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Calls to partially suspend secretive NSW Police blacklist

There are calls for New South Wales Police to urgently review a secretive policy that targets children with house calls and public searches.

The Suspect Target Management Plan - or STOMP as it's known - is a program that aims to prevent crime by pre-emptively targeting people thought to be at risk of offending.

Sample data from 10 Local Area Commands, published in a recent report, reveals 45 per cent of people on the plan were Indigenous, and children as young as 10 were being targeted.

The Aboriginal Legal Service and the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties are calling for the program to be partially suspended until a review can take place.

NSW CCL President, Stephen Blanks says there is no publicly available evidence that the program works to prevent crime. "The police are structured in a way that there are no statistics recorded, no information provided, no oversight, just no accountability at all. The community has no way of knowing if its doing more harm than good."

He continued "It's disappointing that the police haven't reacted to the release of this report so far. There is an opportunity for the police to start a new chapter of community engagement and respond to this report by saying that they will allow some accountability, oversight and assessment of the program to see whether it is achieving its objectives. If the police don't do that themselves, than the government should step in and make it happen.

In the interim, some of the more obviously abusive elements of this program, the way that it's aimed at children for example, should be suspended until there is proper accountability and assessment.

The Minister has the power to direct the police in relation to implementation of programs of this kind. So, if the police don't reform themselves, then the Minister should be stepping in."

 

Listen: Calls to partially suspend secretive NSW Police blacklist

Source: ABC Radio PM

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Submission: Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017

For the reasons given in this submission, NSWCCL cannot support this Bill and recommends its rejection in its entirety.

In recent times, there has been an alarming extension of executive power and limitation in checks and balances, particularly in the area of immigration. This Bill reinforces the Minister’s powers to inflict harm. NSWCCL urges the Committee to consider the arguments in favour of beginning to reverse this distressing trend.

NSWCCL recommends that the Committee should carefully consider additional checks and balances on the Minister’s excessive powers to inflict harm and alternatives to the onerous restrictions currently imposed.

- NSWCCL Submission to Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Senate inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017

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Policy statement (2017) - voluntary assisted dying

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has long supported the legalisation of Voluntary Assisted Dying measures.  While noting that, compared with existing VAD legislation in other jurisdictions, it is very conservative, the NSWCCL will actively campaign for the passage of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill currently before the NSW Parliament.

Stephen Blanks comments that what is not before the public is advanced legislation in NSW and it will come to the table 15 November or sometime later next month. We have a motion which is very timely and in reflection in our long support the bill before the NSW parliament.

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Policy statement (2017) - national integrity (anti-corruption) commission

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, alarmed at the corrosive effect of pervasive and serious corruption within, and related to, Government and public administration at the national level, strongly supports the urgent need for a national anti-corruption body.

This body should have a broad ambit across public administration (core public service bodies and public sector corporations), public sector contractors and parliament and politicians.

While such a body must have effective power to address current corruption, there must also be effective constraints and transparent oversight to ensure that the balance between the protection of individual rights and the fight against serious corruption is as well balanced as can be devised.

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Policy statement (2017) - national human rights charter

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties reaffirms its long standing active support for a national human rights charter.

The recurrent resistance of Australia’s politicians to a number of widely supported attempts to introduce a national human rights bill/charter over the last 44 years has left Australia as the only liberal democracy without either constitutional or statutory broad protection for fundamental human rights.

This has been a significant factor in allowing the proliferation of national laws which seriously and unwarrantedly breach human rights and liberties. The extreme manifestations of this trend in the areas of counter-terrorism and refugee law and policy in recent years necessitates a renewed community effort.

The NSWCCL will again give priority to joining other progressive bodies to campaign for an Australian Human Rights Bill in the context of the next federal election.

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Policy statement (2017) - marriage equality

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, consistent with its long-standing support for GLBT rights, strongly supports marriage equality and urges the Australian Government and/or the National Parliament to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to achieve this equality. 

The current same sex marriage statistical survey is an inappropriate, seriously flawed and undemocratic exercise intent on delaying Parliament addressing the issue and generating divisive and harmful debate. Nonetheless, NSWCCL strongly urges the community to register a “Yes” vote so that Government has no excuse to further delay legislative action on this matter.

Regardless of the outcome of the flawed survey, NSWCCL urges the Australian Government and/or Parliament to address the issue in this parliamentary term and introduce and pass a marriage equality amendment consistent with clear majority support within the Australian community.

CCL opposes any weakening of anti-discrimination laws in connection with the passage of the legislation.

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Policy statement (2017) - defence of the union movement

NSWCCL affirms the role of unions as an essential part of the Australian democracy in the defence of workers’ rights and affirms their right to support other organisations whose activities accord with their own.

 

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Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017

Submission of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties to the Legal and Constitutional
Affairs Committee 

NSWCCL thanks the Senate Committee for the opportunity to comment on this Bill.

Background


The Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is secured by a private company which provides public
services (Serco). In that regard, they have to follow the government rules and apply them to the
Centre. Similar arrangements apply at other Immigration Detention Facilities.


Asylum seekers who came by boat were prohibited from accessing mobile phones some time ago,
while those who came by plane had access until recently. The prohibition is the subject of a court
case brought by The National Justice Project in the Federal Court. In February this year the Court
issued a temporary injunction lifting this ban. An appeal concerning the competence of the court to
hear the case was overturned, and the case continues.


This Bill appears to be an attempt to pre-empt the Court’s finding,
The rules can be arbitrary, demeaning and unfair. Restrictions on what detainees may possess and
on what visitors may bring in with them have been the subject of abrupt changes recently.
A new requirement has been placed on visitors to have 100 points of identification a difficult task
for refugee families. Many former detainees and members of the families of detainees have only an
IMMI, which is worth only 70 points. They do not have drivers’ licences, nor other items to make up
the other 30 points. Since the identity cards are themselves issued by the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), these should be sufficient for entry.

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Civil liberties ‘a luxury’ as premiers back Turnbull’s new anti-terror laws

Mr Turnbull has previously said the data could be used to identify people at airports but also other public venues such as sporting venues and shopping centres.

The state-held data is already available to federal authorities, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said, but can take between 7-10 days to process.

Civil liberties groups said it was a “sad day” for Australia, while privacy advocates warned that it was “inevitable” the data compiled nationally for the first time would eventually be used for purposes besides counter-terrorism.

“This is a sad day when the leaders of our country say that civil liberties are not as important as they were previously, and that freedoms are to be subordinated to national security,” Stephen Blanks, President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, told The New Daily.

Australian Privacy Foundation chair David Vaile told The New Daily that there would eventually be “scope creep”.

Article: Civil liberties ‘a luxury’ as premiers back Turnbull’s new anti-terror laws

Source: The New Daily

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Should You Be Worried About The Government’s Huge New Facial Recognition Database?

Why Are People Concerned?

Digital Rights Watch is an Australian organisation that was established last year to help protect the digital rights of citizens. According to the organisation’s chair, Tim Singleton Norton, the new national facial recognition database is “a gross overreach into the privacy of everyday Australian citizens”.

“There is a severe lack of strong oversight mechanisms and general enforcement for human rights and civil liberties in this country, which results in the public being understandably wary about giving government more powers in the first place,” he said.

Singleton Norton pointed to recent data breaches from the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Home Affairs as evidence that the government was “ill-equipped to properly protect citizen’s data”.

“When individuals enter into an agreement with a government agency that includes their personal information, they should have the right to understand, be informed and have a say in where that information is held and what it’s being used for,” he said.

“Whilst we of course must ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the tools necessary to undertake their important work, this should not come at the expense of citizens’ rights to privacy.”

The new system has also been criticised by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. Their president, Stephen Blanks, said the proposal could undermine trust in government.

“It is quite alarming when information you have given to government for one purpose is then used for an entirely different purpose,” he said.

Article: Should You Be Worried About The Government’s Huge New Facial Recognition Database?

Source: Junkee

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Civil liberties bodies reject massive facial recognition database

COAG has agreed to the establishment of a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability which will have access to all drivers licences in Australia - as well as visa, passport and citizenship photos. This massive biometric database will be available to state and federal security and law enforcement agencies. The rationale for this very significant increase in the capacity for real-time government surveillance of most Australian residents is, of course, to better protect us. 

We want governments to do all that is possible and proportionate to protect us and, as part of that, we support effective coordination between states and federal agencies. However, NSWCCL fears that this development in mass surveillance capacity will have- over time - significant implications that are not currently appreciated for the nature of our society and the robustness of our democracy. 

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Turnbull government’s new anti-terror laws labelled ‘draconian’

While NSW adopted a 14-day maximum pre-charge detention regime under former premier Mike Baird, the period is seven days in most states and only eight hours in South Australia.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Stephen Blanks told The New Daily the proposed pre-charge detention law was “draconian” and should not be nationalised.

“They are not consistent with fundamental freedoms and liberty,” he said.

But Deakin University terrorism expert Greg Barton said they would be “rarely used” because the Australian Federal Police was conscious of not losing the public’s confidence.

“As long as we see an approach that is cautious and measured, we should not be concerned,” Dr Barton told The New Daily

Australian Privacy Foundation chair David Vaile said using state and territory drivers’ licenses for facial recognition was “a full-frontal attack on the core ideas behind data protection and privacy”.

Mr Vaile told The New Daily people did not consent for their photo or other data to be used by the federal government when they applied for drivers’ licenses.

Article: Turnbull government’s new anti-terror laws labelled ‘draconian’

Source: The New Daily

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'Nation's toughest terror laws': Berejiklian unveils 'drastic' plan

"NSW will be the first state in Australia to address this," Ms Berejiklian said. "We know these are tough laws but unfortunately these circumstances are here because of what we see around the world and around Australia."

The Premier said the policy was "drastic" but would be modelled on existing post-sentencing schemes for violent or sex offenders.

The Premier's comments come the day before the Council of Australian Governments, a meeting of Australian state and federal governments on Thursday where strengthened national security policies will be high on the agenda.

But the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said there was no need for any extension of post-sentencing policies.

"It can only be [a] political [measure]," said President Stephen Blanks. "It's just an abuse of what the courts are there for, which is to find truth.

"This is a regime which will result in the continued detention of people simply for what they say or think. It's fundamentally contrary to the idea of a free society".

The Premier said her government was still considering the details of a federal government proposal to grant its authorities access to states' databases to harvest licence photos that could track suspects using facial recognition technology and surveillance footage.

Article: 'Nation's toughest terror laws': Berejiklian unveils 'drastic' plan

Source: Daily Advertiser

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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveils plan to introduce 'nation's toughest terror laws'

The Premier's comments come the day before the Council of Australian Governments, a meeting of Australian state and federal governments on Thursday where strengthened national security policies will be high on the agenda.

But the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said there was no need for any extension of post-sentencing policies.

"It can only be [a] political [measure]," said President Stephen Blanks. "It's just an abuse of what the courts are there for, which is to find truth.

"This is a regime which will result in the continued detention of people simply for what they say or think. It's fundamentally contrary to the idea of a free society". 

The Premier said her government was still considering the details of a federal government proposal to grant its authorities access to states' databases to harvest licence photos that could track suspects using facial recognition technology and surveillance footage. 

But Ms Berejiklian said the NSW government generally supported strengthening national security protections. 

"All of us have to accept, from time to time, that our civil liberties aren't what they used to be," she said. "I'm keen to support any measure that supports public safety.

"I think all the community would expect us to have a no regrets policy; I don't want us to say what could we have done?

"Sometimes it means all of us have to give up a little bit of our civil liberties.

"It's not a 'maybe' threat; the threat in NSW is probable. When the threat is probable you need to look at what you're doing." Berejiklian said.

Article: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveils plan to introduce 'nation's toughest terror laws'

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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Civil liberties groups 'Alarmed' over National facial recognition database

The Prime Minister will use tomorrow's COAG national security summit to urge the Premiers to hand over the photos and information on state drivers' licences.

Malcolm Turnbull says the aim is to build a national facial recognition database for use by law enforcement agencies.

Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says Australians should be very alarmed by such a proposal.

He's speaking to Cathy Bell.

Interview: Civil liberties groups 'Alarmed' over National facial recognition database The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: ABC News on Radio

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Expanding facial recognition database in Australia not justified, watchdog warns

Australians should be gravely concerned about moves to add millions of people to a facial recognition database because of perceived terror threats, according to a leading civil liberties body.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will urge state and territory leaders to hand over license photos of all drivers at a special national security summit in Canberra on Thursday.

The federal database could be used, for example, to conduct surveillance at airports, sports stadia, shopping malls and other public places.

But the Turnbull strategy has been sharply criticised by Stephen Blanks, president of NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL).

He accused the federal government of "whipping up fear" and questioned if the likelihood of terror threats in Australia justified a marked increase in state surveillance.

"This proposal has a grave danger to it," Blanks told nine.com.au.

He also claimed the move would undermine trust in government.

"It is quite alarming when information you have given to the government for one purpose … is then used for an entirely different purpose."

Government sources on Tuesday told 9NEWS that driver's license information was the "mother-load" it needed to build a powerful law enforcement tool.

On Wednesday, in front of media, Turnbull kept repeating "keeping Australia safe" was the relentless focus of any changes to legislation.

The prime minister talked about how facial recognition tools would help alert counter-terror agencies to incidents such as the recent alleged Etihad bomb plot at Sydney airport.

...

"The system was designed so that people who looked 50% or more similar to the wanted suspect were flagged as a possible match. This means that a vast number of 'possible matches' will be completely innocent people."

The technology also frequently misidentifies African-Americans, according to a recent US government hearing (The content we linked to is no longer available).

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks questioned if there had been sufficient debate and community consultation about the issue.

Blanks said the media's focus on acts of terror taking place in other parts of the world made Australians feel unsafe in their own country.

"It's easy to whip up fear where we have media that gives big publicity to individual instances of terror but without the context of how much dangerous activity there really is in Australia.

"Totalitarian governments who want to abuse their position often find databases of this kind very useful to pursue unacceptable policies."

Last month, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller proclaimed crime rates in NSW were "at 20-year lows".

Blanks claimed it had probably never been a safer time to be an Australian.

He cautioned counter-terror laws, once passed, were rarely reversed.

"These proposals are going to be a permanent arrangement in the hands of good government and bad government," Blanks said.

It is unpopular and politically unacceptable to question if national security agencies are sufficiently empowered, Blanks added.

Article: Expanding facial recognition database in Australia not justified, watchdog warns

Source: 9 News

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Turnbull defends proposed anti-terrorism laws as constitutional

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties president, Stephen Blanks, told Guardian Australia that plot was a “worst-case example” and police hadn’t needed the 14-day period, showing there was no need for “draconian” new laws.

“We don’t think detention without charge ought to be permitted at all … It’s just inappropriate in a free society for police to be able to detain people without charge,” he said.

Blanks questioned if hearings to extend detention would be conducted in secret and how detained persons, even if they were represented, could convince a judge to let them go. “It’s a misuse of the position of the courts to involve them in detaining people without due legal process,” he said.

Earlier Turnbull said the government worked with the AFP, state counterparts and legal advisers to “fine-tune and improve our national security laws”.

“Our primary, overwhelming responsibility is to keep Australians safe. We are relentless in that and we will always continue to improve and enhance the tools our agencies have to keep us safe.”

The Australian governments will also discuss improving access to existing databases of drivers’ licences to give federal police and security agencies national facial biometric matching capability.

Turnbull said about half of Australians already have their photo in a federal government system, but bringing together driver’s licence photos would help “build up a national system that will enable us … particularly to be able to identify people that are suspected of, or involved in, terrorist activities”.

Article: Turnbull defends proposed anti-terrorism laws as constitutional

Source: The Guardian

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National Integrity Commission -committee report equivocates

There is  widespread and  well argued community and expert support for a national body to expose  and prevent serious and systemic corruption within, and relating to, public administration (including the electoral process and parliament including MPs and their staff).

In April this year, NSWCCL joined others in arguing strongly for the immediate establishment of such a body to a Senate Select Committee specially established to consider (yet again..) this longstanding and increasingly urgent issue. (see earlier post

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Why a Blackberry Will No Longer be a Criminal's Best Friend

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Councils ‘spying’ on residents with tracking devices on bins

A small device has been fitted on bins around Sydney to see what's being thrown out but critics fear where personal information could end up.

NSWCCL Stephen Blanks contributed to this story with concern for what happens to the information collected by these devices.

"My concern is that Council is not being transparent about what is being done with the data that is being collected. The data could be valuable to data and could be something that Google, for example, is prepared to pay for. "

David Vaile from the Australian Privacy Foundation also questions the future use of data gathered. "The big question is, what else can they do with it later on? Can they tie it with other information and discriminate against you or maybe discriminate against your neighbourhood?"

Video: Sydney Councils ‘spying’ on residents with tracking devices on bins. The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: Channel 7 News

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