Helping to shape our dialogue with Iran

Photo: Jennifer Ashton and Eloise McLean
Much productive work of CLA occurs behind the scenes, often in meetings that take eat up time: planning, preparation, deciding who should attend, attending, and then reporting. Here’s an example of a ‘dialogue’ preparation meeting, run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to help their diplomats prepare for an exchange of views with Iran over human rights.

August 2018: Future of rights and liberties under scrutiny

Debates about liberties and rights are back on the public agenda as the Australian Human Rights Commission launches a new study into how emerging IT is affecting us. The prospects are improving that Queensland will become the third jurisdiction (after the ACT and Victoria) to have a ‘rights and responsibilities’ act. However, hope in one area is squelched by the federal government’s intransigence when it puts the wrong people on trial over bugging the Timor Leste Cabinet room. As governments continue try to bury their mistakes, legally or otherwise, there’s more need than ever for the statutory requirements of the Model Litigant Principles to apply.

Also in this issue:

  • New troop call out bill is alarming
  • ‘No one else will do it for us’
  • Targets for females…but not for MLPs
  • ‘Brown paper bag’ opened for by-election pork barrelling
  • Do parliamentary committees enhance our rights?
  • Canadians troubled by detention of immigrants
  • 200 women prosecuted for false rape claims
  • Girl raped by brother jailed for having abortion

SINGLE COLUMN (read on screen)
TWO COLUMN (print, read over a break)

Evils of mandatory sentencing on display

Zak Grieve withdrew from a murder plot before the event, refusing to go through with it. But that didn’t save him from two legal evils, mandatory sentencing and the ‘joint criminal enterprise’ doctrine. Under the latter, he was guilty because he knew of the plot in advance, and didn’t stop it. Under mandatory sentencing, Zak – the 19-year-old who wasn’t there, who had no previous criminal record – received a longer sentence in prison than the actual killer! Now a group of activists, including CLA’s Felicity Gerry QC, have lodged a petition for mercy in the Northern Territory to try to overcome legal inflexibility in pursuit of justice and a fairer go.

Govt seeks new powers to send in the troops

The federal government is hell bent on boosting its powers to call out the troops at a moment’s notice anywhere in Australia, and even in anticipation of a problem occurring. The new law, now being considered by a parliamentary committee, would be perfect for using the Army, Navy and Air Force to protect President Trump when he visits, or to stop protestors at Adani mine or port sites, where fracking is about to get under way or any environmental protest is likely. The power to call out the troops should be very tightly constrained, which is the opposite of how this draft bill is written, says CLA CEO Bill Rowlings.

Quality of mercy is strained beyond hope

How many refugees and asylum seekers are on Nauru and Manus. How long have they been there now? What is their future? How many have left either for their home country or for other destinations? It’s hard to know, because precise details are kept from us. Whatever the number is, some people have been there since 2012, and their current situation is unconscionable.

Court to live-stream case for the first time

At last, courts in Australia are starting to embrace the IT technology that can open up the mysteries of the law to the average person. The WA Supreme Court is leading the way by live-streaming  a case involving bushfires from 16 July 2018 at 10am. Pity the innovative WA Chief Justice, Wayne Martin, will retire from the bench while the live-streaming experiment continues.

The Real Deal in Parliament, helping to make law

Civil Liberties Australia member and first-year ANU law student Elly McLean was pleased to be asked to be part of a CLA team appearing before a parliamentary committee inquiry. She was able to experience first-hand how laws are shaped and honed, and how groups like CLA make submissions and take part in ‘live’ hearings, which are recorded for the formal Hansard report of parliament’s proceedings. Here she gives her impressions of her first committee experience…indeed, her very first visit to the Australian Parliament.

The law defeats justice – again – in Australia’s deep south

The Supreme Court of Tasmania has ruled then-lawyer Barbara Etter should have surrendered a raft of unfiltered documents when the Legal Profession Board of Tasmania re-ignited a quenched complaint against her on the say-so of a disgruntled opponent. Etter has quit the law as a result. The LPB administers unconscionable, kangaroo-court type laws that can deprive somebody of the right to practise, earn income and advise clients – while effectively destroying their reputation – without any chance to put their side of the case before the members of the LPB.

July 2018: Nauru has become Australia’s devil’s island

Nauru is the never-ending nightmare for children and their parents who sought asylum in Australia in the hope of a better life. Now they are imprisoned by an ocean, with no prospect of leaving unless they take a government bribe to go back into the state of persecution they fled. Even the youngest of children face a life sentence without hope, with papers stamped ‘Never to come to Australia…no matter what’. As Australia demonstrates its inhumanity to the outside world, internally more and more commentators are warning that we are turning into a police state. Civil liberties people have been sounding the alarm for more than a decade, but now an eminent judge and a close observer of the Australian Parliament are speaking out too.

Collaery/K: Behaviour of Libs and Labs is appalling

Rob Wesley-Smith reading his own ASIO files at the National Archives in Canberra in December 2012.

Rob Wesley-Smith (RWS) knows the Timor Leste (East Timor) government as well as any Australian. He is personal friends with current and former Presidents and Prime Ministers of that country. He was recently awarded that nation’s highest honour, the Order of Timor Leste. He says the Australian government’s spying behaviour was unconscionable, and the current charges against lawyer Bernard Collaery and Witness K are appalling.

Australians with consciences who care about our democracy are beginning to speak out against this travesty of justice. “The Wilkie statement is now two days old: not a word from the government, the ALP, the ABC, today’s Fin Review. Is everybody running scared?” asks a former Labor MP. A major protest is being planned for the first mention of the charges in the ACT Magistrates Court on 25 July 2018. If you care about the rule of law in Australia, and stopping the process under way of Australia becoming a police state, please follow this story, and take action.

Look before we leap on law reform

CLA Director Richard Griggs writes: It’s a very big step for our State Government to be proposing new laws to enable groups to be banned from wearing identifying badges. It’s a big step because up until now what we choose to wear has been exactly that – our choice. For our parliament to now be considering given itself the power to regulate in this area of personal choice is quite a remarkable departure from our traditional legal system