High Court makes children pawns in police-justice tug of war

The most surprising aspect of the High Court’s decision on the lawyer-informer case involving Victoria Police is not how much the court castigated the lawyer, or how it delivered a blistering attack on the standards and culture within Victoria Police. What no-one seems to have picked up on is how seven judges of the High Court of Australia have delivered what a lay person would call a judicial threat against the lawyer: go into VicPol’s witness protection program – against your own wishes – or you are likely to lose your children, taken from you by the State.

Govt’s latest gift: new laws further eroding our civil liberties    

By Paul Gregoire* The Morrison Coalition government unleashed a swag of draconian laws in the final parliamentary sitting weeks of this year. The Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018 was passed on 27 November. This legislation lowered the threshold of when the government can send in …

Pollies talk, Queensland Acts

Australia may be about to get its third – and best – Human Rights Act, comments Prof George Williams on the tabling in the Queensland Parliament of a proposed law to strengthen protection for 23 basic rights in the state. The new law, with its easier complaint resolution mechanism, would help shift power from government agencies to the average citizen, he says.

How we can control our borders, the proper way

Long-time government adviser on refugees and detention, retired Air Vice Marshall Ray Funnell, is calling on both major sides of politics to come clean with citizens and admit that we have effectively stopped the boats: we should immediately partner with Indonesia on future-based solutions to regional refugee challenges, he believes. AVM Funnell appeals for an end to the political deceit, dissembling and outright lying that casts a shadow politicians’ debates on the refugee/detention issue

Analysing CLA’s impact: Aged Care Quality inquiry No 1

Civil Liberties Australia often makes submissions to federal parliamentary inquiries. Members ask: What impact do our submissions have? One measure is the number of times that our comments are quoted in the final report. A committee inquiry report into Aged Care Quality, released on 181022 as a useful preamble to a full Royal Commission on Aged Care, resulted in six mentions of CLA’s points from our seven-page submission made with contributions from CLA members.

Dutton consultation is a sham, says civil society

Parts of civil society are actively rebelling against a ‘sham’ public consultation process by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that looks set to lead to a new Australia Card proposal or something very similar. Mr Dutton’s only public consultation meeting before pitching a new public ID and privacy system to COAG will be a 150-minute discussion on 22 October in Melbourne. The agenda is pre-determined for attendees to be spoken at, rather than being listened…and Dutton’s anti-privacy stance is well known from his very first speech to parliament.

Slaves get little reprieve from flaccid new law

Why are we are so timid over rights and freedoms, but so over-zealous when it’s repression? With refugees, we have struck upon a crude, cruel way to discourage asylum seekers. Now, a new law is taking the barest minimum steps to try to help 21stC slaves. With more slaves in the world than ever before, it was time our parliament enacted robust legislation with teeth: instead, we’re getting a Modern Slavery Act as flakey as a gummy shark.

Canberra: Be on the defensive!

Forget the fireworks inside Parliament House! Loud bangs are likely to be heard all over Canberra soon…but no-one’s saying where or when. The Australian Defence Force plans to carry out counter-terrorism training in late August. Or, it could be, training for when the federal government calls out the troops: see CLA’s submission to the current Defence Call Out Bill, a particularly power-seizing piece of legislation that flies in the face of one clause in the Australian Constitution.

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.

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.