This time last year we lamented the reckless proceedings in the last sitting day of the Australian Parliament as the ALP allowed the Government to force through the widely opposed encryption-breaking legislation without even discussing the amendments they and others in the Senate had put forward as essential to reduce the excesses in the bill.
There was, however, one stunningly positive parliamentary act, brilliantly initiated by determined independents with the support of the ALP: the passage, against extreme warnings as to disastrous consequences by the Government, of the Medevac law. A rare, compassionate intervention to remediate aspects of our shameful, ongoing off-shore incarceration of asylum seekers.
This year we witnessed the shameful and gratuitous repeal of this legislation.
It had worked well. It had not led to an influx of asylum seekers. The Government had no motivation other than assertion of its power. The Government’s utter determination to repeal this one compassionate asylum seeker law reeks of vindictiveness.Read more
A NSW Parliamentary Committee has recommended the Legislative Council should proceed to consider the Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019, including any amendments in relation to the reverse onus of proof, the use of artificial intelligence and privacy.
NSWCCL agrees strongly that mobile phone use whilst driving is a serious issue which needs to be addressed to protect the safety of the community.
We do not, however, support this Bill on the basis that it unjustifiably reverses the onus of proof and fails to provide adequate protections to assure the public that the information captured by the cameras is used for the sole purpose of prosecuting mobile phone offences.
NSWCCL also has concerns about the inherent risks of using AI to identify criminal behaviour given the lack of transparency as to the underpinning algorithms driving the assessment.
We welcome the Committee’s recognition of these concerns in their report and single recommendation.
The Bill should be amended significantly to address these problems before the Legislative Council approves it.Read more
Action on Climate Change - NSWCCL Annual General Meeting 2019
The NSWCCL affirms its support for urgent action at the federal and state levels to combat the severe threats to the Earth’s biological inhabitants posed by anthropogenic climate change.
The Council acknowledges the science on climate change recently set out in the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC. Specifically, we accept that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming in the atmosphere and oceans since the mid-20th century, leading to profound changes in the global environment that are already producing significant damage and disruption for millions around the world. Avoiding the worst effects of climate change will require substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions such that global warming is kept to under 1.5 to 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, a threshold which the world has approximately 11 years to meet. Australia legally committed itself to reaching that target in the 2015 Paris Treaty, along with virtually every nation on earth.
The Council does not endorse any partisan set of policy prescriptions to achieve this. Nevertheless, it is dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, which has seen Australia’s total emissions rise year-on-year under the Coalition government. Lower than expected emissions over the last decade, which will see Australia meet its 2020 Kyoto Protocol obligations, are not a result of Coalition policies. Experts have argued that current policies are insufficient to meet Australia’s Paris targets of 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Adani-Carmichael coal mine, which will be one of the largest in Australia, has passed through the government approval process.
At the recent climate strikes, the largest protests on Australian streets since the Iraq War demonstrations, the young strikers had three central demands: (1) No new coal, oil and gas projects, including the Adani mine; (2) 100% renewable energy generation and exports by 2030; (3) Fund a just transition and job creation for all fossil-fuel workers and communities.
The Council notes these demands with approval.
Press Freedom and Whistleblowers
Policy motion considered at the NSWCCL 2019 Annual General Meeting, 23rd October 2019
NSWCCL has for many years defended the rights of a free and uncensored press to ensure the public is sufficiently informed and able to hold those in power to account.
We support the statements of Ita Buttrose at our 2019 annual dinner that there are storm clouds gathering around the ways that information is controlled. Whistleblowers who bring stories to light must not be subjected to a public show of prosecution under the guise of national security, or be censored because their story may cause embarrassment or cost to those in power.
We believe that whistleblowers are not adequately protected in Australia. Particularly in the absence of a bill or charter of rights, specific protection should be enacted.
Religious Discrimination Bill 2019
Policy motion considered at the NSWCCL 2019 Annual General Meeting, 23rd October 2019
NSWCCL cannot support the Religious Discrimination Bill (the Bill) as currently drafted. It has too many negative aspects which will undermine current anti-discrimination protections and it fails to address pressing issues. NSWCCL strongly opposes the privileging of religious freedoms over other rights.Read more
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
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
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties applauds the initiative of Alex Greenwich MP in bringing forward the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019. If passed by the NSW Parliament this Bill will decriminalise abortion in NSW and provide the women of NSW with the right to make their own choices about their reproductive health and options.
NSW is the only state or territory which still treats abortion as a criminal act. To obtain a legal abortion in NSW women have to establish exceptional circumstances – ie. that it is necessary to preserve a woman from serious danger to her life or to her mental or physical health and it is not out of proportion to the danger to be averted.
Having to rely on this limited defence is a deeply flawed and unsatisfactory legal position for both women and medical practitioners and results in many women not being able to access safe abortions.
It is well-beyond time for the NSW Parliament to act in the interests of women in this state. Our current law dates from 1900.
The Greenwich Bill, which is closely modelled on Queensland’s and Victoria’s laws, is clear, balanced and sensible. The provisions in the Crimes Act relating to abortions will be repealed and common law offences relating to abortion abolished.
It will be legal for medical practitioners to perform a termination on a person who is not more than 22 weeks pregnant. The vast majority of terminations occur before 22 weeks.
For a person who is more than 22 weeks pregnant, the medical practitioner and one other must both consider if the termination ‘should be performed’. In making this decision they are required to consider all relevant medical circumstances, current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances and professional standards and guidelines.
The Bill respects the rights of medical practitioners with conscientious objection but requires them to refer the person to a practitioner who, in their belief, does not have a conscientious objection.
This Bill will bring much needed certainty to NSW women and medical practitioners and make it easier and safer for women choosing to have a termination of pregnancy.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties expresses its appreciation to the Parliamentarians who have come together to progress this Bill: Trevor Khan (National Party), Penny Sharpe (Deputy Leader ALP) and Jo Haylen (ALP) and to the Health Minister Brad Hazzard who has given his public support to the Bill.
We urge the NSW Parliament to do the right thing by the women of NSW and pass this Bill.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has campaigned for this reform for over 50 years. Over the last two years we have been proud participants in the WEL Round Table – and more recently the Pro- Choice Alliance – of 60 organisations dedicated to persuading the NSW Parliament that they must act on behalf of the women of NSW and reform our archaic and cruel abortion laws.
The PJCIS is reviewing the legislation that established the excessive mandatory data retention regime in 2015.
This review is happening at a timely moment as the Australian community ponders the implications of the extraordinary AFP raids on the ABC and a News Limited journalist a few weeks ago. We were not surprised at the AFP raids on the ABC and other journalists. These intimidatory raids are an inevitable consequence of Australia's large expanding suite of surveillance and secrecy laws.
The mass data collection regime which is retained to allow access by intelligence and police officers is an important element of these laws and in itself poses a clear and major threat to journalists and whistle-blowers.
Not surprisingly it was hugely controversial legislation and generated widespread, vehement opposition from civil liberties/human rights groups, journalists and media organisations, privacy and IT groups and many others.
NSWCCL joined with other councils for civil liberties to oppose the Bill. We put in a Joint CCLs submission to the PJCIS and when it recommended an amended version of the Bill be passed by Parliament, we wrote to all Senators – as the last chance forum - urging them to abandon this indiscriminate and excessive collection of all Australian residents data and replace it with a less intrusive regime which targets only suspects.
While we failed to block the passage of the legislation, some concessions were achieved – including a ‘fix’ to protect journalists through a special Journalist Information Warrant and a review of the regime after three years. This is the review year.
Joint CCLs current position
We maintain our strong opposition to the legislation as disproportionate and incompatible with a healthy democracy. In our new submission we have again argued it should be repealed or significantly amended.
We are hopeful that some improvements to the legislation will result from this review, especially much needed safeguards - such as warrant approval for access to the retained telecommunications data. It is not likely that the PJCIS will recommend, or the Government approve repeal of the legislation.
The CCLs argue that the mandatory data retention regime is but one element of many excessive provisions in Australia’s uniquely large body of national security and counter-terrorism legislation. It is crucial for there to be a review of the cumulative chilling and intimidatory impact of the Government's expanded surveillance powers and secrecy offences relating to Government activity.
In reaction to public and media outrage the Government has now established a separate inquiry into the ‘impact of the exercise of law enforcement and intelligence powers on the freedom of the press’ to be conducted by the PJCIS.
We will be making a submission to this review – and arguing that that the PJCIS is not the appropriate Committee to conduct this inquiry as it has supported all the surveillance and secrecy legislation causing the problem.
28 June 2019
Poppers, also known as amyl nitrite, are inhalants. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, they cause a high for about 2-3 minutes. They are also used to “enhance sexual experience”. Specifically, they are muscle relaxants, commonly used by gay men to facilitate anal sex. One study found that poppers were used among gay and bisexual men at a rate of 32 per cent in the last six months. Another study found that two thirds of gay and bisexual men had used it in their lifetimes.
In September last year, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), responsible for regulating drugs and medicine, released an interim report. The report proposed criminalising poppers, classifying alkyl nitrites as Schedule 9 under the Poisons Standard. This would make them the same sort of drug as heroin and cannabis. Possession of poppers could mean 12 months in jail, or a fine of $2200 under this proposal.Read more