Australia's peak security agency and the NSW Crime Commission have been granted virtually unfettered access to hundreds of thousands of photographs of NSW citizens to bolster their ability to investigate planned and actual terrorism acts.
The NSW government has authorised the release of photographs taken of people who are granted an extensive range of licences and permits to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the state crime commission without a warrant or court order.
But the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said there was no need for the change noting that people expected their personal information only to be used for the purposes which they agree to hand it over to the government.
"With a single stroke of a pen the government says it doesn't matter you gave you information on that basis, we're going to make it available on some other basis."
"The security agencies needing data in order to foil potential attacks can be done quite properly and adequately through the existing warrant system," he said. "That gives an independent oversight of the process and makes sure the access process is not abused."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Delays in investigating social media, foreign translation and gathering international evidence are some of the recently given reasons justifying extension of time terror suspects can be held without charge. Government sources said traditional policing wasn't keeping pace with the new style of lone wolf terrorist threats emanating from social media.
But NSW Civil Liberties Council president Stephen Blanks has rejected the push for 28 days, and said new technology was "not a valid excuse" for keeping people locked up without charge for longer periods.
"It is not the way a free society or our legal system works. Frankly, there's nothing different about this kind of criminal investigation just because a terror offence has occurred."
Mr Blanks said police need to charge people and bring them before the courts. If a person was believed to be a danger to the community, there were other preventive detention powers that could be used.
Moving to 28-day detention would put NSW out of step with the British legislation upon which the Baird government claims to be modelling its proposed law.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Commentators are pointing out that if Premier Mike Baird pushes ahead with his plan to detain terror suspects for 28 days without charge, it will place NSW on its own among Western democracies.
Baird, the sure-footed politician, stumbled on national security this week and it stood out because the Turnbull government has been trying to leave behind fear politics and build a new language on national security.
NSW government insiders offer the explanation that tension is high at NSW Police, and there was a sense nothing had been done about the request for greater powers – then came the Parramatta attack.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks says Baird's actions this week were "odd", and suggests the NSW government is unprepared to say "no" to police.
"This is very damaging to his ability to maintain trust with the Muslim community and the wider community. Everybody thought they [the NSW government] had gone down a different path of engaging positively and listening," says Blanks.
Source: The Brisbane Times
In the past few weeks, Christian leaders have decided to voice those fears from the pulpit in an attempt to reframe the public debate around same-sex marriage in Australia, most notably over the issue of 'religious freedom' where the archbishop cited the case of the Oregon bakers who were earlier this year ordered to pay almost $200,000 in damages after they refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.
To civil libertarians, the notion of accommodating prejudice towards same-sex couples in the name of religious observance is absurd.
"Can bakers refuse to supply weddings to Indigenous people on the grounds of their race? Can bakers refuse to supply cakes to Islamic people on the grounds of their race?" NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said.
"I think it's an absolute misunderstanding of what cake suppliers do," he said. "They supply the cakes."
Mr Blanks said there were already exceptions to anti-discrimination laws to accommodate religious groups.
"In my view, the ability to apply to the Human Rights Commission for exemption from anti-discrimination laws is a suitable mechanism for giving service providers an opportunity to obtain exemptions in particular cases," he said.
"There may be some service providers who are closely associated with particular religious bodies that may merit exemption. Of course, I am left wondering why a religiously oriented wedding cake supplier would feel that it is necessary for faith-based reasons to discriminate on sexual orientation grounds, but not on the basis of whether or not the wedding couple had maintained celibacy."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Further proposed changes to the anti-terror laws by the Turnbull government have seen interest internationally from various groups pointing out Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government has seized on the tragic October 2 shooting in western Sydney of a police staff member by a 15-year-old boy to bring forward planned laws that will include imposing control orders on children as young as 14.
No evidence has been produced that the teenager, Farhad Jabar, shot and killed police accountant Curtis Cheng as an act of terrorism. Jabar himself was quickly gunned down by police and killed. No group, including Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has claimed responsibility for his action.
They note however, that there is already growing (domestic) public opposition to the new laws. NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said they were “undoubtedly going to be in breach of human rights standards,” and condemned as “obviously unacceptable,” the “idea of detaining 14-year-old children for questioning without charge, and secretly for long periods of time.”
Provocatively, Sydney Muslim community leaders were not told about the latest measures when they met for “consultations” with Baird on Monday. Silma Ihram, from the Muslim Women’s Association said the laws would “feed straight into the narrative” of ISIS and “make things worse, unfortunately.”
Source: The World Socialist Web
The ACT government has expressed concern about a proposal to extend the reach of counter-terrorism control orders to youth as young as 14. Federal Attorney-General George Brandis said he would make the change after a request was made by NSW Premier Mike Baird. The request was prompted by the shooting of NSW Police accountant Curtis Cheng by a 15-year-old boy who has been linked to Islamic extremism.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has also criticised the proposed lowering of the control order age threshold.
"The proposed laws are undoubtedly going to be in breach of human rights standards," president Stephen Blanks told the ABC, "The idea of detaining 14-year-old children for questioning without charge, and secretly for long periods of time, should be obviously unacceptable to the whole community."
Source: The Canberra Times
In many people's estimation, NSW Premier Mike Baird is justified in making the case for tougher anti-terror laws in the wake of the October 2 jihadist murder outside Parramatta police station. In Monday’s letter to Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Baird restated the argument for lowering the threshold age for control orders from 16 to 14 and for law enforcement agencies to be allowed to hold terrorism suspects without charge for 28 days rather than the present 14.
However, Stephen Blanks, from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the Baird proposal “undoubtedly” would breach human rights. “The idea of detaining 14-year-old children for questioning without charge, and secretly for long periods of time, should be obviously unacceptable to the whole community.”
Article: Tougher terror laws are needed
Source: The Australian
NSW premier Mike Baird's bid to allow police to hold terror suspects for four weeks without charge is "window dressing" and will not stop young people being radicalised, say civil libertarians. Mr Baird wants police to be given the power to keep suspects in custody for up to 28 days without charge and to lower the age from 16 to 14 years at which someone can be placed under a control order.
Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said the changes will not prevent future attacks.
"I don't think these proposed laws are a genuine attempt to make the community safer. They are simply window-dressing to give the appearance of doing something."
Mr Blanks said community programs, engagement and educational initiatives are the only way to ensure people do not become alienated.
Source: Channel 9 News
In the wake of the shooting of a Sydney Police accountant by a boy, terrorism suspects as young as 14 could have their movements restricted under new federal counter-terrorism laws. Attorney-General George Brandis has flagged the fifth tranche of Commonwealth anti-terror laws, less than two weeks after a 15-year-old boy shot dead Curtis Cheng outside NSW Police Headquarters.
However, Civil Liberty groups believe the existing laws are adequate.
The move, according to the President of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, will be draconian and counter-productive.
“Well, it is another knee jerk reaction to a problem that needs to be addressed in a different way,” he told ABC News Breakfast,"We need to have a conversation in Australia about how we deal with the threat of terrorism while at the same time maintaining human rights, and these laws are just going to be inconsistent with human rights protections.”
Source: The Huffington Post Australia
The Federal Government is set to introduce tough new anti-terror laws into Parliament.The legislation will include a proposal to lower the age at which a control order can be applied from 16 to 14. The New South Wales Government also wants changes that will allow terror suspects to be held for up to 28 days without charge.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties President says such laws would be draconian and ultimately counter-productive.
"The last thing we need is more laws. Australia has legislated more than any other country in response to terrorism and the legislation has been utterly counterproductive. What more extreme legislation does is alienate sections of the community. The proposed laws are undoubtedly going to be in breach of human rights standards."
Article/Radio Broadcast: Federal Government set to introduce new terror laws
Source: ABC AM Radio