt.

Police had been called to the scene, after a 17-year-old girl allegedly threatened to kill a shop assistant after slamming a trolley through a glass door. The man in the video was eventually arrested and charged with obstructing police.

Former police officer, NSW Police Minister and now state MLC Mike Gallacher said the footage highlights the dangers officers put themselves in but according to civil libertarians, there was no need for officers to strike or knee the man they were trying to arrest.

“That does look like gratuitous violence by the police by someone who they were able to overpower and arrest,” NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Stephen Blanks said.

See Article, with VideoShocking video shows police officer knee man in ribcage during violent western Sydney arrest

Source: Channel 7 News

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Advocates predict ‘abolition of privacy’ with mooted law changes in civil and family disputes

Divorce lawyers could soon have access to the web, phone and email sessions of every private user in a scheme which has been slammed as “the most intrusive of any developed country”.

Since October 2015, all telephone and internet service providers have been required by law to retain for two years all their clients’ metadata including voice, text and email communications, time, date and device locations and internet sessions. The requirement was said to be needed for national security.

Now the Attorney-General’s department is seeking submissions by January 27 in a review looking to extend access of retained metadata to lawyers acting for clients in civil litigation.

President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks said the move for feuding partners to be allowed to demand internet and phone data history “exposes the inherent problem with the collection of personal information”.

Mr Blanks said the government’s original justification for the laws was that the information could be used to fight serious crime and terrorism but, having got the laws passed, was seeking to open up the use of the data to way beyond those justifications.

“The idea that there is now a data set that can be accessible for any court at all represents the abolition of any privacy,” Mr Blanks said.

“You can’t have an internet or telephone simply for the purpose of browsing online, sending emails or for the purpose of telecommunications — the price of doing those very ordinary things is going to be a traceable data set about everything you’ve done and everywhere you’ve been.

“This kind of permission for using this data generally in litigation represents the complete abolition of the idea that information is gathered and used only for the purpose for which it was really intended.

“Instead it represents the idea that if it exists and can be used for any purpose at all, then it’s legitimate to do so. That is an idea that ought to be rejected.”

The department plans to deliver the findings by April 13.

Article:Advocates predict ‘abolition of privacy’ with mooted law changes in civil and family disputes

Source:The Herald Sun

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Submission: Inquiry into Freedom of Speech in Australia

As one of the most racially and ethnically diverse nations in the world an effective statutory protection against race hatred is an essential safeguard for national harmony. NSWCCL believes the main issue with s18C centres on the lack of clarity of its terms. NSWCCL recommends only those amendments necessary to bring the section in line with its interpretation in case law and/or Australia’s international human rights obligations

View submission

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John Marsden Memorial Lecture 2016

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Jim Marsden welcomes the audience and gave powerful personal insight into his brother John's life

On 1 December 2016 the NSWCCL and the Marsden family hosted the 2016 John Marsden Memorial Lecture. John Marsden was a former President of the NSWCCL, former President of the NSW Law Society and activist for LGBTIQ rights and civil liberties. The event was held at the Masonic Centre in Sydney. It was a particularly successful and well-attended event, with over 120 people. Jim Marsden welcomed the audience and gave a powerful personal insight into his brother John's life, which was so tragically damaged by society's then deeply hostile attitude to homosexuals. Read more here.

Pauline Wright, Vice President of the NSWCCL and President elect of the New South Wales Law Society, spoke briefly of her experience as a young lawyer working for John Marsden, before introducing The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG (an honorary life member of NSWCCL.)

Michael Kirby began with some thoughts on his friend John Marsden, including that John had chosen to be more “in your face” about his sexuality than others at the time. 

Kirby's speech (SEE FULL SPEECH HERE) reminded us of the contribution of John Marsden to the education of LGBTIQ students, noting that attendees at the lecture included recipients of scholarships that he established at the University of Western Sydney.

He mentioned prior John Marsden memorial lectures, by Anand Grover, Professor Jenni Millbank and then DPP Nick Cowdery (now an active member of the NSWCCL Committee). He thanked Nick Cowdery for his presence at this lecture.

Michael’s topic was John Marsden, LGBTIQ Rights today: the Ongoing Challenge for Equality. He delivered a clear and illuminating update on LGBTIQ rights issues from an international perspective, organized around a summary of the good news, the bad news and breaking news.

The good news concerns the greater acceptance of LGBTIQ rights and the important legislative improvements that have occurred in many countries in recent years. He noted that in the last 16 years, a very short time relatively speaking, many countries have enacted laws for marriage equality.

Sadly in Australia, out of step with other advanced democracies around the world, we do not yet have marriage equality. Michael Kirby’s reaffirmed his well-known opposition to the plebiscite and listed many other important legislative changes that have not required a plebiscite. Neither should marriage equality. Michael considered that with the blocking of the plebiscite, marriage equality in Australia is certainly a few more years away.

In his summary of the bad news he drew particular attention to the disturbing fact that in many countries around the world, including many Commonwealth countries, violence against LGBTIQ people is endemic.

As breaking news news, Michael reported on a recent important Human Rights Council resolution establishing the appointment of an expert to investigate violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It was not an uncontested outcome. African nations in early November forced a vote on whether the appointment of the expert should be delayed. Thankfully that resolution was blocked. However, the vote in favour of the appointment of the expert was close. Several countries abstained or failed to vote. If they had voted, it is entirely possible the vote may have gone the other way.

This is a sobering situation, given that this issue is not about marriage equality or other rights, but violence against LGBTIQ people - a fundamental right that people should not fear violence just because of their sexual orientation.

The audience response to Michael's speech made it clear that they appreciated his informative summary of the state of LGBTIQ rights around the world.

Louise Marsden (one of Johns sisters) gave a vote of thanks to Michael Kirby. In passing she noted their Catholic father's injunction that she and her siblings should not only love well, but love whoever they choose.

The evening finished in a convivial atmosphere, sharing drinks and canapés with old and new friends. It was a fitting reminder of the trail blazing work of John Marsden.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to the Marsden family for supporting the evening.

 

Therese Cochrane

Secretary 

 

Links:

Jim Marsden Speech

Michael Kirby Speech

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