On the evening of Monday 9 February NSWCCL - supported by the Victorian, Queensland and South Australian CCLs and Electronic Frontiers Australia - invited our federal members of parliament to a special, pre-release screening of the gripping documentary CITIZENFOUR in Parliament House.
It was a terrific success with MPs from the ALP, Greens and cross benchers as well as staff, journalists and members of the public coming to watch the film and discuss it over drinks afterwards. (Maybe the failure of any liberal MPS to attend was related to their ongoing drama around leadership and policy directions.)Read more
Laura Poitras' gripping documentary CITIZENFOUR will be screened in Parliament House tonight, Monday 9 February, following on from its success in winning a BAFTA overnight. The combined civil liberties councils across Australia (NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Liberty Victoria, Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, South Australian Council for Civil Liberties, and the Australian Council for Civil Liberties) and Electronic Frontiers Australia are hosting the screening in Parliament for interested politicians and staffers. The documentary provides a powerful insight into the astonishing dimensions and significance of metadata collection and analysis, and is offered as a contribution to the debate on the contentious data retention bill.
The screening has been crowdfunded by hundreds of individual donors across Australia.
NSWCCL calls on the Australian government to make all diplomatic efforts to stop the executions of the two Australian citizens on death row in Indonesia facing imminent execution. The NSWCCL has signed a joint letter with a range of other organisations to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, urging such efforts be made, and to the Indonesian Ambassador in Australia seeking mercy for the two Australian citizens facing imminent execution.Read more
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has responded to the suggestion made by a former judge that terrorists should be kept in prison after their sentences expire if they still hold extreme religious views. Speaking to ABC Radio Current Affairs AM, Stephen characterised these comments as "a scorched earth policy":
"What a dangerous suggestion it is that people should be kept locked up just because of their opinions, and what a terrible indictment on our system that we can't, through a process of programs in prison, deradicalise these individuals."
Source: ABC Radio Current Affairs, AM, 29/01/15
See also: Prison radicalisation expert Clarke Jones says segregation only strengthening terrorists' beliefs, Sydney Morning Herald, 29/01/15
Judge's call to keep terrorists in prison indefinitely stuns civil liberties campaigners, ABC Radio, The World Today, 29/01/15
Last year civil liberties and human rights groups resisted, with limited success, the worst elements of the veritable tsunami of new counter-terrorism laws the Abbot Government brought in swift succession to the Parliament. Now we are fast approaching a decision point in the highly significant and contentious debate as to whether the Australian Parliament will legislate the mandatory collection and retention of mass telecommunications data for the bulk of the population to enable retrospective access by authorities.
It would be a major negative step for a democracy. It will be a major intrusion every citizen’s right to privacy - including those not suspected of any unlawful activity. This will have major flow-on implications for other freedoms and democratic values. In particular, it will undermine a robust and free press and constrain legitimate whistle-blowers by removing any confidentiality from all phone and internet communications.
The combined CCLS consider it to be a step too far. We strongly oppose the policy concept and urge the Parliament to reject it.
Bali Nine death row inmates Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are on a list of 26 prisoners Indonesia says will be executed this year, including six who will be killed this Sunday.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said the Australian government should be making it clear to Indonesia that the Australian public "regards these executions as unacceptable and unjustifiable".
Mr Blanks said it was "reprehensible" that Indonesia was resuming executions.
"The death penalty is wrong in all countries and in all circumstances," Mr Blanks said.
Source: Yahoo 7, 16/11/2014
In response to the rekindled debate around section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, NSW Council for Civil Liberties Committee Member Lydia Shelley writes about Islamophobia and freedom of speech. She argues that the greater threat to Australians’ civil liberties comes from the lack of legal protections in the form of a Bill of Rights:
"Not all those who pose a threat to civil liberties and freedoms stand behind a foreign flag and hold Kalashnikovs. Some stand behind the Australian flag and promote the myth that civil liberties and freedoms need to be sacrificed in order to obtain security.
They can be persons in positions of power who seek to use freedoms and civil liberties as tools to maintain their power. They draft, and then pass, draconian legislation that strikes at the heart of democracy and the very same freedoms they are purporting to protect."
Source: New Matilda, 14/01/2015
It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of one of NSWCCL’s founding members, Kep Enderby QC, on 8 January 2015. Kep was lifelong advocate for civil liberties and an active progressive force in Australian politics for decades.Read more
NSWCCL Committee Member Lydia Shelley speaks to ABC radio:
"Coming down here today was a very important personal choice to me, but it's also indicative of the overwhelming feelings coming from the Muslim community as well," Ms Shelly said.
"We wanted to pay our respects for the lives that have been lost and to pay our respects to those who were injured in the experience that they went through.
"I'm just incredibly sad ... every single other Australian today is feeling the exact same thing."
Ms Shelly said the focus today should be on the victims rather than a potential backlash against the Muslim community.
"Our overwhelming focus has been on those who have lost their lives and our thoughts and prayers and condolences go out to the family members," she said.
"I don't even feel like it's right to speak about any potential blowback on a day like this because obviously that's not our focus at all.
"I would hope that the overwhelming messages of support that we've received is indicative of Australians rising up, reaching out to each other, strengthening our bonds.
"We're not going to give into fear and mistrust of each other."
Ms Shelly has denied claims the man responsible for the attack, Man Haron Monis, was an Islamic cleric. She said he was a sick man who was not representative of Muslim Australia.
"This man was not an Islamic cleric at all," she said.
"He was a self styled sheik, that's the name that he gave himself. He was not known to preach in our mosques or anything like that.
"These are the actions of somebody who is incredibly sick and very disturbed. It is not a reflection on our sheiks, on our faith at all, on our community and I think the majority of Australians and the support that we've received understand that message."
Read the full story and listen: Muslim community leaders join mourners to pay respects to Sydney siege victims
Source: The World Today, ABC Radio 16/12/14
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the Attorney-General’s announcement tonight, on International Human Rights Day, that all children in immigration detention, including those held on Christmas Island, will be released into the community within the next 2 or 3 months.
This announcement shows the government is listening to the Australian community. The community rejects punitive treatment of asylum seeker children.
The number of children in immigration detention should be zero.
The 2014 winner of the Human Rights Medal, Dorothy Hoddinott AO, shows what can be achieved when we treat children with dignity.
Let’s hope that there will be more positive announcements from the government in relation to asylum seekers that shows that Australia is truly are a country of compassion, fairness and human rights.
Update: Sadly it has become clear that the Attorney-General was referring to the release of ONLY the children on Christmas Island. All others will remain in detention. Also doubts have also been raised as to whether the Christmas Island children will be released into the community when they arrive in Australia. The Attorney should clarify this immediately. Seems we still have a way to go before the number of children in immigration detention is zero.