News

ABC: Prison sentence for climate activist over Newcastle anti-coal protest divides community

The ABC considered a 12-month jail sentence given to a 22-year-old climate activist over anti-coal protests in the NSW hunter region. 

Our President Pauline Wright commented that the penalty seemed harsh:

"If the law means that people participating in peaceful protest end up in jail then that law is objectionable in a liberal democracy where we have a right to peacefully protest," she said.

"When people take actions that put themselves or others into danger then that is one thing, but imposing a criminal sanction on that kind of activity isn't necessarily the way to go."

Read the full article: Prison sentence for climate activist over Newcastle anti-coal protest divides community ABC News 24 Nov '21

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ABC Breakfast: concerns over aged care Bills

ABC Breakfast with Scott Levi spoke to our President Pauline Wright about legislative changes in response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety's Final Report. He raised concerns over on immunity from litigation over restrictive practices (the subject of much evidence at the royal commission) given to aged care providers. 

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Letter: Lack of diversity on the bench

Over 37,000 solicitors hold a practising certificate in NSW, including First Nations people and those from a multitude of other ethnic backgrounds. Lawyers from this diverse range of backgrounds are applying for positions in the Magistracy yet only a small proportion of Magistrates in NSW represent these backgrounds. We wrote to the the NSW Attorney General, who is currently undertaking a process for the recruitment of Magistrates to the Local Court of NSW, to urge him to work to break any real or perceived barriers to justice posed by discrimination and unconscious bias.
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Green Left Weekly: The Australian surveillance state is very real

The Green Left Weekly talks to our President Pauline Wright about the increase in mass surveillance of the Australian population since the turn of the century, noting that Australia is the only liberal democracy without a specific Federal Bill protecting citizens' rights. 

Since the 9/11 terror attacks, new terror offences have facilitated the ever-growing surveillance state.

Pauline outlines the increase from zero to 92 pieces of legislation that, together, are 'Orwellian' in their reach.

“The argument has been that those extreme powers that we do have enhance Australia’s national security, but we doubt that some of those extreme powers have been effective, even though they fundamentally impact on our rights.”

Read the full article: The Australian surveillance state is very real. But it’s no product of the ‘plandemic’ Green Left Weekly 23 Nov '21

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The Guardian: The pandemic illustrates how precious and fragile our civil liberties are

Writing in The Guardian, our President Pauline Wright considers the impact of recent events on our civil liberties.

"if there is one thing the pandemic has done, it is to illustrate how precious and how fragile our civil liberties really are. People have seen that governments or their departments can impose severe restrictions on us at the stroke of a pen. We have been made subject to curfews, punitive fines and uneven policing. Our borders have been closed, Australians abroad have been denied the fundamental right of every citizen to return and we haven’t been able to travel interstate to see loved ones, receive medical treatment or attend to urgent business without exemptions, which have proved as hard to obtain (for most of us) as hens’ teeth."

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Sydney Criminal Lawyers: Prime Time for a Federal Bill of Rights

Sydney Criminal Lawyers talked to our President Pauline Wright about the increase in draconian legislation since 9/11, as well as during the pandemic, and the need for a Bill of Rights.

"Australia has no bill of rights, and that has allowed the Australian government to bring in legislation that it would not have been able to have enacted in other nations, like the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, where they have bills of rights or human rights acts," said Pauline.

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SMH: Victoria’s supposedly autocratic pandemic laws would be better than NSW’s

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald about the ugly debate in Victoria, our Vice President Josh Pallas argues that the proposed legislation would be an improvement on the laws already in place both there and here in NSW.

"Which is the great pity of the breakdown in the debate in Victoria. Of itself, that debate about the way Victorians should be governed through the pandemic is a win for democracy. It wouldn’t happen in autocratic states. It presented an opportunity for parliamentarians, citizens and stakeholders to reconsider very powerful legislation when the issues were fresh in everyone’s mind."

Read the full article: Victoria’s supposedly autocratic pandemic laws would be better than NSW’s

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Submission: Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021

On 18 November NSWCCL made a submission to the Inquiry into the Provisions of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021.

We encourage NSW residents to let the Inquiry know how you feel via its online questionnaire (closing date Monday 22 November).

NSWCCL strongly supports the Bill, which has very strong public support and is long overdue. Death may be inevitable, but it need not be cruel. 

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Submission: Public Interest Disclosures Bill

On 1 November 2021, NSWCCL made a submission to the Inquiry into the Public Interest Disclosures Bill 2021. The Bill re-writes protection for public officials who blow the whistle on wrongdoing, following a 2017 Joint Parliamentary Committee review that recommended a complete rewrite of the existing legislation.

NSWCCL endorses the Bill, which we note adopts nearly all the recommendations from the 2017 report, while noting some shortcomings.

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Letter: Freedom of Information and Porter's 'blind trust'

The recent deletion of freedom of information requests relating to Christian Porter’s ‘blind trust’ by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has highlighted important gaps in Australia's freedom of information regime.

Under long-standing freedom of information laws, pending requests can be deleted when a minister leaves their role, creating a loophole for scandal-plagued ministers to avoid scrutiny.

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Letter: Refugees' adopted son denied visa

In response to a story on ABC news we wrote to ask the Immigration Minister Alex Hawke why the adopted son of two recognised refugees from Afghanistan had not been granted a visa, when the couple and their natural children have been.

More information: Read our letter to Alex Hawke

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ABC Breakfast: Privacy concerns over face recognition AI real, says expert

The Office of the Information Commissioner has ordered US company Clearview to stop collecting photos taken in Australia and remove those in its collection as they were ruled to have breached privacy rules. The company had offered a free trial to police to access its database of millions of photos - assembled by scraping facebook and other publicly available websites without consent from anyone.

The company suggests the data is governed by US, rather than Australian law, as it is stored in the US.

Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck spoke to NSWCCL Treasurer Stephen Blanks, who said:

"This is really a move towards a surveillance state. the idea that just because you've done nothing wrong you've got nothing to worry about is just a false view. The risks are real."

"There is a  real problem if it can escape the laws of any particular country by forum shopping."

"Innocent people will be subject to unfair investigations as a result of being misidentified by these databases."

Fingerprints, iris, palm and voice recognition are all more accurate than facial recognition; people who are female, black and aged 18-30 are 34% more likely to be subject to misidentification than fair skinned males. 

Stephen calls for a moratorium on the technology, commenting that it is "racing ahead of regulation" with government agencies like police forces are entering into agreements with companies such as Clearview without understanding the ethical issues. 

Listen to the full interview: Privacy concerns over face recognition AI real, says expert

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UN recognises right to healthy environment

In a landmark development for environmental activists, the UN recently recognised the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. 

With 24% of global deaths linked to environmental threats according to the WHO, it is to be hoped that this right could be used at this week's COP-26 meeting in Glasgow and beyond to further climate action

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Green Left: Residents push for an end to rigged City of Sydney vote

The Green Left reports that an election to be held on the 4th of December in the City of Sydney electorate will fail the definition of democracy, the second such election since a new law was introduced in 2014.

'This controversial law allows businesses in the City of Sydney two votes, by allowing the business to appoint two people from outside the local area to vote on its behalf. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties described this as “profoundly undemocratic”.'

Read the full article: Residents push for an end to rigged City of Sydney vote

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Letter: Age of criminal responsibility

NSWCCL wrote to David Shoebridge MLC to express support for his draft Children (Criminal Proceedings) Amendment (Age of Criminal Responsibility) Bill 2021.

Raising the age of criminal responsibility to fourteen years and prohibiting the exposure of all children under the age of sixteen to the detention system will fundamentally improve the rights of children in New South Wales and Australia’s compliance with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We have asked some questions about the draft bill to make sure it covers all bases for keeping children out of custody, but the bill would be a great step forward for children’s rights in New South Wales if it were to pass.

You can have your say about the draft bill here.

More information

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Policy: Minimum age of criminal responsibility

Adopted at the 2021 AGM

The NSWCCL firmly believes that the Australian community, inclusive of federal, state and territory governments, is collectively responsible for promoting and supporting the welfare of children and young people to allow them to reach their potential and transition into productive and engaged citizens. NSWCCL strongly supports the ‘Raise The Age’ campaign in calling all Australian governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility for children to 14 years.

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Policy: Delegated legislation

Adopted at the 2021 AGM

For the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in a future crisis, the NSW and Commonwealth parliaments ensure that our system of crisis law-making is fit for purpose, including by:

  • embedding human rights scrutiny into all emergency responses, including through the operation of a charter of human rights;
  • subjecting all delegated legislative crisis powers to legislative tests for likely effectiveness, necessity, and proportionality;
  • eliminating the presence of poor regulation-making practices such as Henry VIII clauses or ‘skeleton legislation’ in crisis legislation;
  • mandating that changes to the law that seriously affect our core civil and human rights are enacted in primary legislation; 
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The Guardian: Aboriginal groups call on NSW government to end cultural fishing prosecutions

The Guardian reports that a coalition of legal, social justice and Aboriginal groups (including NSWCCL) says the New South Wales government should cease prosecuting Aboriginal people for exercising their cultural fishing rights.

'The NSW Council for Civil Liberties president, Pauline Wright, said the government’s attitude was indicative of “systematic racism”. “If the aim was truly to protect the marine environment, they wouldn’t be allowing commercial fishing to expand at the same time as prosecuting Aboriginal fishers,” she said.'

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COVID & immigration detention: a disaster waiting to happen

A COVID out break inside immigration detention centres was a disaster waiting to happen. The Australian Government and Border Force cannot claim they had not been warned, nor that they had insufficient time to respond.

Civil rights organisations, including the NSWCCL have, for months, been bringing our concerns to the Minister and his Department, however our representations fell on deaf ears. 

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Mondaq: Calls on Police Minister to curb officers flaunting insignia linked to white supremacy

Sydney Criminal Lawyers writer Paul Gregoire comments that reports of police officers wearing symbols associated with white supremacy or being captured on camera making symbols conveying the same racist message, have been increasing throughout a number of Australian jurisdictions over the past couple of years.

He examines recent incidents across Australian jurisdictions and covers our recent letter to the Police Minister on this topic (we are still waiting for a response).

Read the full article: Calls on Police Minister to curb officers flaunting insignia linked to white supremacy

 

 

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