Free speech, media freedoms, privacy & whistleblowing

Core concerns for this group are protecting free speech and free media from unwarranted censorship and constraint and promoting open government and whistle-blower protection.


Media Statement: NSW Council for Civil Liberties supports the crossbench push for public hearings for the National Anti-Corruption Commission

The national anti-corruption commission inquiry handed down its findings this week. While supporting all of the report’s recommendations the NSW Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned that the proposed model will greatly constrain the Commissioner’s power to hold public hearings even when the commissioner is satisfied that a public hearing would be in the public interest.

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Submission: National Anti-Corruption Commission Bills 2022

Update: The advisory report on the provisions of the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022 and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2022 was published on Thursday of last week. Read our statement here.

Read our submission to the inquiry here.
Read the final report from the inquiry here.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the National Anti-Corruption Commission Legislation Committee's inquiry into the provisions of the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022 and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2022, which seek to establish the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

NSWCCL has long advocated for the urgent need for a strong national anti-corruption body and has engaged with the various proposals for such a body over the last decade. In doing so we have built on our close observation of the NSW ICAC and engagement with numbers of reviews of that body; as well as various proposals for a national-anti-corruption body over the last decade.

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NSW Law Reform Commission Report Tabled

The NSW Law Reform Commission (LRC) recently tabled in the NSW Parliament Report 149 - Open Justice: Court and tribunal information: access, disclosure and publication.

The report makes 156 recommendations dealing with the operation of NSW court suppression and non-publication orders and access to information in NSW courts and tribunals. It is informed by the principles that, open justice is fundamental to the integrity of the administration; exceptions to access should be minimal and necessary to protect certain sensitive information, vulnerable people and the administration of justice; and the power and discretion of the judiciary, to control court proceedings and to determine open justice issues, should be preserved to the maximum extent possible.

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Submission: Review of aspects of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988

NSWCCL made a submission to the NSW's Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption regarding the Review of aspects of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988.

The risk of corruption is deeply concerning because, if not effectively checked, it threatens our democratic values and processes – including the rights and liberties of free and equal persons. This is why we support a strong and effective ICAC, appropriately constrained by safeguards for individual liberties and rights that are compatible with operational effectiveness.

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Trusted Digital Identity Bill 2021: our concerns

The TDI Bill was tipped to be tabled earlier this year, having largely slipped under the radar. NSWCCL has concerns that this Bill lacks some important privacy safeguards.

Background

The Australian government recently consulted the community on the draft Trusted Digital Identity Bill 2021 (Bill), a package consisting of a Trusted Digital Identity System (TDIS) and the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF).  The draft Bill encompasses a federal accreditation framework for Digital Identity services which will enable the States and Territories and the public and private sector to use the TDIF and TDIS to verify the identities of people and businesses they deal with online. It also sets out the requirements that applicants need to meet to achieve accreditation. 

Currently, Australia Post, the ATO and OCR labs have been granted accreditation. The Australian Government is accrediting a number of other businesses under the TDIF as a part of testing the readiness of the Australian Government Digital Identity System to expand beyond the Australian Government.  As of this post, the Bill is yet to be introduced into parliament.

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Submission: CLOUD Act Agreement

NSWCCL made a joint submission with the Australian Information Industry Association to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Inquiry into the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America on Access to Electronic Data for the Purpose of Countering Serious Crime under the CLOUD act.

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'Anti-trolling' Bill will actually protect the powerful from critique

The Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2022 is a deeply concerning development because it is really about making reforms to defamation laws in ways that could particularly favour politicians and others with sufficient resources to pursue defamation remedies, and not about reducing trolling or the damage caused by trolling. 

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Submission: Privacy Act review

NSWCCL made a submission to the Review of the Privacy Act 1988 advocating for urgent reform to modernise the Act and ensure it is fit for purpose in the digital economy. Privacy is a fundamental human right that is central to the maintenance of democratic societies and achieving respect for human dignity. In this regard, the NSWCCL submits that the right to privacy should be the paramount object of the Act and considers the two primary areas of concern in debates relating to privacy are:

  • (a) the intrusive observation of one’s actions (whether by surveillance, listening, data analysis or other mode); and
  • (b) the discussion and the misuse of personal information.

NSWCCL supports in-principle many of the proposals outlined in the Discussion Paper and commends the Attorney General’s Department for reflecting the legitimate privacy concerns of a broad spectrum of society. Many Australians are concerned about gaps and ambiguities in the existing privacy regime that undermine the right to privacy. This is especially important in the context of unprecedented integration of digital technology in our everyday lives.

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Letter: Online Privacy Bill

NSWCCL recently wrote to the Attorney General to comment on the exposure draft of the Privacy Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Online Privacy and Other Measures) Bill 2021 (Online Privacy Bill).

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Speech: The need for a Federal ICAC from a civil liberties perspective

A transcript of NSWCCL President Pauline Wright's speech to the National Press Council on 1 December 2021.

As a civil liberties organisation, NSWCCL has in the past expressed serious reservations about anti-corruption agencies sitting outside the established justice system and wielding extraordinary coercive and covert powers. But we have cautiously shifted our position in response to the growing threat that increasingly complex forms of corruption pose to the public good in Australia. If the public interest is to be protected against the corrosive effects of serious lapses in integrity and systemic corruption, NSWCCL acknowledges that the establishment of anti-corruption agencies equipped with extraordinary investigative powers – albeit with proper constraints and safeguards – is both necessary and proportionate.

Corruption undermines the integrity of our political system. It distorts the policy-making process, diverts resources from public good objectives and undermines public trust in our politicians, governing institutions and public administration. Corruption harms everyone. It breeds inequality and injustice and undermines the ability of governments and people to fulfil their potential to achieve the common good, especially in challenging times.

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