NSWCCL in the media

NSW farm trespass bill a crackdown on the right to protest

A New South Wales farm trespass bill has been criticised by civil liberties organisations, environment groups and unions for turning into “a crackdown on people’s rights to protest”.

The Right to Farm Bill 2019, currently before the NSW parliament, can punish unlawful entry and disruption on “inclosed lands” with up to three years in jail, and increases the fine from $5,500 to $22,000.

Pauline Wright, the president of the NSW Civil Liberties Council, said the new law was unnecessary and the wording too broad.

“These laws, although they are expressed to be talking about people coming onto farmlands and disturbing farmers going about their business, in fact they apply to any lands that are by definition enclosed … It is a crackdown on people’s rights to protest.”

Wright said that existing laws against trespass already dealt with the issue adequately. The government had earlier increased the penalty from $550 to $5,500 in 2016.

“I can’t see the purpose of these new laws,” she said. “The existing laws already criminalise the behaviour that is targeted by this. It seems to just be grandstanding on the part of the politicians.

“We of course don’t like the notion of anyone entering on private land and acting unlawfully, and that shouldn’t be condoned. And it’s not. The law already adequately deals with that. Imposing tougher penalties won’t do anything. All the research indicates this does not act as a deterrent.”

Read The Guardian article - NSW farm trespass bill criticised for turning into a crackdown on the right to protest



New police device a welcome alternative

The US-designed BolaWrap 100 restraint is being considered as a painless alternative in some situations to the Taser stun gun. The restraint has been demonstrated to police in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania as well as to officers from the Australian Federal Police.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has told nine.com.au the device was a welcome alternative to being shot by a police gun or a Taser.

"The BolaWrap 100 is certainly a welcome alternative to the service revolver and the Taser. It is clearly preferable to Tasers in the sense that it does not inflict continuous pain on the apprehended person," Eugene Schofield-Georgesen, NSWCCL's vice-president, said.

But he stressed the device should only be used "as a tool of last resort" in accordance with police guidelines.

"However, it is a weapon and all weapons contain the potential for harmful misuse and abuse when provided to civil authorities."



NSWCCL supports school student strike


The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties applauds school students in Sydney and across the country for walking out of schools in support of climate action.

Climate change is an important issue which will have the deepest effect on the most vulnerable people within society moving into the future.

NSWCCL Vice President, Josh Pallas, said “It is so encouraging for us to see young people mobilised around such an important issue. They are showing bravery in exercising their political rights on an issue that stands to have the greatest impact on their lives. The Prime Minister, our government, and school principals should be encouraged to see that our students are active civic citizens”.

The students have come under sustained criticism from the government for walking out of schools. Some have reported that their principals are threatening reprisals if they attend and wear their school uniforms. NSWCCL condemns any criticism of these students for exercising their democratic rights to freedom of assembly and speech.

NSWCCL President, Pauline Wright said “The Council stands in solidarity with students today. No one should stand in the way of them exercising their rights.”

NSWCCL would like any school students who face reprisals to get in contact with them.


Media release


Cycling is good for you so give bike sharing a chance

The heavy-handed ­response of the constabulary ­towards a collection of cyclists ­intending to pedal around Centennial Park with their hair in the wind last Sunday as a peaceful protest calling for reform to mandatory helmet laws marked another low point in the fraught relationship in Sydney between cyclists, drivers and the long arm of the law. Similar rides in other cities across Australia and New Zealand passed without incident. But in Sydney, police dispatched seven police cars to intercept and stop the planned “helmet optional” ride around the park’s Grand Drive cycle lane, threatening participants with $330 fines (among the highest anywhere in the world).

As the NSW Council for Civil Liberties pointed out, this action by police appeared grossly disproportionate to any conceivable safety concerns, a waste of public resources and fails to respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest in a democratic society.


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Number of ministers able to approve terrorism control orders doubles

In Dutton’s Home Affairs, even the assistant minister can order terrorism control orders

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties opposes control orders but its president, Stephen Blanks, said if the state is to have such a power to detain people it “should be in the hands of the senior law officer, the attorney general”.

“It is unsatisfactory for the power to approve this order to be in hands of junior ministers or even senior minister like Peter Dutton, who is not a lawyer,” he said.

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A Bill of Rights Would Protect All Freedoms, Not Just Religious Ones

The NSWCCL is calling for a constitutionally entrenched charter of rights and freedoms. One right shouldn’t be singled out above all others.

“They need to be protected as a whole, because they do compete against each other on occasions.”

A bill of rights would provide a mechanism that would serve to balance these competing rights.

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Call to, lift secrecy around police Taser use after mentally ill man's death

NSW Council for Civil Liberties says force has not released statistics about stun gun use for six years

Civil liberties groups have demanded more transparency around the police use of Tasers after a mentally ill man died during a police arrest in Sydney on Sunday.

Read complete article: Call to lift secrecy around police Taser use after mentally ill man's death

Source: The Guardian


The NSW Government's anti-protest laws challenged after police target a Lock the Gate bus

Police “monitored the behaviour” of people on a Lock the Gate bus tour for hours on February 3 and 4 after deciding it was a “protest group”, and despite Lock the Gate publicising the event as a chance for Sydney and Newcastle supporters to meet mining-affected communities over meals at Bulga, Camberwell, Muswellbrook, Wollar and Bylong.

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7 News interview – visa cancellations

"The moment they choose to ignore those rules, their civil liberties go out the door."

This attitude is plain wrong. The consequence of this attitude is that 2 Australian citizens were wrongfully detained because of immigration failures:

Australian citizens wrongfully detained because of immigration failures, report finds

We are all entitled to civil liberties, even when we do the wrong thing.



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Rail strike 'unlawful'-in whose interest?

On Thursday (25/1/18) the Australian Fair Work Commission found the planned 24 hour strike and a ban on overtime by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union to be 'unlawful'. The decision to take strike action came after a lengthy period of negotiation with the employer in support of a pay and conditions claim, had failed to deliver an acceptable outcome.

Given the disturbing stagnation in workers’ wages in recent years, NSWCCL accepts that the Union's claim is justified and that this dispute will continue until satisfactorily resolved.  Our main civil liberties concern is, however, the apparent broader implication of the judgement. 

On face value-noting that more detailed reasons for the decision are yet to come from the Commission – the terms of the judgement appear to render future lawful strike action relating to major service delivery almost impossible.

The Commission found that the overtime ban and the proposed strike, separately and together, ‘threatens to endanger the welfare of a part of the population’ and ‘the industrial action threatens to cause significant damage to the economy of Sydney – the largest and most economically important city in Australia.’

The Commission’s ban is in force for 6 weeks. Hopefully in that period the Government might be more open to responding fairly to the Union’s claims. Otherwise, it is difficult to see – given the wording of the decision – that any future proposed strike by the union at a later date could be deemed lawful.  (Or overtime ban, given that the actions were deemed separately certain to cause the specified harms).

The right to strike is a fundamental civil liberty and human right. This decision imposes unacceptable restrictions on the right of workers to withhold their labour to negotiate terms and conditions of their employment, without an agreement of just terms between the parties.

If the Fair Work Act allows this finding it should be amended. 

NSWCCL has issued a public statement expressing its concern in relation to this decision.