NSWCCL in the media

Fresh terrorism crackdown in prisons

A fresh counter-terrorism crackdown has been launched across NSW prisons which could force lower-security inmates to use English when writing letters, speaking on the phone or talking with visitors.

The state government on Friday created a new prisoner designation – a "national security interest inmate" (NSI) – to crack down on prisoners deemed at risk of inciting or organising terrorism via their contact with the outside world.  

The new powers allow NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin to impose severe restrictions on the ability of prisoners who have not been convicted of terrorism offences to communicate with visitors, friends and family.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks referred to the measures as "counter-productive", saying,

"This kind of regulation is going to make reintegration more difficult because it will build up opposition and resentment from the prisoners concerned and their families, whose communications with them will be inhibited."

Article:'National security interest inmate': fresh terrorism crackdown in prisons

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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NSW conducts inquiry into 'revenge porn'

Ex-lovers who take revenge on their former partners by distributing explicit images online will be a focus of a parliamentary inquiry today. New South Wales Parliament's Law and Justice Committee will investigate what action can be taken against "revenge porn" as part of the hearing into remedies for serious privacy invasions.

The inquiry will hear from the NSW Privacy Commissioner, several researchers from universities across the state and advocacy groups. Submissions have addressed the lack of laws around and penalties for the sharing of explicit images without consent.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said the council did not see issue with revenge porn being dealt with by both criminal and civil laws.

"Federal Parliament is looking at possibly introducing criminal penalties but that would still leave a gap because individuals wouldn't have the ability to seek their own remedies" he told ABC News.

In its submission, the council said the attraction of a civil cause of action would offer the victim either an injunction forcing the removal of the material, or damages.

"We're strongly supportive of a practical remedy for people in cases of serious invasion of privacy," Mr Blanks said.

"People should have the right to take private action where their privacy has been seriously invaded. It's a real gap in the law as it stands at the moment."

Article:Action against ex-lovers who distribute 'revenge porn' will be a focus of NSW inquiry today

Source: ABC News

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SMS leak sparks prosecutor feud

ICAC’s leak of Margaret Cunneen’s private text messages to her boss triggered a feud between the top prosecutors in NSW. Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor Ms Cunneen warned her boss, NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Lloyd Babb, that he could take no action over the text messages in which she criticised him because ICAC had seized her phone illegally.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said would be an abuse of power if proven, saying the essence of the complaint was that ICAC had disclosed material that was outside the scope of its investigation. “If this claim is true it’s an extraordinary abuse of power by ICAC and it just shows you that authorities when given extraordinary powers can abuse them,” he said. “If this claim is true it would seem that ICAC has gone beyond the material that it legitimately had reason to access and has misused that material.”

Article:ICAC’s Margaret Cunneen SMS leak sparked prosecutor feud

Source: The Australian Business Review

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ASIO Can Now See Your Awkward Licence Photos

With the Government’s data retention laws coming into effect last week, even Australia’s most vocal privacy advocates didn’t seem to notice the extended access that ASIO and the NSW Crime Commission have been granted to your identity documents. The request put to the RMS has widened the pool of photos that security agencies have access to, most of which have been provided for government identification and licensing purposes.

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said that he thought there was no need for the change, especially seeing as people expect their identifying information to only be used for to purpose for which they supplied it. “With a single stroke of a pen the government says it doesn’t matter you gave you information on that basis, we’re going to make it available on some other basis,” he said.

Article:ASIO Can Now See Your Awkward Licence Photos

Source: Gizmodo

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Privacy commissioner calls for new protocols before spy agencies get access to citizens' photographs

Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Coombs has warned that new protocols must be in place before crime and security agencies can access hundreds of thousands of photographs of NSW citizens to bolster anti-terrorism efforts. Dr Coombs has also declared that striking the balance between citizens' rights and the desire of security agencies to access their personal information is of "critical importance".

The comments follow revelations that the NSW government has agreed to give the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the NSW Crime Commission virtually unfettered access to photographs of NSW citizens.

The decision has also been criticised by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties as unnecessary and one that would increase the risk of access to private information being abused due to the lack of independent oversight.

Article:Privacy commissioner calls for new protocols before spy agencies get access to citizens' photographs

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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ASIO to get access to photo records of ordinary Australians under pumped-up anti-terrorism laws

Thousands of photographs of tradesman, real estate agents and other ordinary Australians will be released to the intelligence agency under pumped-up anti-terrorism laws. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the NSW crime commission will have access to the photo records of citizens with a range of licences - without having to get a warrant.

But civil liberties campaigners have slammed the move, saying people would feel betrayed that their personal information was being used in a way they had not previously agreed.Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the government would need to have an 'independent oversight' to ensure the access process is not abused.

"With a single stroke of a pen the government says it doesn't matter you gave you information on that basis, we're going to make it available on some other basis," he said.

"The security agencies needing data in order to foil potential attacks can be done quite properly and adequately through the existing warrant system."

Article: ASIO to get access to photo records of tradesman, real estate agents and other ordinary Australians under pumped-up anti-terrorism laws

Source: The Daily Mail (Australia)

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ASIO, Crime Commission granted access to photographs of NSW citizens to "aid terror fight"

Australia's peak security agency and the NSW Crime Commission have been granted virtually unfettered access to hundreds of thousands of photographs of NSW citizens to bolster their ability to investigate planned and actual terrorism acts.

The NSW government has authorised the release of photographs taken of people who are granted an extensive range of licences and permits to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the state crime commission without a warrant or court order.

But the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said there was no need for the change noting that people expected their personal information only to be used for the purposes which they agree to hand it over to the government.

"With a single stroke of a pen the government says it doesn't matter you gave you information on that basis, we're going to make it available on some other basis."

"The security agencies needing data in order to foil potential attacks can be done quite properly and adequately through the existing warrant system," he said. "That gives an independent oversight of the process and makes sure the access process is not abused."

Article: ASIO, Crime Commission granted access to photographs of NSW citizens to aid terrorism fight

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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Terror laws: Baird government says 28 days needed to translate foreign languages, IT

Delays in investigating social media, foreign translation and gathering international evidence are some of the recently given reasons justifying extension of time terror suspects can be held without charge. Government sources said traditional policing wasn't keeping pace with the new style of lone wolf terrorist threats emanating from social media.

But NSW Civil Liberties Council president Stephen Blanks has rejected the push for 28 days, and said new technology was "not a valid excuse" for keeping people locked up without charge for longer periods.

"It is not the way a free society or our legal system works. Frankly, there's nothing different about this kind of criminal investigation just because a terror offence has occurred."

Mr Blanks said police need to charge people and bring them before the courts. If a person was believed to be a danger to the community, there were other preventive detention powers that could be used.

Moving to 28-day detention would put NSW out of step with the British legislation upon which the Baird government claims to be modelling its proposed law.

Article: Terror laws: Baird government says 28 days needed to translate foreign languages, IT

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

 

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Baird misstep on national security jars as Turnbull tries a new language

Commentators are pointing out that if Premier Mike Baird pushes ahead with his plan to detain terror suspects for 28 days without charge, it will place NSW on its own among Western democracies. 

Baird, the sure-footed politician, stumbled on national security this week and it stood out because the Turnbull government has been trying to leave behind fear politics and build a new language on national security.

NSW government insiders offer the explanation that tension is high at NSW Police, and there was a sense nothing had been done about the request for greater powers – then came the Parramatta attack.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks says Baird's actions this week were "odd", and suggests the NSW government is unprepared to say "no" to police.

"This is very damaging to his ability to maintain trust with the Muslim community and the wider community. Everybody thought they [the NSW government] had gone down a different path of engaging positively and listening," says Blanks.

Article: Baird misstep on national security jars as Turnbull tries a new language

Source: The Brisbane Times

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Churches fight against gay marriage gains momentum

In the past few weeks, Christian leaders have decided to voice those fears from the pulpit in an attempt to reframe the public debate around same-sex marriage in Australia, most notably over the issue of 'religious freedom' where the archbishop cited the case of the Oregon bakers who were earlier this year ordered to pay almost $200,000 in damages after they refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

To civil libertarians, the notion of accommodating prejudice towards same-sex couples in the name of religious observance is absurd.

"Can bakers refuse to supply weddings to Indigenous people on the grounds of their race? Can bakers refuse to supply cakes to Islamic people on the grounds of their race?" NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said.

"I think it's an absolute misunderstanding of what cake suppliers do," he said. "They supply the cakes."

Mr Blanks said there  were already exceptions to anti-discrimination laws to accommodate religious groups.

"In my view, the ability to apply to the Human Rights Commission for exemption from anti-discrimination laws is a suitable mechanism for giving service providers an opportunity to obtain exemptions in particular cases," he said.

"There may be some service providers who are closely associated with particular religious bodies that may merit exemption. Of course, I am left wondering why a religiously oriented wedding cake supplier would feel that it is necessary for faith-based reasons to discriminate on sexual orientation grounds, but not on the basis of whether or not the wedding couple had maintained celibacy."

Article: Churches fight against gay marriage gains momentum

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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