NSWCCL in the media

Steep rise in police requests for Opal data to track people on NSW public transport

Law enforcement agencies are dramatically increasing their use of Opal card public transport data to track the movements of people in New South Wales, with approvals for data more than doubling this year.

Internal documents also reveal that police can be handed the information of “collateral cardholders”, or people who are not suspects, when their person of interest’s identity is unknown.

The details of collateral cardholders may be handed over when police request details of all travellers who have used their card at a particular time and place. That may occur, for example, when police have seen a suspect on CCTV, but do not know who they are. 

The vice-president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Pauline Wright, said the number of refusals showed that “inappropriate requests are surely being made”.

“Our view still is that requests for this kind of information should only be able to be made by warrant, rather than leaving it up to the discretion of Transport NSW,” she said. “Clearly there’s been a huge increase in two years in the number of requests, so one can only surmise that the circumstances in which those requests are being made are broadening.

“So as police realise how easy it is to get this, there’s a real potential that it’s being requested in completely inappropriate circumstances.”

Article: Steep rise in police requests for Opal data to track people on NSW public transport

Source: The Guardian


Stephen Blanks talks anti-protest laws with Colin Hesse

Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties discusses anti-protest legislation enacted by the NSW Government, its impact on community opposition to WestConnex and the way the legislation is used by business, government and the police.

"The right to protest guards against the dynamism of politics and society. Freedom to express your opinion in spite of pressure is an important aspect of the NSW democracy."

"We have also had longstanding concerns with the way in which this unit of police has been deployed specifically to suppress protest, and its a paramilitary force which is not a thing of balance between protesters and the community. They are designed to oppress protesters. Protesters should be looking TO police for protection, not the other way around. To turn the police into an anti-protest riot squad is a huge infringement of democracy"

Hear full interview below:

Audio: Stephen Blanks talks anti-protest laws w Colin Hesse

Source: SkidRow Radio 88


Stephen Blanks talks to Ombudsman's Report on review of firearm prohibition search orders

The NSW Ombudsman report on "Review of police use of the firearms prohibition order search powers" was released yesterday, leading some commentators to point out that the orders and redundant, unnecessary and improperly used. 

Stephen Blanks talked with Robbie Buck on ABC 702 morning radio to explain some of the issues raised by the report.

Audio: Breakfast with Robbie Buck (interview at 1:20:00)

Source: ABC 702 Radio

Transcript: See Here


Parliamentary committee backs call to keep terrorists in jail after sentences expire

A parliamentary committee has endorsed new laws allowing convicted terrorists to be kept in jail once their sentences expire, provided a court rules they pose a threat to society.The strengthening of Australia's counter-terrorism laws was recommended by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this year after high-profile terror attacks in Orlando, Nice and Paris.

On Friday, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security recommended the laws be introduced along with 23 amendments.

Civil liberties groups expressed concern about the proposed laws earlier this year claiming they were a distraction and window-dressing.

"People who have been convicted of serious terrorism offences are in jail for many years to come, we're not being told who is about to be released that they're concerned about," New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said.

Article: Parliamentary committee backs call to keep terrorists in jail after sentences expire

Source: ABC News

*PJCIS REPORT can be viewed online here*


Should we sacrifice civil liberties to stay safe?

Recent polls show a large amount of Australians are in favour of increasing powers for government security agencies to defend against terrorism, but how much are we willing to sacrifice for this added 'protection'?

Interview with NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks, ANU researcher Dr. Jill Sheppard, and Counter Terrorism expert from Deakin University, Greg Barton.

Video Link: Should we sacrifice civil liberties to stay safe?

Source: Channel 7: Weekend Sunrise


ASIO wants power to detain family members of terror suspects without a judicial warrant

The national spy agency, ASIO, wants the power to arrest and detain family members of terror suspects for up to seven days without a judicial warrant.

At the moment, a judge has to sign off on this type of arrest and detention and be present for questioning. ASIO says that, in future, the Attorney-General's go-ahead should be sufficient authority.

Stephen Blanks, president of NSWCCL, outlines the Council's views on this important issue with Peter Lloyd on ABC Radio National PM. See below for full transcript.

Audio/Transcript: ASIO wants power to detain family members of terror suspects without a judicial warrant

Source: ABC PM (Radio)


HSU called before NSW Industrial Relations Commission to defend chalk

Political slogans scrawled on the side of ambulances have landed paramedics in court. The slogans criticise the Baird government's changes to death and disability insurance for paramedics.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the Health Services union which represents ambulance officers was called before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to explain the liquid chalk protest messages.

HSU Secretary Gerard Hayes appeared before the industrial commission to explain the "civil disobedience" and said that despite Health Minister Jillian Skinner saying she wants workers to speak out about problems in the health system, "yet when we make our voice heard, we have to explain it before the Industrial Relations Commission," Mr Hayes said.

He went on to say that he was "proud of the spirited, robust campaign being run by grass roots paramedics to make the public aware of the government's intention."

Many politicians and commentators including Green MP David Shoebridge and Stephen Blanks, president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said: "It is not unreasonable to use chalk to mark property in a way that does not permanently damage the property in order to make a political communication.

"The freedom to make political communication is a constitutionally protected freedom."

Article: HSU called before NSW Industrial Relations Commission to defend chalk

Source: The Courier


Opal Week: Location Tracking with Stephen Blanks

In a series on the changes to the Opal Card systems, NSWCCL Stephen Blanks about the privacy (or lack thereof) on the data gathering in the Opal system. 

Audio: Opal Week: Location Tracking with Stephen Blanks

Source: 2SER Breakfast Show


Jedi knights don't need protection from free speech

President of NSWCCL, Stephen Blanks, wrote an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald in defense of the NSWCCL position to oppose religion being added to the racial vilification criteria in upcoming laws. 

Noting the important distinction of 'ethno-religious' groups and 'religion', for example the difference in being a Muslim and a Jedi, Mr. Blanks argues in favour of balance, whereby "Some beliefs which are claimed to be religious, and their adherents, ought to be open to ridicule, even severe ridicule" in the defense of free speech. 

For the full article, see below.

Article: Jedi knights don't need protection from free speech

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald


NSW Council for Civil Liberties opposes the inclusion of religion in racial vilification laws.

The Baird government's refusal to legislate against anti-Muslim hate speech is "playing into the hands" of terrorist groups such as Islamic State, as well as extreme right-wing groups, Muslim community leaders and counter-terrorism experts have warned.

The NSW government is formulating a long-awaited overhaul of racial vilification laws, promising to strengthen the legislation and streamline it to make prosecutions easier. Fairfax Media understands the government will not consider including religion in the Act, which outlaws inciting violence based on race, colour, descent or ethno-religious origin.

NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton would not say why religion would be omitted. However a spokeswoman pointed to the government's 2013 review of the Act, which made no recommendation to include religion.

In that review, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties was among those who opposed the inclusion of religion. The council's president Stephen Blanks told Fairfax Media that religion was "not an inherent characteristic of a person like race is ... and one should be free to criticise religion".

NSWCCL stands by this statement and continues to oppose the inclusion of religion in racial vilification laws.

Article: Anti-Muslim hate speech 'fuels extremism', experts say

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald