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Migration Amendment (Clarification of Jurisdiction) Bill 2018

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) thanks the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for its invitation to make a submission concerning the Migration Amendment (Clarification of Jurisdiction) Bill 2018.

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March 2018 Newsletter

National issues | Espionage, foreign influence and the attack on civil society and public discourse| Religious freedom review| Attacks on unions| Citizenship| Universal Basic Income|

NSW Issues | Lack of transparency on Taser Use| Boiling Frog

CCL Issues | Submissions | Successful Annual Dinner | Join an action group | Note change of venue for March Committee meeting 

Download March 2018 Newsletter

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CCL opposes exclusion of criminal offenders from compensation scheme

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties calls on the Federal Government to provide compensation to victims of institutional child sexual abuse, whether or not they have subsequently been convicted of serious crimes. 

The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs has recently published its report on the Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. The report notes that the Attorney General has indicated that a final position has not yet been determined on the proposed exclusion of criminal offendors, and that a discretionary approach to exclusions could be considered.

Although a discretionary approach is an improvement on the original exclusionary approach, we do not consider it to be the preferred option. 

Punishments for crimes are determined by the courts after carefully considering all the circumstances.  It is not appropriate for politicians to add to those penalties, especially when they do not consider the individual circumstances that may mitigate a victim’s guilt. 

The Council considers that the Government’s actions in excluding those who have been convicted of serious crimes from compensation serve no good purpose and fail to take into account the compelling evidence before the Senate inquiry that a history of childhood abuse is a significant causative factor for offending later in life. 

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NSWCCL recruiting policy lawyer

NSWCCL is looking for a person with legal qualifications to work with its executive and committee on priority civil liberties and human rights issues. Closing date for applications is Wednesday 25th April 2018.

This is a new position created to strengthen our capacity to respond to an increasing volume of challenges to civil liberties and rights in Australia. It will be an exciting and challenging position.

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Cycling is good for you so give bike sharing a chance

The heavy-handed ­response of the constabulary ­towards a collection of cyclists ­intending to pedal around Centennial Park with their hair in the wind last Sunday as a peaceful protest calling for reform to mandatory helmet laws marked another low point in the fraught relationship in Sydney between cyclists, drivers and the long arm of the law. Similar rides in other cities across Australia and New Zealand passed without incident. But in Sydney, police dispatched seven police cars to intercept and stop the planned “helmet optional” ride around the park’s Grand Drive cycle lane, threatening participants with $330 fines (among the highest anywhere in the world).

As the NSW Council for Civil Liberties pointed out, this action by police appeared grossly disproportionate to any conceivable safety concerns, a waste of public resources and fails to respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest in a democratic society.

 

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NSWCCL endorses Palm Sunday Rally

Join us in protest against the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees by Australia, both in the offshore detention centres of Nauru and Manus Island and on the Australian mainland. The NSWCCL Committee is formally endorsing this rally and will be showing our solidarity marching behind the NSWCCL banner. 

Conditions for the refugees and asylum seekers dumped on Manus Island and Nauru remain intolerable. Though some refugees have been resettled in third countries, others remain in limbo not knowing when or if they will be resettled.

There are 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.  

Find us gathered near the eastern stone wall, on the Elizabeth St side of Belmore Park, at 1:45 pm, Sunday 25 March. Look for the white banner of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

We look forward to marching together.

 

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Legislative assault on civil society and public political discourse

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 are part of a major package of proposed legislation relating to national security and foreign intervention which also included three other bills: the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017, the Security of Critical Infrastructure Bill 2017 and the Home Affairs and Integrity Agencies Legislation Amendment 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.

This attack included a massive expansion of national secrecy laws capturing not just public officials but also any person who makes an unauthorized disclosure of information covered by these laws. Journalists rightly protested that the secrecy laws effectively criminalised every phase of journalists work.    Charities and independent advocacy bodies like GetUp were targeted so as to undermine their participation in public political discourse.  Many of the offences carry very serious penalties – in the case of general secrecy offences more than doubling current penalties.

The PM rightly described this package as ‘the most important overhaul of our counterintelligence legislative framework since the 1970s’. It was therefore a disgrace that we were only given a few weeks to comment on them. Strong protests from civil society groups eventually gained an extension into mid/late February.  

Few organisations were able to respond to all the Bills in this timeframe. NSWCCL in conjunction with the Joint CCLs prepared submissions on the large and important Espionage and Foreign Intervention Bill 2017 and the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill. We failed to get in a submission on the equally alarming Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017.

The reaction from civil society and the media – and the Law Council of Australia (LCA) - has been ferocious. The Attorney-General Christian Porter responded with a package of amendments to alleviate the impact of the secrecy offences on journalists.

This was a smart and positive move by the AG. His proposed amendments to his own Bill were in line with recommendations made by civil society and the LCA – however they are a long way from solving the very problems with these Bills.

The Parliamentary Committee on intelligence and security will report on the most significant of these Bills in April.  In the interim NSWCCL will do what it can to persuade  Parliament not to pass these Bills - and certainly not in their current form.  

 

Dr Lesley Lynch

Vice-President NSWCCL 

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Concern regarding disproportionate police response to peaceful bicycle helmet protest

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is concerned by the heavy handed response of the NSW Police to a peaceful protest on Saturday 17th March 2018 by people on bikes calling for reform to mandatory helmet laws.

While coordinated action in other cities across Australia and New Zealand passed without incident, in Sydney the police dispatched seven police cars to intercept and stop a planned "helmet optional" bike ride along the Grand Drive cycle lane in Centennial Park, threatening participants with $330 fines.

This action by police was grossly disproportionate to any conceivable safety concerns, a waste of public resources, and fails to respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest in a democratic society. Any fines issued during the protest should be immediately withdrawn.

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Submission to PJSCEM Inquiry on Electoral Funding and Disclosure Bill 2018

NSWCCL recently joined with other CCLs to oppose the deeply disturbing Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill 2017.

This Bill will not deliver the reform to electoral funding that is urgently needed in Australia. It will however, deliver a devastating blow to civil society’s capacity to participate in political advocacy and to the broad freedom of political communication.  

In addition, it proposes a clumsy, heavy handed, costly and overly burdensome approach to regulation of the charity and political advocacy sectors. 

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Number of ministers able to approve terrorism control orders doubles

In Dutton’s Home Affairs, even the assistant minister can order terrorism control orders

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties opposes control orders but its president, Stephen Blanks, said if the state is to have such a power to detain people it “should be in the hands of the senior law officer, the attorney general”.

“It is unsatisfactory for the power to approve this order to be in hands of junior ministers or even senior minister like Peter Dutton, who is not a lawyer,” he said.

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A Bill of Rights Would Protect All Freedoms, Not Just Religious Ones

The NSWCCL is calling for a constitutionally entrenched charter of rights and freedoms. One right shouldn’t be singled out above all others.

“They need to be protected as a whole, because they do compete against each other on occasions.”

A bill of rights would provide a mechanism that would serve to balance these competing rights.

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Lack of transparency on taser use in NSW

President Stephen Blanks has called for greater transparency in the use of Tasers in NSW. No updated statistics on Taser use have been released by the NSW Police for 6 years. A mentally ill man died during a police arrest on Sunday during which a Taser was used. In a NSW Ombudsman report in 2012 it was noted that approximately one third of people Tasered by police were suffering from mental illness and three quarters were unarmed. NSW CCL calls on NSW Police to release updated statistics immediately. The current Taser procedures are scheduled for review on 1 July 2018. See today's report in the Guardian here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/feb/21/call-to-lift-secrecy-around-police-taser-use-after-mentally-ill-mans-death

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Call to, lift secrecy around police Taser use after mentally ill man's death

NSW Council for Civil Liberties says force has not released statistics about stun gun use for six years

Civil liberties groups have demanded more transparency around the police use of Tasers after a mentally ill man died during a police arrest in Sydney on Sunday.

Read complete article: Call to lift secrecy around police Taser use after mentally ill man's death

Source: The Guardian

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The NSW Government's anti-protest laws challenged after police target a Lock the Gate bus

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.

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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.

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Religious Freedom Review

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.
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First 2018 meeting of the asylum seekers and refugees action group

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.

 

 

 

 

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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).

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7 News interview – visa cancellations

"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:

Australian citizens wrongfully detained because of immigration failures, report finds

We are all entitled to civil liberties, even when we do the wrong thing.

 

 

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Rail strike 'unlawful'-in whose interest?

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.

 

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