Sydney news: NSW’s legal fraternity concerned at new bail laws

Katie R. Ochoa

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Law society fears unintended consequences of bail amendments 

a woman with her hand on her hip looking and smiling
Joanne van der Plaat said the reforms could have unintended consequences.(Supplied: Law Society of NSW)

The NSW Law Society has expressed its fears over rushed changes to the Bail Act, including that it could discourage guilty pleas and clog the justice system. 

Its concern comes as New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman promised to introduce two amendments this week to parliament, including that people charged with serious offences be remanded in custody. 

“This would only add pressure to a criminal justice system still struggling with COVID-19 related backlogs,” said NSW Law Society President Joanne van der Plaat. 

She said a balance must be struck between reducing the risk of further offending and recognising that an accused is innocent until a court finds them guilty. 

“While the government has described the introduction of these reforms as ‘swift and decisive’, the Law Society
considers that insufficient time has been allowed to permit thorough and considered consultation and to ensure the
reform is based on evidence,” Ms van der Plaat said. 

“Rushed reform can lead to flawed laws.”

The Aboriginal Legal Service says the proposed amendments may see more Aboriginal adults and children imprisoned and, derail progress on Closing the Gap.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Aboriginal Legal Service and the community-controlled sector was not consulted on this major reform, despite the government’s professed commitment to working in partnership on Closing the Gap,” chief executive Karly Warner said. “We were blindsided.”

‘Toughest-ever’ laws to tackle organised crime 

Perrottet sits with his hands folded at a table.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has unveiled his government’s plans to tackle organised crime. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

The New South Wales government has unveiled plans to introduce what it is calling the “toughest-ever” laws to target organised crime.

Under the plan, police will be given more power to seize key financial assets and unexplained wealth. 

It also includes new prohibition orders to target high-risk individuals, likely to be using encrypted messaging to avoid police.

The New South Wales government says that, by preventing criminals from accessing money, it will slow the drug trade and other illegal operations. 

“To truly shut it down, we need to shut down the flow of dollars that fuels it,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said. 

“These reforms will better arm law enforcement agencies with the powers they need to confiscate unexplained wealth and create new offences and tougher penalties for those seeking to launder money derived from criminal activity.”

The law reforms will be introduced to Parliament later this year.

Labor promises toll relief in budget reply 

The bridge with traffic on it
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a main thoroughfare for commuters. (ABC News)

New South Wales Labor has promised to turn the revenue earned from tolls on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and tunnel into toll relief for motorists, if it wins the state election in March.

Opposition Leader Chris Minns will make the announcement in his budget reply speech this morning.

“This is the first step to toll relief for New South Wales motorists,” Mr Minns said, “under Labor, and we’ll have more to say as we get closer to the next election.”

Up to $134 million, on average, per year is generated in government revenue from the bridge and tunnel tolls, which, under Labor’s plan, would help fund its toll scheme.

From July, the government promised that motorists would receive up to $750 a year as a toll rebate, once a motorist has spent more than $375 on tolls.

Opposition plan to build new preschools

Children play with toys at a preschool
NSW Labor wants to co-locate 100 new pre-schools with primary schools.(AAP)

New South Wales Labor says it will build 100 public preschools in its first four years, if it wins the next election.

The Opposition says the preschools would be co-located at primary schools across the state and funded from money already allocated to early childhood initiatives in the state budget.

Labor’s Education spokeswoman, Prue Car, said the plan would be a major step towards universal pre-schooling for all four-year-olds.

“This is an important first step in many issues that need to be addressed in early childhood: Build public preschools in public schools to give our children the best start in life and address rapidly declining education outcomes,” she said.

Bigger penalties for unlawful industrial action

People walking in distance
Unions in NSW have launched a wave of strikes during 2022.(ABC News)

The NSW government wants to amend legislation to impose harsher penalties for unions that take “illegal” strike action and industrial action.

That plan comes as after a year of rolling strikes in the state, with the NSW Teachers Federation and the Independent Education Union set to walk out next Thursday, June 30.

Under its proposed amendments, the maximum penalty would increase to $55,000 for the first day of the alleged contravention, plus $27,500 for each day it continued.

For a second or subsequent offences, an $110,000 maximum penalty could be handed down, followed by an additional $55,000 for each day the contravention continues. 

These penalties are currently available to courts in Queensland.

Minister for Finance and Employee Relations Damien Tudehope said the increased fines were designed to deter unions from disrupting essential services.

“Illegal strike action has had incredibly damaging consequences for students, families and workers across the state,” Mr Tudehope said.

“We have the Industrial Relations Commission and associated legal frameworks in place to deal with industrial disputes in a fair and reasonable manner.”

At present, fines of $10,000 for a first offence and $20,000 for a second offence are in effect. The costs of continuing so-called illegal industrial action are $5,000 and $10,000 per day for first and second offences, respectively.

Display of Nazi collaborator artworks to change

Bronius 'Bob Sredersas stands in front of a painting while holding a cigarette.
Bob Sredersas donated around 100 artworks to the Wollongong Art Gallery.(Supplied: Michael Bach)

Wollongong’s Lord Mayor says the council’s art gallery will change the way it displays the artworks collected by benefactor Bronius “Bob” Sredersas after it was found he collaborated with Nazis.

A report from a researcher with the Sydney Jewish Museum confirmed findings the Lithuanian art collector served as an officer in the Nazi intelligence in World War II, when Germany occupied his country.

Mr Sredersas, who died in 1982 and donated around 100 art works by revered Australian artists including Grace Cossington-Smith and Arthur Streeton, has a room named after him at the gallery.

Mayor Gordon Bradbery says that, after meeting with the author of the report yesterday, the gallery will now look at new ways of presenting the information around the artworks.

“The main issue is that we now progress to how we represent that collection in the city gallery,” he said.

“Getting our heads around the right wording to be respectful of the Jewish community, more specifically the Holocaust victims and, at the same time, being honest and up-front with his past.”

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