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
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.
Article: Mike 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
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