NSWCCL in the media

Concerns for heritage, the law, as WestConnex protests escalate

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. 

Article: Concerns for heritage, the law, as WestConnex protests escalate

Source: Alt Media

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Anti-protest laws ‘draconian’ and ‘oppressive’

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.”

Article: Anti-protest laws ‘draconian’ and ‘oppressive’

Source: The New Daily

 

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Removal of Rights in NSW, An Exclusive Interview with Stephen Blanks

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

Article: Removal of Rights in NSW: An Exclusive Interview

Source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers Blog

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New Digital Rights organisation sets sights on data retention rollback

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.

Article 1: New digital rights org sets sights on data retention rollback

Source 1: Computerworld

Article 2: Digital Rights: A New Lobby Group Uniting the Greenies and the IPA

Source 2: The New Matilda

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Mike Baird’s anti-protest laws – what are they and who hates them

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.

ArticleMike Baird’s Anti-Protest Laws – What Are They And Who Hates Them

Source: The New Matilda

 

Read More about this bill on our website:

Anti-protest Bill: community outrage grows

Government and conservative parties force through outrageous anti-protest law

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‘A form of intimidation’: inside Australia’s most secretive law enforcement body

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

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Victim of NSW hospital privacy breach calls for change to Government legislation

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

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Crime commission secretly interrogated Australian who was allegedly tortured by foreign agency

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

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'Nanny state' laws are what ISIS wants, says Tyler Brûlé

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

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China sentence for Perth murder sets dangerous cross-border precedent

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

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