National security and counter-terrorism

This campaign aims to repeal or amend the most dangerous and undemocratic of Australia’s Post 9/11 counter-terrorism laws. Current priorities are ASIO’s extraordinary powers, ASIO’s secret adverse security assessments of refugees consigning them to indefinite detention and the secret surveillance activities of security and intelligence agencies.


ASIO, the police and you - guide to anti-terrorism laws

A much needed, plain English guide to Australia's complex array of counter-terrorism laws was launched tonight by the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN) and the NSW Muslim Legal Network (MLN).  NSWCCL was very pleased to assist in this enterprise by reviewing and advising on aspects of the publication - as we also did in its earlier versions of 2004 and 2007. 

AMCRAN and the MLN have delivered again on very important and difficult project. It is a time-consuming and complex forensic task to analyse the 80 plus counter-terrorism laws in Australia to extract accurate and reliable information for citizens who might be impacted by these laws and their legal representatives.  

The initial edition of this guide was in response to a community need to understand new laws that were not only very complex but markedly different in their implications for rights and responsibilities of citizens- and the powers of ASIO and the AFP.   This 2017 edition incorporates the virtual tsunami of new counter-terrorism laws passed in recent years- significant parts of which the NSWCCL, the Law Council of Australia and many community groups strongly opposed.  

Significant changes covered in this version include:

"new offences of advocating terrorism and genocide; the new offence of travelling to declared areas; laws affecting citizenship and passports; the introduction of named person warrants; the introduction of mandatory metadata retention laws; laws allowing control orders to apply to children as young as 14 years; and the increase of the powers of both the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP)".  (Preface to the 4th edition) 

This guide will help the the community to understand the reach of current counter-terrorism laws and the powers of ASIO and the Australian Federal Police. It may also be helpful for ASIO and AFP officers. It is a terrifically important publication - and we congratulate the MLN and AMCRAN and the other individuals who assisted with the writing and review process. 

We are fairly confident - along with the publishers - that this will not be the final version. 

In the near future NSWCCL will be collaborating with other interested groups to run forums to familiarise interested people with the contents and significance of this updated guide. 


Dr Lesley Lynch

Convenor National Security and Counter Terrorism Group. 


Anti-terrorism laws- ASIO the police and you 


Independent monitor finds major flaws in s35P disclosure offences

The report by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor –Roger Gyles QC - on the controversial section 35P provisions of the ASIO Act was tabled in the Senate on 2nd February.   These provisions created draconian offences with penalties of 5 and 10 years imprisonment for disclosure by any person of any  information relating to ASIO ‘Special Intelligence Operations’ (SIO) at any time.  

NSWCCL, along with the other councils for civil liberties, strongly opposed both the SIO regime and these provisions for their chilling effect on the media and on reasonable scrutiny of ASIO.  The controversy around these offences forced the Prime Minister to ask the INSLM to review their impact on journalists.  

The report is thorough and suggests the INSLM gave proper and serious consideration to the informed criticisms of the SIO regime and the obnoxious disclosure offences.   His findings on the offences are consistent with our views. His recommendations remedy some of the worst aspects of the offences – but sadly fall short of repealing them.

The Government has said it will implement the INSLM’s recommendations in full. 

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Joint CCLs call on Parliament to reject citizenship stripping Bill

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 has not yet been approved by parliament. The debate on the Bill is scheduled to resume next week. As Labor has indicated it will support the  revised version of the Bill,  it is almost certainly going to be approved quickly and probably without amendment.

As this is such a significant issue,  the NSW, Victorian, Queensland and South Australian Councils for Civil Liberties and the Australian Council for Civil Liberties have issued a joint public statement making one last call on the Australian Parliament to abandon this misguided Bill. 

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NSWCCL opposes abolition of independent monitor of counter-terrorism laws

NSWCCL has made a submission to the senate committee inquiring into the Government’s proposal to abolish the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM)  as part of its  ‘red tape bonfire’.

The INSLM is an important independent position set up in 2010 with broad review functions relating to the intensely sensitive and complex area of counter-terrorism laws: whether these laws remain proportionate to the threat of terrorism in Australia and whether they contain appropriate safeguards to protect the rights of individuals.  

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Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) regarding data retention and certificates of immunity for ASIO officers and their contacts - October 2012

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) regarding data retention and certificates of immunity for ASIO officers and their contacts

In this submission, NSWCCL addresses the following points:

  1. Opposing blanket data retention of all Australian's telecommunications metadata
  2. Response to police submissions concerning possible seeking of additional powers
  3. Opposing the proposal that ASIO officers be granted certificates of immunity from civil and criminal liability

View the submission


Submission to the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor - October 2012

NSWCCL has made a Submission to the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor

Questions addressed include:

  1. Is the last resort requirement for a questioning warrant under the ASIO Act too demanding?
  2. Are the time limits (e.g. 7 days detention for 24 hours questioning) applicable to questioning warrants too long, too short or about right?
  3. Are the time limits for questioning warrants where interpreters have been used commensurate with the limits applying otherwise?
  4. Are there sufficient safeguards including judicial review in relation to the surrender or cancellation of passports, in connexion with questi oning warrants?
  5. Is the abrogation of privilege against self-incrimination under a questioning warrant sufficiently balanced by the use immunity?
  6. Do the conditions permitting use of lethal force in enforcing a warrant sufficiently clearly require reasonable apprehension of danger to life or limb?
  7. Are the three several conditions for issuing a questioning and detention warrant stringent enough?
  8. Should anything be done about doubtful aspects of the constitutional validity of control orders and preventative detention orders under the Criminal Code?

View the submission here


NSWCCL launches national fightback to roll back extraordinary ASIO powers

"The greatest assault on civil liberties in Australia since World War II." Professor George Williams AO tonight launched a national campaign led by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties to wind back the excessive and disproportionate powers given to ASIO in the decade since 9/11.

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Submission to the COAG Review of Australia's Counter-Terrorism Legislation 2012 - October 2012

NSWCCL has made a submission to the COAG Review of Australia's Counter-Terrorism Legislation 2012

Although terrorism has been a problem for hundreds of years, the Twin Tours attack in New York and the London and Bali bombings led to the passage of a great deal of legislation which might have been justified if the problem, like a war, could be expe cted to be concluded in a few years. However, it is plain—indeed, it was always plain— that terrorism is not going away. It is time to consider which of the laws we have passed should be kept, which modified, and which should be repealed.

An argument is also made for the need for an Australian Bill of Rights. Without a Bill of Rights, the courts in Australia are unable to protect people from laws that violate fundamental principles of international human rights law; that expose Australians and aliens to risks to their liberties.

View the submission here



Submission to the Joint Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) regarding the Inquiry into potential reforms of the National Security Legislation - August 2012

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Joint Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) regarding the Inquiry into potential reforms of the National Security Legislation.

NSWCCL accepts the argument that there is a need to update and rework the relevant legislation in light of technological advances and successive amendments. However, neither of these drivers, in themselves, provides justification for an extension of powers or reduction in accountability for intelligence and law enforcement agencies, nor for the further erosion of individual privacy, civil liberties and democratic values.

View the submission here