Letter to NSW Police Commissioner about NSW Police Treatment of Legal Observers

Open Letter to the Police Commissioner from Lydia Shelly

I write in my capacity as the President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (the Council), one of Australia’s leading human rights and civil liberties organisations. This is an open letter addressing concerns about the treatment of independent Legal Observers by the New South Wales Police (NSW Police) during a recent climate change protest in Newcastle.

The Council, founded in 1963, is a non-political, non-religious, and non-sectarian organisation dedicated to championing the rights of all to express their views and beliefs without suppression. We hold Non-Government Organisation status in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, as per resolution 2006/221 (21 July 2006).

At the climate change protest on Sunday, November 26, 2023, in Newcastle, several Legal Observers were charged for activities that were within their role as Legal Observers. These individuals were easily identifiable by wearing pink high-visibility jackets with "Legal Observers" written across the vest in large black letters. Furthermore, the arrested Legal Observers informed the police of their independent role and function at the protest.

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Letter to the Prime Minister regarding the continuing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House

16 November 2023

Dear Prime Minister,

We write as Presidents of Australia’s leading, membership based human rights and civil society organisations, about the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. We are non-political, non-religious and non-sectarian.

Since October 7, 2023, Australians have witnessed over 12,520 people die in the ongoing conflict in Palestine (including the Israeli civilians), with approximately 11,320 of these deaths caused by Israel’s military operation in Gaza. Alarmingly, an estimated 40% of these deaths have been children.

There is no safe place for children in Gaza to seek shelter. Schools, refugee camps, places of worship and hospitals have been hit by bombs. Thousands of children remain missing as entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed. The number of child deaths have exceeded the number of children who have died in all global conflict zones since 2019. 

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USYD should reverse suspensions placed on student protesters

Today NSWCCL President, Josh Pallas wrote to University of Sydney Vice Chancellor, Professor Mark Scott to urge Professor Scott to reconsider the reported suspension of two students, Maddie Clarke and Deaglan Godwin, who protested at a University of Sydney University Law Student’s Society event in September 2022.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) considers the reported half-year suspensions of these two students to be excessive and disproportionate. We asked USYD to immediately reverse these suspensions. 

Student protests against invited speakers on campus have a long history and occur in the spirit of academic freedom and the free flow of ideas in educational institutions.  Such speeches and student protests are often controversial but are essential to the interplay between university management and the student body within a community which is meant to foster free thought and thinking.

Prominent members of our society, including the current Prime Minister of Australia, participated as students in disruptive protests on campus.

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NSWCCL: Calls on NSW Police to cease the intimidation of activists

NSWCCL understands that in a disturbing NSW Police operation over recent days, activists from a range of groups and networks have received unannounced visits by police to their homes. These visits have been occuring in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. People have been questioned about whether they plan on attending any protests connected with the International Minerals and Resources Conference scheduled to be held in Sydney over 2-4 November. The purpose of these visits, it appears, is to pressure people against participating in peaceful protest.

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Letter: Intervention on behalf of Australian citizen Julian Assange

NSWCCL recently wrote to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to reiterate our call for the Australian Government to exert its diplomatic influence on both the United Kingdom and the United States to end the unjust prosecution of Julian Assange and to bring him home.

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Letter to the Attorney-General

NSWCCL joined with peak civil liberties organisations across Australia to congratulate The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP for his re-appointment as Attorney-General of Australia. We prioritised the following issues:

  • A federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
  • Uluru Statement from the Heart
  • Treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum
  • Privacy
  • LGBTIQ+ rights
  • The need for a Federal Charter of Human Rights
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Politicisation of Tribunals
  • Ending political prosecutions
  • Mandatory sentencing
  • Prisoner voting rights
  • Raising the age
  • Increasing the rights of the crossbench

For more information, read our full letter.

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.


Letter: the treatment of temporary migrants

Many migrant workers come to Australia to undertake work in order to send money home to support their families. These people’s visa conditions tie them each to a single sponsoring employer, such that if they leave those employers they lose their visas and have to return home.

A recent ABC podcast dealt with an investigation into some most unsatisfactory consequences of this arrangement.

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Letter: Online Privacy Bill

NSWCCL recently wrote to the Attorney General to comment on the exposure draft of the Privacy Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Online Privacy and Other Measures) Bill 2021 (Online Privacy Bill).

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Letters: Parliament’s Inquiry process must be respected.

NSWCCL strongly objects to the LNP's outrageous attempt to rush the religious discrimination bills through the lower house today. 

The bills have been referred to an Inquiry, which will report before the next sitting of parliament.

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