Author Archives: Spencer Zifcak

Spencer Zifcak

About Spencer Zifcak

Spencer Zifcak is a former President of Liberty Victoria.

Searches, Seizures and Sanctions in Australia’s Immigration Detention Camps

A disturbing and distressing new development has occurred in the Commonwealth’s policies with respect to immigration detention. Pursuant to an amendment to the Migration Act (Cth), non-citizens who have committed criminal offences in Australia are now subject, under s.501, to … Continue reading

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. The New Asio Powers: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, has introduced new, comprehensive powers for ASIO. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment Bill 2020 repeals ASIO’s existing questioning and detention warrant framework and introduces a reformed and extended compulsory questioning scheme. The … Continue reading

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. The Religious Discrimination Bill

The Religious Discrimination Bill, introduced by the Attorney-General Christian Porter, has its flaws. Nevertheless, it walks a more or less acceptable line between arch proponents and critics of the recent campaign for greater religious freedoms. The Government has produced relatively … Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights, Politics, Religion and Faith | 7 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Journalists, media freedom and the law.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on journalists from News Corporation and the ABC have caused very considerable community consternation. The fact that these raids occurred in the immediate aftermath of the recent election and within a day of each … Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights, Politics | 4 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. The Federal Government Corrodes the Independence of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

The Federal Government Corrodes the Independence of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal The Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) is a quasi-judicial body designed to promote the rule of law and good government by enabling citizens to call into question the decisions … Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights, Politics | 2 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Offshore Processing: The New Legal Attack.

Two new legal actions designed to put an end to Australia’s policy of offshore processing have just landed at the High Court of Australia. In a novel twist, the cases will not depend on the High Court’s interpretation of the … Continue reading

Posted in Refugees, Immigration | 3 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. No Friend But the Mountains’:* Behrouz Boochani’s Extraordinary Narrative Of Life on Manus Island

Behrouz Boochani is an Iranian journalist, writer and refugee. He arrived in Australian waters by boat seeking refuge after a near fatal journey from Indonesia. He never made it to the mainland. Kevin Rudd had shut down access to Australia. … Continue reading

Posted in Refugees, Immigration | 1 Comment

SPENCER ZIFCAK. The Attorney-General, the ASIS Officer and his Lawyer: The Story of the Shameful Timor Prosecution

Last week the Attorney-General, Christian Porter, announced that he had approved the prosecution of Witness K, a former ASIS operative and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, a former Attorney-General of the ACT. They are to be prosecuted for a breach of … Continue reading

Posted in Politics, World Affairs | 9 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Vigil for Eurydice Dixon

Eurydice Dixon was raped and murdered no more than shouting distance from where I live. Had she screamed I might have heard her cry from across Melbourne Cemetery. But if she did, no one heard her.

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. Are Thousands of Asylum Seekers in Australia About to be Thrown off Income Support?

About two months ago, Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs took a decision that will have momentous consequences. In an initiative, given no publicity, the Minister decided that the substantial majority of asylum seekers awaiting the determination of their applications … Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Refugees, Immigration | 2 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Need an urgent medical transfer from Nauru? Forget it.

The former Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF), Roman Quaedvlieg, made a remarkable admission last week. It occurred in an exchange on Twitter with a former senior medical officer who had worked with refugees on Nauru. In a tweet, … Continue reading

Posted in Refugees, Immigration | 3 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Government Policies globally and the Torture of Refugees

Nils Melzer is the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment. Recently, he presented a damning report to the UN Human Rights Council on the subjection of refugees across the world to torture. Melzer’s fundamental contention … Continue reading

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. Australia elected to UN Human Rights Council – despite international condemnation.

Two weeks ago, Australia was chosen as one of two new member nations on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Before one gets too excited about this achievement it is worth noting that our country’s election was uncontested. There were three … Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights, Indigenous affairs, World Affairs | 1 Comment

SPENCER ZIFCAK. The Trouble with Section 44: the constitutional provision afflicting our Parliament

It’s been quite a month. At least seven members of the Federal Parliament have been referred to the High Court to determine their eligibility to have been elected, and there is a real prospect of an outcome that could cost … Continue reading

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. What’s Wrong with Peter Dutton’s New Super Ministry? The Preparation, the Institution, and the Politician Perhaps?

Peter Dutton is to be given a fiefdom – the new, massive Department of Home Affairs. Peta Credlin responded immediately by saying that the creation of the new department had the ‘stink of a prime minister who’s under pressure and … Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Human Rights | 1 Comment

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Three Ministers vs. Three Judges: Executive Government gets Flattened

In Victoria’s Court of Appeal last Friday, an encounter unprecedented in Australian legal and political history played itself out. Through the Commonwealth Solicitor-General (SG) three Commonwealth Government Ministers made an abject apology to the Court.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. The Black Hearts Behind Australia’s Offshore Detention Policy

So, the Australian Government has settled a class action brought by asylum seekers detained on Manus Island for $70,000,000. Apparently, the settlement was reached because the Government was fearful of the evidence and stories of official abuse that would have … Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights, Refugees, Immigration | 4 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. From Imbroglio to Fiasco: Malcolm Turnbull Loses the Plot on S.18C

The argument about the terms of Sections 18C and 18D of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) began with the case brought against the journalist, Andrew Bolt, now some six years ago. The temperature of the debate has risen and … Continue reading

Posted in Media, Politics | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Robert Manne v Ramesh Thakur v Gillian Triggs: What on Earth is Going On?

If one were ever in this situation, who would one wish to speak for them: George Brandis or Gillian Triggs? That’s the choice.  

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. The Federal Government Attacks its Watchers

In recent years, the Federal Government has made an art form of undermining the autonomy of independent statutory offices established to hold it to account. One by one, statutory offices have been subject to forceful governmental and media assaults.

Posted in Human Rights, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Critique of Government’s attacks on civil society.

  UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders’ Scathing Critique of Government’s Attacks on Civil Society  In 1998, after 14 years of haggling, the UN General Assembly finally adopted the landmark UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. After another 10 … Continue reading

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. First Law Officer v Second Law Officer: George Brandis and Justin Gleeson in Conflict (Part 2)

In a previous article in these pages (SPENCER ZIFCAK. First Law Officer vs Second Law Officer: George Brandis undermines Justin Gleeson), I set down the core principles at stake in the present conflict between the Commonwealth Attorney-General, George Brandis, and … Continue reading

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Freedom of Speech and the Racial Discrimination Act

  Within days of the July election result having finally been announced, forces within the Conservative faction of the Liberal-National party moved to re-open the debate on reform to S.18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). Section 18C makes it … Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights, Politics, Refugees, Immigration | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

SPENCER ZIFCAK. Counter-terrorism and human rights.

I am presently in Paris. Along with many other countries, France faces a terrorism threat. France is grappling with the problem of how democracies can best handle threats of terrorism. In light of that I am reposting an earlier article … Continue reading

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. Chilcot: The War and the Law

  As is now well known, the Chilcot Report on the British Government’s planning, execution and aftermath of the Iraq war provided a scathing critique of almost every aspect of the Prime Minister’s and government’s conduct. There is one facet … Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Media, Politics, World Affairs | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. First Law Officer vs Second Law Officer: George Brandis Undermines Justin Gleeson (Part 1)

  It has become a regrettable pattern in the legal world for Attorney-General, George Brandis, to seek to undermine holders of independent legal offices with whom he has disagreed. One thinks back only a year, to recall his vociferous attack … Continue reading

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. PNG Supreme Court Trumps Detention on Manus Island and Australia’s High Court too. It is regrettable that Australia does not have a similar Bill of Human Rights

In the latest legal saga to beset the Government’s troubled offshore processing program, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea declared that the mandatory detention of asylum seekers from Australia on Manus Island was unconstitutional. The Court held that the … Continue reading

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Spencer Zifcak. Special Envoy on Human Rights. Ruddock. What?

In 2003, I wrote a short book entitled Mr Ruddock Goes to Geneva. The book was not as superficial as its title might have suggested. It was in fact a serious study of Australia’s vexed relationship with the UN Human … Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights, Politics, Refugees, Immigration, World Affairs | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Spencer Zifcak. Co-opting the Judiciary: Counter-Terrorism Laws at Work

Regrettably, one matter that has drifted to the sidelines in Australian debates about the operation of counter-terrorism laws is that these laws consistently marginalise and undermine the role of the judiciary. Judicial power, and hence the rule of law, is … Continue reading

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Spencer Zifcak. UN Human Rights Council Weighs in on Australia

On 21st of March 2000, an Australian delegation appeared before the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva. The Hon Philip Ruddock, then Minister for Immigration in the Howard Government, led the delegation. … Continue reading

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