NSWCCL News

Policy statement (2017) - defense of the union movement

NSWCCL affirms the role of unions as an essential part of the Australian democracy in the defense of workers’ rights and affirms their right to support other organizations whose activities accord with their own.

 

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Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017

Submission of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties to the Legal and Constitutional
Affairs Committee 

NSWCCL thanks the Senate Committee for the opportunity to comment on this Bill.

Background


The Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is secured by a private company which provides public
services (Serco). In that regard, they have to follow the government rules and apply them to the
Centre. Similar arrangements apply at other Immigration Detention Facilities.


Asylum seekers who came by boat were prohibited from accessing mobile phones some time ago,
while those who came by plane had access until recently. The prohibition is the subject of a court
case brought by The National Justice Project in the Federal Court. In February this year the Court
issued a temporary injunction lifting this ban. An appeal concerning the competence of the court to
hear the case was overturned, and the case continues.


This Bill appears to be an attempt to pre-empt the Court’s finding,
The rules can be arbitrary, demeaning and unfair. Restrictions on what detainees may possess and
on what visitors may bring in with them have been the subject of abrupt changes recently.
A new requirement has been placed on visitors to have 100 points of identification a difficult task
for refugee families. Many former detainees and members of the families of detainees have only an
IMMI, which is worth only 70 points. They do not have drivers’ licences, nor other items to make up
the other 30 points. Since the identity cards are themselves issued by the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), these should be sufficient for entry.

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Civil liberties ‘a luxury’ as premiers back Turnbull’s new anti-terror laws

Mr Turnbull has previously said the data could be used to identify people at airports but also other public venues such as sporting venues and shopping centres.

The state-held data is already available to federal authorities, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said, but can take between 7-10 days to process.

Civil liberties groups said it was a “sad day” for Australia, while privacy advocates warned that it was “inevitable” the data compiled nationally for the first time would eventually be used for purposes besides counter-terrorism.

“This is a sad day when the leaders of our country say that civil liberties are not as important as they were previously, and that freedoms are to be subordinated to national security,” Stephen Blanks, President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, told The New Daily.

Australian Privacy Foundation chair David Vaile told The New Daily that there would eventually be “scope creep”.

Article: Civil liberties ‘a luxury’ as premiers back Turnbull’s new anti-terror laws

Source: The New Daily

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Should You Be Worried About The Government’s Huge New Facial Recognition Database?

Why Are People Concerned?

Digital Rights Watch is an Australian organisation that was established last year to help protect the digital rights of citizens. According to the organisation’s chair, Tim Singleton Norton, the new national facial recognition database is “a gross overreach into the privacy of everyday Australian citizens”.

“There is a severe lack of strong oversight mechanisms and general enforcement for human rights and civil liberties in this country, which results in the public being understandably wary about giving government more powers in the first place,” he said.

Singleton Norton pointed to recent data breaches from the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection as evidence that the government was “ill-equipped to properly protect citizen’s data”.

“When individuals enter into an agreement with a government agency that includes their personal information, they should have the right to understand, be informed and have a say in where that information is held and what it’s being used for,” he said.

“Whilst we of course must ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the tools necessary to undertake their important work, this should not come at the expense of citizens’ rights to privacy.”

The new system has also been criticised by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. Their president, Stephen Blanks, said the proposal could 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,” he said.

Article: Should You Be Worried About The Government’s Huge New Facial Recognition Database?

Source: Junkee

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Civil liberties bodies reject massive facial recognition database

COAG has agreed to the establishment of a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability which will have access to all drivers licences in Australia - as well as visa, passport and citizenship photos. This massive biometric database will be available to state and federal security and law enforcement agencies. The rationale for this very significant increase in the capacity for real time government surveillance of most Australian residents is, of course, to better protect us. 

We want governments to do all that is possible and proportionate to protect us and, as part of that, we support effective coordination between states and the federal agencies. However, NSWCCL fears that this development in mass surveillance capacity will have- over time - significant implications that are not currently appreciated for the nature of our society and the robustness of our democracy.   

We note that our political leaders in their untroubled endorsement of this- and related-  initiatives have blithely dismissed any concerns about the admitted  impact on our privacy or other liberties we have traditionally valued. 

We could take greater comfort in their assurance that they will simultaneously be 'maintaining robust privacy safeguards'if they showed a greater appreciation of, and concern for the associated risks and the likely implications of this increased capacity for state surveillance on citizens. 

At this stage there is little detail as to how this increased surveillance capacity will work and what will be done to protect this massive trove of  our personal  biometric data from hacking or misuse.  

NSWCCL has joined with other civil liberties and privacy organisations to express our deep concern at this new and significant expansion of surveillance capacity. It looks to us like a step too far even in the context of an ongoing terrorist threat. 

Joint media statement 

LibertyVictoria statement 

COAG package.

 

 

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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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