NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

Like us on Facebook

Welcome to this month's edition of The Civil Source. If you'd like to contribute or have an event of interest, please email us. <

Follow on Twitter Forward to a friend

In this edition || President's message // AGM - key policies and honorary life membership // Annual Dinner - Kirby & Simpson stir memories of first 50 years // CCL questions 'vexatious' charges against CSG protestors // Global surveillance - the civil libertarian's response Bill watch || Disturbing extension of police arrest powers // Zoe's Law passed in NSW lower house // Joint CCLs call for Brandis to consult on racial vilification clause

Appreciate the work we're doing? Donate now! Your ongoing membership and support is vital for our organisation.

Message from the President The beginning of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties’ second half century is an opportunity to reinvigorate the organisation and renew the everlasting struggle for proper recognition of civil liberties. The 50th anniversary dinner on 25 October was a truly inspirational event, providing reflection on the past, inspiration for the future, and demonstrating the extraordinary ability we have to reach political and judicial leaders. In the first fortnight of my presidency, we have been dealing with some traditional core issues in NSW: police powers to make arrests without warrant, vexatious prosecutions of protesters, and the sentencing of Leveridge over the killing of Thomas Kelly. More on these issues later in this newsletter.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties office@nswccl.org.au Suite 203, 105 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW 2000 PO Box A1386, Sydney South, NSW, 1235 Phone: (61 2) 8090 2952 Fax: (61 2) 8580 4633 - NSWCCL website - Renew membership - Donate now - Email us

1 of 10

NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

But our horizons are broader than this. As I mentioned in my address at the 50th anniversary dinner, the failure of the Senate voting system to produce a result that truly reflects the voting intentions of the electorate should be regarded as a significant civil liberties issue. We will watch closely the values of the new Federal government and how they play out in terms of policy. Of obvious current concern are the intention to legislate “Andrew Bolt” reforms to enhance free speech at the expense of protection against racial vilification, mistreatment of immigration detainees, and the failure to condemn massively intrusive telecommunications data collection and communications interception. These issues are all symptoms of the failure to have effective human rights protection in Australia. With issues like these, there is every reason for NSW Council for Civil Liberties to be an active and vital participant in the debate. There are many things which we need to do to in order to enhance NSWCCL’s capabilities. Over the next few months, the committee will be developing an organised strategic plan. A concerted membership drive is one matter which must be undertaken. All of our existing members should be encouraging their friends and associates to join, and we should be actively recruiting university students. A larger membership is essential to enhancing our ability to address the issues that must be addressed. We have a renewed committee and executive for 2013-14, and I particularly welcome our new committee members. This will be a hard-working committee, but I hope that there will be rewards for those who dedicate themselves to fulfilling the Council’s ambitions. As always, you are welcome to participate in the Council’s activities. Committee meetings will be held on the 4th Wednesday of each month at 6pm in the Council Chambers of the Sydney Town Hall, and you are welcome to attend. Details of subcommittees that you can join and contribute to will be circulated following the next committee meeting. Stephen Blanks President CCL in the media
22 November 2013 Offensive free speech 21 November 2013 Media Watch attacks the credibility of the woman at the centre of the Nathan Rees scandal 20 November 2013 Justified force or violent arrest? Footage questions police taser use 4 November 2013 Magistrate throws out vexatious police case against CSG protestors 16 October 2013 Tamil refugee tried to hang himself in detention, asylum advocates say
2 of 10

Wednesday 27 November Monthly Committee Meeting Friday 29 November Politics in the Pub: Long Overdue need for a human rights act for Australia Stephen Blanks speaking Tuesday 10 December 2013 Human Rights Awards Cameron Murphy finalist in individual category

Come along to our next Committee meeting! 6pm Wednesday 27 November Sydney Town Hall in the Council Chambers, entry via George St

NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

NSWCCL's AGM endorses key policies and confers honorary life membership
Our 50th anniversary AGM was held at Sydney Town Hall in October. About 40 members came to participate in selecting the new committee and executive and to discuss and decide policy on key civil liberties issues. It was a special occasion, not only because of the half century marker, but because there was a significant change in the leadership of the organisation. Cameron Murphy, after 13 years as President, declined to stand again and Stephen Blanks was elected unopposed as the new President. Lesley Lynch was elected unopposed to replace Stephen as Secretary and Sacha Blumen was elected as a Vice President to replace David Bernie who also retired from a long and productive period in the role. For the first time in many years we had the extremely welcome problem of more candidates than places both within the Executive and for the Committee forcing us into a ballot for the 3 Vice Presidents’ positions. Several nominees for the committee on seeing the oversubscribed list chose to withdraw nominations thus avoiding a ballot. The new executive/committee provides a goodly mix of healthy continuity and new faces and renewal. Cameron gave an account of his 13 years as President and, in a fitting response, the members exercised their right to make him an honorary life membership in recognition of:
G

Want to work for NSWCCL?
We are currently looking for a replacement Office Coordinator to run the busy office in Pitt St, Sydney. The position is part time, 25 hours per week. If you have the administrative and web skills to contribute to our vital organisation, or know of someone who does, please apply or spread the word. Applications are due by Friday 6 December for a start date by 20 January 2014. Read the advertisement and position description on our website. Applications and enquiries should be directed to the Secretary (details on the advertisement).

G

G

Many years of advocacy for civil liberties, human rights and anti-discrimination in a range of contexts thirteen years of effective strategic leadership of NSWCCL in the face of considerable challenges to civil liberties post 9/11 his personal contribution in sustaining the strong public profile and reputation of NSWCCL as an independent defender of civil liberties

NSWCCL's 2013 AGM

The meeting also endorsed a number of significant policy decisions in the areas of asylum seekers, global surveillance and data collection, whistleblowers, free media and the right to know and censorship. These policy decisions will drive much of our work over the coming year.
Elections at the AGM

Courtesy of the Deputy Lord Mayor Robyn Kemmis and the City of Sydney Council, members were able to enjoy refreshments and an

3 of 10

NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

hour of very lively discussion at the close of the meeting. Lesley Lynch Secretary

50th Anniversary Dinner
The NSWCCL dinner in the Sky Phoenix Restaurant in the Pitt St Westfield Plaza was a grand celebration of our 50th anniversary. There was a splendid turnout of old and new members and friends of CCL and of our key note speaker. We also had several tables of interested students and interns sponsored by member donations. The formalities of the evening were, understandably, more focused on CCL’s history than usual. Michael Kirby, a member since 1964 and now an honorary life member, spoke movingly via video of his personal experience as a young lawyer working with CCL and, more broadly, of the beneficial impact on the legal profession in Australia from the large numbers of lawyers who had cut their teeth in civil liberties and then gone on to occupy high office on the bench or as solicitors and barrister within the profession. Michael also paid tribute to significant CCL figures who had deeply influenced him over the years. His lifelong engagement with CCL was encapsulated in his final observation that he had now spoken at the 30th, 40th and 50th anniversary dinners. The keynote address for the evening was given by the Hon Justice Carolyn Simpson – currently a senior judge on the NSW Supreme Court and a significant player in CCL during the 70s and 80s in numbers of roles including, as president, vice-president and secretary. Carolyn did the anniversary proud, delivering an absolutely fascinating trawl through CCL’s history - encompassing the people and the issues, the consensus and the conflicts and its successes and failures. You can read the transcript of her speech or watch the video on our website.
4 of 10

Newest CCL honorary life member Cameron Murphy introduces Michael Kirby at our annual dinner

Missed the 50th Anniversary Dinner?
You can get a glimpse of the night with a number of videos now posted online. The Hon Justice Carolyn Simpson's keynote address The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG addresses the dinner via video President Stephen Blanks welcomes guests and introduces Carolyn Simpson CCL life member Cameron Murphy introduces Michael Kirby Secretary Lesley Lynch responds to Carolyn Simpson You can also view and purchase pictures from the night through Peter Kingsley Photography.

NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

She reminded us of the core civil libertarian principles developed by CCL and which still resonate, the intensity of internal debates such as the pivotal-if not always productive- ‘what constitutes a civil liberties issue?’ and some of the recurring organisation tensions (eg whether the legal profession was too dominant within CCL). We invited Carolyn because we wanted someone who could speak with authority and experience about the glory days and the difficult days of CCL. Carolyn did that spectacularly well. For longstanding members she aroused many strong memories. For the younger people present she offered an insight into the history of a resilient, voluntary organisation which has played a huge role in protecting civil liberties in this country for half a century. Lesley Lynch Secretary Revisiting another annual dinner
The Hon Carolyn Simpson, keynote speaker at our 50th Anniversary, was an active participant in the most (in)famous of CCL's dinners, its 21st Anniversary in 1984. For those with a historical bent, visit our website for a riveting account of the riotous evening, including a terrific riposte to Premier Wran from the then CCL President John Marsden (p2) and the then Vice President Carolyn Simpson (p10).

Magistrate raises serious queries about reasons for police pursuit of protestors
NSWCCL was disturbed by strong statements made by Magistrate David Heilpern about a recent case in which he inferred possible collateral (political) reasons for a police prosecution. The case involved two protesters against coal seam gas mining on the North Coast in January 2013. While the Magistrate excluded this possibility from his reasons for judgement because of lack of evidence, he nonetheless dismissed all charges as a ‘trivial’, ‘weak’ and ‘vexatious’. The question is - why did the police pursue such a weak case?

CCL Secretary Lesley Lynch (L),

The case raises serious issues about the administration of criminal justice in NSW and we have written to the Commissioner of Police and the Minister for Police asking for an explanation for issuing a ‘trivial’, ‘weak’ and ‘vexatious’ charge against CSG demonstrators, and for assurance that no political purpose or pressure was involved. CCL has also asked the Ombudsman to investigate.

the Hon Justice Carolyn Simpson (centre) and the Hon Justice Virginia Bell AC (R) at our Annual Dinner

5 of 10

NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

BILL WATCH
Monitoring legislative changes and intervening when there are civil liberties issues is a very large part of the ongoing work of NSWCCL. In recent times this has been particularly intense. This month we have been concerned with one Commonwealth and four NSW issues. For NSW - the so called ‘Zoe’s Law’ Bill; a bill to amend police powers of arrest without a warrant; a bill to legalise same sex marriage and a proposed bill to bring private education authorities under the Anti-Discrimination Act in relation to discrimination against gay students. At the Commonwealth level our concern is with consultation around changes the Attorney General has flagged for the Racial Discrimination Act. Same sex marriage bill defeated
A Bill to legalise same-sex marriage in NSW was narrowly defeated (21 votes to 19) on 14 November in the NSW upper house. Penny Sharpe (ALP) introduced the Bill following drafting in a cross-party working group. Premier Barry O'Farrell disappointingly withdrew support for the Bill, claiming the issue was a Commonwealth one. It doesn't appear likely that a new bill will be introduced until after the state elections in 2015.

Police powers of arrest without warrant expanded
Yet again the NSW Government has rushed through a bill which extends police power of arrest without a warrant. This is a dangerous trend. The Government moved quickly and with no community consultation to push through the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Amendment (Arrest Without Warrant) Bill 2013 last week. The background for this appears to have been the statement of one judge and subsequent media coverage by radio commentators. The LEPRA Act is already under review – but these amendments were accelerated. They were recommended after a limited review by two prior Police Ministers, Paul Whelan and Andrew Tink (The Hon Paul Whelan and Andrew Tink: Review of Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, Part 1 Section 99, 25 October 2013). They confined their consultation to the NSW police and a few government agencies. The stated purpose of the Bill was to clarify provisions in the existing Act. Some clarification has been achieved, however the overall effect goes well beyond this. The amended legislation creates significant extensions of police warrantless arrest powers by weakening some existing criteria/reasons and adding new ones as the legal basis for exercise of this power. NSWCCL tried to intervene with urgent letters to the Premier, the Minister for Police and the Attorney General urging deferral, proper consultation and careful consideration of the Bill’s provisions

The Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Private Educational Authorities) Bill (2013)
Alex Greenwich, the independent member for Sydney, introduced a private member's bill to remove the exemptions in the AntiDiscrimination Act that allow private schools and other private education institutions to discriminate against students. This was particularly aimed at given protections to gay and lesbian students. The bill had the support of the ALP, Greens and independents in the lower house. NSWCCL was supportive. It has, however, been withdrawn by Alex because the Coalition would not support it.
6 of 10

NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

before further progress through Parliament. Failing deferral, we proposed four significant changes to the proposed amendments to limit potential for future misinterpretation and abuse, to maintain existing objective benchmarks and to remove proposed new reasons which are vague and open to wide interpretation and abuse. For more detail read our letters on the NSWCCL website. These letters were copied to all members of the NSW Parliament. While our views were referenced by numbers of speakers in the debates in both houses, in the end only 5 members of the Legislative Council (all Greens) opposed the Bill and 32 others supported it. We will continue to lobby for access to the wider and ongoing review of the whole LEPRA Act which has now also been handed over to Whelan and Tink.

Alex has indicated that he has received support from the Minister for Education to ensure that the powerful Board of Studies will investigate claims of discrimination against LGBTI students. The Board has the very significant power to deregister schools. Alex has indicated he intends to re-introduce the Bill in the next session.

Zoe's Law passed in NSW lower house
As reported in the last newsletter, NSWCCL opposed the Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill (No 2) 2013, introduced as a private members bill by Liberal MP Chris Spence. NSWCCL agrees with the opponents to this Bill, as it could have unintended consequences for the rights of pregnant women, and could be used to further prevent access to abortions. NSWCCL wrote to all MPs on 1 October 2013, urging them to reject the Crimes Amendment (Zoe's Law) Bill (No. 2) 2013. You can read the full letter on our website. On 21 November the Bill was put to a conscience vote in the lower house, and passed with 63 votes to 26 against. The majority of female frontbenchers opposed the bill, including Health Minister Jillian Skinner, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, Environment Minister Robyn Parker and the Minister for Women, Pru Goward (all Lib.). Other opponents included Paul Lynch (ALP), Alex Greenwich (Ind), and Jamie Parker (Grns). The Premier Barry O'Farrell supported the Bill's passage along with Mike Baird (Lib.), Ann Burton (ALP), Charles Casuscelli (Lib.), Barbara Perry (ALP) and others. NSWCCL will continue to oppose the Bill, which is now due to be introduced into the NSW Legislative Council some time next year. Attorney General's proposal to amend Racial Discrimination Act (1975)
The Attorney General George Brandis has flagged his intention of repealing/amending s18c of the Racial Discrimination Act to better protect free speech. In comment to the Budget Estimates hearings earlier this month he revealed that he was having ‘private’ consultations with ‘community leaders’ on this matter. This was news to us. All the civil liberties groups in Australia agreed to join us in writing to Senator Brandis offering to participate in these consultations – though we would prefer to see an open consultation process. You can read the letter on our website. We are awaiting a response.

7 of 10

NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

Global surveillance - the civil libertarian's response
More than at any time in history, citizens around the world are being exposed to intrusive surveillance and data collection, often without their knowledge or consent. The revelations by Edward Snowden uncovering the extraordinary volume and reach of covert surveillance and data collection by the USA, NSA and other international intelligence agencies have changed our understanding of state surveillance. We need new strategies for the defence of privacy and protection from unwarranted, blanket state surveillance. The globalisation of intelligence gathering, including covert sharing of intelligence information across national boundaries, has undermined the effectiveness and relevance of national data protection and surveillance laws. Governments, including Australia, are now receiving vast amounts of surveillance data on their citizens from friendly foreign sources that would be illegal for them to collect internally. Governments now have tremendous analytic power to effectively mine these enormous data collections. Collectively these developments create an unprecedented and dangerous capacity for covert blanket surveillance by the state/ states of citizens as individuals and groups. Clearly resistance to this global assault on civil liberties must also become global. As a start we need to develop stronger international instruments covering state surveillance and data collections and the protection of privacy. In this context, AGM members resolved: NSA files: decoded
The Guardian have an excellent interactive page online on what the revelations mean for you - highly recommended viewing, and great to share with others who might be unsure about the implications or gravity of the surveillance revelations.

Necessary and proportionate
NSWCCL is a signatory (no. 96) to the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.

1. Communications surveillance and data collection programs
by the Government or its agencies for any purpose must have the prior informed consent of the citizens consistent with the protection of core civil liberties and democratic values 2. The Australian Government immediately inform the Australian public clearly and honestly as to the extent and nature of communications surveillance data it and its agencies collects or receives from foreign intelligence sources and internet communication entities and the broad uses made of this data.

8 of 10

NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

3. The Australian Government implement stronger
accountability parameters relating to communications surveillance and data retention on Australians from internal and foreign sources –having special regard to the impact on privacy.

4. NSWCCL work with other concerned groups to identify
whether there are any grounds for a legal challenge in relation to Australia’s participation in covert and other exchanges of intelligence data with foreign intelligence agencies and/or use of intelligence data obtained though these covert and other arrangements 5. NSWCCL participate in the global effort by concerned civil liberties, human rights and privacy advocates to develop strong and effective international instruments in relation to communications surveillance and data retention which will better protect privacy and basic democratic freedoms.
Reveal their secrets - protect our own the new brand of Australian Signals Directorate !!

Whistleblowers, free media, and the right to know
The US has accelerated its pursuit of whistle-blowers in recent years and has made unprecedented use of its espionage and related laws to dramatically increase the potential penalty for whistle-blowers. Australia, amongst others, has indicated broad compliance with this approach. The power of the internet has given individual whistle-blowers with access to information they believe should be made public, enormous capacity to reveal large quantities of information to a global audience. The challenge this poses to growing and unwarranted state secrecy is considerable. Not surprisingly, states are fighting back with an apparent intent of warning off potential whistle-blowers and destroying pivotal organisations such as WikiLeaks. Civil liberties organisations must engage with this and advocate for greater transparency and fairer and more proportionate reactions to whistle-blowers. In this context, AGM members resolved:

Edward Snowden - recognised at our AGM along with Chelsea Manning & Julian Assange

1. NSWCCL recognises Edward Snowden, Chelsea
(previously Bradley) Manning and Julian Assange as courageous, global champions of democracy who have made, at great personal cost, extraordinary contributions to civil society by challenging the excessive secrecy of the state and revealing to the citizens of the world vast quantities of hidden information about the activities of the state that should always have been in the public domain in any democratic society
9 of 10

NSWCCL Civil Source Newsletter October-November 2013

2. NSWCCL condemns the current unprecedented and
ferocious attack by the USA and other states on whistleblowers – most dramatically manifested in the relentless pursuit of Assange, Manning and Snowdon as traitors and spies and the attempt to disable Wikileaks. With growing state secrecy the attack on whistle-blowers poses a global threat to the capacity of a free press to inform the people and to the citizens’ right to know what governments are doing in their name. 3. NSWCCL urges the Australian Government to distance itself from these extreme attacks on whistle-blowers and commit to greater government transparency and openness and fair and proportionate protection of whistle-blowers.

Next steps
NSWCCL will write to Prime Minister and relevant Ministers urging Australia supports the joint German and Brazilian resolution that they have put before the United Nation General Assembly: The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age. Other CCL organisations in Australia will do so also. We will work with other CCLs to continue developing a policy response to this deeply complex area as it, and our understandings, develop. We will also be discussing the implications for the focus of the National ASIO Campaign as it reemerges in the new year. Lesley Lynch Secretary

follow on Twitter | like on Facebook | forward to a friend

10 of 10