PJCIS report recommends going ahead with bill despite significant reservations and criticism from civil society
The PJCIS report on the proposed change to the Citizenship Act, which would strip dual nationals fighting overseas of their Australian citizenship without conviction, has been released on Friday 4th September. Australia’s leading constitutional lawyers, human rights groups, ethnic community organisations, refugee organisations and human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs have all objected to part or all of the dual national bill as it was drafted.
In his statement, Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW CCL, notes:
"The committee’s first recommendation that the removal of citizenship without conviction would only apply to those offshore significantly cuts down the scope of what the government was trying to do. The way it was drafted it would have applied to significant numbers of people on shore so that is significant but the fact remains citizenship stripping is an inappropriate punishment."
"If people commit a criminal offence it doesn’t mean they should be deprived of their nationality or family should be deprived of their nationality. They should be brought to justice so the whole idea to use citizenship as a tool is really going to do nothing about the threat of terrorism."
Blanks went on to say that stripping people and their families of citizenship would only alienate them from the Australian community and be “counterproductive in our struggle against terrorism. It should not go ahead but it is much less dangerous than the government had originally proposed.”
Source: The Guardian
Dyson Heydon has decided to stay on as Royal Commissioner, despite intense Labor and Union opposition. After a series of emails were shown to have verified his acceptance and later rejection of attending a Liberal Party event calls were made for him to step down due to possible political bias in his handling of the commission.
Heydon determined it was not the case that a "fair-minded lay observer" would conclude that he would be incapable of bringing an "impartial mind" to the work of the commission. However, others aren't so sure it will stand up to public scrutiny.
President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, notes, "There's obviously going to be a high degree of contention about whatever he recommends. Whether or not the recommendations withstand scrutiny in part will depend on whether the public have faith in his objectivity."
Transcript/Audio: Heydon may have misread public mood: Council for Civil Liberties
Source: ABC AM Radio/ABC Online
In a recent announcement, the Australian Border Force (ABF) announced it was conducting a massive joint operation in the Melbourne CBD with police and transit officers. Th dramatic release from the ABF and Victoria police has raised serious questions about the extent of policing in the city.
The prospect of immigration officers conducting large scale operations to check visas around cities raises serious privacy and civil liberties concerns note the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks.
“Police forces generally speaking are not allowed to simply stop people and ask for ID. No state government has gone so far as to say that police will have a power to stop a person who has not engaged in any criminal activity to demand identity details, let alone any other information such as citizenship and visa details. One wouldn’t expect immigration officers would be roaming the streets of Melbourne, and if that were to occur it would make people very uneasy.”
Follow the link below to learn more about your rights and the true extent of power of the police and border patrol.
Source: The Guardian
Junaid Thorne, a self-styled preacher who has been supportive of IS, was jailed last week by a NSW court of appeal for flying under a false ID and buying tickets with a false ID. After a few days in Sydney’s Silverwater jail his lawyer Lydia Shelly said her client was moved to Australia’s highest security correctional facility, Goulburn Correctional Centre.
Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said Thorne had not been convicted of any terrorism offences and should not be placed under maximum security. He went further to note that "The whole community should be alarmed because this could happen to anyone."
Recent attempts by one NSW public school to initiate a prayer group register have been revealed alongside premier Mike Baird's proposed audit of school prayer groups, causing concern amoung parents and the public at large over government encroachment on religious freedom.
President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, called the move "thoroughly alarming".
"There are many people in the Australian community that will have personal experience, or whose parents had personal experience, of adverse consequences that flow from registration of religious affiliation. That a NSW school principal can even suggest such a scheme suggests an appalling lack of knowledge of history, or a terrible insensitivity to the experiences of many in the community. Religious freedom is protected under the Australian constitution, and that includes the right to practice religion privately. If religious activities are to be permitted in public schools, then they must be managed in a way that does not impinge on fundamental freedoms."
Source: The Guardian
There has been a dramatic rise in the number of guns across New South Wales, with currently greater than 850,000 registered firearms, averaging at about 1 gun for every 9 people.
This recent trend has concerned lawmakers such as NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge, who has announced plans to introduce legislation to curb the steep increase in gun ownership. While Senator Shoebridge does not yet have the support of other parties, he does have support from Stephen Blanks, the president of the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties.
"The Council of Civil Liberties has never been supportive of a right to bear arms or to own as many guns as a person wishes," he said. "You have to take into account the community interest in safety and there is a very, very strong, overwhelming interest in the community to be safe from gun crime, inappropriate gun use and the risk of guns being stolen and used illegally."
Source: ABC News
Noise pollution monitors set up to track noise pollution from coal mining in the Hunter Valley have been found to be listening in on citizens' private conversations, intruding on privacy rights.
"President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks said the use of a monitor to record a private conversation was not only a breach of the NSW surveillance act but the Commonwealth privacy act. Mr Blanks said he believed the recent incident was worthy of investigation by the federal privacy commissioner."
Source: The Newcastle Herald
NSW CCL President Stephen Blanks condemns the abuse of power by an Australian customs agent through his 'inappropriate' use of a confiscated mobile phone for personal texting last November.
"The Australian people should be frightened that a public official in a position of apparent authority can illegally access people's phones and send messages and then the department thinks that is not a matter of public interest. That is the kind of secrecy a police state relies on to damage the reputation of people who are being targeted," Mr Blanks said.
Article: Customs officer confiscates passenger's phone and then uses it to secretly text
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
NSWCCL committee member Lydia Shelly has expressed deep concerns following a consultation on the Government’s plans to remove Australian citizenship for citizens found guilty of terrorist related activities.
"As lawyers, mothers and Australian Muslims we are committed to the rule of law, civil liberties and social cohesion. We do not believe the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act are necessary, proportionate or productive. Existing legislation gives the government many ways to tackle terrorism," Lydia argues in her article co-written with Mariam Veiszadeh.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks recently appeared on ABC radio's PM program, condemning the Australian government's reluctance to admit Khaled Sharrouf's wife and children back into Australian society. He suggested that turning a cold shoulder toward vulnerable children, who have been exposed to traumatic events, may lead to further alienation.
"It's very important that we don't make these children the next generation of terrorists. We have to bring these children into our society and show them through our actions that they are part of our society and should be proud to be," Stephen said.
Source: ABC Radio