Submission: Protecting press freedom to ensure transparency and government accountability

The June 2019 raids on media outlets exposed in small part the extent to which Australian authorities now have the power to monitor journalists’ communication and devices, access and alter the data of media outlets and dissuade people from revealing information to journalists in the public interest. In the last decade or so, parliament has granted more and more powers of surveillance without also implementing corresponding safeguards to ensure freedom of the press.

New laws have increasingly criminalised speech and journalism, and the existing whistleblower protection laws are inadequate to ensure the protection of journalists’ sources.

Finally, the June 2019 raids highlighted the woefully inadequate warrant system for those cases where law enforcement are seeking access to journalist information.

Read the Human Rights Law Centre submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security inquiry into the impact of the exercise of law enforcement and intelligence powers on the freedom of the press (July 2019).

Read the Human Rights Law Centre’s supplementary submission to the Committee, addressing questions taken on notice during our appearance before the Committee on 13 August 2019.

Democracy and the union movement

At a time when wage theft is making headlines, wages growth is at record lows and work is becoming increasingly insecure, the advocacy work that trade unions do on behalf of workers has never been more important. Trade unions play an integral role in a healthy democracy and serve as an important mechanism to help workers exercise their right to safe and fair work conditions.

The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 (Cth) (the proposed law) proposes amendments to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Cth). While it is framed by the Federal Government as reform aimed at addressing serious crime and misconduct in the trade union movement, the proposed law will weaken and undermine the democratic operation of the trade union movement internally and drastically limits its ability to perform its function in a democratic society.

Read the Human Rights Law Centre’s submission: Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019.

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Submission: Safeguarding our Democracy

The June 2019 Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on the ABC’s Sydney headquarters and Annika Smethurst’s home laid bare some critical tensions in our democratic systems that need urgent attention.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are tasked with keeping us safe and protecting our democracy. That is why we entrust them with extraordinary powers that go well beyond what ordinary citizens can lawfully do.

However, Australian authorities now have extensive powers to monitor citizens’ communications and devices, including those of whistleblowers and journalists. When granting those new powers to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Parliament has not imposed corresponding safeguards to ensure that these powers are not misused and do not disproportionately limit our right to privacy, freedom of expression and the maintenance of a healthy democracy.

Read our submission to the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee inquiry on press freedom.

27 August 2019.

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Submission: Medevac laws ensure vital medical care should be retained

The Medevac laws are an important safeguard that is helping to ensure vital medical treatment for seriously unwell refugees held by the Australian Government on Nauru and Manus.

The Medevac laws, passed in February 2019, allow doctors to recommend people be evacuated from Manus and Nauru to Australia for medical treatment. Just over 100 people have been approved for transfer to Australia in around six months of the laws operating. A Senate committee is reviewing a bill introduced by the Morrison Government which, if passed, would repeal the laws.

Read the Human Rights Law Centre’s submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.

Submission: Modernising NSW’s archaic abortion laws

NSW has a historic opportunity to bring its archaic abortion laws into the 21st century, and promote the right of every person to control what happens to their bodies and their lives.

We urge the Legislative Council to pass the Bill in its current form, without further amendment or delay. This Bill is critical to improving reproductive health outcomes across NSW and will see abortion treated has a health matter to be determined between a patient and their doctor.

Download the Submission on the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 to the NSW Parliament Standing Committee on Social Issues.

Submission: The cashless debit card is a discriminatory and coercive policy

The cashless debit card is a discriminatory and coercive policy that threatens to trap people in poverty. It’s a policy reminiscent of the days of rations and missions. A good government would support self-determination, rather than denying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the freedom to control their own lives. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Human Rights Law Centre have opposed the expansion of the cashless debit card, noting that:

  • it discriminates against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;

  • it unjustifiably limit rights to social security, private and family life, equality and non-discrimination; and

  • there is a lack of evidence to support the interference with human rights and the expenditure of large sums to administer the CDC.

Download the Submission to the Inquiry into the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management and Cashless Welfare) Bill 2019.

Submission: Social security is about making sure every person in Australia has an income that allows them to live with dignity

Social security is about sharing our national prosperity fairly to make sure that no individual or family is trapped in grinding poverty. It is a fundamental human right.

Successive governments have, however, let some of the most powerless members of our community down. They have done this by implementing policies that have allowed the wealthy to get richer, while refusing to increase social security payments to a level that would allow people going through hard times to take back control of their lives. Further, Governments have created increasingly rigid and punitive rules that are causing severe financial and emotional stress for families. Nowhere is this starker than in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The Social Security Commission Bill 2018 (the Bill) would establish a Commission to provide independent, evidence-based advice to Government about the minimum levels of social security payments required to ensure that every person in Australia has an income that allows them to live with dignity.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s submission supports the Bill, calls for immediate action to abolish the remote Community Development Program and raise the rate of inadequate social security payments. It also endorses the recommendations of Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, which focus on steps required to address stark economic injustices in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Download the submission to the Review into the Social Security Commission Bill 2018 (Cth).

Submission: Putting single mothers last: the economic injustice of ParentsNext

Each of us expects to be supported and treated fairly and compassionately by governments in times of need, and to have our contribution to Australia’s economic prosperity, including through unpaid care work, valued. The Federal Government’s ParentsNext program, which is underpinned by a punitive compliance framework and targets mothers with young children and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in particular, undermines these basic expectations.

This is a joint submission made on behalf of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (NFVPLS) Forum, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children (SNAICC) and the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee.

Download the joint HRLC, SNAICC and NFVPLS Forum submission to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee here. 

Submission: Bill would see Australians stripped of their citizenship at the broad discretion of the Minister

The Federal Parliament must not pass a Bill that would see Australians stripped of their citizenship at the broad discretion of the Minister, and for relatively minor crimes.

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Strengthening the Citizenship Loss Provisions) Bill 2018 creates a scheme that would allow arbitrary removal of citizenship, without the necessary safeguards to prevent the serious human rights violations that could flow from that removal.

Download the Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Strengthening the Citizenship Loss Provisions) Bill 2018 here.