Letters

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


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


Letter: the Strengthening Information Provisions Bill

The Migration and Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Information Provisions) Bill is one of the most pernicious bills ever to be presented to the Australian Parliament, which has been criticised by both the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills.

Under this bill, information used by the Minister for Home Affairs to cancel a visa or to take away a person’s citizenship can be declared protected information, meaning the affected person would not be able to challenge this information. 

If the bill were to be passed:

  • People who have lived in Australia since infancy will be sent to countries where they know nobody and have no means of support. (This already happens).
  • People will have their visas cancelled, and be put in detention, possibly for many years. (This already happens too). Yet they will not be criminals and they will have no way to answer the accusations against them. 

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties thinks that the bill is unjust, and should never have been brought to parliament. We wrote a letter to the Crossbench Senators urging them to vote against the bill.

More Information: read our letter to the Crossbench Senators

 


Letter: The Strengthening the Character Test Bill

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties wrote to the Crossbench Senators urging them to vote against the reintroduced Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill

If passed, this bill will further expand the grounds on which a person’s visa may be cancelled under section 501, especially on character grounds. This would include where a non-citizen has been convicted of a crime punishable by over two years’ imprisonment, regardless of when the person was actually sentenced to a term of imprisonment. This bill is a disproportionate response to visa holders who have committed minor crimes.

  1. This bill will subject people who are of no danger to society to the rigours of indefinite detention, or to being deported. Families will be split. There is no evidence that “the community” would want such outcomes.
  2. The bill would allow the Minister the discretion to cancel or refuse to issue a visa to a person who has been convicted of a designated offence but who may have received a very short sentence, or no sentence at all.
  3. The bill presupposes that careful decisions of the courts, made after proper process, input by experts and the experienced judgement of judges, are inferior to decisions made by the Minister with the aid of his Department. Sentences, after all, take account both of the seriousness of the crime and of the desirability of deterrence—both of the individual and of others. That is, they take into account the dangers to the community.
  4. The bill contains no exceptions for children.
  5. The bill ignores the processes of rehabilitation.
  6. A determination that a person fails the character test, depending on how it is made, means either that their visa must be, or may be, cancelled or refused. There right to merits review is available only in some cases. (The courts can only deal with errors of law.)

More information: read our letter to the Crossbench senators


Letter: Police officers should not wear white supremacy symbols

It goes without saying that it's unacceptable for police officers to wear symbols associated with white supremacy on their standard issue Police uniforms.

However, over the past couple of years, our members have observed, consistent with increasingly frequent media reports, NSW Police Officers displaying symbols and icons associated with white supremacy.

Today we wrote to the Police Commissioner and Minister asking them to explain:

1) What policies and processes are in place to respond to members of the NSW Police Force who are found to be displaying symbols and icons associated with white supremacy?

2) What steps are being taken to ensure that NSW Police Force members do not hold white supremacist ideologies, participate in white supremacist groups or display their symbols or icons?

More information: read our letter
(The photos sent with our letter showed identifying details of the officers in question - you can see cropped versions on the right of this page).

We're looking at doing more work around displays of white supremacy and NSW Police as a result of recent complaints, so please get in touch if you have examples or stories that you could share: [email protected]

 


Letter: Delayed discharge of isolating COVID patients

According to an ABC report, people who have tested positive for COVID are being forced to stay inside their homes for weeks longer than the typical 14-day isolation period because of delays in paperwork, according to a member of a NSW public health call centre in a Sydney hotspot. 

We wrote to Health Minister Brad Hazzard about this and our concerns about vaccine passports.

More information: Read our letter to the Health Minister


Vaccine passport concerns

UPDATE 1 October: The Secretary of NSWCCL met with representatives of the Department of Customer Services yesterday (31 Oct 21) and received assurances about some of the matters raised in our letter.

Significantly the vaccination certificate as part of the Service NSW check in tool (QR code) is just one option to use as entry to hospitality venues and events. For example, vaccinated residents of NSW will be able to show the vaccination certificate on their phone and use paper alternatives. It is envisaged that the venue will only register a tick without any sensitive health information being imparted.

Medical exemptions will be catered for and children under 16 will not require any evidence for entry to venues otherwise accessible by them.

Other assurances were given in regard to certain privacy safeguards including non-retention or collection of data which will only be held on the personal device and the temporary nature of the scheme. Push of data from the Australian Immunisation Register remains of concern, however detailed information about the scheme will be available next week for greater scrutiny ahead of its introduction.

At the National Cabinet meeting on 17 September 2021 all states and territories agreed to include people's COVID-19 vaccination status in their check-in apps, meaning the apps will act as vaccine passports. 

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Incarcerated people are at risk as COVID spreads in prisons

Urgent action is required in response to the news of the worsening outbreak of COVID cases in prisons and the tragic death of a NSW youth corrections officer. 

We understand from media reports on 17 September 2021, that more than 40 NSW corrections staff were Covid-positive (not including staff at the privately-run Parklea prison, where the outbreak began) as well as more than 300 inmates across the prison system also testing positive, including 84 First Nations people. 

The risk we flagged in August, of Covid spreading rapidly in prisons, is becoming more likely by the day and it is crucial that all necessary measures be taken immediately to mitigate the risk of this happening. 

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Concerns over policing practice and equipment

We are increasingly concerned with the policing practice of the NSWPF as it responds to the pandemic. Watching the escalation of violence in Victoria, we are also concerned with the possible possession and use of pepper pellets and hard squash-ball like missiles.

Disproportionate police response

In a series of recent media clips members of the NSWPF have approached and/or arrested several young men visibly of racial and/or ethnic minority backgrounds. In these incidents, the NSWPF have alleged the young men have not been wearing face masks. Police intervention of this nature directly undermines the common law principle that arrest is indeed a sanction of last resort.

Possession and use of pepper pellets etc

Prompted by recent events in Victoria, the NSWCCL is alarmed about the possible possession and use by the NSWPF of pepper pellets and hard squash-ball like missiles in the community.

NSWCCL wrote to Commissioner Fuller to urge him to ensure that NSW Police use the powers granted to them under the Public Health Act 2010 in a manner that respects human rights. We also asked whether equipment similar to that seen deployed in Victoria is being held in reserve in NSW and in what circumstances we are likely to see it used.


Local NSW fishermen are being prosecuted under State law contrary to their Native Title rights

Update 2 Dec 2021: NSW Government must recognise Aboriginal cultural fishing in line with parliamentary support
Update 20 October 2021: see also our joint media release prompted by the news of a decision to increase the commercial take.  

Members of the Aboriginal community who have a right to fish under the Native Title Act 1993 are being prosecuted under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW) (FMA) contrary to those rights. Mounting a native title defence is both time consuming and expensive, meaning that a number of Aboriginal men have been incarcerated as they have been unable to defend themselves.

A legislative amendment that would resolve this situation was passed 11 years ago, but hasn't yet commenced. NSWCCL has written to the NSW Minister for Agriculture to urge him to immediately rectify this situation - rights that require a costly legal defence to enjoy are not worth the paper on which they're written.

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