Vice News has written extensively on the encroachment of police powers on the civil liberties of Australians, especially here in NSW.
In this piece, they summarize the recent cascade of laws that expand police powers while simultaneously restraining dissent and protest. NSW Council of Civil Liberties President, Stephen Blanks, sat down to talk with Vice about some of these new laws:
For the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, the main concern is that these directives can reoccur every week for the rest of an individual's life. "I have little doubt these powers will be used to ban people from attending certain Muslim places of worship," he said, adding that it's even possible that this was one such motive behind the law.
Blanks also has grave concerns for the Investigative Detention Bill introduced on the same day. It will allow for the detention of a suspect "to prevent an imminent threat of terrorism" for up to two weeks without charge. He pointed out that a major difference with anti-terror powers passed in 2004 is that police can now question a suspect for up to 16 hours a day, and suspects can be as young as 14 years old.
"What's going to happen is that teenagers are going to be detained and questioned about other family members and friends," Blanks said, stressing that legislation such as this will do nothing for relations with the Islamic community.
A series of anti-protest laws were also passed mid-March, increasing police powers to prevent public protest, particularly against coal seam gas. The laws include a maximum penalty of seven years for hindering the operation of a mine, and for actions like locking onto equipment. "This is simply a law which is prioritising private commercial interests over the public interest in being able to have a fair opportunity to engage in protest," Blanks told VICE.
Source: Vice News
New anti-terror laws introduce by the state government represent the “most serious breach of human rights proposed yet”, according to a Greens MP.
“These laws will see people imprisoned and interrogated based on secret hearsay evidence and unverified police reports in an unprecedented expansion of police powers,” says Greens’ Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge.
Mr Shoebridge says the laws represent an overreach and beyond existing laws, which allow police to detain someone to prevent an immediate threat to the public.
Civil liberties campaigners have also reacted swiftly to criticise the law.
Stephen Banks, president of The NSW Council for Civil Liberties president told ABC News Online the laws would isolate young Australians.
“The police, when they deprive individuals of their liberty, do so under the supervision of an independent arm of government – that is the judiciary,” he said.”
“That is such a fundamental aspect of our free society… and here we are throwing it away.”
The introduction of the laws follow an in-principle agreement last month at the Council of Australian Governments meeting that proposed the NSW model would become to basis of a nationally consistent model.
Source: Alt Media
New database, Georisk, has published credit ratings on Australian households, aimed to measure an individual’s financial risk, by putting consumers in a range from one to ten.
The ratings are publicly available to anyone who wants to search it on a computer. It’s designed to help credit marketers and collection agencies, however as it is public it can be used by anyone. Not everyone was pleased to know their information was publicly visible online.
Stephen Blanks of NSW Council for Civil Liberties said he felt he thought most would consider it an invasion of privacy.
“I think most people are going to feel their privacy is being grossly invaded by public disclosure of this information for anyone who wants to look at it for any purpose whatsoever,” he said.
Source: Channel 7 News
The New South Wales Opposition has indicated it is likely to vote in favour of new counter-terrorism laws the State Government has introduced to Parliament, but said it needs to look at the fine print first. Under the legislation, NSW Police will be able to detain and question terrorism suspects as young as 14 without charge for up to two weeks.
Key points of new laws:
- Suspect can be held for a maximum of 14 days
- A judge can extend detention period by seven days at a time
- The powers will be used as the basis for a national model
"What's come back today, on the face of it, seems to be a more balanced and reasonable proposition, that does protect the community while providing the necessary balances that we need in our democracy," said Luke Foley, Labor Leader of NSW.
However, many are opposed to these new draconian 'anti-terror' laws.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties president, Stephen Banks, said the proposed laws will isolate communities alongside vulnerable, young Australians who instead need support and they will be "resented".
"It will obviously be seen as unfair and alienating by the very people that we need to bring into the system in order to prevent terrorism," he said.
"They can either decide that Australia is against them and they want to fight against our community, or they can be brought into the community and be given every encouragement and incentive to join with the rest of the community.
Mr Blanks said the proposed shift to allow holding periods to be extended by seven days at a time, instead of being subject to a judge's approval every 48 hours, is "contrary to the interests of the community".
"The police, when they deprive individuals of their liberty, do so under the supervision of an independent arm of government - that is the judiciary," he said.
"That is such a fundamental aspect of our free society... and here we are throwing it away."
Source: ABC News Online
Source: Channel 9 News
A CYCLIST has criticised New South Wales police for being heavy handed after an officer threatened to fine her under a law that doesn’t come into effect until next year.
Kingscliff local Heather Stewardson was riding along the shared bike and walking track near Wommin Bay Road on Monday when she was pulled over by a NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Command.
The real estate agent, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, was asked to produce identification and claims the officer told her she would be fined for two offences.
Cyclists are required under NSW law to wear a helmet and to carry ID. However, fines for the ID offence don’t come into effect until March next year. The fine for not wearing a helmet rose this year from $71 to $319, an increase Ms Stewardson said could significantly affect the community atmosphere in the town.
She said she hadn’t been stopped for riding without a helmet for a decade.
New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties President Stephen Blanks said the community expected police to focus on more serious offences.
“There maybe good reason for encouraging cyclists to wear helmets but when police are imposing very large fines on people who don’t wear fines they are simply creating enemies in the community,” he said.
Source: Gold Coast Bulletin
Two protesters have been arrested in Haberfield while staging an occupation of a house slated for demolition as part of the WestConnex project.
As the WestConnex protests continue, the government has switched tactics to remove protesters by appealing to the revitalized Inclosed Land Act (1901), building a cage around protesters to "inclose" them and claiming that if they do not leave the area, they would be subject to arrests and fines.
Stephen Blanks from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties told City Hub that the use of the act raised an interesting question.
“There would appear to be a potential interesting legal question, about whether or not a charge under the enclosed lands act can be brought in circumstances where a fence was erected around the protestors was to enclose the protestors, and was not there for any purpose of enclosing land.”
The NSWCCL was vehemently opposed to recent amendments in the NSW parliament that bolstered the Inclosed Land Act.
Source: Alt Media
Emotions have been running high following the passing of laws in NSW which will see political protesters fighting against the coal seam gas industry, even on their own properties, face large fines and up to seven years in jail.
Hundreds of people demonstrated outside NSW Parliament last week against the harshness of the new laws, which were specifically designed to quell protests against the actions of mining and coal seam gas companies.
Critics say the laws achieve little more than restricting free speech.
President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks told The New Daily: “There are reasons to regard Australia as a police state now. There are so many draconian powers that police have. It is completely oppressive. What is particularly concerning is that the NSW laws criminalise intent. If police form a view that you intend to do something, even if you have done no act towards illegal activity, police can charge you and the penalties are draconian.”
Source: The New Daily
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has been at the forefront of the Australian civil rights movement since 1963. Over the last 50 years, they’ve been tireless in their fight against censorship, abuse of authority, and injustice within the legal system. In 2010, the group played a pivotal role in passing legislation which banned the re-introduction of capital punishment across Australia.
It was an unexpected defamation threat, addressed to one of his clients, that led Stephen Blanks, the group’s current president, to cross paths with the group. His client, an author, was being pursued by a Government department over allegations he had made in a recent book.
“I had a eureka moment and thought of the Council for Civil Liberties,” he said. Days later, the threat was withdrawn: “It was an absolutely stunning victory. From that moment on I was hooked on the idea of being able to achieve outcomes through ways other than straight law.”
Mr Blanks sat down with Sydney Criminal Lawyers earlier this week, to discuss civil liberties, lockouts and the Government’s new anti-protest laws.
Read full article below
Source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers Blog
A new Australian organisation aims to build a broader fight-back around digital civil liberties. Digital Rights Watch officially launched on Friday 11th March, 2016. The chair of the organisation, Tim Singleton Norton, said that DRW isn’t intended as a replacement for existing digital rights and privacy organisations.
Instead the intention is for it to act as an umbrella organisation that can link together and amplify the efforts of different sectors affected by legislation such as the data retention regime.
Singleton Norton said that 2015 was a “pretty horrific year”, citing the introduction of the data retention scheme, the government’s National Facial Biometric Matching Capability and theTrans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement inching closer.
“All of these things came through so rapidly and with very little public debate,” he said.
He said that although there have been some strong advocates on issues such as data retention, ultimately the government has managed to push through legislation with minimal public backlash.
The organisation has a range of what Singleton Norton describes as ‘foundation partners’ — organisations and individuals that have endorsed the general idea of the organisation and have contributed to its formation in some capacity or another.
Among them are Choice, Thoughtworks, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, the Australian Privacy Foundation, human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, broadcaster Mary Kostakidis, and iiNet founder Michael Malone.
Source 1: Computerworld
Source 2: The New Matilda
On Tuesday 8th March, 2016, the Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016 was proposed in the NSW Parliament. The aim of the bill is to "amend and clarify the laws in relation to unlawful interference with mining and other businesses", however concern has been expressed over the expansive powers given to the police, with some commentators referring to it as the 'Anti-Protest' Bill.
The New Matilda reports that these proposed 'anti-protest laws' follow on from undertakings like those made by Premier Mike Baird at a mining industry dinner in late 2014, where he said his government would “crack down” on civil disobedience and “throw the book” at people who “unlawfully enter mining sites”.
In response to the media release of the proposed amendment, President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks spoke to The New Matilda, and noted that what the state government is proposing appears to be “completely unnecessary and disproportionate” to the challenges thrown up by protests against big mining.
"If criminal activity does take place and miners or coal seam gas proponents suffer loss, then they’ve always got the ability to sue the protestors to claim damages. That should compensate them for whatever loss they’ve suffered. That’s a perfectly adequate remedy. It’s been pursued a number of times and there’s no reason to expose people to draconian fines in addition to claims for compensation,” he said.
“Where people are trespassing,” Blanks said, “the law concerning trespass is perfectly adequate to deal with any activity and there’s no need to change them.”
“Police powers which are based on their assessment of a person’s intention are very easily able to be abused and undoubtedly will be abused in many cases – police shouldn’t have those kinds of powers,” Blanks said.
With the full extent of the bill still uncertain, Blanks said that there’s a broader issue within that “police may be seen to be one-sidedly supporting mining interests where there is a legitimate protest going on, which is just going to cause the community to lose confidence in the police”.
He said that “the lessons of history are that very often protests which start this way generate a level of community attention to the issue which causes a complete change in community attitudes against the interests of miners and other commercial interests such as forestry”.
“Protest has on occasion involved civil disobedience and breaches of laws, and there are very, very many cases where the protestors – even though they’ve been engaged in illegal activities – have had widespread or overwhelming community support,” Blanks said.
Source: The New Matilda
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