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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.

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NSWCCL Submission: The Role and Function of the Legislation Review Committee

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.

 

 

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NSWCCL Annual Dinner 2017 - a message for Peter Dutton?

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. 

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Annual General Meeting 2017

We held our AGM on Wednesday October 25.It was a well attended event - an opportunity for those interested in civil liberties to meet, discuss current issues and socialise afterwards. We elected our new Executive and Committee for the coming year and are delighted to welcome some new faces. Policy positions on marriage equality, a national human rights charter, a national integrity commission and voluntary assisted dying were adopted. You can read more here.
 
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October 2017 Newsletter

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

Download October 2017 Newsletter

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May 2017 Newsletter

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

Download May 2017 Newsletter

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NSWCCL Submission: NSW Sentencing Council Victims' Involvement in Sentencing

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.

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Calls to partially suspend secretive NSW Police blacklist

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."

 

Listen: Calls to partially suspend secretive NSW Police blacklist

Source: ABC Radio PM

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Submission: Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017

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

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Policy statement (2017) - voluntary assisted dying

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has long supported the legalisation of Voluntary Assisted Dying measures.  While noting that, compared with existing VAD legislation in other jurisdictions, it is very conservative, the NSWCCL will actively campaign for the passage of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill currently before the NSW Parliament.

Stephen Blanks comments that what is not before the public is advanced legislation in NSW and it will come to the table 15 November or sometime later next month. We have a motion which is very timely and in reflection in our long support the bill before the NSW parliament.

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Policy statement (2017) - national integrity (anti-corruption) commission

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, alarmed at the corrosive effect of pervasive and serious corruption within, and related to, Government and public administration at the national level, strongly supports the urgent need for a national anti-corruption body.

This body should have a broad ambit across public administration (core public service bodies and public sector corporations), public sector contractors and parliament and politicians.

While such a body must have effective power to address current corruption, there must also be effective constraints and transparent oversight to ensure that the balance between the protection of individual rights and the fight against serious corruption is as well balanced as can be devised.

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Policy statement (2017) - national human rights charter

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties reaffirms its long standing active support for a national human rights charter.

The recurrent resistance of Australia’s politicians to a number of widely supported attempts to introduce a national human rights bill/charter over the last 44 years has left Australia as the only liberal democracy without either constitutional or statutory broad protection for fundamental human rights.

This has been a significant factor in allowing the proliferation of national laws which seriously and unwarrantedly breach human rights and liberties. The extreme manifestations of this trend in the areas of counter-terrorism and refugee law and policy in recent years necessitates a renewed community effort.

The NSWCCL will again give priority to joining other progressive bodies to campaign for an Australian Human Rights Bill in the context of the next federal election.

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Policy statement (2017) - marriage equality

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, consistent with its long-standing support for GLBT rights, strongly supports marriage equality and urges the Australian Government and/or the National Parliament to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to achieve this equality. 

The current same sex marriage statistical survey is an inappropriate, seriously flawed and undemocratic exercise intent on delaying Parliament addressing the issue and generating divisive and harmful debate. Nonetheless, NSWCCL strongly urges the community to register a “Yes” vote so that Government has no excuse to further delay legislative action on this matter.

Regardless of the outcome of the flawed survey, NSWCCL urges the Australian Government and/or Parliament to address the issue in this parliamentary term and introduce and pass a marriage equality amendment consistent with clear majority support within the Australian community.

CCL opposes any weakening of anti-discrimination laws in connection with the passage of the legislation.

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Policy statement (2017) - defence of the union movement

NSWCCL affirms the role of unions as an essential part of the Australian democracy in the defence of workers’ rights and affirms their right to support other organisations whose activities accord with their own.

 

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Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017

Submission of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties to the Legal and Constitutional
Affairs Committee 

NSWCCL thanks the Senate Committee for the opportunity to comment on this Bill.

Background


The Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is secured by a private company which provides public
services (Serco). In that regard, they have to follow the government rules and apply them to the
Centre. Similar arrangements apply at other Immigration Detention Facilities.


Asylum seekers who came by boat were prohibited from accessing mobile phones some time ago,
while those who came by plane had access until recently. The prohibition is the subject of a court
case brought by The National Justice Project in the Federal Court. In February this year the Court
issued a temporary injunction lifting this ban. An appeal concerning the competence of the court to
hear the case was overturned, and the case continues.


This Bill appears to be an attempt to pre-empt the Court’s finding,
The rules can be arbitrary, demeaning and unfair. Restrictions on what detainees may possess and
on what visitors may bring in with them have been the subject of abrupt changes recently.
A new requirement has been placed on visitors to have 100 points of identification a difficult task
for refugee families. Many former detainees and members of the families of detainees have only an
IMMI, which is worth only 70 points. They do not have drivers’ licences, nor other items to make up
the other 30 points. Since the identity cards are themselves issued by the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), these should be sufficient for entry.

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Civil liberties ‘a luxury’ as premiers back Turnbull’s new anti-terror laws

Mr Turnbull has previously said the data could be used to identify people at airports but also other public venues such as sporting venues and shopping centres.

The state-held data is already available to federal authorities, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said, but can take between 7-10 days to process.

Civil liberties groups said it was a “sad day” for Australia, while privacy advocates warned that it was “inevitable” the data compiled nationally for the first time would eventually be used for purposes besides counter-terrorism.

“This is a sad day when the leaders of our country say that civil liberties are not as important as they were previously, and that freedoms are to be subordinated to national security,” Stephen Blanks, President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, told The New Daily.

Australian Privacy Foundation chair David Vaile told The New Daily that there would eventually be “scope creep”.

Article: Civil liberties ‘a luxury’ as premiers back Turnbull’s new anti-terror laws

Source: The New Daily

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Should You Be Worried About The Government’s Huge New Facial Recognition Database?

Why Are People Concerned?

Digital Rights Watch is an Australian organisation that was established last year to help protect the digital rights of citizens. According to the organisation’s chair, Tim Singleton Norton, the new national facial recognition database is “a gross overreach into the privacy of everyday Australian citizens”.

“There is a severe lack of strong oversight mechanisms and general enforcement for human rights and civil liberties in this country, which results in the public being understandably wary about giving government more powers in the first place,” he said.

Singleton Norton pointed to recent data breaches from the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Home Affairs as evidence that the government was “ill-equipped to properly protect citizen’s data”.

“When individuals enter into an agreement with a government agency that includes their personal information, they should have the right to understand, be informed and have a say in where that information is held and what it’s being used for,” he said.

“Whilst we of course must ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the tools necessary to undertake their important work, this should not come at the expense of citizens’ rights to privacy.”

The new system has also been criticised by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. Their president, Stephen Blanks, said the proposal could undermine trust in government.

“It is quite alarming when information you have given to government for one purpose is then used for an entirely different purpose,” he said.

Article: Should You Be Worried About The Government’s Huge New Facial Recognition Database?

Source: Junkee

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Civil liberties bodies reject massive facial recognition database

COAG has agreed to the establishment of a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability which will have access to all drivers licences in Australia - as well as visa, passport and citizenship photos. This massive biometric database will be available to state and federal security and law enforcement agencies. The rationale for this very significant increase in the capacity for real-time government surveillance of most Australian residents is, of course, to better protect us. 

We want governments to do all that is possible and proportionate to protect us and, as part of that, we support effective coordination between states and federal agencies. However, NSWCCL fears that this development in mass surveillance capacity will have- over time - significant implications that are not currently appreciated for the nature of our society and the robustness of our democracy. 

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Turnbull government’s new anti-terror laws labelled ‘draconian’

While NSW adopted a 14-day maximum pre-charge detention regime under former premier Mike Baird, the period is seven days in most states and only eight hours in South Australia.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Stephen Blanks told The New Daily the proposed pre-charge detention law was “draconian” and should not be nationalised.

“They are not consistent with fundamental freedoms and liberty,” he said.

But Deakin University terrorism expert Greg Barton said they would be “rarely used” because the Australian Federal Police was conscious of not losing the public’s confidence.

“As long as we see an approach that is cautious and measured, we should not be concerned,” Dr Barton told The New Daily

Australian Privacy Foundation chair David Vaile said using state and territory drivers’ licenses for facial recognition was “a full-frontal attack on the core ideas behind data protection and privacy”.

Mr Vaile told The New Daily people did not consent for their photo or other data to be used by the federal government when they applied for drivers’ licenses.

Article: Turnbull government’s new anti-terror laws labelled ‘draconian’

Source: The New Daily

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'Nation's toughest terror laws': Berejiklian unveils 'drastic' plan

"NSW will be the first state in Australia to address this," Ms Berejiklian said. "We know these are tough laws but unfortunately these circumstances are here because of what we see around the world and around Australia."

The Premier said the policy was "drastic" but would be modelled on existing post-sentencing schemes for violent or sex offenders.

The Premier's comments come the day before the Council of Australian Governments, a meeting of Australian state and federal governments on Thursday where strengthened national security policies will be high on the agenda.

But the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said there was no need for any extension of post-sentencing policies.

"It can only be [a] political [measure]," said President Stephen Blanks. "It's just an abuse of what the courts are there for, which is to find truth.

"This is a regime which will result in the continued detention of people simply for what they say or think. It's fundamentally contrary to the idea of a free society".

The Premier said her government was still considering the details of a federal government proposal to grant its authorities access to states' databases to harvest licence photos that could track suspects using facial recognition technology and surveillance footage.

Article: 'Nation's toughest terror laws': Berejiklian unveils 'drastic' plan

Source: Daily Advertiser

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