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Media Statement: Serious allegation of hate speech found to have no basis

NSW police have conducted a review of a serious allegation of hate speech at the Opera House protest in October and found that the allegations were incorrect. Expert examination of the video evidence proves that protestors were chanting “where’s the Jews” and did not chant “gas the Jews” as was widely reported by many media outlets on the basis of a wrongly captioned video shared on social media.

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Yahoo!News: Hung juries are not a failure, inquiry told

In NSW and Queensland, the requirement for juries to deliberate for eight hours before the possibility of a majority 11-1 verdict is longer than in all other states and territories. This extended deliberation period means that juries with a single hold-out can be repeatedly urged to "try harder" for a unanimous verdict, with judges closely monitoring the clock.

A proposed overhaul of legislation in NSW aims to halve the minimum deliberation time in an effort to reduce the number of hung juries and associated trial expenditures. Critics, however, argue that there is insufficient evidence to support the belief that these objectives would be achieved or that such changes are necessary.

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Biometric Update: Australian Digital ID Bill draws feedback from finance, business, civil rights groups

The Digital ID Bill, initially presented to Parliament in November following over three years of development, is now concluding its period for receiving submissions in a parliamentary inquiry. 

In their submissions many civil rights groups have expressed concerns around misuse of biometric data and privacy. In contrast to these submissions buiness and financial groups argue that the proposed system could play a pivotal role in enhancing identity security and verification.

In 2023 the Digital ID Bill was redrafted after pressure from advocates, who urged the Albanese government to implement stricter restrictions on law enforcement access to biometric information. New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) says that “there should be no law enforcement access… with or without a warrant” in a submission to the parliamentary inquiry on the Digital ID Bill.

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AAP: NSW incitement laws face overhaul amid Gaza tensions

The existing incitement laws in New South Wales may be strengthened following concerns raised by religious groups, who have argued that the current regulations are inadequate in safeguarding from violent threats.

Premier Chris Minns recently emphasised the government's commitment to providing legal protection for the diverse communities residing in the state. Minns highlighted the significance of enabling all communities to live peacefully without fear of violence. 

This review comes at a time of heightened tension surrounding the Gaza conflict and amid controversy over sermons delivered by Islamic preachers targeting Jews and Israelis. While state and federal police have probed these sermons, investigations were halted as they found no breaches of NSW or Commonwealth laws.

Premier Minns acknowledged the profound impact of the Middle East conflict on families and communities, describing it as traumatic. He expressed confidence that the thorough review led by Tom Bathurst, a highly respected legal figure in the state, would assure the community that existing laws operate effectively.

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VICE: One Year After NSW Brought In Harsh Anti-Protest Laws, We’re Starting to See the Dark Effects

The NSW Supreme Court has declared anti-protest laws invalid, a mere year after their enactment. These regulations were introduced in response to activists obstructing traffic on the Harbour Bridge and disrupting freight lines from the world's largest coal port in Newcastle.

Also supported by the Labour party, these laws targeted protests causing interference with "major economic activity," imposing hefty fines of up to $22,000 or sentences of two years in prison. Since their implementation, activists and legal and human rights experts have criticised that these laws are excessively harsh, infringing upon a fundamental human right. Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the unprecedented increase in police authority in NSW resulting from these laws.

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Star Observer: NSW Government Orders Review Into Hate Speech Law

The NSW government has recently ordered a review into the effectiveness of section 93Z of the Crimes Act 1900. Section 93Z makes it an offence to publicly threaten or incite violence on grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex or HIV/AIDS status. The maximum penalty for an individual is 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 3 years (or both).

Calls from community groups, challenging the efficacy of section 93Z, have prompted the start of this review.

“There is no place in NSW for hate speech or incitement to violence. We live in a multicultural society, and it is vital that we have laws that protect people who come from communities all around the world and call NSW home,” Premier Minns said in a statement. 

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The Guardian: NSW police fail to deliver mental health crisis review amid scrutiny over latest shooting death

Recently, the New South Wales police have failed to produce a review of the way they have responded to mental health crises, which was promised to the government. The recent shooting of a mentally unwell man by police, has heightened pressure for police reforms.

Alexander Stuart Pinnock, was shot at by multiple officers following a two-hour standoff which began after Pinnock threatened staff with a pistol. He was treated by paramedics but died at the scene.

In 2023, the police response to mental health emergencies was criticised as officers fatally wounded or shot four people in mental health crises. In response to this, the police minister commissioned a 3 month review, which was aimed to be complete at the start of November. 

Currently, the report has not been finished. 

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Submission: Digital ID Bill 2023

In our submission about the Australian Government Digital Identity System (AGDIS) we have underscored our commitment to safeguarding civil liberties in the face of evolving digital identity systems.

While NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) endorses the codification of AGDIS, which includes the Document Verification Service and facial verification technology, concerns persist regarding the lack of an effective legal framework. Recent high-profile data breaches underscore the urgency of regulation and enforcement in identity protection. The impetus for the swift introduction of this legislation is the imperative to address cybercrime, but recent amendments fall short in addressing crucial issues.

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Media Statement: Review of s93Z of the Crimes Act

NSW Council for Civil Liberties notes the review of s93Z of the Crimes Act to be conducted by the Honourable Tom Bathurst KC AC.  NSWCCL hopes that the review will involve extensive community consultation and looks forward to being involved in that consultation.  

New South Wales has strong “hate speech” laws that already criminalises speech that either intentionally or recklessly, threatens or incites violence against someone based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or other characteristics.  These laws should be seen in the context of both Commonwealth and State anti-discrimination laws which provide civil remedies in many circumstances.  Resort to criminal law should always be a last resort.  The law should not criminalize legitimate free speech.

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Law Society Journal: Global freedom of expression ‘increasingly at risk’

From Cat Woods: Global advocacy organisation Article 19 released their annual Global Expression Report late last year. The report tracks freedom of expression across 161 countries via 25 indicators, giving each nation a score between 0 and 100.

That score places it in an expression category between “Open” and “In Crisis”. The facts illustrated in the report reveal that more than six billion people globally live with less freedoms than they had 20 years ago.

LSJ spoke to Lydia Shelly, the president of NSW Council for Civil Liberties and director of Shelly Legal about the reasons for, and implications of, the global and national decline in freedom of expression.

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Media Statement: NSW Council for Civil Liberties Urges Stricter AI Regulation Following Australian Government's Announcement

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) acknowledges the Australian Government's recent announcement in response to the consultation on responsible AI regulation in Australia. While we appreciate the government's efforts to address the challenges posed by artificial intelligence, we have some concerns about the proposed voluntary guidelines for users, which risks putting Australia behind the pace set by the European Union in AI regulation.

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CityHub: Calls for enhanced mental health intervention training after police shoot armed man

The recent fatal shooting of a 34-year-old man, identified as Alexander Stuart Pinnock, outside a medical centre in Nowra, has sparked calls for improved training in mental health interventions for police officers. 

Pinnock reportedly threatened medical staff with a semi-automatic pistol, and after emerging from the clinic after a two-hour standoff, was shot at by multiple police officers. He was treated by paramedics but died at the scene.

Pinnock, had a history of mental health interventions and a minor non-violent criminal record, previously pleading guilty to impersonation of a lawyer. He has featured previously on a news program explaining his schizophrenia was responsible for his impersonation.

This incident has raised questions surrounding the police's handling of individuals with mental health challenges. 

In a statement, the Pinnock family said “What happened yesterday demonstrates a failure within the various systems in our community designed to help and support those who struggle with mental illness, This does not excuse his actions and it does not lessen the impact felt by those close to the incident.".

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Submission: COVID 19 Royal Commission

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is opposed to Senator Malcolm Roberts' proposal for a Royal Commission into COVID-19. We believe that such an inquiry is both unnecessary and potentially harmful, and we urge the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to carefully consider the implications of this call.

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CityHub: Calls for pill testing reignite after 8 overdose at music festival

The admission of eight individuals to the hospital due to MDMA overdoses at an electronic music festival in Melbourne has sparked renewed and pressing demands for nationwide pill-testing initiatives.

Of those affected at the festival, seven had to be placed in induced comas and required breathing tubes.

Victorian Health authorities have announced that the overdoses were not caused by a single bad batch, but instead the hot, humid conditions at the festival, paired with physical exertion. 

The hospitalisations have intensified the calls for increased pill testing, and for governments to address the complicated issue of festival drug use. 

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Media Statement: Police Shooting of Alexander Stuart Pinnock

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) expresses our deep concern over the recent police shooting of 34-year-old Alexander Stuart Pinnock in Nowra.

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Media Statement: NSW Government must introduce free and accessible pill testing now!

The recent spate of suspected MDMA overdoses at the Hardmission event in Flemington, Victoria, resulting in eight individuals being placed in medically induced comas, has reignited the urgent need for nationwide pill-testing programs.

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Joint Submission: Reviewing legal protections against forced marriage NSW

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (“the Council”) and Muslim Women Australia (“MWA”) have filed a joint submission into the New South Wales Review of Legal Protections against Forced Marriage.

Comments from Lydia Shelly, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties
The legal responses to forced marriages largely ignores the victim-survivor’s lived experience of forced marriage. If we are to develop a holistic response to forced marriage, then this must be remedied, and the victim-survivor’s experiences must be considered in a meaningful and tangible way.

Forced marriage is often thought of as an “event” and not the process of coercive and controlling behaviours that can be perpetrated by family, friends, community and others who are in positions of trust and authority.

Whilst a legislative response is required as part of a holistic response to forced marriage, more must be done to prevent forced marriages from occurring. It is in this “preventative” space that holds the most promise in addressing the complex factors that increase the risk of a forced marriage occurring.

The reality is that the majority of victim-survivors do not readily identify themselves as being at risk of, or a party to a forced marriage. Any intervention that exists must include community led initiatives and must reflect the cultural and religious norms within these communities.

Government should be focusing efforts on strengthening collaboration and trust between communities, community organisations, agencies and service providers.

We acknowledge the immense harm that those in our governments have caused with respect to social cohesion when they have demonised communities, such as the refugee and Muslim communities. This does little to cultivate trust between communities most at risk of experiencing forced marriages. Legal protections are only effective if there is community cooperation and further training for frontline service providers and agencies.

We are concerned that legislative reform, such as expanding the standing of those who may be able to apply for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order on behalf of a victim-survivor, will not address the complex factors that result in forced marriages occurring.

Any assistance that is provided to victim-survivors must not be dependent on involvement with law enforcement or the criminal justice system. Currently, the majority of assistance that could be provided to victim-survivors are often too late and are dependent on law enforcement being involved.

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CityHub: “Only a partial win”: Supreme Court rules NSW anti-protest laws as constitutionally invalid

Earlier this week, the NSW Supreme Court ruled that NSW anti-protest laws are constitutionally invalid.

These laws were enacted last year in response to a climate protest that caused traffic disruptions, criminalizing activities that cause obstructions, partial closures, or redirections around various major facilities, and carry a maximum penalty of a $22,000 fine, imprisonment for two years, or both.

'Knitting Nannas' Dominique Jacobs and Helen Kvelde challenged these laws, arguing that they did not uphold the implied freedom of political communication in the Commonwealth Constitution.

The court found that these new laws were not justified when protest activity caused people to be redirected or caused a facility to be partially closed. Therefore, those parts of the laws were deemed invalid.

 

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The Guardian: Australian Human Rights Commission to crack down on employers who fail to actively prevent workplace sexual harassment

As of 12 December 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will be handed enforcement powers as part of the Respect@Work legislation. The new section 47C of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) applies a positive duty to any person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) or ‘employer’..

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Dr Anna Cody, hopes to shift the burden of progress in workplaces by holding employers legally responsible for failing to protect employees. The positive duty requires employers to take ‘reasonable and proportionate’ measures to eliminate sexual harassment, discrimination, and victimisation. This includes unlawful conduct engaged in by themselves, employees, workers and agents, and even extends to third parties such as customers and clients.

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CityHub: “Everyone has the right to seek asylum”: NSWCCL speaks out on preventative detention

On November 8, asylum seekers in immigration detention were released following a High Court ruling deeming indefinite immigration detention unlawful due to the 'NZYQ' case. This ruling resulted in the immediate release of 141 detainees.

Shortly after the court's legal justifications were made public, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil disclosed the Labor Party's intent to “finalise a tough preventive detention regime before parliament rises.”. The Albanese Government is currently proposing preventive detention laws to re-incarcerate individuals previously released, some of whom have been involved in serious offenses.

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) has expressed serious concerns with the government seeking to preventively detain refugees who were released in November.

 

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