NSWCCL News

Border Advice for Muslims Alarms Australian Official — but It Came From His Department

Mr. Edries [President of the Muslim Legal Network NSW] said his group had received similar advice in 2015 from representatives of the Border Force, which is under Mr. Dutton’s authority, in a training session. He said he was dismayed by Mr. Dutton’s letter Tuesday and by how the network’s guide, “Anti-Terrorism Laws: ASIO, the Police and You,” had been depicted in the news media.[...]

“It was pretty upsetting for it be portrayed as anything other than an education piece, particularly because we used information provided by the government,” Mr. Edries said.

It was not the first time Mr. Dutton, a conservative, had offended Muslim communities. Last year, he caused an outcry after asserting that former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser should not have allowed Lebanese Muslim migrants into Australia.

The 95-page booklet by the Muslim Legal Network NSW, released last week, is the most recent edition of its guide to Australia’s complex counterterrorism laws, originally published in 2004. Mr. Edries said lawyers and other experts had worked on the latest version for more than 18 months.[...]

The edition has been updated to cover new laws related to citizenship and passports, mandatory metadata retention, and the extension of control orders — court-imposed restrictions on movements or communications — to children as young as 14. It also features a new section on secrecy provisions, preventive detention and police stop-and-search powers.

“It’s really difficult when we try to pick up information that is provided generally from the government and provide it in an easy to understand communiqué and then be put under suspicion,” Mr. Edries said.

Lesley Lynch, vice president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, called the reaction to the booklet “a heartbreakingly outrageous interpretation.” She said the legal network should have been praised for producing an easily understood guide to terrorism laws.

“A huge of number of people get picked up for having material that is entirely innocent,” she said. “It’s one of those kinds of things the average person in whatever community is not going to be on top of. The serious terrorist would be researching this stuff anyhow.”

Article: Border Advice for Muslims Alarms Australian Official — but It Came From His Department

Source: New York Times

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Keenan rejects Abbott call: ‘Police already have shoot-to-kill power’

The former prime minister Tony Abbott said in a radio interview “We do need to give police a shoot-to-kill power where they reasonably think they’re in a terrorist situation.” 

However, Mr Keenan said police already had such power. “This policy is outlined in the National Counter-Terrorism Plan, which was agreed to by the commonwealth and states,” he said.

“Australians can be assured that our police have every power necessary to allow them to respond with the required force to remove a terrorism threat.”

The Australian can reveal a confidential field manual used by the Australian Federal Police says that as “an option of last resort”, officers are empowered to use lethal force for self-defence or to prevent death or serious injury to others. Police law expert Rick Sarre, of the University of South Australia, said Monis gave up a big part of his legal entitlement when he took out a gun, threatened to kill hostages and said he had a bomb.

Stephen Blanks of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said the law was adequate and warned against a situation where police were absolved from all accountability. “The overall objective is to minimise loss of life and harm to innocent hostages in a siege situation. It’s not always the case that early armed action by police is going to achieve that objective.”

Article: Keenan rejects Abbott call: ‘Police already have shoot-to-kill power’

Source: The Australian

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It’s Time for an Australian Bill of Rights

Stephen Blanks, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL), has been advocating for an Australian bill of rights for years now.

Mr Blanks favours a constitutional model, “because then it does achieve the objective of making it difficult for parliament to pass laws that are inconsistent with human rights.” He added that human rights “ought to be bedrock to a free society,” and parliament shouldn’t be able to trade them off “for other political considerations.”

According to Blanks, “one of the problems with the Australian legal system now is that if people’s human rights are infringed’ the only recourse they have is to “make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).”

A constitutional bill of rights would give citizens the right to take legal action when their rights have been infringed upon, Mr Blanks added.

“Over the next few years, I think it’s really going to emerge that the Commonwealth will be out of step with community opinion in the states,” Mr Blanks told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

The NSWCCL recommends establishing a Human Rights Act at the federal level. This would work as an interim measure before changes to the constitution were made.

This legislation would “restrict parliament’s ability to pass laws that are inconsistent with human rights,” Blanks explained. “Not absolutely. But raise barriers.”

Article: It's Time for an Australian Bill of Rights

Source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers

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170 Australians are in jail or facing charges overseas for drug crimes

Nearly one third of the 545 Australians currently imprisoned or facing charges overseas were convicted or arrested for drug-related crimes, according to the latest figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. [...]

"That's an extraordinary number," said Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. "If that's correct then publicly-sourced information is only scratching the surface."

Amnesty International's latest report on the death penalty, released last month, highlighted the secrecy surrounding the use of capital punishment in countries such as China, Vietnam and Malaysia.

As many as a dozen Australians - including Sherrif, Bannister, Gardner and Jalloh - are believed to be held in a single city in southern China, Guangzhou, putting estimates of the number of Australians on or facing death row as high as 17.

"China keeps its grotesque use of the death penalty a 'state secret', but our research shows that thousands of people are sentenced to death and executed each year," said Amnesty International Australia's Rose Kulak.

"China executes more people than all other countries in the world put together."

In 2016, at least 1032 people were executed worldwide, excluding in China, according to the latest Amnesty International figures.

DFAT annual reports tracking statistics on Australians arrested overseas for any offence show the rate of arrest rose to its highest level in six years in 2015-16, with 15.2 arrests per 100,000 departures. The largest number of arrests were in the US (262), followed by Thailand (107) and the United Arab Emirates (100).

"DFAT has long provided clear and consistent messaging to Australians that they must respect the laws of the countries in which they work, live or travel," a departmental spokesperson said.

Mr Blanks said the death was not appropriate for any crime, for "many reasons apart from the barbarity".

"There is always the possibility that errors in the judicial process have been made. There is always the possibility that criminals can reform themselves - and the examples of the two Australians executed in Indonesia, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, stand out in that regard," he said.

"In practice, the death penalty operates in a discriminatory way against those least able to defend themselves. Typically, it will be the drug mules that are caught and executed, rather than the organisers of the drug trade."

Article: Schapelle's home, but 170 Australians are in jail or facing charges overseas for drug crimes

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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Minister Dutton queries intention of C-T laws guide

In a surprising -and disappointing- intervention Minister Dutton has written to the Muslim Legal Network (MLN) querying the intention behind a section of their recently launched guide to anti-terrorism laws: ASIO, the Police and You.

The clear implication from the Minister was that the MLN were intentionally providing guidance to assist persons with terrorist or related criminal intentions to avoid detection by the Australian Border Force or AFP. 

The extraordinary thing about this totally unwarranted distortion of the clear intentions of the guide (and its three earlier editions since 2004) was that the specific section cited as disturbing by the Minister was closely modelled on advice provided by a NSW Regional Coordinator of the Australian Border Force and their own official fact sheet "Border Advice for Hajj Traveller" issued in 2015.  

As anyone reading this document would know the intentions behind the publication are totally constructive and positive. 

This guide was produced for the same reason the three earlier editions were: to provide the community with a clear and understandable description of these laws and the rights and responsibilities of citizens in relation to them. Surely that is a positive! 

The MLN has replied to the Minister and circulated a media statement repudiating his sinister interpretation of the guide.  Nonetheless, they will slightly amend the wording to more strongly emphasise their positive intention. 

NSWCCL considers the Minister's distorted interpretation to be deeply disturbing. We hope it does not signal an unwarranted and biased focus on this community guide to  C-T laws because it was produced by a Muslim legal network.  

We commend this 4th edition of ASIO, the Police and You. It provides a much needed service to the community - and we are very pleased that NSWCCL has contributed to all of the editions since 2004. 

 

Dr Lesley Lynch 

V-P NSWCCL 

MLN media release 

Anti-terrorism laws- ASIO, the police and you 

 

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ASIO, the police and you - guide to anti-terrorism laws

A much needed, plain English guide to Australia's complex array of counter-terrorism laws was launched tonight by the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN) and the NSW Muslim Legal Network (MLN).  NSWCCL was very pleased to assist in this enterprise by reviewing and advising on aspects of the publication - as we also did in its earlier versions of 2004 and 2007. 

AMCRAN and the MLN have delivered again on very important and difficult project. It is a time-consuming and complex forensic task to analyse the 80 plus counter-terrorism laws in Australia to extract accurate and reliable information for citizens who might be impacted by these laws and their legal representatives.  

The initial edition of this guide was in response to a community need to understand new laws that were not only very complex but markedly different in their implications for rights and responsibilities of citizens- and the powers of ASIO and the AFP.   This 2017 edition incorporates the virtual tsunami of new counter-terrorism laws passed in recent years- significant parts of which the NSWCCL, the Law Council of Australia and many community groups strongly opposed.  

Significant changes covered in this version include:

"new offences of advocating terrorism and genocide; the new offence of travelling to declared areas; laws affecting citizenship and passports; the introduction of named person warrants; the introduction of mandatory metadata retention laws; laws allowing control orders to apply to children as young as 14 years; and the increase of the powers of both the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP)".  (Preface to the 4th edition) 

This guide will help the the community to understand the reach of current counter-terrorism laws and the powers of ASIO and the Australian Federal Police. It may also be helpful for ASIO and AFP officers. It is a terrifically important publication - and we congratulate the MLN and AMCRAN and the other individuals who assisted with the writing and review process. 

We are fairly confident - along with the publishers - that this will not be the final version. 

In the near future NSWCCL will be collaborating with other interested groups to run forums to familiarise interested people with the contents and significance of this updated guide. 

 

Dr Lesley Lynch

Convenor National Security and Counter Terrorism Group. 

 

Anti-terrorism laws- ASIO the police and you 

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A National Integrity Commission for Australia?

NSWCCL has formally argued its strong support for a national anti-corruption agency in Australia.

We put our views in a submission to the current Senate Select Committee Inquiry on a National Integrity Commission (NIC) which continues the work of the 2016 Inquiry on the same topic: i.e. should  Australia have a national anti-corruption body like the NSW ICAC and similar bodies in other states?

As a civil liberties organisation NSWCCL has previously opposed anti-corruption agencies sitting outside the established justice system and wielding extraordinary coercive and covert powers. We have cautiously shifted our position in response to the growing threat that increasingly complex forms of corruption pose to the public good in Australia:  undermining the integrity of our political system, distorting the policy making process, diverting resources from public good objectives and generally undermining public trust in our political class, governing institutions and public administration. 

If not more effectively checked, corruption poses a threat to democratic values and processes–including individual rights and liberties. From a civil liberties perspective, the balance between greater public good and greater public harm has shifted. In our view the Government's claim that its current 'multi-agency' approach is effective is demonstrably wrong. 

If the public interest is to be protected against the corrosive effects of serious and systemic corruption, NSWCCL acknowledges that the establishment of anti-corruption agencies equipped with extraordinary investigative powers- albeit with proper constraints and safeguards- is necessary and proportionate.    

NSWCCL's  support is absolutely dependent on strong constraints and safeguards that establish the optimal balance between individual rights and the effectiveness of the NIC in exposing corruption for the public good.   Getting this balance right has been well traversed in NSW since ICAC's establishment in 1988 and subsequently in other states as the operation of the state anti-corruption bodies has come under much scrutiny and review. The Select Committee has a wealth of state level experience on which to develop its recommendations. 

Transparency and public hearings 

Central to our support for a NIC was that it have the power to hold public hearings of its investigations.  This will be one of the most controversial issues to be determined- if the Committee recommends the establishment of a NIC. 

There is a good reason for this level of controversy. There is a serious tension between the potential for unfair reputational damage for individuals being publicly investigated without the protection of a fair trial before a court - versus the undoubted public good that flows in many ways from open investigation and exposure of corruption in these hearings. 

NSWCCL considers that ICAC's use of public hearings has overwhelmingly benefited the public good.  It has also provided proper transparency to ICAC's investigations which, by allowing public scrutiny of part of ICAC’s operations, provides an important dimension of oversight of the agency.  It has also been hugely important in exposing the level and nature of corruption in NSW which is a positive in itself- but also generates much needed pressure on Governments to take appropriate anti-corruption action. 

The public hearings, in so far as they have built considerable community support for ICAC, also provide some level of protection from inappropriately motivated Government interventions around ICAC’s powers. 

 

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Migration Act Proposed Amendments

Not content with the Migration Act in its current form, the Government continues to put forward changes designed to increase the power of the Minister and further constrain avenues available to asylum seekers and refugees. Our Asylum Seeker and Refugee Action Group has considered these bills and asks you to contact your local members of Parliament to oppose the proposed changes to the Migration Act.  If you have a Coalition member of the Federal Parliament, you could urge them to rethink these Bills. If you have a local or nearby ALP member of the Federal Parliament, you could contact them, or one of the NSW ALP or Green Senators—to urge them to maintain their opposition to the following bills. Two of these Bills have been passed by the House of Representatives but, so far, been rejected or delayed by the Senate (the third of the Bills listed below has not yet passed the House of Representatives): 

 The Migration Amendment (Visa Revalidation and Other Measures) Bill 2016,

The Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016,

The Migration Legislation Amendment (Code of Procedure Harmonisation) Bill 2016 Provisions. 

 These bills contain shameful features which would undermine the rights, not only of asylum seekers and of recognised refugees, but of permanent residents and temporary visa holders across the board.  They give unprecedented, non-compellable, non-reviewable powers to the Minister for Immigration and Border Security. 

 Full details of objections to these bills are made in submissions made by the Law Council of Australia or by the CCL and minority reports by ALP senators and by Green senators on the Legal and Constitutional Committee of the Senate (LEGCON):  http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Completed_inquiries

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NSW police complaints in limbo as new watchdog falls behind schedule

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said the LECC’s delay left the state without an effective oversight body.

“Given that we are already in May and its website says they will start taking complaints in May, the public has got a legitimate expectation that more information should be available about when the LECC should commence their operations,” he said.

“A properly independent body responsible for dealing with complaints about police is a critically important aspect of ensuring that police are properly accountable.

“Interactions with the police for many members of the public are often difficult and in difficult circumstances. There does need to be a proper complaints process and a proper investigatory body which can deal with complaints about the police.”

Article: NSW police complaints in limbo as new watchdog falls behind schedule

Source: The Guardian

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NSWCCL supportive of NSW renewed push for abortion criminalisation

Abortions are legally conducted under an interpretation of the Crimes Act by the NSW district court in 1971, known as the Levine ruling, which allows doctors to approve the procedure when a woman’s physical or mental health is in danger, and taking into account social, economic or other medical factors.

The ACT has decriminalised abortion completely and Tasmania and Victoria have also successfully pursued abortion law reform.

But similar attempts in Queensland ran into difficulty and were delayed earlier this year, following opposition from the state’s Liberal National party party.

The bill will also seek to establish 150-metre safe access zones around abortion clinics to protect women’s privacy and prevent harassment from protesters. 

The reforms have the backing of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Marie Stopes, Family Planning NSW and many other groups.

Article: Abortion decriminalisation to get renewed push in NSW parliament

Source: The Guardian

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