Australia’s recent bushfire season of unprecedented scale, foreseen years ago by climate scientists as a likely result of a warming planet, lays bare the urgent need for climate justice. With this context in mind, NSWCCL wishes to affirm its support for the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020 (“the Bill”), to be introduced to Parliament by the independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall.
Modelled on similar legislation passed by several developed nations, including the UK, Germany and France, the Bill attempts to provide policy certainty, transparency and accountability in relation to emissions reduction targets and climate adaptation. Amongst other innovations, the Bill:
- creates an independent Climate Change Commission (CCC) to help prepare emissions reduction plans and budgets, report on progress, conduct climate change risk assessments, and advise the government in relation to climate adaptation;
- sets a statutory emissions reduction target of zero net emissions by 2050 which cannot be varied without the consent of the CCC;
- institutes five-yearly whole-of-economy emissions budgets; and
- establishes a number of guiding principles which administrative decision-makers, as well as the CCC itself, must consider.
11 March 2020
NSW Council for Civil Liberties considers the Minister for Police and Community Services, David Elliott, should stand down while a NSW police investigation into whether he has committed a criminal offence is ongoing.
Ministers have a responsibility to maintain the public trust that has been placed in them by performing their duties with honesty and integrity, in compliance with the rule of law.
It is untenable for the Minister for Police, with responsibility for the conduct of the NSW Police Force, to maintain public confidence in the NSW Police Force while he himself is under investigation for a serious offence, in this case an offence which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
While Mr Elliott is entitled to the presumption of innocence and says that he acted in good faith and fired a semi-automatic weapon and pistol "under the strict supervision of the range master", that does not properly address the question of whether the public can have confidence in the integrity of the police investigation while Mr Elliott remains Minister for Police.
NSWCCL contact: Stephen Blanks, Treasurer - email@example.com
Media coverage: Information Age, Australian Computer Society
Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has once again invoked the spectre of paedophiles and terrorists in calling for an expansion of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)’s powers that would allow the foreign-focused agency to conduct domestic investigations for the first time.
A long-simmering policy change, the ABC reports, would allow the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to enlist the services of the ASD – the government’s overseas surveillance and signals-intelligence unit, which “operates in the slim area between the difficult and the impossible”, as its Web site puts it – to investigate certain matters within Australia’s borders.
Privacy advocates such as the Law Council of Australia and NSW Council for Civil Liberties, labelled metadata laws “indiscriminate and excessive” warned about the “cumulative chilling and intimidatory impact of the Government’s expanded surveillance powers and secrecy offences”.
Media coverage: Sydney Morning Herald
One in 10 children at a Sydney under-age music festival faced random drug testing that has been labelled by legal experts "potentially unlawful" and an infringement on civil liberties.
Samantha Lee, police accountability solicitor at the Redfern Legal Centre, said the measures were "potentially unlawful" and jeopardised the safety of young people.
"This weekend, young people still considered minors under the law – and without a parent or guardian present – are about to be subjected to invasive drug and alcohol testing usually restricted to roadside use or conducted on people operating dangerous workplace machinery," she said.
"Upon entry to the festival, these young people will be confronted by drug dogs, police and security with no understanding of their legal rights, and no one present to advocate on their behalf."
Rebecca McMahon, vice-president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said the measures adopted by festival organisers were a concerning infringement on civil liberties and personal integrity.
"Young people especially should have the freedom to enjoy music without being subjected to unreasonable restrictions on their possessions, oppressive searches and invasive drug testing," she said.
Despite the rain, NSWCCL Committee member, Lydia Shelly (pictured) spoke at Sydney's No Right to Discriminate: Religious Discrimination Bill protest rally this month. Lydia spoke to the CCL position on the bill, how religious groups have been co-opted, and the implications of the proposed bill.
CCL supports the need for a law against religious discrimination, but this Bill subverts key principles as to the ‘indivisibility and equality’ of human rights. It grossly over-privileges religious rights to the detriment of other rights. It seriously weakens existing anti-discrimination laws. It will cause harm to many groups and generate dissension and ill-will in our community.
It is CCL's view that the Government must withdraw this Bill and start again with a better and more cohesive process. More detail on CCL position HERE.
*Lydia Shelly is a lawyer and student in terrorism and security studies, and a Committee Member, NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
Here we share the speech Lydia gave at the rally.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties vice president Dr Eugene Schofield-Georgeson on the weekend expressed concern the inquiry was effectively being "scrapped" by the government because it "stands to be embarrassed by the commission's findings".
He said the commission had been poised to hear "some of the most damning and dramatic evidence against routinised strip-searches" before Mr Adams was let go.
Media coverage: The Saturday Paper
In New South Wales, police now have quotas to search people and move on others. They call these “proactive strategies”. This financial year, they will conduct 237,089 searches. Some will be strip-searches. Some will be conducted against minors. Few will turn up results.
Police set these targets. They hoped for 241,632 searches last financial year, but fell short by a couple of thousand. There is no evidence the targets reduce crime. If anything, they distract police and malign the community.
On Thursday, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, told The Sydney Morning Herald that the quotas created a “great potential for abuse of power”. The state’s former director of public prosecutions said the “natural human response will be to seek to meet the target by proper or improper means – by fudging, by exercising power where it is not properly warranted”.
Most potently, he said the targets were “a political exercise on the part of the police and, consequently, on the part of the government”.
Media coverage: Sydney Morning Herald
NSW Police aimed to conduct almost a quarter of a million personal searches last financial year as part of a quota-driven system slammed as a politically motivated "numbers game" by the state's ex-top prosecutor.
Figures revealed under freedom-of-information laws show individual police area commands are set targets for the execution of powers such as searches and move-on orders, as well as addressing an array of crimes, with people in some areas targeted for searches at nearly 13 times the average rate.
Former director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, QC, who is now the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said the use of targets meant there was "great potential for abuse of power."
"If a target is set by superior officers, especially a target that will be relevant to performance assessment, natural human response will be to seek to meet the target by proper or improper means - by fudging, by exercising power where it is not properly warranted," he said.
In 2018, CCL endorsed the recommendations of the Final Report of the National Constitutional Convention, held at Uluru in 2017. CCL resolved to call on the Australian Government/Parliament to respect and act on the recommendations of the Report and to progress the Uluru Statement From The Heart recommendation for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Convention also called for the establishment of a ‘Makaratta Commission’ to oversee the process of truthtelling and agreement making, referencing the notion, 'nothing about us, without us'.
CCL also supports extra-constitutional recognition of the unique role played by First Nations communities in Australia. This would be a clear assertion of self-determination, with the potential to profoundly benefit First Nations Peoples.
In late 2019 we founded our First Nations Justice Action Group to plan and guide our work in this space.
CCL joins advocates and community leaders to talk First Nations Justice
Recently, CCL was invited to join a meeting at Australia Hall with advocates and First Nations community leaders to talk about paths forward for recognition of truth, for self-determination, and First Nations justice. Present were representatives from Reconciliation NSW, Change the Record, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR), Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Aboriginal Catholic Ministry and the Jewish Board of Deputies. Also attending were community members who are passionate about progress on justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.Read more
NSWCCL condemns the premature closure of the inquiry into potentially illegal strip searches conducted on minors by police in NSW. The Guardian has revealed that the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) confirmed it will no longer hold further hearings as part of the inquiry, which last year uncovered evidence of the widespread misuse of strip search powers by police in NSW.
The LECC had been due to hold more public hearings in either late January or February into the psychological impacts of strip searching on minors, but in a brief statement a spokeswoman for the LECC said it now had “no intention to call further evidence at this stage”.
The decision to cut the inquiry short comes just a month after the NSW government announced it would not renew the term of its chief commissioner, Michael Adams QC, which prompted accusations his removal was a “cynical” attempt to cut the inquiry short.
Held in October and December, the public hearings revealed a disturbing pattern of police misusing strip search powers on minors, as well as evidence that many police do not understand the laws governing strip searches. Police data referenced at the inquiry shows that routinely, strip searches are not being used only in 'serious and urgent circumstances', indicating widespread contravention of the law.
Evidence tabled shows that when 30 teenagers were strip searched at an underage Sydney music festival in February 2019, just five had an appropriate adult present. Presence of a parent/guardian is mandatory under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act for anyone aged between 10 and 18.
In one case a 16-year-old girl was fearful and in tears after she was forced to strip naked and squat in front of a police officer who then “looked underneath” her at the Splendour in the Grass festival in 2018.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties Vice-President, Dr Eugene Schofield-Georgeson states, "This inquiry was key to uncovering processes and investigating questionable practices. Reform is needed, both internal police practice, as well as legislative reform. Clarification of strip search powers in both the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW), and in regulations, was recommended by UNSW law academics Dr Michael Grewcock and Dr Vicki Sentas in Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police. It's important people, particularly minors, are aware of their rights when asked by police to submit to a strip search."
This issue is "about changing the conversation about policing in NSW," explains Redfern Legal Centre head of police accountability Samantha Lee. "It's a conversation that talks about minimising harms, securing dignity and still keeping the community safe."
Strip search practices raise major issues of police accountability. Strip searches are on the rise in New South Wales, with searches increasing by 46.8 percent over four years and on average, in 64 percent of cases, nothing unlawful is being found. Find out more in Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police, commissioned by Redfern Legal Centre and published by UNSW Law.
- NSWCCL President, Nick Cowdery AO QC
NSWCCL, Redfern Legal Centre and 2SER are collaborating on Strip searches and the law: Project Podcast. The episodes will cover issues such as what to do if you, your family or friends are approached by police and or drug detection dogs, and what powers police have to search, seize, detain and arrest.
Will you help us make Project Podcast happen? We are looking for community support to produce the episodes. For an organisation like ours that relies on members and supporters to further our work, every dollar counts.