Global surveillance and data collection - October 2013

Lesley Lynch spoke to the resolution. She noted two particular dimensions of the recent surveillance furore: vast and extensive data mining, who has been the focus of a lot of the media attention, and the explosion of analytical power that governments now have to analyse this data. Lesley outlined the concerns of the blanket surveillance by states on citizens on global and national scales, and the worldwide responses from civil liberties organisations. Some, such as Canada and France, have taken on legal cases challenging these powers, and the cases of this kind are growing.

Stephen Blanks also spoke in strong support of the resolution, agreeing with Lesley’s points and also suggesting that a similar case against the government here in Australia is limited by the lack of a human rights framework. He also pointed out that this issue is not just of concern for lawyers and civil libertarians, but effects the whole community.

The following amendments to the resolution contained in the papers were discussed and agreed:

  • Malcolm Ramage proposed that in item 6.2.2 be amended to read “… surveillance data it and its agencies collect or receive from foreign intelligence sources…”
  • Sacha Blumen proposed that 6.2.4 be amended to read “Australia’s participation in covert and other exchanges… obtained through these covert or other…”
  • Glenn Phillips proposed that 6.2.5 be amended to read “NSWCCL to participate…”

The CCL committee recommended that the following amended resolution be endorsed by the AGM:

  1. Communications surveillance and data collection programs by the Government or its agencies for any purpose must have the prior informed consent of the citizens consistent with the protection of core civil liberties and democratic values.
  2. The Australian Government immediately inform the Australian public clearly and honestly as to the extent and nature of communications surveillance data it and its agencies collect or receive from foreign intelligence sources and internet communication entities and the broad uses made of this data.
  3. The Australian Government implement stronger accountability parameters relating to communications surveillance and data retention on Australians from internal and foreign sources –having special regard to the impact on privacy [1].
  4. NSWCCL work with other concerned groups to identify whether there are any grounds for a legal challenge in relation to Australia’s participation in covert or other exchanges of intelligence data with foreign intelligence agencies and/or use of intelligence data obtained though these covert or other arrangements.
  5. NSWCCL to participate in the global effort by concerned civil liberties, human rights and privacy advocates to develop strong and effective international instruments in relation to communications surveillance and data retention which will better protect privacy and basic democratic freedoms.

Moved Lesley Lynch / Stephen Blanks: That the proposed resolution as amended relating to global surveillance be approved. Carried.


[1] As recommended by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, May 2013 (recommendations 1-3,5-7).