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
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."Read more
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.Read more
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
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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
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.
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;