NSWCCL in the media

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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NSW Police say it is public fear, not police agenda behind new terrorism powers

Public perceptions about safety and the fear of terrorism are behind the push for tough new police powers in NSW, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has said.

Speaking at a NSW Law Society forum, Commissioner Fuller said it was the public's belief they were unsafe that was driving legislative change, rather than an agenda by police.

Nevertheless, police do welcome the state's new anti-terrorism laws, Commissioner Fuller said, which include the "lethal force" powers.

"The fear of crime drives a lot of public policy, rather than the reality of crime," he said.

"I think if the community started the conversation about how safe they are, and we spoke more about how safe we are, then there would be less pressures perhaps on stronger, harsher legislation."

Commissioner Fuller said people need to start appreciating that they are safer than ever before.

"Why the doom and gloom — why are people so scared? What are we scared of?"

"I think if we could overcome that and say 'crime's down, it's the lowest it's been in 40 years and I feel safe' perhaps police don't need new powers."

The Commissioner did say however that the terrorism powers, which allow police to pre-emptively target terrorists with intentional kill shots, are needed to keep up with the realities of modern crime.

"When you talk about modern policing around organised crime and terrorism — they are new types of crimes," he said.

"It is very difficult to police new crimes with old laws … new types of crimes will often require new legislation for us to address it effectively."

'Maximum power with minimal accountability'

However, Commissioner Fuller was sharply criticised by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks, who told the forum the recent bolstering of anti-terrorism powers appeared to be the result of lobbying by the police force.

"NSW has engaged in a law-and-order auction where the tougher the law, the better," he said.

"The way in which these laws have been enacted look as though they've been pushed by a police agenda trying to get maximum power with minimal accountability."

The new "lethal force" powers passed State Parliament less than a month after they were announced by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

But Commissioner Fuller defended the process, telling the forum the new laws had the same parliamentary oversight as other new legislation.

"Legislation may get rushed through but it still has to go through both sides of Parliament, there's a whole process that needs to occur," he said.

"Yes, sometimes police want new legislation for issues but our voice at the table is no greater than anyone else."

The NSW coroner recommended police be given greater legal protection to shoot terrorist suspects dead when he handed down his findings into the Lindt Cafe siege earlier this year.

Article: NSW Police say it is public fear, not police agenda behind new terrorism powers

Source: ABC News

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Expanding Police Powers to Use Lethal Force

President of NSWCCL, Stephen Blanks discusses the amended Terrorism (Police Powers) Act with FBi Radio and provides the following comments:

"Well, what the legislation enables is the Commissioner, or if he's not available, the Assistant Police Commissioner to declare an event to be a terrorist event or a likely terrorist event. So it doesn't actually have to be a terrorist event, just likely -- and in that situation police are authorised to use lethal force to bring the event to an end, regardless. And what that means in practice is that they can sue lethal force even if there is no imminent threat of danger to life or serious injury."

"The recommendation came out of the Coroner's report and the problem that the Coroner identified was that the police were confused about the extent of the power they had. and instead of treating it as a situation where the police lawyers needed better training or police needed access to better legal advice, the recommendation was to change the law to enable the police to use lethal force in circumstances where the seriousness of the event might not justify it. What we've ended up with is very unsatisfactory and that it got rushed through Parliament in just a day."

"Effectively the religious or political motivation, or imputed political or religious motivation, of the event is going to be the criteria for using lethal force. Now that is just entirely inappropriate. You can just see the way in which if this power is used without a great deal of care, it is going to cause significant community opposition if somebody gets killed."

"The unintended consequences are that somebody could be killed by police where there has been no imminent threat to life or serious injury, and the use of lethal force, objectively is unnecessary, in order to resolve the situation. I'm not sure that's an unintended consequence, that might actually be the intended consequence or there's no other reason for bringing in the legislation. That is what it's going to enable, and then the police will be legally unaccountable for their actions."

Hear the entire Radio Show: NSW Police Powers, The Vatican and Sydney Fire Safety

Source: FBi Radio

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Warning over politicising parole system

Allowing attorneys-general to make decisions about parole is a "recipe for corruption", warns the NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks.

Malcolm Turnbull will meet with state and territory leaders in Hobart on Friday to discuss an overhaul of the parole system after Melbourne parolee Yacqub Khayre shot dead a clerk and took a woman hostage in an apartment block on Monday night.

The prime minister said any decision to grant parole to a person with a background of violence and terrorist-related activity should go "to the very top", referring to state attorneys-general.

Mr Blanks said Mr Turnbull, as a lawyer, should know the role of attorney-general is "a political role not a judicial role".

"If a decision to grant parole is to be subject to approval of an attorney-general, one might take bets as to how soon it will be before an attorney-general was the subject of proceedings in ICAC for corruption - it is a recipe for corruption," Mr Blanks told AAP on Wednesday.

Article: Warning over politicising parole system

Source: The Australian

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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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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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