The Crimes (Serious Crime Prevention Orders) Bill 2016 and the cognate Criminal Legislation Amendment (Organised Crime and Public Safety) Bill 2016 grant broad powers to police to make serious orders against citizens that limit civil liberties.
Australians are reasonable people.
We accept that a peaceful society is founded on a bargain: We citizens are prepared to forgo some individual rights in order to ensure the greater good and safety of the community.
But at the centre of that bargain lies our centuries old judicial system that, while imperfect, offers basic protections that safeguard each and every one of us.
The balance between individual rights and collective safety is a delicate one, and it should not be messed with.
Any reform to police powers or judicial protections requires careful consideration of the impacts on citizens and proper consultation with the community.
Neither has occurred in this instance.
These bills tip the balance too far towards police, and I note the strident opposition from the New South Wales Bar Association and Law Society of New South Wales.
Noel Hutley, SC, President of the New South Wales Bar Association said that the first bill:
“…Creates broad new powers which can be used to interfere in the liberty and privacy of persons, and to restrict their freedom of movement, expression, communication, and assembly.”
“The powers are not subject to necessary legal constraints or appropriate and adequate judicial oversight, and in many cases basic rules of evidence are circumvented."
Gary Ulman, President of the Law Society of New South Wales, said:
“The Law Society submits that if the Bills become law, it would be to the serious detriment to the rights of individuals in NSW, and to the integrity of democratic institutions in this state, including our courts, without any evidence that public safety would in fact be enhanced.”
New South Wales Labor does not support the bills in their current form and will move substantial amendments in the other place to protect our judicial system and the rights and freedoms of New South Wales citizens.
Those same citizens will see through these bills and know them for what they are: a cynical political wedge, lobbed on the eve of a Federal election.
They will also recognise the bills as another overreach by the Minister for Justice and Police.
The bills come on the back of the Government's anti-protest laws, the inclosed lands Act—legislation that threatens peaceful protesters like the Knitting Nanas with seven years prison or stiff fines and up-ends fundamental rights with respect to private property.
I do not support those kinds of powers being handed over to the police.
This legislation would see attempts to empower police officers to issue public safety orders, barring entry to public events or places on the suspicion of illegal activity and with no judicial oversight.
Schedule 5 amendments to the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act will permit a senior police officer to issue a public service order disallowing a person from attending an event or place if the officer is satisfied that they pose a risk to public safety or security.
In this case, the opinion of the police officer would be considered sufficient cause to issue the public service order.
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties rightly argues that the bill would give police unprecedented discretionary powers to stop a person or class of persons from attending public events, premises or areas.
There are very few rights of appeal, and a public service order can be made against minors and persons with impaired intellectual functioning.
Let me be clear: Public service orders would have disproportionate impacts on vulnerable members of our community, including young people, Indigenous people and people with disability.
We should be worried about this.
Legal Aid and community legal centres such as the Marrickville Legal Centre in my electorate and the neighbouring Redfern Legal Centre will be overwhelmed, if these laws are passed, by young people looking for help—even more overwhelmed than they are already.
Those legal centres will find it harder and harder to help because Liberal-Nationals governments continue to slash legal aid across this country.
I am profoundly concerned that young people will be caught by these orders for no good reason, with few legal or judicial protections to support them.
The bills merely transplant a model from the United Kingdom into New South Wales.
It is another attempt by this Government to look as though it is being tough on crime. There has been next to no consultation with the community, and there appears to be little evidence that the laws will work.
If there are problems with gun crime we should toughen gun laws.
If there are problems with gang violence we need laws that deal specifically with gang activities.
We should not apply blanket laws that significantly diminish the rights of New South Wales citizens.
We need to protect public safety, but it cannot be at any cost.
We need to maintain proper judicial oversight to ensure that we get the balance right.
The Labor Opposition's amendments will do that. We will fight for fundamental protections, including ensuring that a person cannot be issued with a serious crime protection order if they have already been acquitted of crimes that are substantially the same as those referred to in the order.
Labor will limit who can apply for such orders and will narrow the rationale upon which serious crime protection orders can be pursued.
We will apply basic legal protections—including protections with respect to self-incrimination and the weight of hearsay evidence—and we will remove schedule 5 from the organised crime and public safety bill so that senior police cannot issue public safety orders.
Australians are reasonable people but they need to be included in the conversation.
They do not need restrictive and anti-democratic laws imposed on them by this police Minister. These bills are part of an alarming trend when it comes to lawmaking in this State.
They are reactionary and disproportionate laws, and the legal professionals and citizens are right to ask: Where is the Attorney General in all of this? The chief defender of our legal system in this State has surrendered important ground, and we will bear the cost of that.
There is no need for these laws.
Let us, instead, approach this matter through a parliamentary inquiry.
Let us have a proper investigation as to what is required so that we get the balance right.
We need proper scrutiny of the massive changes that are being proposed here. This is a vast reorganisation of our legal system and we need to make sure that we get it right.