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.
Submission: NSWCCL endorses Constitutional Alteration to enshrine freedom of expression
On 20 August, NSWCCL made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee in regard to the Inquiry into the Constitution Alteration (Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Press) 2019 (Constitutional Alteration).
The NSWCCL endorses wholeheartedly the proposed Constitutional Alteration which aims to enshrine the right of freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media, in the Constitution. This will be achieved by inserting a new Chapter IIIA and section 80A in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900.
- The inquiry website, with all submissions
- The NSWCCL submission as published on the inquiry website
Is parliamentary debate being gagged?
As at 10 August, 737 votes had taken place in the current sitting of the House of Representatives. Only 297 were votes on actual pieces of legislation, while a staggering 440 votes or 60% were for the suspension of standing orders or 'gag' orders to shut down debate.
This word cloud, from the APH website's divisions page, the source of our figures says it all. (Link no longer available.)Read more
OAIC Uber determination: a reminder of privacy failings in Australia
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has found Uber failed to appropriately protect the personal data of Australian customers and drivers, which was accessed in a cyber attack in October and November 2016. (For more, see the OAIC's media statement dated 23 July 2021: Uber found to have interfered with privacy).
NSWCCL welcomes the recent determination against Uber, by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. However, it is also acts as a warning about the failures of the management of data privacy and data breach notification in Australia.Read more
The Government must not use charity crackdown to silence dissent
The NSWCCL is calling for the disallowance of proposed regulations could that could prevent charities from engaging in important advocacy work.
The regulations would allow the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to deregister an organisation if it “reasonably believes” its members are likely to commit a summary offence.
We echo concerns expressed by many charities that the regulations could empower the regulator to deregister a charity for attending or promoting protests where minor offences are committed without the charity's knowledge or involvement.Read more
Are our media freedoms under attack?
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned by the escalation in legal sanctions faced by journalists in the course of their work, as highlighted by the recent high profile Friendlyjordies case.
Friendlyjordies, or Jordan Shanks-Markovina, is a well known YouTuber and online commentator. In a number of videos, Shanks-Markovina is deeply critical of the Deputy Premier, John Barliaro, leading to a defamation case over two videos that John Barilaro alleged were part of a smear campaign against him.
In itself, this was troubling enough: a politician in an uncomfortable position may find that a defamation case provides a convenient shield against having to answer any further awkward questions. Meanwhile, defending such cases can be an extremely costly and time-consuming exercise, giving publications significant pause for thought before publishing strong critiques of people who might be inclined to sue. (For more, see NSWCCL on politicians and defamation).
But what came next was extraordinary.
Prompted by a complaint to police by Barilaro, Friendlyjordies producer Kristo Langker was arrested by the NSW Fixated Persons Investigations Unit (FPIU) and charged with stalking Barilaro.Read more
NSWCCL on politicians and defamation
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned by the tendency of Australian politicians to employ defamation law against journalists and critics. This behaviour has a significant potential chilling effect on freedom of expression, undermining our ability to hold politicians to account.Read more
NSWCCL Submission: Digital Identity Legislation Position Paper
On 16 July 2021, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties made a submission to the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) in regard to the public consultation on the Digital Identity Legislation Position Paper.
NSWCCL welcomes the codification of the DIS which will embed privacy safeguards in primary legislation not in a subordinate instrument. The DIS claims to include a number of privacy features. The effect and success of which will be known once the draft legislation is introduced. 1 Such features include voluntary participation, no single identifier, express consent and Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) for accreditation. Despite these provisions, there are clear weaknesses. The rules, for example, will allow for the PIA to be conducted by an assessor from within the same entity as the applicant; hardly independent.
ServiceNSW Check-ins: is your data safe?
UPDATE: This concern has been partially addressed by this amendment to the Public Health Order on 10 July:
27 Direction about use and disclosure of contact details To avoid any doubt, it is directed that contact details provided under clause 25 are to be used or disclosed only for the purposes of contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legislation to ensure privacy protection, similar to that passed in Western Australia, would be preferable.
From Monday 12 July, it will be mandatory for all businesses and workplaces in NSW to use the ServiceNSW Check-in tool. While contact tracing is vital for NSW given the seriousness of the current COVID19 outbreak, the NSWCCL has serious concerns about the privacy of individuals' data.
In WA, police have already accessed contact tracing data during criminal investigations on two occasions, prompting the WA Government to urgently pass legislation ensuring that contact tracing information can only be used and disclosed for contact tracing and related purposes.
Meanwhile, The Victorian and Queensland state governments have confirmed the police can access data from their respective COVID-19 QR code check-in apps with a warrant. In fact, the Queensland police have already done so.
The NSWCCL calls on the NSW Government to enact laws to ensure that data provided for contact tracing can't be used for anything else.
More information: read our public statement
Submission: Privacy and Personal Information Protection Amendment Bill 2021
NSWCCL made a submission to the NSW Department of Communities and Justice Inquiry into the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Amendment Bill 2021.
- proposes the creation of a mandatory notification of data breach scheme
- would extend the Act to include NSW State-Owned Corporations that are not already regulated by the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)
Submission: National Health (Privacy) Rules 2018 Review
NSWCCL made a submission to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's National Health (Privacy) Rules 2018 review
- The Review has been prompted by the sunsetting of the National Health Privacy Rules 2018, which apply to the processing and storage of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) claims information by Services Australia and the Department of Health. It will determine whether and how the Rules should be updated.
- NSWCCL considers that the Rules adequately protect the privacy of individuals and should not be amended. The Consultation Paper that accompanies the Review makes it clear that there is an emerging public policy approach “favouring data use and reuse in research, evidence-based decision making and the provision of government services generally.” NSWCCL does not accept that a technocratic approach to more convenient or efficient service-delivery and research policy warrants eroding the privacy safeguards in the Rules.
- Within the last 5 years public perceptions of how data should be used and shared have changed. The expectations of a majority of Australians are in favour of more privacy protections over their information, not less. The latest Government survey of Australians’ privacy concerns shows 84% of Australians consider it to be a misuse of their information when supplied to an organisation for a specific purpose and then used for another purpose.
- Public policy is served, under the Rules, by recognising that the information provided to the Department of Health and Services Australia is for the purpose of dealing with MBS and PBS claims and for no other secondary purpose. If there is any sensitive personal information provided to government that should not be used for secondary purposes, then, surely, this is that information.