9 November 2020
NSWCCL warmly welcomes the introduction to Parliament of the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020 (“the Bill”) by the independent member for Warringah Zali Steggall.
We are living in a climate emergency. Calling the multifaceted and serious crises a warming planet is precipitating “global warming” or “climate change” no longer does justice to the urgency of our circumstances. As we gradually move out of one global emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic, we should reflect on the value of rapid, high-quality emergency governance in defeating large scale, complex problems facing our societies. We should ask why we have not seen similar quality governance in Australia with respect to the climate emergency.Read more
The right to free speech and the right to openly participate in political debate are rights which must be available to all residents of NSW whether or not they are employed by the Department of Education. NSWCCL is concerned that the proposed changes to the Code of Conduct by the NSW Department of Education (the Department) has the potential to reduce the civil liberties of Departmental Employees through a restriction on their rights to communicate through personal social media channels.
In this submission the NSWCCL has chosen to concentrate on question 2 in the discussion paper:
2. Where should the department set standards in respect to recognising an employee’s choice to engage with social media but ensuring the reputation of the department and public sector?
In the opinion of the NSWCCL any standards regarding the use of social media by Departmental employees should ensure their right to free speech including the right to participate in political discourse, by not going further than absolutely necessary in limiting such rights.
The proposed social media guidelines should be restricted to matters where an employee is conducting illegal behaviour, such as committing criminal offences, through their speech. No further burden on free speech is necessary for the public interest, nor justified in this context.
NSWCCL submission to the Joint Select Committee Inquiry into the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2020 - 22 August 2020
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties [NSWCCL] considers it is very important to respond in some detail to this Joint Select Committee’s inquiry into the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 [the Bill].
The issues encompassed by this Bill – religious freedoms and protection from discrimination on the grounds of religion - are of great significance in a democracy such as ours. They are also extremely complex and potentially deeply contentious issues. Legislation on human rights must always be carefully considered and balanced, and this is especially so in relation to religious rights and protections. If all rights are not considered in a fair and balanced way the outcome is likely to be discriminatory and harmful to some groups and individuals and to over-privilege the rights of others.
2020 NSWCCL AGM
Item 8.3 Policy on Human Rights and Technology
Human Rights and Digital Technology
Australia has experienced an exponential uptake and increased sophistication of surveillance methods, AI informed decision making, and other modern technologies collecting vast amounts of data (Digital Technology). At the same time, laws protecting individuals against breaches of their privacy rights have not kept pace with those technologies. There has been a “drift towards self-regulation in the technology sector, as laws and regulators have not effectively anticipated or responded to new technologies” . While there will always be some degree of regulatory lag with regards to policy design and implementation, capacity-building programs should specifically target policy makers to ensure the development of a policy framework that is remains relevant as technology progresses.Read more
2020 NSWCCL AGM
Item 9.2 Policy on ICAC
NSWCCL strongly affirms the crucial role of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW. As Richard Ackland writes, the episode currently playing out with respect to Daryl Maguire, and incidentally, Gladys Berejiklian, is “a timely reminder of the disinfecting sunlight that ICAC is capable of shining”. To quote our President, “while the present proceedings may not encourage federal parliamentarians to move forward more speedily with a federal ICAC, they are certainly encouraging the electors to push for one.”Read more
2020 NSWCCL AGM
Item 8.2 Policy on visa cancellation on character grounds.
Section 501 of the Migration Act enables the Minister for Home Affairs or his delegates to cancel the visa or to refuse a visa of any person who is decreed to have failed what is termed ‘the character test’. The grounds on which this can be done are many: they include inter alia serving a total of 12 months’ imprisonment; conviction for any offence, no matter how inconsequential, while in immigration detention; being a person who has been or is a member of a group or organisation, or has had or has an association with a group, organisation or person, and that group, organisation or person has been or is involved in criminal conduct; being a person whose criminal or general conduct is such that the person is not of good character; or having been ordered by a court to participate in a drug rehabilitation scheme. If a court has found a person guilty of an offence against a child, or found a charge against the person proved for an offence against a child, whatever the penalty or even if the person was discharged without a conviction, they fail the character test. Persons can also be found to have failed the character test if there is only a risk that that they may engage in criminal conduct, vilify a section of the Australian community, or incite discord in a section of that community. Harassment, which is defined as including threats to the property of a person, also constitutes a failure of the character test.
Congratulations to the winners of NSWCCL's 2020 Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism. The standard of those nominated has been exceptionally high, which made the task of the judges so much more difficult.
From the nominees, the judges named shortlists of 3 in the Young Journalists category and 4 in the Open category. We compliment all entrants on their work and hope that you will continue in similar vein in the future.
The winner of the Young Journalist's category: Luke Henriques-Gomez of The Guardian for a series of articles on the Robodebt scheme.
'This young journalist’s articles on the Robodebt debacle exposed federal governmental policy inadequacy and ministerial failure regarding the use of technology and data management in social support programs. They opened a window on current approaches to welfare policy and their failure to observe the principles of democratic governance by being evidence-based and according procedural fairness to affected persons. This failure and indifference led to official cruelty which the articles helped to change by opening up broad debate on the issues raised.'
The winner of the Open category is shared: Kate McClymont and Jacqueline Maley of the Sydney Morning Herald for their piece on the Dyson Heydon affair.
'These journalists’ exclusive article on the Dyson Heydon affair demonstrated how deeply entrenched attitudes towards the abuse of women remain in our social and employment structures. They also raised wider critical questions concerning professional transparency, governance and power in the legal profession. This was courageous reporting that was respectful of sources and affirmed freedom of the press in Australia.'
Congratulations to Kate and Jacqueline.
NSWCCL’s online First Nations justice panel discussion was held on 11 September 2020, and featured Judge Myers AM, Sarah Hopkins, Teela Reid and NSWCCL President Nicholas Cowdery AO QC. Our panelists generously shared their knowledge, expertise and heart in speaking about over-incarceration of Indigenous Australians, systemic racism, 'just' policing, the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the black lives matter movement.
The panel discussion was a call to action in relation to the implementation of the recommendations of the ALRC’s report “Pathways to Justice”, including a focus on the crucial need for a commitment to justice reinvestment and specialty courts (such as the Walama Court in NSW).Read more
8 September 2020
Systemic racism and the over-incarceration of Indigenous people must be addressed.
NSWCCL’s upcoming online panel discussion, on 11 September 2020 at 6:30pm, featuring Judge Myers AM, Sarah Hopkins, Teela Reid and NSWCCL President Nicholas Cowdery AO QC is a call to action in relation to the implementation of the recommendations of the ALRC’s report “Pathways to Justice”, including a focus on the crucial need for a commitment to justice reinvestment and specialty courts (such as the Walama Court in NSW).
In 2018 the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) was asked to consider laws and legal frameworks that contribute to the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults make up around 2% of the national population, but constitute 27% of the national prison population. The ALRC Report was released in March 2018 and includes 35 recommendations, most of which have simply not been addressed.
His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM, Commissioner in charge of the ALRC Inquiry, said that while the problems leading to the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in prisons are complex, they can be solved,
“Law reform is an important part of that solution. Reduced incarceration, and greater support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in contact with the criminal justice system, will improve health, social and economic outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and lead to a safer society for all.”
Since 2011 Just Reinvest NSW has been working to support communities to explore and establish justice reinvestment initiatives, including in Bourke, NSW. The focus is to reduce imprisonment rates by directing resources into building strong and safe communities, rather than funding prisons.
Sarah Hopkins, Chair of Just Reinvest NSW, believes that what is required is a shift in the way we view prevention, intervention and justice:
“If we are real about this, what is needed is not just a shift in funding out of prisons and the criminal justice system into crime prevention and early intervention, but a more fundamental shift in power from government to communities, including power over resources. This is about community aspirations and resilience.”
Teela Reid, Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, lawyer and human rights activist, says that if NSW is serious about protecting civil liberties, then it is time to get very uncomfortable with the status quo.
“The truth is Australia is a colony built on racism, it is written into the laws and operates within its institutions. Systemic racism requires systemic change. If you deny racism exists, then you are part of the problem. This land always was, always will be sovereign Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land, sky and sea.”
Ms Reid asks if we are all prepared to confront our own power and privilege to dismantle the systemic racism that continues to oppress. She states that the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Walama Court ‘are radical attempts to change systems in our search for truth and justice.’
In considering the journey of Australia’s First Nations peoples, NSWCCL President Nicholas Cowdery AO QC believes we need to understand the history of colonialism and dispossession that has led to the disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. In order to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders ‘in a movement of the Australian people for a better future’ as the Uluru Statement invites, then we also must acknowledge the resilience of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Mr Cowdery commented:
”Australia’s First Nations peoples constitute the world’s oldest living culture - over 65,000 years. Colonisation took away their land, languages and many traditions and has left them almost without a voice to power. That process has created social disadvantage leading directly to over-representation in prisons around the country.
…This panel will discuss how we reached this disgraceful situation, why now is the time to recognise the resilience of First Nations peoples and to do something about it – and what can be done, drawing upon a huge body of knowledge already assembled.”
2020 has been a challenging year for many individuals and communities. For those who have experienced financial hardship, or are not in a position to pay for a registration, NSWCCL is offering free registration.
“We want to share this important panel discussion with as many of our members and supporters, and beyond, as we can,” says Mr Cowdery.
Registrations - https://www.nswccl.org.au/tickets_2020_nswccl_fundraiser
Free invitation - https://www.nswccl.org.au/invitation_nswccl_2020_panel_discussion
The NSWCCL First Nations Justice panelists:
- Nicholas Cowdery AO, QC, President of the NSWCCL
- Judge Myers AM, lead Commissioner of the ALRC’s inquiry into Incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
- Sarah Hopkins, Co-Chair of Just Reinvest NSW and the Managing Solicitor of Justice Projects at the Aboriginal Legal Service ACT/NSW
- Teela Reid, Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, lawyer and human rights activist
The webinar discussion will be held on Friday 11th September at 6:30pm and will be moderated by the 2019 winner of the NSWCCL Award for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism, Richard Ackland AM. The 2020 NSWCCL Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism will also be announced.
Download this statement as a PDF.
Featuring Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow President of Law Council Australia Pauline Wright, the webinar was facilitated by Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator Amnesty International Australia.