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Apr
8

Freedom of speech amendments

The Federal Government have proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). The Attorney-General George Brandis has released an exposure draft of the changes the Government intends to introduce. The Freedom of Speech (Repeal of 18C) Bill 2014 will repeal most of Part IIA which deals with the prohibition of offensive behavior based on racial hatred:

  • section 18C – offensive behavior because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin
  • section 18B – reason for doing an act
  • section 18D - exemptions
  • section 18E – vicarious liability

The Bill will replace these sections with the following:

“(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if: (a) the act is reasonably likely:

(i)            to vilify another person or a group of persons; or

(ii)           to intimidate another person or a group of persons, and

(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of that person or that group of persons.

(2) For the purposes of this section:

(a) vilify means to incite hatred against a person or a group of persons; (b) intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm:

(i)            to a person; or

(ii)           to the property of a person; or

(iii)          to the members of a group of persons.

(3) Whether an act is reasonably likely to have the effect specified in sub-section (1)(a) is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community.

(4) This section does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.”  Source:  Amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.  See also media release ‘Racial Discrimination Act’, 25 March 2014.

The Attorney-General has called for submissions on this draft by 30 April 2014.

Responses to these amendments

In the media:

 Australian Human Rights Commission:

Human Rights Law Centre:

Find out more about racial discrimination in our research guide racial discrimination – Human Rights: HSC Legal Studies.

 

Apr
7

Child protection reforms have been passed

NSW Parliament has passed legislation aimed at making a number of changes to existing child protection laws. The Child Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (NSW) was assented to on 4 April 2014 and will commence on a day to be proclaimed.  According to Pru Goward, the Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister for Women these are important reforms:

'This new legislation provides for earlier intervention to keep families together with support.  It also means courts will have new powers to order parents to undergo treatment or attend services to deal with the issues putting their children at risk. These laws mean the Department of Family and Community Services must consider adoption for children where the court has ordered that the child cannot return to its parents or family until the age of 18.  This presents an option for permanency and stability where foster care too often cannot. The new laws are designed to give vulnerable children the best possible chance of a safe and stable home for life.' Source: media release, 26 March 2014.

background to the legislation

In November 2012, a discussion paper - Child Protection: Legislative Reform Legislative proposals: Strengthening parental capacity, accountability and outcomes for children and young people in State care was released.

Responses to the legislation

  • Women’s Legal Services (NSW) has expressed concern over changes that they believe fail to adequately support mothers experiencing domestic violence and will lead to many children being fast-tracked into adoption, despite the child’s best interest.  See media releases that give voice to their concerns.
  • the Law Society of NSW Indigenous Issues Committee (IIC) has written an open letter expressing support and concerns over these new changes, 25 February 2014
  • Community Legal Centres NSW – see media release, 27 March 2014

More about child protection

Apr
7

High Court decision - gender 'non-specific'

The High Court made a decision last week that permits the Registrar of the NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages to register that a person’s sex is 'non-specific'. Norrie, who had undergone a 'sex affirmation procedure', applied to the Registrar under the Act to register both a change of sex to 'non-specific' and a change of name.

This decision of the High Court gives formal legal recognition to people who do not identify as male or female.  It has been a long road for Norrie, who does not identify with being either male or female.  This is a victory for androgynous people and also provides an option for others who are born with ambiguous genitalia.

This matter has been discussed in a number of earlier court decisions.  In 2011, the Court of Appeal upheld Norrie’s appeal, however, the NSW Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages appealed by special leave to the High Court.

The High Court decided that the Act recognises that a person may be neither male nor female and so permits the registration of a person's sex as 'non-specific'. The High Court ordered that Norrie's applications be remitted to the Registrar for determination in accordance with its reasons and otherwise dismissed the appeal.

Source: High Court of Australia, media release, 2 April 2014.

Court decision

NSW Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages v Norrie [2014] HCA 11, 2 April 2014.

The Family Case Library entry for this decision has now been updated Norrie v NSW Registrar of Births Deaths & Marriages – 'non-specific' sex – official recognition.

Media Responses 

Apr
1

On the spot fines increased

Anyone engaging in drunken or anti-social behaviour faces increased on-the-spot fines from tomorrow, as part of the Government’s crackdown on drug and alcohol-fuelled violence, Attorney General Greg Smith SC and Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Michael Gallacher announced today.

Criminal Infringement Notices for offensive language and offensive behaviour will rise to $500, while continued intoxicated and disorderly behaviour after a move on direction will attract a fine of $1100.
“The message to drunken thugs is clear: violent, offensive and anti-social behaviour simply won’t be tolerated. Anyone ignoring that message should prepare to learn a very expensive lesson,” Mr Smith said.
“This is the latest step in our measures targeting intoxicated street behaviour. Lockouts have started, the mandatory minimum sentences for fatal one punch attacks have come into effect, and now unacceptable behaviour will face much higher fines.”
“Meanwhile the Opposition is refusing to back our second tranche of reform, determined to water it down with unworkable amendments. The Opposition obviously is not serious about reducing drunken violence,” Mr Smith said.
Minister Gallacher said police, armed with greater powers and more resources, would be out on the streets rigorously enforcing the new fines.
“We have more than 16,000 officers across the state who will be out in force to hand out Criminal Infringement Notices and make sure anyone who breaks the law has a very expensive night to remember their actions.

Source: Media release, 30 March 2014.

What are the new fines?

According to the Attorney-General Greg Smith:

'the message to drunken thugs is clear: violent, offensive and anti-social behaviour simply won’t be tolerated. Anyone ignoring that message should prepare to learn a very expensive lesson, this is the latest step in our measures targeting intoxicated street behaviour. Lockouts have started, the mandatory minimum sentences for fatal one punch attacks have come into effect, and now unacceptable behaviour will face much higher fines.'

According to the Minister for Police Mr Gallacher, police armed with greater powers and more resources, would be out on the streets rigorously enforcing the new fines:

'We have more than 16,000 officers across the state who will be out in force to hand out Criminal Infringement Notices and make sure anyone who breaks the law has a very expensive night to remember their actions.'

The legislation introducing these fines

The Crimes and other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Bill 2014 (Schedule 5.2) amends the Criminal Procedure Regulation 2010. The amendments are to penalty notices which are in Schedule 3 of the Regulation. 

Mar
26

New report on the liquor-licensing restrictions to curb alcohol related violence in NSW

Interested in tracking the measures taken by the NSW Government to address alcohol related violence through changes to liquor-licensing laws?

The NSW Parliamentary Library have just produced an excellent e-brief covering the main liquor licensing restrictions that have been introduced since 2008. It also refers to studies that have been done on the effectiveness of certain restrictions and it examines trends in alcohol-related assaults. 

See: Liquor-licensing restrictions to curb alcohol related violence in NSW: 2008-2014 by Lenny Roth, NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service, e-brief 4/2014, March 2014.

You will find the information on the following measures:

  • restrictions in Newcastle - 2008
  • freeze on 24-hour trading & violent venues restrictions - 2008
  • freeze on new licences in parts of City of Sydney - 2009
  • Liquor Precinct Accords & controls on trading hours - 2010
  • the 'three strikes' disciplinary scheme - 2011
  • Kings Cross Precinct restrictions - 2012-2013
  • small bar licences - 2013
  • Review of Liquor Act - 2013
  • Sydney CBD, Kings Cross and other restrictions - 2014
  • Trends in alcohol-related assaults 

Find out more about alcohol related violence

The issue of alcohol-related violence, and in particular violence occurring in and around licensed premises, has been at the forefront of debate in NSW for several years. A range of 
measures have been introduced to tackle this problem, 
including those announced by Premier O’Farrell on 21 
January 2014. Restrictions imposed on licensed premises 
under existing and new provisions of the Liquor Act 2007 
have been a major part of the reforms.
This e-brief outlines 
the main liquor licensing restrictions that have been 
introduced since 2008.
It also refers to studies that have 
been done on the effectiveness of certain restrictions, and it 
examines trends in alcohol-related assaults. 

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