NSWCCL has made a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Review of the National Security Legislation Amendment (Comprehensive Review and Other measures No. 1) Bill 2021.
The Bill would amend several acts and would increase the powers of Australian intelligence agencies.
These changes raise a number of questions about what this entails for Australians and, in particular, the work of journalists and media organisations. CCL is concerned that the proposed amendments will carry undesirable consequences.
Our concerns include:
- The breadth of circumstances in which heads of intelligence services can act without Ministerial approval, as well as their capacity to then delegate powers to junior staff members.
- Could baking for a lamington drive or turning chipolatas at a sausage sizzle held by a local community group constitute ‘support’ for a listed organisation? Such support could be relied upon by the Minister to authorise activities to enable intelligence to be produced - despite having been provided innocently by someone unaware that the group is listed.
- The proposed amendments have the potential to limit the freedom of journalists and media organisations and inhibit the provision of information to the public. They could be misused and weaponised against media organisations to hinder journalists’ abilities to freely report on legitimate news.
- Is it appropriate for staff immunities to extinguish the rights of affected Australians to obtain a legal remedy in respect of any loss or damage they may suffer if their computer or device is affected during intelligence activities?
We fear that the proposed amendments have the potential to add to an incremental erosion of the civil rights and freedoms of Australians.Read more
NSWCCL and the Sydney Institute of Criminology have made a joint submission expressing concern about the Commonwealth’s continuing detention scheme for terrorist offenders and its lack of compatibility with human rights law and fundamental principles of criminal law.
We argue that serious consideration should be given as to whether the scheme is necessary. If the scheme is to continue, we argue that the scheme should be amended in substantial ways to enhance (to the extent possible) its compatibility with human rights law.Read more
The proposed extradition of Julian Assange
The extradition hearing for Julian Assange continues in London. Assange is currently being held in Belmarsh Prison, a category A jail on the outskirts of London, where men convicted of terrorism offences are held. He has limited access to his legal counsel, relegated to sit behind a glass window in the dock. For Assange and his family, the situation is dire.
NSWCCL recently joined other organisations and individuals in reaffirming our support for Julian Assange in the context of his fight against extradition to the USA. We spoke at the Assange rally in Sydney in February and subsequently sent a public letter to the Prime Minister urging the Australian Government to take effective action to support Assange in his fight against extradition and assist his return to Australia.
Assange’s situation is desperate and dangerous. His mental and physical health have been seriously compromised. He is imprisoned in a London gaol with limited capacity to communicate with his legal team. If he is extradited to the USA, he will face charges which will expose him to a likely outcome of life imprisonment in a high security gaol.
The relentless pursuit of Julian Assange over the last decade has been politically motivated, cruel and unjustifiable. In our view he has not engaged in criminal activity. Assange and wikileaks published truthful information about shocking and wrongful activities - including war crimes - which had been kept secret.Read more
The PJCIS is reviewing the legislation that established the excessive mandatory data retention regime in 2015.
This review is happening at a timely moment as the Australian community ponders the implications of the extraordinary AFP raids on the ABC and a News Limited journalist a few weeks ago. We were not surprised at the AFP raids on the ABC and other journalists. These intimidatory raids are an inevitable consequence of Australia's large expanding suite of surveillance and secrecy laws.
My talk relates to a long-standing problem:
how to protect the community from terrorism, while at the same time respecting fundamental human rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to a fair trialRead more
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties condemns the appalling act of terrorism that was inflicted last Friday upon people peacefully at prayer in Christchurch.
On Friday night, President of the Council, Pauline Wright, said “Our thoughts are with the people of Christchurch in all their diversity. NSW Council for Civil Liberties supports the rights of people of faith to observe their religions, no matter whether in a synagogue, temple, church or mosque. It is a dark day for our sisters and brothers across the Tasman and our hearts go out to them.”Read more
Two needed bills abandoned - one flawed and reckless bill waved though – a sad day in the Australian Parliament.
On Thursday, the last chaotic day of the Parliamentary session, the Prime Minister declared he would do all in his power to thwart the majority will of parliament.
His stated motive was to stop Parliament from passing legislation requiring the transfer of refugee children in need of medical care from Nauru to Australia for treatment. His deeper motive was to avoid his Government suffering a Parliamentary defeat on substantive legislation.
He succeeded by filibustering in the Senate and when the Bill was eventually passed by a majority of senators, by closing down the House of Representatives so the Bill could not be considered there.
This was shameful – both in process and outcome.Read more
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has condemned the push by the Federal Government to advance new laws further stripping away the rights of Australians.
The text of the new bills has not been released. According to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, they will impose conditions on the control, return and re-entry of Australians who have been in conflict zones. They will also make it easier to strip citizenship from Australians who have been convicted of terrorism offences.Read more
On Thursday, June 7, New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman announced that the government would adopt the recommendations of a review of the Terrorism (Police Powers) Act 2002 by the Department of Justice. The report made 13 recommendations in relation to the legislation.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) notes with concern that the recommendations make little attempt to substantively change the laws, or to otherwise restore civil liberties. There is little attempt to reign in police powers in any meaningful way, which is why CCL opposed these laws in the first place.Read more