News

NSWCCL says Opal card data should only be accessed by warrant

The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed that Transport for NSW has provided both police and the Department of Immigration with the data from Opal cards in over 50 cases, including relating to proceedings of an offence, reasonable grounds of an offence, and missing persons.

The department also stated that it has denied requests in about 70% of instances. NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks warns that this suggests that police were attempting to abuse their access to Opal card information: "I'm concerned that police are not exercising the necessary degree of restraint in asking for personal information where it's not appropriate."

NSWCCL again called for warrants for access to Opal card data. "It's unsatisfactory that it's left to the Department of Transport to decide whether or not this personal information should be handed over," Stephen said. "That decision should be in the hands of a judge, or a person who issues a warrant."

Article: Opal card data surrendered to police and immigration authorities

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 22/05/2015

See also:

No warrants needed to access Opal Card records, Sydney Morning Herald, 15/07/2014

Share

Australian laws must reflect opposition to death penalty

NSW Council for Civil Liberties has joined with a number of other rights groups arguing that if Australia wants its opposition to the death penalty worldwide to be credible, it is important that Australian laws consistently reflect that opposition.

They spoke on the issuance of a blueprint for change entitled “Australian Government and the Death Penalty: A Way Forward”, which details four steps the government should take to build on the current momentum to end the death penalty.

NSWCCL joined with Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), the Human Rights Law Centre, Reprieve Australia, Australians Detained Abroad, Civil Liberties Australia and Uniting Justice Australia.

Article: Australian laws must reflect opposition to death penalty: Groups

Source: Jakarta Post, 21/05/2015

Share

Campaign for global abolition of death penalty

Logos

NSW Council for Civil Liberties has joined with a number of other human rights groups calling for an overhaul to the way the Australian government campaigns to end the death penalty, today launching a new strategy document: ‘Australian Government and the Death Penalty: A Way Forward’.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Law Centre, Reprieve Australia, Australians Detained Abroad, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Civil Liberties Australia and UnitingJustice Australia have joined forces to launch the blueprint.

Read more
Share

May 2015 Newsletter

National issues | 'Chilling' ASIO secrecy law | Taking CITIZENFOUR to Parliament House 

NSW issues | CCL defends free speech on Sydney Uni campus | The State of NSW | The NSW Police Lobby 

CCL News | Professor Gillian Triggs to speak at CCL Annual Dinner | CCL sponsors cryptoparty! | Action Group Profile: Free Speech, Privacy and Open Government

Download May 2015 Newsletter

Share

NSWCCL welcomes Martin Place smoking ban

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to SBS News welcoming the 12-month trial of a smoking ban in Sydney's Martin Place. 

He did say, however, that it was important for the change to be introduced gradually. "It is very important that the enforcement of this ban is done in a sensitive way. It would be wrong for Council officers to be fining people in a heavy handed way." Stephen said.

Rangers will walk around Martin Place asking smokers to put their cigarettes out, and will not fine anyone at this stage. Smokers could face a $110 fine at the end of the trial.

If the trial is successful, it could be expanded to other areas such as the Pitt St Mall.

Video: SBS World News 11 May 6:30 - part 2 (The content we linked to is no longer available)

Source: SBS World News, 11/05/2015

Share

Submission: Review of alcohol and drug fuelled violence

NSWCCL recently made a submission to the NSW Sentencing Council’s Review of proposals relating to sentencing provisions for alcohol and drug fuelled violence. The review was initiated by proposals made from the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation

The Attorney General has asked the Sentencing Council to examine issues raised by the section 21A of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. NSWCCL's submission outlines a number of concerns relating to the proposed changes, including:

  • There is no demonstrated need to introduce a mandatory aggravating factor where the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This should not be introduced since it would fetter the discretion of a sentencing judge, who can already take intoxication into account in sentencing, and the definition as proposed is unnecessarily broad. 
  • The concept of vulnerability should not be expanded as proposed with a new definition. This is unnecessary as CCL considers that vulnerabilities as defined in the proposal are already covered under the Act. 
  • In relation to any other sentencing measures that might be considered, CCL highlights that mandatory sentences for offences committed under the influence of alcohol already in place in the Northern Territory appear to have been unsuccessful in reducing their incidence.

Finally, NSWCCL urges the Government to provide a response to the recommendations made in the NSW Law Reform Commission 2013 Report on Sentencing given its relevance to the proposals in this review.

Read the full submission here

Share

Privacy concerns for smart phone GPS tracking

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has spoken to 7 News expressing concerns about how Apple and Google are tracking mobile phone users' every move and storing this information.

"I think we’re going to get to the stage where we will have consumer legislation that recognises those kind of terms as being unfair," Stephen said. 

Both Apple and Google track and store this data. Apple stated it uses it to provide personalised services. 

Video: Smart phone security explained The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: 7 News, 30/04/2015

Share

Defend University of Sydney civil liberties - staff and student meeting

This event was held on Wednesday 29 April.

Read President Stephen Blanks' address to the meeting, and also the related media

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks will be speaking at this meeting at the University of Sydney. NSWCCL are participating in this event because of the importance of protecting free speech and the right to protest on university campuses - read more about our position in the media coverage of the event

On 11 March, students and human-rights activists interrupted a speaker at a campus talk. Now the students and a staff member, Jake Lynch, are facing disciplinary action that could see them suspended. NSWCCL is appalled at the use of the code of conduct to discipline staff and students in the context of legitimate protest.

Other speaks at the event include: Senator Lee Rhiannon (Australian Greens), Prof. Stuart Rees AM (Founder, Sydney Peace Foundation), Kyol Blakeney (President, USyd SRC), Michael Thomson (President, USyd NTEU), Fahad Ali (President, USyd Students for Justice in Palestine), Nick Riemer (English and Linguistics, USyd). 

More information and to RSVP please go to the Facebook event - Defend USyd civil liberties - staff and student meeting

Share

CCL defends free speech on University of Sydney campus

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that over a hundred people attended the Staff and student meeting 'Defend USYD civil liberties' at the University of Sydney campus on Wednesday 29 April. NSWCCL President spoke at the event, defending the right of free expression on campus, and criticising the university's use of its Code of Conduct in disciplinary proceedings. 

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks told attendees, "Universities, which have been a hotbed of free speech for centuries, are threatening staff and students with disciplinary action for expressing themselves."

Article: Protest fallout: University of Sydney under fire for 'restricting free speech' Article no longer available. 

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 30/04/2015

See also: Read the full speech made by NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks

Share

CCLs argue that the new ASIO law on Special Intelligence operations should be repealed

The Australian reports that at a recent public inquiry by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM), CCL Secretary Lesley Lynch argued that the new s35P in the ASIO Act should be repealed. The provision gives ASIO officers immunity for unlawful criminal conduct in these operations and makes it a serious criminal offence for anyone, including journalists, to disclose any information about them. This will seriously constrain the ability of journalists to report on wrongdoing or abuse of power  by ASIO.

Article: ASIO Act could conceal ‘torture, murder by agents’

Source: The Australian, 28/04/2015

See also: Combined CCLs submission to the inquiry

Share

NSWCCL defends free speech and right of dissent on USyd campus

Speech delivered by NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks to Staff and Student Meeting - Defend USYD Civil Liberties at the University of Sydney on Wednesday 29 April 2015.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to elders past and present.

It is pleasing to see concern about civil liberties as a central issue at the University of Sydney. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has had strong links with the University since our foundation in 1963.

NSWCCL is joining this meeting today because we are concerned that the University reacting in a disturbingly disproportionate way to the incidents which occurred at the Colonel Richard Kemp lecture on 11 March 2015. 

Read more
Share

Submission: Inquiry into the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee arguing that Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 – a ‘de facto’ internet filter – should not be passed. In CCL’s view, website blocking is not a proportionate response to copyright infringement, and has major implications for freedom of speech.

The submission identifies a number of key issues in the Bill, including procedural fairness, the broad scope of the proposed legislation, and the potential negative implications for virtual private networks (VPNs), cloud storage providers, and whistleblowers. CCL has provided a number of recommendations addressing these concerns should the Bill continue to proceed through Parliament against CCL’s recommendation. 

Read NSWCCL's full submission here

Share

NSWCCL extremely concerned by SBS’s sacking of journalist Scott McIntyre

NSWCCL is extremely concerned by SBS’s decision to sack journalist Scott McIntyre for a series of tweets on Saturday critical of the ANZAC tradition. We are deeply committed to defending free speech in its varied - and sometimes offensive - forms as a central value of a progressive and enlightened society.

Equally troubling has been the reaction to the McIntyre incident from certain sections of the political establishment.  Mcintyre’s sacking should be understood as a free speech issue, and not merely as a breach of a vague social media policy in an employment contract.

Read more
Share

NSWCCL supports the right to protest on Sydney University campus

In the lead up to speaking at the University of Sydney staff and student meeting 'Defend Civil Liberties at University', CCL President Stephen Blanks has spoken to the Sydney Morning Herald and New Matilda on the importance of protecting free speech and the right to protest on university campuses. "How bizarre is it that universities, which have been a hotbed of free speech for centuries, are threatening staff and students with disciplinary action for expressing themselves," Stephen told the SMH. 

Stephen condemned the university's decision to invoke its 'vague' code of conduct against staff and students involved in legitimate protest. He told New Matilda: "The Code of Conduct has in it an obligation on staff to treat people with respect and dignity. That of course is fine in academic discourse but in the context of a protest it’s completely inappropriate. The essence of protest is that one can be contemptuous of those with whom you disagree and you don’t need to treat them with respect. That’s not to say that there’s any justification for breaches of the peace, but that’s not the allegation here."

He also questioned whether the use of force by security guards was proportionate to the situation. 

NSWCCL's involvement comes after the University sent "show cause" letters to 13 people - including five students, a Professor, and two security guards - in relation to a protest held during a public talk on a Sydney University campus by retired British Colonel Richard Kemp.

Article: Academic Jake Lynch cleared of anti-Semitism in ugly stoush at Sydney University

Source: Sydney Morning Herld, 27/04/2015

Article: University Of Sydney Accused Of Threatening Right To Protest And Self-Expression

Source: New Matilda, 24/04/2015

 

Share

AFP and Bali Nine: CCL President says guidelines now offer better oversight

Lateline obtained documents under FOI containing correspondence between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Ministers. The documents show requests to pass on information to foreign authorities about Australians who potentially could face the death penalty under other nations' laws. 

This process of obtaining Ministerial authority when the AFP passes on information in these contexts is in line with guidelines implemented in 2009, following an ongoing campaign by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. 

CCL President Stephen Blanks told Lateline: "It should make the AFP very wary about how they behave in these sorts of situations... the 2009 guidelines are entirely appropriate to make sure that there is some oversight of what they're doing."

Unfortunately, the guidelines came too late for Bali Nine pair Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, scheduled to be executed this week. The AFP, however, claim they acted appropriately in passing information about the Bali Nine on to Indonesian authorities. 

Video: Bishop to plead for Bali pair

Source: ABC Lateline, 24/04/2015

See also: AFP must explain its role in Bali executions, The New Daily, 29/04/2015

Share

NSWCCL joins call for moratorium on offshore detention centre transfers

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has joined with the Refugee Council of Australia and over 100 Australian organisations and community groups in urging the Australian Government for an immediate moratorium on offshore transfers to Nauru and Manus Island until all recommendations of the Moss Review and Cornall Report have been fully implemented, and the centres comply with minimum international standards.

The call follows the appalling case of a five year old girl who attempted suicide after prolonged detention on Nauru.

Conditions are similarly poor on Manus Island, where a majority of asylum seekers have still not had their applications processed after two years, and as on Nauru, limited health care is available.

Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council said: “No child should be sent there and certainly not sent to a situation while the environment remains so dangerous… [W]e call upon the Australian Government to immediately cease the transfer of vulnerable asylum seekers until all the recommendations of the Moss Review and the Cornall report are implemented.”

These reports highlighted sexual abuse, violence and the systematic failure to provide safety and security to detainees, particularly women and children. The Australian Government, by accepting all the recommendations of the Moss Review, has acknowledged that considerable changes are needed, yet continues to send asylum seekers into a fearful environment where their safety and security cannot be guaranteed. 

Read the full Press Release and Letter here or on the Refugee Council of Australia's website.

Share

Joint Submission: Impact on journalists of section 35p of the ASIO Act 1979

The combined councils for civil liberties across Australia (New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Liberty Victoria, Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, South Australia Council for Civil Liberties, Australian Council for Civil Liberties) have made a joint submission to the Acting Independent National Security Legislation Monitor's (INSLM's) inquiry into the impact on journalists of the operation of section 35P of the ASIO Act 1979, which contains two offences that criminalise disclosures of information relating to a ‘special intelligence operation’. 

The main civil liberties issues at stake in relation to the s35P are freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which should never be curtailed in democracy.

While understanding the justification of security and intelligence services’ powers for the protection of national security, the combined CCLs have raised serious concerns over the new national security and counter-terrorism legislation which incorporates a number of new extraordinary provisions.

CCLs raise the cumulative impact of the extended legislation on the work of journalists. Even though a warrant is now required for access to a journalist’s metadata, the CCLs condemn the very real possibility of access to this data which can readily reveal the identity of a source, without informing the journalist his metadata is being released to ASIO.

The CCLs urge the Government to protect a free and robust press in Australia by repealing the concept of the SIO regime and the s35P offences considered as unnecessary, draconian and dangerous for Australia’s democratic well-being.

Read the submission

Share

ICAC coercive powers must be subject to checks, argues CCL President

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to The Australian on the disturbing revelations that NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) may have acted inappropriately  when seizing the phones of crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen and her family members during a corruption investigation.

The Australian reports that ICAC officers used a notice to produce, rather than a warrant, to seize mobile phones. This highlights the importance of checks and balances when agencies use coercive powers, with Stephen Blanks warning without these checks, such powers can be abused. “ICAC should not be able to self-issue warrants,” he said.

Article: ICAC’s Margaret Cunneen warrants 'invalid use of power'

Source: The Australian, 17/04/2015

Share

CCL President highlights dangers and privacy issues of phone monitoring apps for kids

CCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to A Current Affair about his concerns if parents use phone monitoring app Teensafe, a tool marketed at parents to monitor and track the phone activity of their kids. The app allows parents to view their children's texts, calls, GPS location, web browsing, messaging through other apps, Instagram and Facebook activity. 

"It's absurd that children aged 16 can consent to sex, but this product can be used to spy on their private lives," Stephen told ACA. 

He also warned that there is a danger the account information could fall into the wrong hands and that adults could be breaking the law if the app is used to spy on people over the age of 18. 

The implications for the privacy of children is also critical. "All parents have got a responsibility for keeping their children safe, of course," Stephen said, "But that's not to say that parents should be allowed to deprive their children of necessary privacy."

Video: Would you spy on your kids to keep them safe? The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: A Current Affair, 14/04/2015

Share

Submission: Inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill

NSWCCL recently made a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee's inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill 2015. The submission condemns the Bill in its current form since the collection and retention of biometric data poses an unnecessary and disproportionate threat to the privacy of all non-citizens and Australian citizens.

While understanding the justification for the collection and use of biometric data, NSWCCL is concerned that the Bill does not contain essential safeguards to limit the collection and retention of additional biometric data such as fingerprints, handprints, measurement of height and weight, an audio or video recording and an iris scan.

Furthermore NSWCCL is concerned that the Bill in its current form may disproportionately affect minors, incapable persons and asylum seekers because it removes the requirement for consent and presence of a parent, guardian or independent person for and during the collection of such biometric data. 

Thus, NSWCCL urges Parliament to conduct a privacy impact assessment and relevant safeguards be implemented to ensure that the amendment does not allow for the mass collection and retention of biometric data.

Read the full submission here. 

Share