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.


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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Letter: A more robust and accessible FOI regime for Australia

Freedom of Information laws are crucial to ensuring the transparency and accountability of policy and government decision making by giving Australians access to the information they need to participate fully in democratic processes.

However, systemic deficiencies in the federal FOI regime, including the existence of broad exceptions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) and persistent underfunding of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), have eroded the effectiveness of the FOI regime, shielding politicians from public scrutiny and undermining public confidence in the integrity of government and public institutions.

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Submission: Public Interest Disclosures Bill

On 1 November 2021, NSWCCL made a submission to the Inquiry into the Public Interest Disclosures Bill 2021. The Bill re-writes protection for public officials who blow the whistle on wrongdoing, following a 2017 Joint Parliamentary Committee review that recommended a complete rewrite of the existing legislation.

NSWCCL endorses the Bill, which we note adopts nearly all the recommendations from the 2017 report, while noting some shortcomings.

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Letter: Freedom of Information and Porter's 'blind trust'

The recent deletion of freedom of information requests relating to Christian Porter’s ‘blind trust’ by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has highlighted important gaps in Australia's freedom of information regime.

Under long-standing freedom of information laws, pending requests can be deleted when a minister leaves their role, creating a loophole for scandal-plagued ministers to avoid scrutiny.

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Witness K and Bernard Collaery: civil liberty and rule of law concerns

This is a transcript of a presentation given by President Pauline Wright at a Centre for Public Integrity webinar.

There are a number of civil liberty and rule of law concerns raised by the prosecutions of Witness K and Bernard Collaery including:

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