The New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make submissions to the Department of Health on the Health Legislation Amendment (Data- matching) Bill 2019 (Bill) and the Health Legislation Amendment (Permitted Information Disclosure) Regulations 2019.
NSWCCL supports the integrity of the Medicare health payments system provided that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information and the privacy of Australians is respected.
NSWCCL objects to the sharing of sensitive health information with other Commonwealth entities and opposes the Bill in its current form. NSWCCL has a number of recommendations detailed in this submission.
Civil liberties groups say bail conditions imposed on Sydney climate change activists are usually reserved for bikie gang members
Climate change protesters arrested for obstructing traffic have been given “absurd” bail conditions that ban them from “going near” or contacting members of 'Extinction Rebellion', which civil liberties groups say infringes on freedom of political communication. Some of those arrested were given a “wild” set of bail conditions that banned them from coming within 2km of the Sydney CBD or associating with Extinction Rebellion events.
“[You are] not to go near, or contact or try to go near or contact (except through a legal representative) any members of the group ‘Extinction Rebellion’,” the conditions say. “[You are] not to enter the Sydney City CBD or not go within 2km radius of the Sydney Town Hall.”
The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Pauline Wright, labelled the conditions “patently unreasonable”, “absurd” and likely unlawful under the constitution. She said the ban was so broad and unclear it would affect thousands of people.
“Where there is a legitimate political issue such as seeking action on climate change, protesters shouldn’t be seen to be forfeiting their democratic rights including freedom of association, freedom of movement and the implied right to freedom of political expression.”
- NSWCCL President, Pauline Wright.
Read the full article in The Guardian.
On Thursday 26th September the NSW Parliament at long last acted to remove abortion from the criminal law and regulate it as a women’s health issue with the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 - (now called the Abortion Reform Law 2019). This is a big and very overdue historical moment for women.
Women in NSW can now legally access terminations up to 22 weeks into their pregnancy in consultation with their doctor. After 22 weeks they can access a termination in consultation with two medical practitioners.
Achieving this in NSW has required a very, very long campaign by numerous organisations and individuals with ups and many downs since the 1960s. This most recent and successful campaign push over several years was sustained by a broad and powerful alliance of organisations encompassing women’s, legal, health, civil liberties and human rights issues. Some of these -such as WEL and NSWCCL - were long term players for abortion reform of 50 years plus.
This campaign knew it had strong, majority support in the community. The challenge was to persuade enough members of the Parliament to act on the will of the people and in the interest of NSW women. This crucial and politically fraught task was led by an expanding cross-party group of parliamentarians. The Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich sponsored the Bill. He was initially supported by MLCs Penny Sharp (ALP) and Trevor Khan (National Party) and Jo Haylen (ALP) and the Health Minister Brad Hazzard. This cross-party support grew to 15 co-sponsors - which we suspect is the largest cross-party group supporting a private members bill in the history of the NSW Parliament.Read more
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
NSW Council for Civil Liberties has today written to select MLCs to urge them to resist the threats from those who oppose the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019, and to be guided by their conscience.
Re: Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019
Reports of the high level of aggression and threats currently raging around the conscience vote for the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 are deeply disturbing.
Conscience votes within our Parliaments have a very special place in that they allow our representatives the rare opportunity to act on their conscience, free of Party constraints. It has been observed, with some justification, that they bring out the best in our politicians. Sadly this has not been the case for this Bill.Read more
Thank you to those who joined us and supported this year's NSWCCL Annual Dinner. The room was filled with hundreds of guests; civil libertarians, rights defenders and guardians of democracy.
We were delighted to be joined by Ita Buttrose AO OBE who delivered this year's keynote address.
(Photo L to R, Kate Allman, Richard Ackland, Paul Farrell and 2019 NSWCCL President Pauline Wright)
The 2019 NSWCCL Annual Dinner (held on September 10th) was marked by the presentation of the Council’s Inaugural Awards for Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism. Two awards were presented for an article or series of articles, or a radio, television or podcast presentation, promoting civil liberties. One award was for young journalists under the age of 30, and the other an Open award. Criteria for the awards included both the excellence of individual items and, particularly in this inaugural year, the significance of a sustained body of work. The judging panel was drawn from Journalism, Academia, and the Law.Read more
Vale the Hon. Jane Hamilton Mathews AO (1940 - 2019)
It is with sadness that we add our farewell to the chorus of voices paying tribute to the Hon. Jane Hamilton Mathews AO, former barrister, judge, life member of the Bar Association, and CCL member, who passed away last Saturday night after an illness.
Jane made an impact on many during her career. Although well-known for her achievements in law, Jane will also be remembered as a music lover, a mentor, a woman of tremendous wit, and someone devoted to meaningful causes.Read more
Media Statement: 30 August 2019
The Federal Government yesterday released an Exposure Draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 (and two subsidiary Bills) which would make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of their religious beliefs or activities in areas of public life. The NSWCCL welcomes it being released as an exposure draft to allow community consideration and input before the Bill is finalised.Read more