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.
Much-loved Australian music festival Strawberry Fields, which took place at Koonamoo in Victoria’s north over the weekend, made headlines earlier this week after police detected dozens of drug drivers heading to the festival. A Victoria Police media release claimed a total of 56 drivers were detected driving to the festival under the influence and a further 60 were caught in possession of drugs as part of a four-day joint operation.
Earlier this year, the NSWCCL came out against the rollout of random roadside drug tests in the state several months back, saying the strict liability offence was unfair to drivers as it depicts anyone with trace amounts of drugs in their system as ‘impaired’.
“Cannabis can hang around in your system for days, maybe even a few weeks, but not have any impact on your ability to drive,” said Blanks. “It is illegal to possess those drugs, but it’s never been illegal to take them. It’s a small point, but it’s worth taking in mind.”
Blanks said the absence of any threshold for drug use, such as the 0.05 BAC for alcohol, was one of the issues with roadside drug tests. “With alcohol, there is a threshold below which it is recognised that usage doesn’t impair ability to drive,” he said.
“With drug tests, there is absolute zero tolerance. The problem of drug driving are issues probably not best dealt with through random testing. Perhaps it should be other ways, like driver education or better laws around drug usage or possession.”
Source: Tonedeaf Online Magazine
NSW police will have the power to shoot armed offenders in terrorist situations on sight under a new policy, but civil libertarians say independent review and high level training are imperative.
The force is replacing its contain and negotiate policy, and critics are concerned about the lack of detail surrounding the policy, which hasn't been released for operational reasons.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties says extensive training will be necessary if frontline police are to be given the discretion.
"There are very high risks involved in a shoot at first sight approach and obviously a one size reaction won't fit all situations," vice-president Lesley Lynch told AAP.
"It would be important that any incident which led to the death or serious injury of a person was subject of an independent review."
Source: SBS/Sky News
The NSW Police Force illegally hacked the private Facebook account of a Sydney man in a move branded a reprehensible and "criminal offence" by a magistrate.
After four months of illegal police surveillance on a closed Facebook page, Rhys Liam Halvey was arrested and charged with three counts of using a carriage service to offend police and a further three counts of publishing an indecent article. But all six charges have now been withdrawn and dismissed. In ordering costs against police, Magistrate Brown described the conduct as "reprehensible" and the charges as "trivial."
NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said public confidence in the police was being "undermined" by an inability to acknowledge the occasions when "it does the wrong thing."
"How deep in police culture is this willingness to break the law?" he asked. "Even after they have been caught out, it would appear no adverse consequences are going to be suffered by those responsible because the illegal actions are supported by police at the most senior level."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
The NSW government last week announced a $47 million package to dispatch specialist teams and trained counsellors to schools across the state to help identify students at risk of "radicalisation" and help to counter violent extremism in youngsters.
But there are rumblings of discontent among parents who say they were not consulted before the new measures were announced. Parents are concerned they have been left out in the cold as the state government and schools plough ahead with plans to combat "violent extremism" among children.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties warned that the whole suite of measures to target violent extremism could be derailed without parent involvement.
"It's pretty obvious that programs like this cannot work unless there's wide consultation over the way in which they are framed and the way in which they work," the council's president, Stephen Blanks, said.
"Once you have people who feel outside the program ... that they have not been consulted, that is what is going to undermine the program. I think families and parents are critical players in the fight against violent extremism."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
NSWCCL has issued a media release opposing the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015.
We recognise that the amended Bill is significantly improved and less dangerous than the initial extremely flawed version.
We welcome these changes, but remain disturbed by, and opposed to, expanding citizenship-stripping laws. Australian citizens who are alleged to have engaged in terrorist related activities should be charged, taken to trial and, if found guilty, punished and imprisoned in Australia. CCL argues the Bill should not be passed by Parliament.
Should the Bill proceed, CCL opposes the inclusion of the retrospectivity provision- even though it is limited to a very small number of people. It is a breach of a fundamental rule of law and natural justice principle. Retrospective application of punitive legislation is never acceptable.
NSWCCL welcomes the inclusion of a minimum age for persons caught by the Bill’s provisions. However, that minimum age should be 18 not 14 as is proposed for conduct related provisions. We welcome the removal of the provision allowing children to have their citizenship revoked if a parent had their citizenship revoked.
We urge the membership of the influential PJCIS which is to be given an expanded oversight role in relation to the operation of this legislation, be amended to be more fully representative of the Parliament.
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."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
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."
Source: ABC News
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.”
Source: The Australian Business Review
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.