NSWCCL News

Turnbull government’s new anti-terror laws labelled ‘draconian’

While NSW adopted a 14-day maximum pre-charge detention regime under former premier Mike Baird, the period is seven days in most states and only eight hours in South Australia.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Stephen Blanks told The New Daily the proposed pre-charge detention law was “draconian” and should not be nationalised.

“They are not consistent with fundamental freedoms and liberty,” he said.

But Deakin University terrorism expert Greg Barton said they would be “rarely used” because the Australian Federal Police was conscious of not losing the public’s confidence.

“As long as we see an approach that is cautious and measured, we should not be concerned,” Dr Barton told The New Daily

Australian Privacy Foundation chair David Vaile said using state and territory drivers’ licenses for facial recognition was “a full-frontal attack on the core ideas behind data protection and privacy”.

Mr Vaile told The New Daily people did not consent for their photo or other data to be used by the federal government when they applied for drivers’ licenses.

Article: Turnbull government’s new anti-terror laws labelled ‘draconian’

Source: The New Daily

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'Nation's toughest terror laws': Berejiklian unveils 'drastic' plan

"NSW will be the first state in Australia to address this," Ms Berejiklian said. "We know these are tough laws but unfortunately these circumstances are here because of what we see around the world and around Australia."

The Premier said the policy was "drastic" but would be modelled on existing post-sentencing schemes for violent or sex offenders.

The Premier's comments come the day before the Council of Australian Governments, a meeting of Australian state and federal governments on Thursday where strengthened national security policies will be high on the agenda.

But the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said there was no need for any extension of post-sentencing policies.

"It can only be [a] political [measure]," said President Stephen Blanks. "It's just an abuse of what the courts are there for, which is to find truth.

"This is a regime which will result in the continued detention of people simply for what they say or think. It's fundamentally contrary to the idea of a free society".

The Premier said her government was still considering the details of a federal government proposal to grant its authorities access to states' databases to harvest licence photos that could track suspects using facial recognition technology and surveillance footage.

Article: 'Nation's toughest terror laws': Berejiklian unveils 'drastic' plan

Source: Daily Advertiser

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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveils plan to introduce 'nation's toughest terror laws'

The Premier's comments come the day before the Council of Australian Governments, a meeting of Australian state and federal governments on Thursday where strengthened national security policies will be high on the agenda.

But the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said there was no need for any extension of post-sentencing policies.

"It can only be [a] political [measure]," said President Stephen Blanks. "It's just an abuse of what the courts are there for, which is to find truth.

"This is a regime which will result in the continued detention of people simply for what they say or think. It's fundamentally contrary to the idea of a free society". 

The Premier said her government was still considering the details of a federal government proposal to grant its authorities access to states' databases to harvest licence photos that could track suspects using facial recognition technology and surveillance footage. 

But Ms Berejiklian said the NSW government generally supported strengthening national security protections. 

"All of us have to accept, from time to time, that our civil liberties aren't what they used to be," she said. "I'm keen to support any measure that supports public safety.

"I think all the community would expect us to have a no regrets policy; I don't want us to say what could we have done?

"Sometimes it means all of us have to give up a little bit of our civil liberties.

"It's not a 'maybe' threat; the threat in NSW is probable. When the threat is probable you need to look at what you're doing." Berejiklian said.

Article: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveils plan to introduce 'nation's toughest terror laws'

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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Civil liberties groups 'Alarmed' over National facial recognition database

The Prime Minister will use tomorrow's COAG national security summit to urge the Premiers to hand over the photos and information on state drivers' licences.

Malcolm Turnbull says the aim is to build a national facial recognition database for use by law enforcement agencies.

Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says Australians should be very alarmed by such a proposal.

He's speaking to Cathy Bell.

Interview: Civil liberties groups 'Alarmed' over National facial recognition database

Source: ABC News on Radio

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Expanding facial recognition database in Australia not justified, watchdog warns

Australians should be gravely concerned about moves to add millions of people to a facial recognition database because of perceived terror threats, according to a leading civil liberties body.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will urge state and territory leaders to hand over license photos of all drivers at a special national security summit in Canberra on Thursday.

The federal database could be used, for example, to conduct surveillance at airports, sports stadia, shopping malls and other public places.

But the Turnbull strategy has been sharply criticised by Stephen Blanks, president of NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL).

He accused the federal government of "whipping up fear" and questioned if the likelihood of terror threats in Australia justified a marked increase in state surveillance.

"This proposal has a grave danger to it," Blanks told nine.com.au.

He also claimed the move would undermine trust in government.

"It is quite alarming when information you have given to government for one purpose … is then used for an entirely different purpose."

Government sources on Tuesday told 9NEWS that driver's license information was the "mother-load" it needed to build a powerful law enforcement tool.

On Wednesday, in front of media, Turnbull kept repeating "keeping Australia safe" was the relentless focus of any changes to legislation.

The prime minister talked about how facial recognition tools would help alert counter-terror agencies to incidents such as the recent alleged Etihad bomb plot at Sydney airport.

...

"The system was designed so that people who looked 50% or more similar to the wanted suspect were flagged as a possible match. This means that a vast number of 'possible matches' will be completely innocent people."

The technology also frequently misidentifies African-Americans, according to a recent US government hearing.

NSWCCL president Stephen Blanks questioned if there had been sufficient debate and community consultation about the issue.

Blanks said the media's focus on acts of terror taking place in other parts of the world made Australians feel unsafe in their own country.

"It's easy to whip up fear where we have media that gives big publicity to individual instances of terror but without the context of how much dangerous activity there really is in Australia.

"Totalitarian governments who want to abuse their position often find databases of this kind very useful to pursue unacceptable policies."

Last month, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller proclaimed crime rates in NSW were "at 20-year lows".

Blanks claimed it had probably never been a safer time to be an Australian.

He cautioned counter-terror laws, once passed, were rarely reversed.

"These proposals are going to be a permanent arrangement in the hands of good government and bad government," Blanks said.

It is unpopular and politically unacceptable to question if national security agencies are sufficiently empowered, Blanks added.

Article: Expanding facial recognition database in Australia not justified, watchdog warns

Source: 9 News

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Turnbull defends proposed anti-terrorism laws as constitutional

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties president, Stephen Blanks, told Guardian Australia that plot was a “worst-case example” and police hadn’t needed the 14-day period, showing there was no need for “draconian” new laws.

“We don’t think detention without charge ought to be permitted at all … It’s just inappropriate in a free society for police to be able to detain people without charge,” he said.

Blanks questioned if hearings to extend detention would be conducted in secret and how detained persons, even if they were represented, could convince a judge to let them go. “It’s a misuse of the position of the courts to involve them in detaining people without due legal process,” he said.

Earlier Turnbull said the government worked with the AFP, state counterparts and legal advisers to “fine-tune and improve our national security laws”.

“Our primary, overwhelming responsibility is to keep Australians safe. We are relentless in that and we will always continue to improve and enhance the tools our agencies have to keep us safe.”

The Australian governments will also discuss improving access to existing databases of drivers’ licences to give federal police and security agencies national facial biometric matching capability.

Turnbull said about half of Australians already have their photo in a federal government system, but bringing together driver’s licence photos would help “build up a national system that will enable us … particularly to be able to identify people that are suspected of, or involved in, terrorist activities”.

Article: Turnbull defends proposed anti-terrorism laws as constitutional

Source: The Guardian

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National Integrity Commission -committee report equivocates

There is  widespread and  well argued community and expert support for a national body to expose  and prevent serious and systemic corruption within, and relating to, public administration (including the electoral process and parliament including MPs and their staff).

In April this year, NSWCCL joined others in arguing strongly for the immediate establishment of such a body to a Senate Select Committee specially established to consider (yet again..) this longstanding and increasingly urgent issue. (see earlier post

At the time there was some optimism that at last effective action by the Parliament might be possible.    While it was clear the Government would not soften its opposition, it did appear that Labor may shift its position and support some kind of national anti-corruption body. Significantly, the Select Committee was chaired by Senator Jacinta Collins from the ALP.

Unfortunately the recently released report of the Select Committee is somewhat of a disappointment in that its recommendations are equivocal.

Noting the number of recent inquiries into the issue, NSWCCL argued that the time for a  decisive recommendation for immediate action on a national body had come: 

We are concerned that if there is no firm recommendation for the establishment of a NIC  from this Inquiry, the same lack of follow-through would again be a likely outcome. ‘

‘Given there appears to be greater openness for action on this issue in the current Parliament than was previously the case, a decisive recommendation may generate positive outcomes. This may not be so at a later time. ‘

Sadly, this argument did not prevail -though it was argued by numbers of key submissions. With the support of the ALP and coalition members,  the majority report recommended a transitional approach with priority being given to the position the Government and its agencies had favoured - that the focus of action should be strengthening the existing national framework:

'The committee recommends that the Commonwealth government prioritises strengthening the national integrity framework in order to make it more coherent, comprehensible and accessible.' (Rec 1)

However, the Committee did not reject the strong arguments in support of an overarching anti-corruption body. In fact it found that the evidence was pretty persuasive:

'On the basis of the evidence before it, the committee also believes that the Commonwealth government should carefully weigh whether a Commonwealth agency with broad scope to address integrity and corruption matters—not just law enforcement or high risk integrity and corruption—is necessary. It is certainly an area of great interest to the public and irrespective of whether it is achieved by way of a new federal agency or by some other mechanism(s), current arrangements must be strengthened' (par 4.141, p218)

and therefore called for 'careful consideration' of such a body: 

'The committee recommends that the Commonwealth government gives careful consideration to establishing a Commonwealth agency with broad scope and jurisdiction to address integrity and corruption matters.' (Rec 2) 

NSWCCL argued that there was no incompatibility between deciding to establish a national body and ongoing analysis of and strengthening of the national integrity framework.  

There was committee support for this  stronger position from the NXT representative Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore and Senator Hinch in added comments and from the Green's Senator Lee Rhianon  in a dissenting report. All argued for an immediate start on  the establishment of a national integrity body.   

The Greens also agreed with the NSWCCL position that the new body should be empowered to conduct public inquiries where it is in the public interest to do so. 

 The Committee made 5 other process related recommendations which are all positive and reasonable- but in our view cannot be an effective alternative to a single overarching national integrity commission. 

Where to next 

The body of the report makes for a strong argument for a swift move to a national body. The danger is that, given the equivocal recommendations, the moment for the necessary, decisive action will be lost in the chaotic and contentious parliamentary context. 

We do not yet have a Government response to the Committee report - or from the Labor Party.  However, it is not likely that the Government will decide to go beyond the Committee's recommendations and quite possible that it will ignore recommendation 2 - and possibly others - and focus only on recommendation 1.  

NSWCCL will continue to argue the urgent need for a national body. 

But we will also join efforts with those seeking to keep alive and progress the other recommendations and try to keep the Government explicitly working on a staged agenda with the eventual establishment of a broad based national integrity commission as a likely outcome.  

 

NSWCCL  NIC submission April 2017 

Select Committee Report on a NIC Sept 2017 

 

Dr Lesley Lynch 

VP NSWCCL

 

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Why a Blackberry Will No Longer be a Criminal's Best Friend

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Councils ‘spying’ on residents with tracking devices on bins

A small device has been fitted on bins around Sydney to see what's being thrown out but critics fear where personal information could end up.

NSWCCL Stephen Blanks contributed to this story with concern for what happens to the information collected by these devices.

"My concern is that Council is not being transparent about what is being done with the data that is being collected. The data could be valuable to data and could be some thing that Google, for example is prepared to pay for. "

David Vaile from Australian Privacy Foundation also questions the future use of data gathered. "The big question is, what else can they do with it later on? Can they tie it with other information and discriminate against you or maybe discriminate against your neighbourhood?"

Video: Sydney Councils ‘spying’ on residents with tracking devices on bins

Source: Channel 7 News

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Panel Discussion: Bending the Rule of Law

NSWCCL President, Stephen Blanks, discussed 'Bending the Rule of Law' at the first session of the Thought Leadership Program 2017 hosted and run by The Law Society of New South Wales.

Stephen was accompanied by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, UNSW Gordon Samuels Professor of Law and Social Theory Professor Martin Krygier and Barrister Peggy Dwyer as they discuss security, the rule of law and civil liberties.

For more information on upcoming discussions, visit the Law Society of NSW Thought Leadership page.

Photos below credited to: Jason McCormack 

Stephen Blanks, Mick Fuller and Tamara Kamien

(Left to right) NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and Thought Leadership Program Manager Tamara Kamien

 

Stephen Blanks

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks

 

Mick Fuller, Martin Krygier, Peggy Dwyer, Stephen Blanks, and Pauline Wright

(Left to right) NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, UNSW Professor Martin Krygier, Barrister Peggy Dwyer, NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks and Law Society President and NSWCCL VP Pauline Wright

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