A recent federal court prosecution over evidence to the Australian Crime Commission has revealed some of the practices that take place in its closed interrogations. It notes that the commission has the power to force people to give evidence against their friends and family in secret. This can later be used to help build criminal investigations.
The article in the The Guardian follows ZZ (pseudonym), who is just one of dozens of people being compelled to give evidence against their friends and family in relation to terrorism matters. His case is the latest in a string of people who are often described as “linked to” or “closely connected” to terrorism investigations – although they may have committed no offences themselves – brought before the commission or its state equivalent, the New South Wales Crime Commission.
“The Australian Crime Commission regime where they have very draconian powers to force people to give evidence is a great concern. These powers are now obviously being exercised frequently and regularly,” said Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
“There is almost no scrutiny or accountability with how the ACC works. And it is entirely possible that its activities are a significant factor in deterring people in the Australian community from cooperating with law enforcement agencies because of the fear that draconian powers will be used against them.”
Article: ‘A form of intimidation’: inside Australia’s most secretive law enforcement body
Source: The Guardian
A woman whose privacy was breached in a NSW hospital said current laws hampered her from taking action after a nurse took explicit photographs of her while she was undergoing surgery at Norwest Private Hospital in late 2014.
A New South Wales parliamentary inquiry has been examining whether legislation was needed to deal with serious invasions of privacy.
It has handed down seven recommendations, which include introducing laws that allow victims to take legal action if an individual has recklessly or intentionally breached their privacy.
Stephen Blanks from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties said any legislation needed to include provisions to ensure that there were not undue restrictions on matters that were in the public interest.
"If there are overriding public interest considerations then they have to be allowed for," he said. "So I think that it's a very important element of any scheme that is brought in."
Article:Victim of NSW hospital privacy breach calls for change to Government legislation
Source: ABC News Online
A 20-year-old Australian who alleged he was tortured by a foreign intelligence agency was forced to undergo a coercive interrogation before the Australian Crime Commission and questioned more than five times by Australian Security Intelligence Organisation operatives.
The ACC can compel people to attend hearings in secret and force them to answer questions.
After refusing to answer a series of inquiries to the ACC’s satisfaction, ZZ was charged and found guilty of contempt by the federal court and imprisoned for a month until he agreed to answer questions.
The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, told Guardian Australia the “draconian powers” of the ACC were of great concern.
“There is almost no scrutiny or accountability with how the ACC works. And it is entirely possible that its activities are a significant factor in deterring people in the Australian community from cooperating with law enforcement agencies because of the fear that draconian powers will be used against them,” he said.
“We need to return to a system where people cannot be forced, against their will, to give evidence which incriminates themselves or their spouses, children or parents. The privilege against self-incrimination is a fundamental freedom. Any government concerned with fundamental freedoms would turn their attention to the operation of the ACC and reduce its powers.”
Article: Crime commission secretly interrogated Australian who was allegedly tortured by foreign agency
Source: The Guardian
Culture guru Tyler Brûlé has doubled-down on his previous criticism of Australia's "nanny state" laws, arguing they sacrifice the sort of freedoms that terrorist groups like Islamic State want us to forgo.
Speaking to Fairfax Media for the launch of a special Australia edition of his lifestyle magazine Monocle, the influential editor and critic said regulations such as Sydney's 1.30am lockout and tough liquor laws were "curbing fun" in a similar way to ISIS.
But the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, did not share Brûlé's degree of concern about nightlife. He said the style icon was focused on "entirely the wrong losses of freedoms" compared to the more serious issues of free speech and police overreach.
"It's not the thin edge of the wedge," Mr Blanks said. "The wedge is splitting up families and detaining people without charge, without reason, on national security grounds. That's scary.
"Having police come in to Paddington wine bars is bad and shouldn't happen, but it's not on the same scale."
Article: 'Nanny state' laws are what ISIS wants, says Tyler Brûlé
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
A Chinese-born, Australian passport holder, Zhao Nuo, has been prosecuted in China for the murder of his wife in Perth.
Zhao successfully managed to flee the country before police could prosecute and was then convicted in China. Zhao's conviction was hailed in Australian and Chinese media reports as a major breakthrough in cross-border law enforcement co-operation. But at what cost?
Zhao is an Australian citizen, who committed a crime, albeit a horrifically brutal one, in Australia before fleeing to China.
In the absence of an extradition treaty, he was tried and ultimately convicted in China, a country with little regard for legal niceties or judicial process. While Australian authorities were assured the death penalty would not be imposed, it's not clear what, if any, other safeguards were sought or received.
"There are some basic conditions on criminal prosecutions that should have been sought and apparently were not .... things like an open court trial, access to counsel and the right to challenge evidence," says Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
"The question is whether we should co-operate with a system which does not afford defendants basic human rights."
Article: China sentence for Perth murder sets dangerous cross-border precedent
Source: Australian Financial Review
Daryush "Roosh" Valizadeh, founder of the self-styled men's advocacy group Return of Kings, a "neomasculinist" group, announced on Twitter on Monday evening that he had booked a ticket on a flight to Australia. The move appears to be in response to online outcry over news that Mr Valizadeh's supporters would host face-to-face "tribal meetings" in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane on Saturday. A representative of City of Sydney Council said the council "are making sure the police know about the meeting".
Solicitor Stephen Blanks, the President of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said there may be grounds for police to disrupt the meeting.
"If the organisers of the assembly don't give one week's notice to the police then the police may enforce the law about unlawful assembly and obstruction against the people who participate," Mr Blanks said.
"Defending the right of free speech involves providing opportunities to people to express opinions which society appals and rejects. The right to free speech does not include the right to advocate violence in any way that may encourage actual violence against women or anyone else.
"If this group is stepping over that boundary, they have no right to assembly."
Article:'Legal rape' group Return of Kings leader Daryush 'Roosh' Valizadeh announces he will come to Australia
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
The Advertiser revealed a staggering half of an entire Wagga work crew was walked offsite this week after testing positive to drugs.
Despite the incident acting as a damning reminder of how entrenched the drug scourge is in Wagga, civil libertarians have dubbed the growing reality of compulsory work site drug testing as “ludicrous” and “farcical”.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president, Stephen Blanks, said a worker could return a positive reading days, weeks and even months after using, but that their ability to work may not be impaired.
“Employers have a responsibility to make sure the workplace is safe and machinery is operated safely, but drug testing is not a satisfactory way of ensuring that and can operate to the extreme prejudice of workers,” Mr Blanks said. “Detection of drugs in blood or saliva is not a real indication of impairment.”
Article: Drug testing 'undermines work ethic'
Source: The Daily Advertiser
Thousands of protesters are expected to picket the streets of Newtown on December 12, blocking traffic as a “demonstration of the gridlock the WestConnex will cause” and to demand a “liveable city for all”.
The protest will double as a street party, with a ‘multi-stage mobile protest festival’ starring local bands and DJs filling the streets of Newtown.
“The common issue is that the State Government is more interested in looking after lobby groups that have given them money than the interests of the average citizen,” Mr Loch said. “Take the lockout laws, for example. We saw a bunch of property developers smashing up our old venues and putting in plans to build massive apartment blocks on them.”
Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, told City Hub that the lockout laws limited individual freedom.
“While the lockout laws represent a restriction of civil liberties, one can’t say there haven’t been corresponding benefits,” Mr Blank told City Hub.
“There are competing civil liberties involved in licensing laws: one is the ability to obtain services at licensed premises at whatever time of day suits you, versus the ability to walk the streets safely,” he said. “There are choices to be made about where to draw the line, and balance competing interests, and those should be regularly looked at.”
Article: Protestors fed up with ‘the wealthy always winning
Source: Alt Media
Australia's parliament has passed legislation to strip dual nationals of their citizenship if they are convicted of terrorism offences or found to have fought with banned groups overseas, despite concerns about deporting jihadists.
Attorney-General George Brandis said the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill, passed late Thursday, updated existing law to reflect "the new age of terrorism".
Stephen Blanks, president of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, said Australia would be breaching its international obligations if it sent people back to countries where they faced torture.
"It's not going to have any real impact on solving the problem," he told AFP on Friday.
Article: Australia passes anti-terrorism law to strip citizenship