Critics label data-sharing Bill as 'eroding privacy in favour of bureaucratic convenience'

Facing the Senate committee, probing the Data Availability and Transparency Bill 2020, was Jonathan Gadir from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, who highlighted the discrepancy between the goals of the Bill and what it actually allows to occur.


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Government milkshake consent video 'fell well short of the mark'


Submission: Review of Section 293 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986

The Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) thanks the Department for Communities and Justice for its invitation to make a submission concerning the Review of Section 293 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986.


'It is submitted that rather than providing a specific exception in relation to false complainants (as proposed by option 2) it is more desirable to consider what the principles and objectives that are sought to be achieved by this reform, rather than reactive reform in relation to a single factual scenario. Each case will bring its own unique factual issues and circumstances. Specific exceptions will often fall short of adequately dealing with the breadth of circumstances and issues of particular cases. Rather, an appropriately drafted discretion has the capacity to deal with a broader range of cases, provide protections in relation to the factors which must be taken into account and prevent piecemeal reform as other issues and factual scenarios arise in the future.'

View submission


NSWCCL on proposed national data sharing agreement

Media coverage: ITNews

'Federal, state and territory leaders have agreed to create an intergovernmental agreement to facilitate greater data sharing between all levels of government.

The plan for the high-level agreement, which is still to be developed, was endorsed at a meeting of national cabinet.

“National cabinet agreed that jurisdictions will work together to capitalise on the value of public data to achieve better outcomes for Australians,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

While details remain scarce, the pact will likely make it easier for federal, state and territory government to share data, building on efforts with health and travel data during Covid-19.

The planned agreement would likely work alongside the Data Availability and Transparency Bill, which is currently before federal parliament.

The legislation aims to streamline data sharing between governments and the private sector, overriding some 500 provisions in 175 pieces of existing legislation.

But it faces calls for amendments from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Australian Medical Association and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.'

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Privacy experts sound alarm over COVID QR codes

Media coverage: Sydney Morning Herald

'Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello has promised mandatory venue check-ins will be lifted “as soon as we get the green light from health experts”, as privacy experts warn the COVID-19 check-in tool lacks safeguards.

Mr Dominello said the QR code system was only intended for contact tracing during “pandemic conditions” but those might continue for some time....

Mr Dominello said the data was securely stored for 28 days and then destroyed, and “under no circumstance ... shared with other parties or agencies outside NSW Health”. Privacy was at the “forefront of our thinking” when delivering digital services, he said.

But Michelle Falstein, secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, warned personal data collected by the check-in tool could be used for purposes other than contact tracing.

“Such broad purpose could enable the sharing of health information with police or for any other number of additional, loosely linked purposes not anticipated by the public,” Ms Falstein said in a letter to Mr Dominello. 

Ms Falstein also expressed concern about the lack of an end date for use of the check-in tool to enter businesses such as pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues.'

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NSWCCL warns over QR code data

The Sydney Morning Herald examines a promise from Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello that mandatory venue check-ins will be lifted “as soon as we get the green light from health experts”.

But Michelle Falstein, secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, warned personal data collected by the check-in tool could be used for purposes other than contact tracing.

“Such broad purpose could enable the sharing of health information with police or for any other number of additional, loosely linked purposes not anticipated by the public,” Ms Falstein said.

For more, read the full article: ‘This must not be permanent’: Privacy experts sound alarm over QR codes SMH 10 April '21


Vaccine ‘passports’: a legal and ethical minefield

Media coverage: Spectator Australia

'On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown. An important aspect of this plan is vaccine ‘passports’, even though, as Fraser Nelson wrote on The Spectator’s Coffee House website the next day, Johnson didn’t want to admit to them. He referred to his plans as ‘Covid status certification’. 

Such a plan is fraught with several legal and ethical questions, leading to many MPs voicing strong opposition to vaccine ‘passports’. Last weekend a group of 72 MPs signed a pledge against them. This ‘cross-party coalition’ includes Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has stated vaccine ‘passports’ would be against the “British instinct”. Another signatory is Starmer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. One of the Conservative signatories, Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said: “COVID-status certification would be divisive and discriminatory.” He added: “With high levels of vaccination protecting the vulnerable and making transmission less likely, we should aim to return to normal life, not to put permanent restrictions in place.”

Therein lies the problem...

With regard to vaccine ‘passports’ for travel, NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Stephen Blanks said last November that the Federal Government would need to ensure that appropriate allowances are made for people who have legitimate reasons for not getting vaccinated. Those reasons could be health, religious or conscientious based. Such reasons would be protected in accordance with articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Australia has ratified. Those articles guarantee freedom of speech, conscience and religion.'

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Submission: Review of NSW Data Sharing (Government Sector) Act 2015

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Department of Customer Service in relation to the Review of the NSW Data Sharing (Government Sector) Act 2015.

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NSWCCL - Lift the travel ban and clarify process

29 MARCH 2021                                    


The NSW Council for Civil Liberties calls on the Federal Government to end the ban on leaving Australia and introduce clear and transparent rules for who gets to enter Australia.

This week marks a year since the imposition of both inward and outward travel bans. The government has adopted an authoritarian approach to the issue of incoming and outgoing travellers rather than improving the hotel quarantine system. This approach must now end.

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President - 'serious problems' with idea of a consent app

Media coverage: Sky News

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has spearheaded the push to introduce sexual consent technology via an app, in a bid to cut sexual violence against women.

The app would allow users to send and receive requests for sexual encounters.

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NSWCCL on government’s proposed new hacking powers

Media coverage: InnovationAus

Civil society has been “completely sidelined and ignored” in the inquiry into the government’s proposed new hacking powers, after no civil or digital rights groups were invited to the only public hearing, Deakin University senior lecturer Dr Monique Mann says.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) is conducting an inquiry into the Identify and Disrupt Bill, which hands sweeping powers to the Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to hack into the devices and networks of suspected criminals to ‘disrupt’ their data and covertly take over their accounts.

The PJCIS held its only public hearing as part of its inquiry last week, but no civil or digital rights organisations were invited to appear before the committee.

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties labelled the proposed laws a “catch-all formula for abuse” and “next in an accelerating wave, strengthening the powers of the state without any humility about the cumulative erosion of democratic freedoms they entail”.

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Intervention on behalf of Australian citizen Julian Assange

NSWCCL has sent an open letter from Nicholas Cowdery AO QC, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties to the Prime Minister urging the Australian Government to intervene to support Julian Assange and do all that can be done to stop his extradition to the USA and enable him to return to Australia. 

The Council urges Senators and Members of Parliament to consider supporting Julian Assange by ensuring he receives appropriate and effective support from the Government to end the politically motivated attempt to extradite him to the USA.

More information: read the full letter.


Allegations against Porter more than scuttlebutt says NSWCCL President

Media coverage: The Saturday Paper

Paul Bongiorno covers former president of the Law Council of Australia and current president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Pauline Wright on accusations against Christian Porter in The Saturday Paper.
'Pauline Wright, like Bradley, gives far more weight to the seriousness of the allegations against Porter than mere scuttlebutt.'

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Independent inquiry no threat to rule of law say legal experts

Media coverage: The Guardian

A former president of the Law Council, Pauline Wright, and workplace expert Narreen Young, said that if a CEO of a company or a senior lawyer in a firm were accused of a similar historical crime, they would normally step down while an investigation took place.

“If it was a partner in a law firm, generally speaking a complaint would be made to the Law Society of NSW, if it was in NSW, or the office of the legal services commissioner,” Wright said.

“And an investigation would take place by the independent body, and it would be looking at whether the person was fit and proper to continue on the roll of solicitors, or admitted as a barrister. The potential outcome for a solicitor or barrister is being struck off. Because this is the sort of thing that would bring the profession into disrepute”.

Wright said that, as the first law officer, the attorney general should be held to a similar standard.

Any inquiry would look at “fitness to continue in the role as opposed to criminal guilt”, she said, and thus would not conflict with the criminal law.

“It is not looking at his criminal guilt,” she said. “It is looking at whether or not he is of that very high standard that we expect of ministers, particularly of the first law officer.

“There would be numerous examples where individuals are accused of inappropriate behaviour where it is not referred to the police necessarily,” she said. “You might find the complainant doesn’t want to go to court but is very happy for there to be an investigation internally.”

Wright, who is also the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said that an independent inquiry could also apply a different standard of proof – higher than the usual civil standard of “balance of probabilities”.

“There is another standard called comfortable satisfaction, which is a higher standard than balance of probabilities, but not as high as reasonable doubt.

“It is the kind of standard that is often applied in administrative proceedings. I would have thought that is the kind of standard you were meaning to apply in a potentially serious allegation”.

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Porter should face inquiry - NSWCCL President

Media Coverage: Australian Financial Review

Ms Wright said the “fact that a criminal prosecution is not proceeding does not mean that the matter is settled in the minds of the public”.

“There is nothing novel about independent inquiries being called to look into allegations even where the conduct alleged amounts to criminal behaviour.

“There is no breach of the rule of law if such an inquiry is conducted fairly in accordance with principles of natural justice or procedural fairness.”

Ms Wright said that if the allegations were true,“it  would cast serious doubt on the integrity of the Attorney General and his fitness to be a Minister.

“For that reason, the PM should call an independent inquiry ensuring that procedural fairness is followed, ensuring the AG knows the case he has to answer and is given the opportunity to respond and clear his name.”

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NSWCCL President 'Porter to be 'in shadow' until inquiry is held'

Media coverage: Sky News Australia

NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Pauline Wright says an inquiry into Christian Porter is necessary because until it is conducted his character and innocence will be in doubt.

Mr Porter yesterday declared historical rape allegations laid against him were false, stating he would not be stepping down from his position as attorney-general because it would set a precedent which could see anyone removed from a position simply by an allegation.

Asked whether he was right in making the point about bowing to pressure over allegations, Ms Wright said his comments proved the need for an inquiry. “Because unfortunately … unless and until an inquiry is held there will be a shadow over the attorney general and over this government,” she told Sky News.

“For a start he is the attorney general of Australia, he is the first law officer, he has got to be above reproach, ministers are held to higher account than others in the community.

“And again the prime minister’s ministerial standard require that conduct of his ministers must both in fact and in appearance comply with the standards.

“And their private conduct in a private capacity has to demonstrate those high standards of personal integrity.”

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Opinion: Without an inquiry, doubt will persist

Media coverage: The Guardian

New South Wales police have decided to close their investigation into the rape allegation against the attorney general, Christian Porter, an allegation which he has emphatically denied. It is now vital the prime minister institute an independent inquiry to transparently consider the allegation, and the circumstances surrounding the death of the woman who alleged she was raped 30 years ago, as a 16-year-old. The proper governance of the nation demands it. Without an independent inquiry there remains a shadow over the Morrison government and attorney general.

The NSW police reportedly closed the case because there was insufficient admissible evidence. In a criminal case, police must prove their case beyond reasonable doubt - a high bar indeed when the key witness is now deceased and unable to give a first-hand account.

But a criminal prosecution is not the only way to test the truth of an allegation. A fair and independent inquiry would provide Porter with the opportunity to clear his name. An inquiry would consider all available evidence, including that of the attorney general, if he chose to participate, statements made by the complainant, evidence of contemporaneous complaint, diary entries, all of which can be tested through a fair process.

Without an inquiry, the shadow of doubt will persist within the Australian public as to whether Porter is a fit and proper person to retain his role as Australia’s first law officer.

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President calls for independent inquiry, Cabinet Minister rape allegations

Media Coverage: The New Daily

Pressure is mounting on the cabinet minister at the centre of a historic rape allegation to step down and for a judicial inquiry into the claims.

The accused minister, who emphatically denies all allegations, is expected to make a public statement on Wednesday and repeated his staunch denial of the brutal assault.

Pressure is building on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to establish a judicial inquiry into claims the man raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988. The woman at the centre of the accusations died in 2020.

Lawyer Michael Bradley, who represented the woman, said it was no longer a criminal matter.

“We have a senior cabinet minister who’s been accused of a grave crime and that calls into question his integrity and, at the moment, the integrity of the whole cabinet,” he told the Seven Network on Wednesday.

Mr Bradley believes the minister should step down while an independent inquiry looks at the allegation.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Pauline Wright said independent inquiries were routinely conducted in government and corporate settings.

She said any investigation would need to ensure the minister received a fair hearing.

“The Australian people deserve to have it got to the bottom of. There needs to be some kind of investigation into this,” Ms Wright told ABC radio.

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NSWCCL President on PM's rape claim response

Media coverage: 7News

'Senior lawyers have schooled the prime minister on his understanding of Australia's criminal justice system as they urge him to launch an independent investigation into rape allegations against a senior minister...

The NSWCCL's president Pauline Wright says passing the issue to the federal police is "nothing short of an abrogation" of Mr Morrison's responsibility for the proper governance of Australia.

"It is the prime minister, not the commissioner of the AFP, who is ultimately bound to consider whether the person is fit to serve in cabinet," she said on Tuesday.

"While the police investigation and criminal process should run its course, the prime minister should be considering as a matter of priority, and irrespective of any criminal process, the institution of an independent investigation into the complaint."

The council says Mr Morrison should follow the approach taken by the High Court and launch an independent inquiry.

Former High Court justice Dyson Heydon was last year found by the court's own independent inquiry to have sexually harassed six young female associates.

Ms Wright says independent investigations are a routine part of corporate and government department procedure for staff facing allegations of sexual harassment or bullying.

"Internal arms' length investigations are commonly undertaken in workplaces either in a parallel process if police charges are pursued, or as an alternative if police charges are not pursued," the former Law Council president said.'

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Prime Minister abrogates his responsibility to look into the allegations of historical rape

2 March 2021


Prime Minister abrogates his responsibility to look into the allegations of historical rape

In response to questions at a press conference yesterday about allegations made by a woman that she was raped in 1988 by a man who is now a Cabinet Minister, the Prime Minister stated that he had reported the matter to the Australian Federal Police and that the Commissioner had indicated that there was “nothing immediate” in terms of necessary actions that he considered the PM should be taking. The Prime Minister said that he was awaiting the advice of the Commissioner on the status of “other jurisdictions” that could be potentially involved when the Commissioner was “in a position to do so”.

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