Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Fears tough new hate speech powers for NSW police could have ‘chilling effect’ on public debate

I suspect that these "fears" are just pandering to Muslims. What is wrong with the police putting a matter before the courts? You don't have to be a genius to notice "threats and incitement to violence based on race and religion". Such events are now common and public among pro Palestinian protesters

New South Wales police will be handed the power to lay charges for threats and incitement to violence based on race and religion in a reform introduced to state parliament amid rising tensions over the conflict in Gaza.

The premier, Chris Minns, said the laws governing hate speech needed to “have teeth” when he announced the change, after a swift review of the legislation.

Leading legal minds have spoken out against the change, insisting safeguards are important and the changes would “risk opening the floodgates for controversial speech to be investigated”.

As it stands, police need to seek approval to use the laws from the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge anyone for making threats or inciting violence. Under the proposed change, the DPP would be sidestepped and the power would rest with police.

The 2018 law was reviewed after weeks of pro-Palestine protests and a string of alleged antisemitic incidents across Sydney.

The attorney general, Michael Daley, said he was making the change because “recent dynamic events” had shown him the law was no longer “fit” for NSW.

“Some of the alleged behaviour that was seen on the streets has caused us within government to have a look at this provision and then to come to the conclusion that it could be better improved,” he said.

Despite the law having been available to police and the DPP for five years, just 12 changes have been laid using the legislation as it stands. Of those, 10 were withdrawn and two convictions were being appealed in the high court, Daley said.

According to the attorney general, the administrative burden added by the referral of possible cases to the DPP meant police had been less likely to opt for the provision and he hoped to remove it would see it used more.

An individual found guilty under the laws would face a fine of up to $11,000 or up to three years in jail, or both.

Daley has said the change would bring the process in line with that available to police charging someone for displaying a Nazi symbol, but legal groups have said the two offences should not be compared due to the complex difference between the charges.

Greg Barns, criminal justice spokesperson at the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said the law, which was “only introduced in 2018”, needed to be applied carefully and as such needed DPP oversight.

“It requires careful consideration before charging anyone with this offence because it is broad and it applies in the context of it being a curtailment of freedom of speech,” he said.

“It is important to have DPP oversight in those circumstances.”

Lydia Shelly, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the changes risked unintended consequences.

“These … may include the politicisation of police investigations and prosecutions, the misuse of police resources … as well as a chilling effect on issues that should be debated in public,” she said.

Shelly said the alleged abhorrent chants at the Opera House should already be captured under the legislation and any controversial speech that falls short of the current legal threshold should not be criminalised.

“Removing the DPP as a safeguard risk opening the floodgates for controversial speech to be investigated, risks further deteriorating social cohesion,” she said.

The NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong said the changes would not make the state a safer place.

“Rushing through changes that give police more powers without oversight on complex issues at the intersection between freedom of speech and vilification will not make our community any safer.

“As much as NSW Labor might want a quick and easy solution, you can’t police your way out of this complex issue.”

The opposition is expected to support the bill and it will be considered when the shadow cabinet meets this week


Government rejects call to ban offshore gas projects

Environment groups have condemned the state government for its refusal to support legislation to make projects like the controversial PEP11 gas exploration project illegal in NSW waters.

A report from the parliamentary inquiry set up to examine the Opposition's Offshore Drilling and Associated Infrastructure Prohibition bill acknowledged significant community concerns about the environmental impacts of projects such as PEP11.

But it found that key aspects of the bill may be constitutionally invalid or have unintended consequences.

"The focus of this inquiry has been to examine the environmental impacts of offshore drilling and also identify risks with passing the legislation. The inquiry has revealed that the legal framework regulating offshore activities in the state is complex and there are serious risks that could result in negative consequences for the State," committee chairman Clayton Barr said.

"Amendments to the Bill were also considered. However, the majority of the Committee is of the view that amendments would undermine a core purpose of the Bill. Therefore, the Committee has recommended that the Bill not pass."

Rather than ban new projects, it recommended that existing environmental assessments standards be reviewed.

Shadow energy and climate change minister James Griffin said the Liberal's bill was designed to ensure offshore drilling would be banned for good in NSW.

"But once again, NSW Labor under Chris Minns has put the environment last. We call on the Albanese Government to step in and protect NSW coastal waters," Mr Griffin said on Tuesday night.

The Surfers for Climate group, which gave evidence to the inquiry, said the report's key recommendation was disappointing and surprising given the community support to ban all new offshore oil and gas projects in NSW waters.

"We have yet to read in full the report's findings released earlier today. However it is clear this recommendation goes against everything the people of NSW want. The Government needs to tell us: Why isn't it stopping PEP11?," Surfers for Climate co-founder Belinda Baggs said.

"Sea temperatures are rising, pollution levels are increasing and low lying coastal towns are under threat from erosion and flooding because of climate change."

Marque Lawyers partner Hannah Marshall disagreed with the report's findings that the bill may be constitutionally invalid.

"We disagree that the Bill carries any significant Constitutional risk. It does not create any new inconsistency with Commonwealth laws," she said.

"NSW already controls activity in NSW coastal waters. Activity in the offshore areas falls under federal authority. NSW can already 'impair' offshore exploration and drilling activity by denying licences for infrastructure in NSW coastal waters. It is already the NSW policy position not to support new offshore drilling activity. If the idea was that the Commonwealth retain control over infrastructure in state coastal waters, the law could say that. But it doesn't."

A recent Surfers for Climate survey by of more than 1,700 people across Australia, found 98 per cent of respondents "strongly supported" the proposed bill.

According to the survey, the top three reasons respondents gave for supporting the Bill were to conserve the oceans and marine life for future generations, protect beaches from pollution and to create more clean energy jobs.

"Given the Government is serious about climate change, we look forward to it banning offshore oil and gas. We urge Premier Chris Minns, the Climate Change Minister and Resources Minister to draw a line on all new offshore oil and gas projects for good," Ms Baggs said.

The Wilderness Society said many of the risks identified in the report were either hypotheticals that were unlikely to occur, or could be remedied with minor amendments. "We are disappointed by the recommendation, and urge the NSW government to find a way forward and secure a gas-free coastline in step with what coastal NSW communities have been calling for," a spokeswoman said.


Universities caned over ‘woke’ degrees for trainee teachers

Universities are indoctrinating trainee teachers in “wokeness and political activism’’, with only 10 weeks of a four-year degree dedicated to teaching children literacy and numeracy, the first national audit of education degrees reveals.

The Institute of Public Affairs has analysed 3713 teaching subjects in education degrees offered by 37 Australian universities. One-third of all subjects relate to what the IPA describes as “woke” ­theories of identity politics, decolonisation and social justice.

Just one in 10 subjects relate to teaching children how to read, write and learn mathematics.

Bella d’Abrera, the director of IPA’s Foundations of Western Civilisation Program, said only 218 subjects covered the teaching of mathematics, 43 subjects involved phonics-based reading instruction, and 37 subjects covered grammar skills.

She blamed the “woke’’ training of teachers for the failure of one in three Australian students to meet basic standards of literacy and numeracy in this year’s ­NAPLAN (National Assessment Program, Literacy and Numeracy) test.

“Instead of being taught how to master core academic curriculum such as reading, writing, mathematics, history and science, prospective teachers are being trained by university experts to be experts in critical social justice, identity politics, and sustainability,’’ she said. “We are setting Australian students up for failure by spending so little time teaching our teachers core literacy and numeracy skills, while university courses focus on woke issues and activism.

“The system is clearly failing both trainee teachers, as well as the students they go on to teach, and it is in urgent need of reform.’’

The IPA audit found that university teaching degrees included 1169 subjects in “critical social justice’’, compared to 371 subjects that instructed how to teach literacy and numeracy skills.

The University of Canberra offers a unit in Indigenous education that criticises the way “anthropocentrism’’ promotes economic prosperity.

“It is well evidenced that social and ecological wellness in Australia has been in accelerating decline since contact where colonial processes and Western perspectives have elevated rational, analytical ways of knowing and robust anthropocentrism, most recently to prioritise individualism, economic prosperity and global competitiveness,’’ the unit description states.

Monash University offers a study unit on “rethinking Indigenous education’’ that introduces trainee teachers to “radical thinking and alternative models of ­education … Student will engage with Indigenous and black scholarship that envisions the abolition and replacement of existing models and practices of settler colonial education,’’ it states.

Monash University’s bachelor of education instructs trainee teachers to “theorise social justice … The unit aims to develop in you a strong grasp of the concept of ‘cognitive justice’, and the associated notions of ‘epistemic’ and ‘epistemological’ justice,’’ it states.

Student teachers at Monash also learn to teach mathematics through a “social justice” lens.

At Victoria University, students who want to learn how to teach children of different backgrounds are required to use a “critical pedagogy framework to challenge dominant discourses that perpetuate notions of privilege, power and oppression’’.

Federal, state and territory education ministers have ordered universities to change their education degrees by mandating that new teachers are trained to teach children English and mathematics, and to manage classroom behaviour but universities will not be required to teach the core content until the end of 2025.

Dr d’Abrera said Australian teaching degrees had “replaced core skills and knowledge with woke ideology and political activism’’. As a result, teacher training is “woke and notoriously lacking in evidence-based preparation for the realities of the classroom’’.


Police charge more than 20 as pro-Palestine protest blocks Port Botany

Police have arrested and charged more than 20 people after a pro-Palestinian protest at Sydney’s Port Botany blocked a road leading to the shipping facility on Tuesday night.

In chaotic scenes, police from the riot squad and officers on horseback tried to break up the protest, which included children. Officers dragged protesters from the road after they failed to comply with an order to move on. At one point, protesters lifted a child in a pram over the top of the crowd.

“There was dragging, pushing, shoving. There were elderly women and girls, and kids in the protest, and they didn’t respect that,” organiser Ahmed Abadla, from Palestine Justice Movement Sydney, said.

“We aim not to have any violence incorporated into our rallies. Police started the whole thing and the crowd got angry.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns defended the police actions, saying he had been briefed on the situation and he “completely rejected” any suggestion they had acted inappropriately.

“There was a lawful police order given to the protesters to move on, and it was only after ample time was given to the protesters to leave the roadway and allow commerce to transact in that port were arrests effected.

“We cannot have a situation where our ports are blocked for commerce because one group or another has a political disagreement with another country. That would be hugely damaging to our economy.”

The protest, which began at 6pm, was directed at Israeli shipping company ZIM, which has offered support to the Israeli government in its fight with Hamas and had a ship at the port on Tuesday.

Police said protesters moved towards the intersection of Sirius and Foreshore roads and occupied Foreshore Road, blocking vehicle movement. Officers issued move-on directions to a number of people but they did not comply and 23 were arrested. Foreshore Road was cleared about 9pm.

Those arrested were taken to several police stations, where they were charged with failing to comply with a move-on direction, obstructing a driver or pedestrian, and damaging or disrupting a major facility.

One person, a 29-year-old woman, was also charged with assaulting a police officer without causing actual bodily harm. She was released to appear at Sutherland Local Court on November 28.

Those arrested were aged between 20 and 50. Police released all on bail, except for two, a 24-year-old man and another 29-year-old woman, who were remanded in custody to appear before the Downing Centre Local Court on Wednesday.

The woman, Lara Smal, faced court charged with offences including a refusal or failure to comply with a direction. She was granted bail on the condition she does not attend any unlawful protests and stays one kilometre away from Port Botany.

Abadla said the police had been violent towards the protesters, who he said had blocked Sirius Road – a smaller access road to Port Botany – and not Foreshore Road.

He said the mood at the protest changed suddenly when protesters tried to pack up food they had brought to give to Port Botany workers. The child in the pram, who he believed was aged about four, had been seated near the food at the side of the protest.

“We feared that something would happen and we started moving very quickly, but the police were not helpful in waiting for us,” Abadla said. “We wanted to move the pram from harm’s way. [The police] saw it, they saw the child in the pram, but unfortunately, they didn’t pay any regards to that.

“We were peacefully protesting the violence that was happening in Gaza, that was point of the whole of the rally really – to send a strong message to ZIM, to boycott ZIM, and to send a message to government.”

The Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia supported the protest.

Minns said police had helped facilitate 73 largely peaceful protests since the Israel-Hamas conflict began six weeks ago, and the government would defend the right for people to protest lawfully.

Federal Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil told Channel Nine’s Today that the protest activity “was utterly despicable” and she hated to see violence against the police.

“We’ve got a bunch of people in our country who are feeling incredibly deeply about what’s going on in the Middle East ... let’s respect each other, understand the strong views and feelings in the community, but just calm down a bit,” O’Neil said.




No comments: