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'Anti-Protest Bill' Explained

In March this year, the NSW government passed legislation aimed at intimidating anti-coal seam gas protesters, joining a growing trend[1] toward restricting environmental activism in Australia. This legislation, The Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016,[2] follows similar legislation targeting Tasmanian anti-logging protesters[3] and Western Australian environmentalists.[4] The two primary purposes of the bill are to confer expanded powers on police and to severely enhance penalties for protesters.

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Abortion Law Reform - is it time to decriminalize abortion in NSW?

Abortion (administering or having) has been a criminal offence in NSW since colonization. However, since 1971 NSW case law has established that abortion is lawful in exceptional contexts where it can be established that it is necessary to preserve a woman from serious danger to her life or mental or physical health and it is not out of proportion to the danger to be averted.  

Having to rely on this limited defence is a deeply flawed and unsatisfactory legal position for both women and medical practitioners.  The right to lawful abortion remains uncertain and limited in NSW, which generates reluctance among many practitioners to perform abortions, with serious consequences for many women.

The decriminalization of abortion has long been CCL policy.

There has been recent reform of abortion laws in the ACT (2002) Victoria (2008) and – more limitedly in Tasmania (2013). In these jurisdictions, abortion has been decriminalized and is treated as primarily a health issue.

Many activists in NSW who support abortion law reform have been reluctant to campaign around the issue in recent times. This is because of the ever-present possibility that a very conservative NSW Parliament – especially Legislative Council – might react with stronger anti-abortion legislation removing the current lawful defences and thus make the situation far worse for women. 

The NSW Greens have decided to challenge this analysis and are attempting to revive a strong campaign for the decriminalization of abortion in NSW.  

Accordingly, Dr Mehreen Faruqi  (Greens MLC) has drafted an abortion law reform bill that abolishes all criminal offences relating to abortion in NSW, as well as introducing some other protections including the establishment of exclusion zones around abortion centres and requiring medical practitioners who conscientiously object to abortion to refer a woman to another practitioner who does not have such an objection. 

NSWCCL has met with  Dr Faruqui and discussed her strategy and made some technical suggestions for changes to the draft bill. We have agreed to support the campaign – although we are very aware of the hostile attitudes of some members of the NSW Parliament and think it likely that the campaign will be a long one.

The Greens are holding consultations about the bill.  They will be holding a public meeting in the Glebe Town Hall on Monday  6th June at 6pm.  We urge interested members and supporters to attend.  

Dr Lesley Lynch

Vice-President

 

 

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If You Thought NSW Had Enough Police Laws, Here’s Four New Ones

Vice News has written extensively on the encroachment of police powers on the civil liberties of Australians, especially here in NSW. 

In this piece, they summarize the recent cascade of laws that expand police powers while simultaneously restraining dissent and protest. NSW Council of Civil Liberties President, Stephen Blanks, sat down to talk with Vice about some of these new laws:

For the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, the main concern is that these directives can reoccur every week for the rest of an individual's life. "I have little doubt these powers will be used to ban people from attending certain Muslim places of worship," he said, adding that it's even possible that this was one such motive behind the law.

Blanks also has grave concerns for the Investigative Detention Bill introduced on the same day. It will allow for the detention of a suspect "to prevent an imminent threat of terrorism" for up to two weeks without charge. He pointed out that a major difference with anti-terror powers passed in 2004 is that police can now question a suspect for up to 16 hours a day, and suspects can be as young as 14 years old.

"What's going to happen is that teenagers are going to be detained and questioned about other family members and friends," Blanks said, stressing that legislation such as this will do nothing for relations with the Islamic community.

A series of anti-protest laws were also passed mid-March, increasing police powers to prevent public protest, particularly against coal seam gas. The laws include a maximum penalty of seven years for hindering the operation of a mine, and for actions like locking onto equipment. "This is simply a law which is prioritising private commercial interests over the public interest in being able to have a fair opportunity to engage in protest," Blanks told VICE.

Article: If You Thought NSW Had Enough Shitty Police Laws, Here’s Four New Ones

Source: Vice News

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“NSW on track for Guantanamo style laws”: Greens MP

New anti-terror laws introduce by the state government represent the “most serious breach of human rights proposed yet”, according to a Greens MP.

“These laws will see people imprisoned and interrogated based on secret hearsay evidence and unverified police reports in an unprecedented expansion of police powers,” says Greens’ Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge.

Mr Shoebridge says the laws represent an overreach and beyond existing laws, which allow police to detain someone to prevent an immediate threat to the public.

Civil liberties campaigners have also reacted swiftly to criticise the law.

Stephen Banks, president of The NSW Council for Civil Liberties president told ABC News Online the laws would isolate young Australians.

“The police, when they deprive individuals of their liberty, do so under the supervision of an independent arm of government – that is the judiciary,” he said.”

“That is such a fundamental aspect of our free society… and here we are throwing it away.”

The introduction of the laws follow an in-principle agreement last month at the Council of Australian Governments meeting that proposed the NSW model would become to basis of a nationally consistent model.

Article: “NSW on track for Guantanamo style laws”: Greens MP

Source: Alt Media

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Win a ticket to 'An evening with Edward Snowden!'

We are looking forward to attending an Evening with Edward Snowden in Sydney, which is being staged by ThinkInc. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden will be appearing via video link.  We are running a competition for supporters who are yet to join CCL. The first 2 supporters to join CCL as members will receive a complimentary ticket to the event. Please email us at [email protected] when you sign up as a member to enter the competition. Supporters and members may also obtain a discount on the ticket price by entering the code NSWCCL when booking. See you on the 28th!

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'Invasion of privacy': Household credit ratings made public online

New database, Georisk, has published credit ratings on Australian households, aimed to measure an individual’s financial risk, by putting consumers in a range from one to ten.

The ratings are publicly available to anyone who wants to search it on a computer. It’s designed to help credit marketers and collection agencies, however as it is public it can be used by anyone. Not everyone was pleased to know their information was publicly visible online. 

Stephen Blanks of NSW Council for Civil Liberties said he felt he thought most would consider it an invasion of privacy.

“I think most people are going to feel their privacy is being grossly invaded by public disclosure of this information for anyone who wants to look at it for any purpose whatsoever,” he said.

Article/Video: 'Invasion of privacy': Household credit ratings made public online. The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: Channel 7 News

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May 2016 Newsletter

National issues | Federal election | Asylum Seekers | National Integrity Commission  

NSW Issues | Forum on new police powers | Serious Crime and Public Safety Bills 

CCL Issues | Annual Dinner | Jim Staples | An Evening with Edward Snowden | Submissions | Congratulations to Hannah Ryan! | Update from the Justice Action Group |  Join an Action Group

Download May 2016 Newsletter

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New laws hit rule of law and civil liberties

Despite vigorous opposition from the Labor Party and the Greens, the NSW Parliament last week passed extraordinary new controls on the right to protest, on freedom of movement and association and a wide range of other constraints using police powers conferred by Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPO) and Public Safety Orders (PSO).

If that was not enough the Premier and Police Minister simultaneously introduced a disturbing new counter-terrorism bill  into the Parliament  -The Terrorism (Police Powers) Amendment (Investigative Detention) Bill 2016. This will allow the detention and interrogation of persons aged 14 and over for up to 14 days.

We expect this Bill to be pushed through the Parliament this week. 

 

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NSW terror laws 'recipe for police abuse'

The New South Wales Opposition has indicated it is likely to vote in favour of new counter-terrorism laws the State Government has introduced to Parliament, but said it needs to look at the fine print first. Under the legislation, NSW Police will be able to detain and question terrorism suspects as young as 14 without charge for up to two weeks.

Key points of new laws:

  • Suspect can be held for a maximum of 14 days
  • A judge can extend detention period by seven days at a time
  • The powers will be used as the basis for a national model

"What's come back today, on the face of it, seems to be a more balanced and reasonable proposition, that does protect the community while providing the necessary balances that we need in our democracy," said Luke Foley, Labor Leader of NSW. 

However, many are opposed to these new draconian 'anti-terror' laws.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties president, Stephen Banks, said the proposed laws will isolate communities alongside vulnerable, young Australians who instead need support and they will be "resented".

"It will obviously be seen as unfair and alienating by the very people that we need to bring into the system in order to prevent terrorism," he said.

"They can either decide that Australia is against them and they want to fight against our community, or they can be brought into the community and be given every encouragement and incentive to join with the rest of the community.

Mr Blanks said the proposed shift to allow holding periods to be extended by seven days at a time, instead of being subject to a judge's approval every 48 hours, is "contrary to the interests of the community".

"The police, when they deprive individuals of their liberty, do so under the supervision of an independent arm of government - that is the judiciary," he said.

"That is such a fundamental aspect of our free society... and here we are throwing it away."

 

Article: NSW terror laws to allow police to question, detain suspects for 14 days without charge

Source: ABC News Online

 

Article: NSW terror laws 'recipe for police abuse'

Source: Channel 9 News

 

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Statement: CCL opposes dangerous serious crimes and public safety laws

The NSW Parliament is this week considering two disturbing proposals for new laws creating ‘Serious Crime Prevention Orders’ and ‘Public Safety Orders’ to combat organized serious crime.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) has major concerns about both of these proposals.  

The Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPO) regime is an extraordinary, unwarranted and dangerous proposal.

It imposes major controls on persons – including not only those who have not been charged or convicted of any criminal offence- but also persons who have been found NOT guilty or have had their convictions quashed.  

The target group potentially caught up in this regime is huge and includes law-abiding citizens.

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Kingscliff cyclist slapped with fine for law that hasn’t come into effect

A CYCLIST has criticised New South Wales police for being heavy handed after an officer threatened to fine her under a law that doesn’t come into effect until next year.

Kingscliff local Heather Stewardson was riding along the shared bike and walking track near Wommin Bay Road on Monday when she was pulled over by a NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Command.

The real estate agent, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, was asked to produce identification and claims the officer told her she would be fined for two offences.

Cyclists are required under NSW law to wear a helmet and to carry ID. However, fines for the ID offence don’t come into effect until March next year. The fine for not wearing a helmet rose this year from $71 to $319, an increase Ms Stewardson said could significantly affect the community atmosphere in the town.

She said she hadn’t been stopped for riding without a helmet for a decade.

New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties President Stephen Blanks said the community expected police to focus on more serious offences.

“There maybe good reason for encouraging cyclists to wear helmets but when police are imposing very large fines on people who don’t wear fines they are simply creating enemies in the community,” he said.

Article: Kingscliff cyclist slapped with fine for law that hasn’t come into effect

Source: Gold Coast Bulletin

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Concerns for heritage, the law, as WestConnex protests escalate

Two protesters have been arrested in Haberfield while staging an occupation of a house slated for demolition as part of the WestConnex project. 

As the WestConnex protests continue, the government has switched tactics to remove protesters by appealing to the revitalized Inclosed Land Act (1901), building a cage around protesters to "inclose" them and claiming that if they do not leave the area, they would be subject to arrests and fines.

Stephen Blanks from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties told City Hub that the use of the act raised an interesting question.

“There would appear to be a potential interesting legal question, about whether or not a charge under the enclosed lands act can be brought in circumstances where a fence was erected around the protestors was to enclose the protestors, and was not there for any purpose of enclosing land.”

The NSWCCL was vehemently opposed to recent amendments in the NSW parliament that bolstered the Inclosed Land Act. 

Article: Concerns for heritage, the law, as WestConnex protests escalate

Source: Alt Media

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Anti-protest laws ‘draconian’ and ‘oppressive’

Emotions have been running high following the passing of laws in NSW which will see political protesters fighting against the coal seam gas industry, even on their own properties, face large fines and up to seven years in jail.

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside NSW Parliament last week against the harshness of the new laws, which were specifically designed to quell protests against the actions of mining and coal seam gas companies. 

Critics say the laws achieve little more than restricting free speech.

President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks told The New Daily: “There are reasons to regard Australia as a police state now. There are so many draconian powers that police have. It is completely oppressive. What is particularly concerning is that the NSW laws criminalise intent. If police form a view that you intend to do something, even if you have done no act towards illegal activity, police can charge you and the penalties are draconian.”

Article: Anti-protest laws ‘draconian’ and ‘oppressive’

Source: The New Daily

 

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March 2016 Newsletter

National issues | Senate voting reform | Fundamental Freedoms Report | Counter terrorism issues

NSW Issues Anti-protest Bill | Privacy reform | Lock-out Laws

CCL Issues | Strategy Meeting | Submissions | Action Group Profile: Asylum Seekers and Refugees | Join an Action Group

Download March 2016 Newsletter

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Senate electoral reform survives onslaught

The Senate electoral reform bill passed though all stages of Parliament on 18th March after a marathon sittings – including a 28 hour non-stop Senate session.  This is a very good outcome for democracy in Australia. NSWCCL supports the new electoral process and is relieved Australia does not have to go to another election under the current broken and distorted system.

Sadly the Parliament is bitterly divided on this Bill which emerged from a unanimous Joint Committee on Electoral Reform (PJCEM) report over two years ago  – though the only cross-bench representative on that Committee was Nick Xenophon.

Given the huge role that then Labor Senator John Faulkner had in supporting this reform, it is particularly disappointing that the ALP felt it had to oppose the Bill with such vehemence.

 As indicated in our earlier report, NSWCCL understands the very real pressure of possible adverse electoral outcomes for individual parties in any changes to electoral processes.. Nonetheless, we had hoped that Parliament could have approached this vital legislative reform with much greater consensus about underlying electoral principles. 

After all no-one, bar some of the cross-benchers, argues that the current electoral process is fair or democratic. Few (we hope!) would disagree that it is better for voters to be able to directly choose who they want to vote for rather than party machines and other backroom players. Few would disagree that the Senate electoral outcomes in 2013 were not a manifestation of democratic process and did not fully reflect voters’ wishes.

The failure of our Parliament to build on the consensus achieved by the PJCEM is in significant part because of the failure of the major parties to act on the report in a timely fashion. Then unavoidable tensions emerged when the Government determined to rush the reforms through Parliament with a very short timeline for examination of the Bill and in close proximity to an election – and even more perturbing for some- a possible double dissolution.

But the bottom line is a significant reform has been achieved.

Amendment update

The original Bill was amended to include  partial optional preferential voting below the line (as well as above the line) following a recommendation from a very short review of the Bill by the PJCEM. This amendment addressed the one concern the NSWCCL had with the proposals.   

Lesley Lynch 

 

Related posts:

NSWCCL submission to the JCEM - 29/02/16

 

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Removal of Rights in NSW, An Exclusive Interview with Stephen Blanks

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has been at the forefront of the Australian civil rights movement since 1963. Over the last 50 years, they’ve been tireless in their fight against censorship, abuse of authority, and injustice within the legal system. In 2010, the group played a pivotal role in passing legislation which banned the re-introduction of capital punishment across Australia.

It was an unexpected defamation threat, addressed to one of his clients, that led Stephen Blanks, the group’s current president, to cross paths with the group. His client, an author, was being pursued by a Government department over allegations he had made in a recent book.

“I had a eureka moment and thought of the Council for Civil Liberties,” he said. Days later, the threat was withdrawn: “It was an absolutely stunning victory. From that moment on I was hooked on the idea of being able to achieve outcomes through ways other than straight law.”

Mr Blanks sat down with Sydney Criminal Lawyers earlier this week, to discuss civil liberties, lockouts and the Government’s new anti-protest laws.

Read full article below

Article: Removal of Rights in NSW: An Exclusive Interview

Source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers Blog

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Government and conservative parties force through outrageous anti-protest law

Despite widespread opposition from the legal profession, anti- CSG and environmental groups, farmers, unions, concerned citizens   and, of course,  NSWCCL the Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016 was forced through Parliament on Tuesday.

NSW now has another set of laws which encroach on fundamental democratic rights – in this case the right to peaceful protest. It is unnecessary and disproportionate legislation. We will maintain our opposition and campaign for its repeal.

The Labor Party and the Greens made last ditch efforts to amend the Bill to remove its most disturbing provisions. Failing that they called for the referral of the Bill to a Parliamentary Committee for proper consideration and public consultation. 

Not surprisingly the Government rejected all their amendments- with the support of the Shooters Party and the Christian Democrats. The latter was a surprise given that Fred Niles had addressed the protest rally  against the Bill outside Parliament House on Tuesday assuring the crowd of his strong opposition to the Bill and his support for the right to protest in a democracy like Australia.

Amendments proposed by the Shooters and Fishers party were however accepted by the Government. One of these provides for a review of the operation of the legislation  by the Minister after 3 years. Much will have happened in three years in this important community debate around CSG activities. An earlier review would have been preferable to provide some insight into the impact of the legislation on legitimate protest around this issue. It would also been far preferable if the review  was to be done by  someone in a more independent position than the Minister – eg parliamentary committee or the Ombudsman – and that community consultation  be required as part of the review.

The other amendments were minor improvements. The most significant ensures that police directions given to protesters who obstruct traffic only refer to the individuals so doing and not to the whole gathering.  

A sad few days in the NSW parliament.

 

Read more about this bill on our website:

Anti-Protest laws: What are they and who hates them?

Anti-Protest bill: Community outrage grows

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Anti-protest bill update - community outrage grows

The outrageous Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016– better know as the ‘anti-protest’ bill-  will be further debated in the NSW Legislative Council today.

This bill is a deliberate Government attack on the right to public assembly and public protest in NSW and proposes unwarranted and dangerous expansions of discretionary police powers.

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New Digital Rights organisation sets sights on data retention rollback

A new Australian organisation aims to build a broader fight-back around digital civil liberties. Digital Rights Watch officially launched on Friday 11th March, 2016. The chair of the organisation, Tim Singleton Norton, said that DRW isn’t intended as a replacement for existing digital rights and privacy organisations.

Instead the intention is for it to act as an umbrella organisation that can link together and amplify the efforts of different sectors affected by legislation such as the data retention regime.

Singleton Norton said that 2015 was a “pretty horrific year”, citing the introduction of the data retention scheme, the government’s National Facial Biometric Matching Capability and theTrans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement inching closer.

“All of these things came through so rapidly and with very little public debate,” he said.

He said that although there have been some strong advocates on issues such as data retention, ultimately the government has managed to push through legislation with minimal public backlash.

The organisation has a range of what Singleton Norton describes as ‘foundation partners’ — organisations and individuals that have endorsed the general idea of the organisation and have contributed to its formation in some capacity or another.

Among them are Choice, Thoughtworks, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, the Australian Privacy Foundation, human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, broadcaster Mary Kostakidis, and iiNet founder Michael Malone.

Article 1: New digital rights org sets sights on data retention rollback

Source 1: Computerworld

Article 2: Digital Rights: A New Lobby Group Uniting the Greenies and the IPA. Article no longer available

Source 2: The New Matilda

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Digital Rights Watch launched!

In early 2016, a group of organisations and individuals formed and launched the Digital Rights Watch, an advocacy group whose mission is to ensure that Australian citizens are equipped, empowered and enabled to uphold their digital rights.

The coalition, which included representatives from NSWCCL, saw the need to form DRW in response to increasingly oppressive policy by the government in eroding the rights of its citizens online, such as mandatory data retention, website blocking legislation, industry code for online copyright infringement, and the constricting effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the digital rights of Australians.

The DRW is mobilising for various upcoming campaigns, and we are looking for any volunteers and supporters who are interested in joining with us to deliver a fairer, freer, internet for all Australians!

Join our action group to participate in the dialogue or check out the Digital Rights Watch website for more information on the initiative.

Got questions/comments on this exciting new campaign? Email us at [email protected] 

 

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