POLICY ON THE SECULAR CHARACTER OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
1. Special Religious Education and Ethics Classes in Public Schools
The CCL committee had recommended that the AGM endorse the following policy
statements relating to the secular character of Public Schools.
i. NSWCCL strongly supports the separation of church and state as a core principle underpinning robust democracy, and as a necessary principle for the protection of civil rights including freedom of religion and speech. As a consequence, NSWCCL supports the flow-on principle that state agencies and state funded programs should be secular and not incorporate faith based religious programs or faith based religious criteria for employment. Public schools are centrally important sites for maintenance and strengthening of democracy and should be secular, free and open to all residents.
ii. Faith based religious education (as distinct from general religious and ethics education) has no place within the curriculum of secular, public schools. The NSW Education Act 1990 should be amended to remove the anomalous clause (S 32) establishing a requirement for a set allocation of time each week for special religious education. 1 Pending this amendment, the 2010 decision by the then NSW Government to allow schools to provide secular ethics classes as an alternative is supported as a partial remedy to the inappropriate and discriminatory prior provision, which prohibited students not wishing to attend a faith based Special Religious Education class from any alternative secular educational activity.
This partial remedy should be immediately extended to all students attending public schools. The Education Act 1990 (S.33A) 2 should be amended so that the provision of ethics classes as an alternative to Special Religious Education is a mandatory
curriculum offering in all public schools.
Moved Stephen Blanks /Max Taylor: That the policies relating to the secular character of public schools and special religious education and ethics classes in public schools be approved: Carried unanimously.
1 S30 of the NSW Education Act states: In government schools, the education is to consist of strictly non-sectarian and secular instruction. The words secular instruction are to be taken to include general religious education as distinct from dogmatic or polemical theology. 2 S33A(2)(a) states that a child is entitled to receive special education in ethics only if “it is reasonably practical’ for it to be made available.
2. Policy on School Chaplains Program in Public Schools
It is proposed that this AGM of the NSWCCL endorses the following policy statements as recommended by the CCL committee:
i. While NSWCCL notes that the 2011 amendments to the program have removed the outrageous prohibition on the employment of any individuals without affiliation to a recognised faith based religious institution in this Government funded program in public schools, we remain opposed to the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program.
ii. CCL opposes the Australian Government funded Chaplains in Schools program on the basis that it breaches the principle of separation of church and state in two ways.
- on the basis of a faith based religious criterion – even though it allows some to
be appointed without this criterion
- By designating the program as “Chaplains” in Schools, and by appointing some persons on the basis of their faith based religious affiliations, the Government is, in practice, unavoidably creating both the reality and the perception of faith based counselling and welfare support of students in public schools.
Both these characteristics of the program seriously undermine the secular nature of public schools
Moved Stephen Blanks /Pauline Wright: That the policy relating to school chaplains in public
schools be approved: Carried unanimously.
2012 POLICY RESOLUTIONS
POLICY ON THE RIGHT TO SILENCE
The NSW Attorney General announced on 14 August 2012 a proposal to abolish the right to silence. An exposure draft of the Bill was released in September 2012. NSW would be the first jurisdiction in Australia to make this change. An individual’s right to silence under interrogation from police has been a fundamental civil and human right recognised in our legal system since at least the 1700s and firmly accepted as part of Australian law since at least 1824. It is a right fought for and attained in reaction to Star Chamber trials, witch-hunts and other inquisitorial processes. It is an important aspect of the right not to incriminate yourself. This right is only meaningful if exercising it cannot be used against you. That is, if it cannot be said against you at any criminal trial that you must have had something to hide or your defence should not be believed because you did not explain yourself to police when arrested and questioned (cfPetty v. The Queen  HCA 34; (1991) 173 CLR 95).
That the NSW Council for Civil Liberties opposes the changes to the law contained in the proposal draft Evidence Amendment (Evidence of Silence) Bill 2012, which will allow evidence of an accused declining to answer questions by the police or at trial to be taken into account by a jury.
Moved Martin Bibby/Jackson Rogers: The resolution be accepted: Carried
2012 POLICY RESOLUTIONS
POLICY ON POLICE POWERS OF SEARCH AND ENTRY
The Security Industries Act (NSW) was amended in June 2012 to allow police to enter and search of premises on which security activities are taking place without warrant. The amendments commence operation on 1 November 2012
That police should only have power to enter and search premises without warrant in the case of emergencies, and the amendments to the Security Industries Act 1997 (NSW) which provide police with warrantless search and entry powers for premises on which security activities are taking place should be repealed.
Moved Stephen Blanks/Liam Burgess: The resolution be accepted: Carried
2012 POLICY RESOLUTIONS
POLICY ON BAIL LAW REFORM
The NSW Law Reform Commission report on Bail was released on 13 June 2012. The report’s
recommendations are consistent with the NSW Council for Civil Liberties’ submissions.
That the recommendations of the NSW Law Reform Commission on Bail should be implemented, including most particularly a uniform presumption in favour of granting bail.
Moved Max Taylor/Lesley Lynch: The resolution be accepted: Carried
This page lists policy resolutions endorsed by the Committee and policy statements for 2012.
2012 Bail law reform
2012 The Right to Silence
1) Special Religious Education and Ethics Classes in Public Schools
2) Policy on School Chaplains Program in Public Schools
2012 POLICY RESOLUTIONS
INDEFINITE DETENTION OF REFUGEES
There are more than 50 refugees (that is, people who are accepted by Australia as having met the criteria for protection under the Refugee Convention) who are being held in indefinite detention because ASIO has issued adverse security assessments in respect of them. They have no right to receive reasons for the adverse assessment and no meaningful legal right to challenge the assessment. Some of this group have spent more than 3½ years in detention. In March 2012, a joint parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s Immigration Detention Network made several recommendations to provide some rights for this group, including providing a right to apply for merits review of the adverse security assessment. The Australian government’s latest position is that it is considering various proposals for dealing with this group, but has not made any decision.
That no-one in Australia, including unlawful non-citizens, should be subject to indefinite detention on national security grounds. Refugees with adverse security assessments should be released into the community.
Moved Pauline Wright/Lesley Lynch: The resolution be accepted: Carried