News

Sydney Criminal Lawyers: Federal Parties and Independents on How They Plan to Uphold Civil Liberties

The close to a decade that the federal Coalition has been in power has seen an ever-increasing authoritarian creep, Sydney Criminal Lawyers reports. 

Australia is a nation that is increasing repressions against First Nations, provides no rights guarantees to all, tortures and punishes refugees, subjects women to inequity and violence, increasingly surveils its public, promotes opaque government and is actively compounding the climate crisis for profit.

So, as a federal election is looming, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) considered it a prime time to check in with all the political parties and independents running in the national vote to inquire as to how they’ll approach these pressing issues over the next term of parliament.

Read more
Share

SBSNews: World's first program helps Australia's football players block online trolling

In a world-first partnership, the A-League and Professional Footballers Australia, the player’s union, have teamed up with a software company GoBubble Community to shield players from abuse across multiple social media platforms, SBSNews reports. 

The technology underwent a successful trial during the A-League’s inaugural pride games, hosted by Adelaide United in February. It meant players such as Josh Cavallo, the world's only active gay player, were shielded from seeing hateful comments on social media platforms.

Our former president Stephen Blanks couldn't see any civil liberties issues with the technology but when talking to SBSNews warned:

"There will be posts that are inadvertently blocked or let through and when an organisation like the A-league adopts this technology they should be very transparent as to how it works to give the public confidence that it will operate fairly."

For more information, read the full article. 

Share

NSWCCL's election scorecard

This election comes at a time when civil liberties in Australia are under siege. In NSW, our right to protest is under threat from draconian new legislation. Whistleblowers including Bernard CollaeryDavid McBride and Richard Boyle face prosecution for public interest disclosures and Julian Assange still languishes in Belmarsh maximum-security prison. Asylum seekers have been held for nine years then released with no rationale and less than an hour's notice, seemingly for political reasons, while others inexplicably remain locked up. Australia has been named and shamed by the UN for its track record on climate change and locking up children as young as 10 and by Amnesty International for its failure to ensure basic human rights for Indigenous people amongst other marginalised groups. Meanwhile, our ranking on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index hit an all time low in 2021.

Against this background, we asked political parties and independent candidates about their stance on a range of civil liberties topics.

The results speak for themselves, with a comprehensive fail for the Liberals and Labor scraping a pass mark on just under half the issues (download PDF version).

NSWCCL thanks those who participated for their time and thoughtful responses. Sadly other parties did not respond to our repeated requests for input. We have scored the Liberals based on their published policy, but as a volunteer led organisation were unable to resource this research for other parties.

How the parties scored on protecting civil liberties - click to download PDF

Read more
Share

9News: New surveillance cars used to clock parking offences on Sydney streets

9News reports that new surveillance cars are being used in Sydney to detect parking violations. The vehicles are being touted by council authorities as the new frontier for parking penalties.

Instead of rangers chalking tires, they are driving cars fitted with special cameras that scan the number plates of vehicles. On their second run officers are then notified if a vehicle has overstayed parking time limits. The new surveillance has received a mixed reaction from locals.

When talking to 9News about the issue, our former president Stephen Blanks said:

"I don't think there is a general recognition of just how dangerous the level of surveillance we are all under can be,"

"People might think we have a good system, but we know things can go wrong."

For more information, read the full article. 
Share

9News: 'Dark days for our democracy'. What the new protest laws in NSW mean

The introduction of new anti-protest legislation rushed through NSW Parliament last week has been described as "a dark day for democracy", 9News reports. 

The Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 could see protesters who cause disruption to major roads, ports and train stations fined up to $20,000 and jailed for two years.

Groups such as the Human Rights Law Centre, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), NSW Council for Civil Liberties and the Environmental Defenders Office have all come out in opposition of the bill.

For more information, read the full article. 

Share

HRLC: Draconian new anti-protest law will hurt democracy in NSW

The passing of the Perrottet government’s new anti-protest law will undermine the ability of everyone in NSW to exercise their freedom to protest, a group of environmental, social justice and human rights organisations has warned.

The organisations slammed the bill, which was passed by the Legislative Council on Friday after being rushed through in less than a week.

The group, comprising the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Human Rights Law Centre, Environmental Defenders Office and Australian Democracy Network, expressed concern about the constitutional validity of the new law and called on the Perrottet government to repeal it.

Read more
Share

Guardian: Labor helps pass NSW bill targeting road-blocking protesters despite union opposition

The guardian reports that the NSW Labor party has helped pass a bill that could see protesters who block roads, ports or rail in the state spend up to two years in jail, despite outrage from unions and environmental groups.

"But a series of organisations including the Aboriginal Legal Service, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, the Human Rights Law Centre and the Environmental Defenders Office lined up to slam the legislation after it passed."

More information: read the full article.

 

Share

Joint media release: Perrottet government must stop pursuit of draconian anti-protest law

NSWCCL joined a coalition of environmental, social justice and human rights groups in urging the Perrottet government to halt its attempts to rush through a draconian anti-protest law, which could see peaceful community protesters jailed for up to two years.

The repressive measures in the Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 were waved through the NSW Legislative Assembly late on Wednesday night. The Bill is expected to be considered by the Legislative Council as soon as today.

Read more
Share

Challenges in establishing a federal integrity commission - Melbourne University

Our president Pauline Wright spoke to the 'Administrative Challenges in Practice' class at Melbourne University on the 30th of March 2022 discussing the challenges in establishing a federal integrity commission.

Read more
Share

About our 2022 election scorecard

Update 7 April 2022: view the scorecard results.

Read more
Share

Submission: CLOUD Act Agreement

NSWCCL made a joint submission with the Australian Information Industry Association to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Inquiry into the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America on Access to Electronic Data for the Purpose of Countering Serious Crime under the CLOUD act.

Read more
Share

Michael West Media: Justice for whistleblower Bernard Collaery is as far away as ever

'In a setback for the defence, top-secret evidence will be allowed in the prosecution of Bernard Collaery, who exposed Australian spying in East Timor, an ACT Supreme Court judge has ruled,' reports Greg Barns.

The article quotes NSWCCL: "Here we have two people who told the truth, in the public interest, about Australia’s deplorable (and probably illegal) bugging of a friendly nation for commercial gain."

More information: read the full article

Share

Out in Perth: Advocates commend government rejection of Latham’s education bill

'LGBTQIA+ advocates are celebrating the end of a bill put forward by NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham targeting trans and gender diverse young people, as the state government release a report outlining their opposition to the legislation,' reports Leigh Andrew Hill.

'NSWGLRL led the effort to creating a joint statement against the bill early in its history. The joint statement was a diverse group of community and civil society organisations in NSW, from the Teacher’s Federation, NSWCCL, NCOSS, Youth Action, ACON and more.'

More information: read the full article

 

Share

An interesting court case: refugees start with a clean slate following revocation of visa cancellation

A visa holder can have his or her (usually his) visa cancelled if he fails the character test, under section 501 of the Migration Act. One way to fail that test is to be sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or more. The term of imprisonment may be for a single offence, or it can the sum of more than one term.

If a person is held to have failed the test, his visa must be cancelled. It is mandatory. But the cancellation can be revoked, if a minister or her or his delegate (a public servant) decides to do so, or, in some cases, if the Administrative Appeals Commission decides that it should be revoked.

Read more
Share

'Anti-trolling' Bill will actually protect the powerful from critique

The Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2022 is a deeply concerning development because it is really about making reforms to defamation laws in ways that could particularly favour politicians and others with sufficient resources to pursue defamation remedies, and not about reducing trolling or the damage caused by trolling. 

Read more
Share

What’s happening to Australia’s refugees?

Update 7 April - since the time of writing, many refugees have been released in an apparent pre-election move. While this is to be welcomed, it appears that arbitrary decisions have been made about who to release and refugees have not been given sufficient notice or support. For more:

Inside the Park hotel in Melbourne, Australia and the world saw the stark reality of the nation’s approach to refugees. Cousins Mehdi and Adnan, who fled persecution in Iran as teenagers and have now grown up together in detention centres. Or Joy, who has survived shark bites, sickness, and beatings since he fled Bangladesh but still dreams of opening a restaurant in Australia. 

Jamal, having left his homeland when his work with Western forces in Afghanistan drew Taliban attention, was driven to such despair after five years in detention offshore that he set himself on fire. But he now looks for the signs of pro-refugee supporters outside the hotel every day: “the people who give me strength”.

Average time of detention: nearly two years

At the time of writing, Mehdi had just gained his freedom after nine years in detention. Let that sink in: Australia held a 15 year old refugee in detention until he was 24.

But more than 1,500 people remain detained in Australian immigration detention facilities. The average period spent in onshore immigration detention is 689 days, compared with 55 days in the United States and 14 days in Canada.  About 32 people were still detained in the Park Hotel at the end of January, according to the SMH. Meanwhile, according to the government’s latest figures, revealed in Senate estimates, 107 people – 81 refugees and 26 asylum seekers – were still held on Nauru. Though they have been released into the Nauru community, they cannot leave the island.  As of September 30, 2021, 278 asylum seekers and refugees were held in Australia’s locked immigration detention network (The remaining 1181 were mostly those whose visas had been cancelled on character grounds and are awaiting deportation).

Many of these people are recognised refugees to whom Australia owes protection - and they have no clear idea why they are being held when others have been released.  

Read more
Share

Sydney Criminal Lawyers: Home Affairs Is Turning Australia’s Foreign Spies on Our Own

Sydney Criminal Lawyers writes that Home Affairs 'is pressing for laws to streamline and hasten the abilities of foreign intelligence agencies, when agents are investigating Australians abroad, as well back here. And while some of these reforms are welcomed, others invoke the term “creeping surveillance state”.

The article quotes from submissions to the CROM Bill review, including the NSWCCL submission, which raised a concern that: 'the wording of these sections is so broad that it could lead to citizens being surveilled due to activities that aren’t terror-related, such as being part of a community fundraising event'.

For more information, read the full article.

Share

Submission: Modern Slavery

NSWCCL made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Inquiry into the International Labour Organization Protocol of 2014 to Forced Labour Convention 1930 (No. 29).

We strongly support the ratification of this treaty; we also called for the adoption of this protocol so that its provisions become a part of domestic law. Rights with no remedy under Australian law are paper rights only - adoption is essential to ensure full protection for this vulnerable population.

Read more
Share

Letter: Strengthening the Character Test Bill

It now seems certain that, without opposition from the ALP, the Migration Act (Strengthening the Character Test) Amendment Bill will pass. We wrote to Kristina Keneally, the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship stressing that the issues with the bill, which the ALP had twice rejected, remain. We called on the ALP, if it wins government in the forthcoming election, to set up an inquiry into all the ‘god powers’ in the Migration Act, and into the sections concerned with asylum seekers and visa cancellation, with an eye to substantially redrafting the act.

 

Share

Submission: Commencement of the Fisheries Management Amendment Act 2009

Update 8 November 2022: The findings from this inquiry examining the extensive 13 year delay of the NSW Government to commence legislation to protect Indigenous cultural fishing and the impact on the community of failing to do so has been handed down. The report is a damning indictment on the failure of the current government to act on its own policy. It calls on the NSW government commence section 21AA by June 30 next year. Read the report here.

Update 1 November 2022: The Fisheries Management Amendment (Enforcement Powers) Bill 2022, to be debated next week, will enable Fisheries Officers to search a person, arrest without warrant, enter premises, or require information relevant to potential charges, prior to charges or arrest. This ammendment was tabled last month and will be debated next week. NSWCCL opposes this ammendment in the strongest terms. Read more here.

Update 30 May 2022: The parliamentary inquiry has published submissions and will hold a community hearing on the south coast on July 28, with hearings in other locations scheduled in August.

Aboriginal people should be able to exercise their traditional rights to fish free from the burden of fearing criminal charges.

In our submission into this inquiry, we outlined how the non-commencement of the Fisheries Management Amendment Act 2009 impacts the fundamental human rights of Aboriginal people living on the South coast of NSW. 

We proposed that the Government’s response should incorporate substantial initiatives to enable Aboriginal fishers to obtain a reasonable share of commercial quotas so that they can carry out their traditional activities in a meaningful and sustainable manner.

Read more
Share