This Benchmark Television broadcast is with Dr Harry Melkonian who practises in New York, California and Australia with NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Stephen Blanks on USA and Australian gun laws.
Video: Dr Harry Melkonian and Stephen Blanks on Gun Control in USA and Australia (link no longer available)
Source: Benchmark TV
Thousands of protesters are expected to picket the streets of Newtown on December 12, blocking traffic as a “demonstration of the gridlock the WestConnex will cause” and to demand a “liveable city for all”.
The protest will double as a street party, with a ‘multi-stage mobile protest festival’ starring local bands and DJs filling the streets of Newtown.
“The common issue is that the State Government is more interested in looking after lobby groups that have given them money than the interests of the average citizen,” Mr Loch said. “Take the lockout laws, for example. We saw a bunch of property developers smashing up our old venues and putting in plans to build massive apartment blocks on them.”
Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, told City Hub that the lockout laws limited individual freedom.
“While the lockout laws represent a restriction of civil liberties, one can’t say there haven’t been corresponding benefits,” Mr Blank told City Hub.
“There are competing civil liberties involved in licensing laws: one is the ability to obtain services at licensed premises at whatever time of day suits you, versus the ability to walk the streets safely,” he said. “There are choices to be made about where to draw the line, and balance competing interests, and those should be regularly looked at.”
Source: Alt Media
Australia's parliament has passed legislation to strip dual nationals of their citizenship if they are convicted of terrorism offences or found to have fought with banned groups overseas, despite concerns about deporting jihadists.
Attorney-General George Brandis said the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill, passed late Thursday, updated existing law to reflect "the new age of terrorism".
Stephen Blanks, president of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, said Australia would be breaching its international obligations if it sent people back to countries where they faced torture.
"It's not going to have any real impact on solving the problem," he told AFP on Friday.
Much-loved Australian music festival Strawberry Fields, which took place at Koonamoo in Victoria’s north over the weekend, made headlines earlier this week after police detected dozens of drug drivers heading to the festival. A Victoria Police media release claimed a total of 56 drivers were detected driving to the festival under the influence and a further 60 were caught in possession of drugs as part of a four-day joint operation.
Earlier this year, the NSWCCL came out against the rollout of random roadside drug tests in the state several months back, saying the strict liability offence was unfair to drivers as it depicts anyone with trace amounts of drugs in their system as ‘impaired’.
“Cannabis can hang around in your system for days, maybe even a few weeks, but not have any impact on your ability to drive,” said Blanks. “It is illegal to possess those drugs, but it’s never been illegal to take them. It’s a small point, but it’s worth taking in mind.”
Blanks said the absence of any threshold for drug use, such as the 0.05 BAC for alcohol, was one of the issues with roadside drug tests. “With alcohol, there is a threshold below which it is recognised that usage doesn’t impair ability to drive,” he said.
“With drug tests, there is absolute zero tolerance. The problem of drug driving are issues probably not best dealt with through random testing. Perhaps it should be other ways, like driver education or better laws around drug usage or possession.”
Source: Tonedeaf Online Magazine
NSW police will have the power to shoot armed offenders in terrorist situations on sight under a new policy, but civil libertarians say independent review and high-level training are imperative.
The force is replacing its contain and negotiate policy, and critics are concerned about the lack of detail surrounding the policy, which hasn't been released for operational reasons.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties says extensive training will be necessary if frontline police are to be given discretion.
"There are very high risks involved in a shoot at first sight approach and obviously a one size reaction won't fit all situations," vice-president Lesley Lynch told AAP.
"It would be important that any incident which led to the death or serious injury of a person was subject of an independent review."
Article: NSW police adopt 'shoot now' approach for terrorist attacks Or NSW police get 'shoot now' discretion (The content we linked to is no longer available);
Source(s): SBS/Sky News
The NSW Police Force illegally hacked the private Facebook account of a Sydney man in a move branded a reprehensible and "criminal offence" by a magistrate.
After four months of illegal police surveillance on a closed Facebook page, Rhys Liam Halvey was arrested and charged with three counts of using a carriage service to offend police and a further three counts of publishing an indecent article. But all six charges have now been withdrawn and dismissed. In ordering costs against police, Magistrate Brown described the conduct as "reprehensible" and the charges as "trivial."
NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said public confidence in the police was being "undermined" by an inability to acknowledge the occasions when "it does the wrong thing."
"How deep in police culture is this willingness to break the law?" he asked. "Even after they have been caught out, it would appear no adverse consequences are going to be suffered by those responsible because the illegal actions are supported by police at the most senior level."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
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.Read more
The NSW government last week announced a $47 million package to dispatch specialist teams and trained counsellors to schools across the state to help identify students at risk of "radicalisation" and help to counter violent extremism in youngsters.
But there are rumblings of discontent among parents who say they were not consulted before the new measures were announced. Parents are concerned they have been left out in the cold as the state government and schools plough ahead with plans to combat "violent extremism" among children.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties warned that the whole suite of measures to target violent extremism could be derailed without parent involvement.
"It's pretty obvious that programs like this cannot work unless there's wide consultation over the way in which they are framed and the way in which they work," the council's president, Stephen Blanks, said.
"Once you have people who feel outside the program ... that they have not been consulted, that is what is going to undermine the program. I think families and parents are critical players in the fight against violent extremism."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
NSWCCL has issued a media release opposing the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015.
We recognise that the amended Bill is significantly improved and less dangerous than the initial extremely flawed version.
We welcome these changes, but remain disturbed by, and opposed to, expanding citizenship-stripping laws. Australian citizens who are alleged to have engaged in terrorist related activities should be charged, taken to trial and, if found guilty, punished and imprisoned in Australia. CCL argues the Bill should not be passed by Parliament.
Should the Bill proceed, CCL opposes the inclusion of the retrospectivity provision- even though it is limited to a very small number of people. It is a breach of a fundamental rule of law and natural justice principle. Retrospective application of punitive legislation is never acceptable.
NSWCCL welcomes the inclusion of a minimum age for persons caught by the Bill’s provisions. However, that minimum age should be 18 not 14 as is proposed for conduct related provisions. We welcome the removal of the provision allowing children to have their citizenship revoked if a parent had their citizenship revoked.
We urge the membership of the influential PJCIS which is to be given an expanded oversight role in relation to the operation of this legislation, be amended to be more fully representative of the Parliament.
The highly controversial Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 was introduced into Parliament in June 2015. It will come back to the Australian Parliament later today in a significantly amended form following the Government’s acceptance of recommendations from the Parliamentary Joint Intelligence and Security committee (PJCIS). It is likely to be dealt with quickly and passed this week.
NSWCCL recognises that the amended Bill will be a significantly improved and far less dangerous version. We welcome these changes, but remain disturbed by, and opposed to, expanding citizenship-stripping laws. Australian citizens who are alleged to have engaged in terrorist related activities should be charged, taken to trial and, if found guilty, punished and imprisoned in Australia. To expel them from the polis is to place the person outside the reach of the State’s legal system. It will not make us safer.Read more
CCL members gathered on Wednesday evening in the City of Sydney Council Chambers for the 52nd Annual General meeting of the NSW Council. It was a well-attended, lively and productive meeting.
A fresh counter-terrorism crackdown has been launched across NSW prisons which could force lower-security inmates to use English when writing letters, speaking on the phone or talking with visitors.
The state government on Friday created a new prisoner designation – a "national security interest inmate" (NSI) – to crack down on prisoners deemed at risk of inciting or organising terrorism via their contact with the outside world.
The new powers allow NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin to impose severe restrictions on the ability of prisoners who have not been convicted of terrorism offences to communicate with visitors, friends and family.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks referred to the measures as "counter-productive", saying,
"This kind of regulation is going to make reintegration more difficult because it will build up opposition and resentment from the prisoners concerned and their families, whose communications with them will be inhibited."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Ex-lovers who take revenge on their former partners by distributing explicit images online will be a focus of a parliamentary inquiry today. New South Wales Parliament's Law and Justice Committee will investigate what action can be taken against "revenge porn" as part of the hearing into remedies for serious privacy invasions.
The inquiry will hear from the NSW Privacy Commissioner, several researchers from universities across the state and advocacy groups. Submissions have addressed the lack of laws around and penalties for the sharing of explicit images without consent.
NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said the council did not see issue with revenge porn being dealt with by both criminal and civil laws.
"Federal Parliament is looking at possibly introducing criminal penalties but that would still leave a gap because individuals wouldn't have the ability to seek their own remedies" he told ABC News.
In its submission, the council said the attraction of a civil cause of action would offer the victim either an injunction forcing the removal of the material, or damages.
"We're strongly supportive of a practical remedy for people in cases of serious invasion of privacy," Mr Blanks said.
"People should have the right to take private action where their privacy has been seriously invaded. It's a real gap in the law as it stands at the moment."
Source: ABC News
ICAC’s leak of Margaret Cunneen’s private text messages to her boss triggered a feud between the top prosecutors in NSW. Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor Ms Cunneen warned her boss, NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Lloyd Babb, that he could take no action over the text messages in which she criticised him because ICAC had seized her phone illegally.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said would be an abuse of power if proven, saying the essence of the complaint was that ICAC had disclosed material that was outside the scope of its investigation. “If this claim is true it’s an extraordinary abuse of power by ICAC and it just shows you that authorities when given extraordinary powers can abuse them,” he said. “If this claim is true it would seem that ICAC has gone beyond the material that it legitimately had reason to access and has misused that material.”
Source: The Australian Business Review
With the Government’s data retention laws coming into effect last week, even Australia’s most vocal privacy advocates didn’t seem to notice the extended access that ASIO and the NSW Crime Commission have been granted to your identity documents. The request put to the RMS has widened the pool of photos that security agencies have access to, most of which have been provided for government identification and licensing purposes.
The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said that he thought there was no need for the change, especially seeing as people expect their identifying information to only be used for to purpose for which they supplied it. “With a single stroke of a pen the government says it doesn’t matter you gave you information on that basis, we’re going to make it available on some other basis,” he said.
Privacy commissioner calls for new protocols before spy agencies get access to citizens' photographs
Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Coombs has warned that new protocols must be in place before crime and security agencies can access hundreds of thousands of photographs of NSW citizens to bolster anti-terrorism efforts. Dr Coombs has also declared that striking the balance between citizens' rights and the desire of security agencies to access their personal information is of "critical importance".
The comments follow revelations that the NSW government has agreed to give the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the NSW Crime Commission virtually unfettered access to photographs of NSW citizens.
The decision has also been criticised by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties as unnecessary and one that would increase the risk of access to private information being abused due to the lack of independent oversight.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Thousands of photographs of tradesman, real estate agents and other ordinary Australians will be released to the intelligence agency under pumped-up anti-terrorism laws. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the NSW crime commission will have access to the photo records of citizens with a range of licences - without having to get a warrant.
But civil liberties campaigners have slammed the move, saying people would feel betrayed that their personal information was being used in a way they had not previously agreed.Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the government would need to have an 'independent oversight' to ensure the access process is not abused.
"With a single stroke of a pen the government says it doesn't matter you gave you information on that basis, we're going to make it available on some other basis," he said.
"The security agencies needing data in order to foil potential attacks can be done quite properly and adequately through the existing warrant system."
Source: The Daily Mail (Australia)
Australia's peak security agency and the NSW Crime Commission have been granted virtually unfettered access to hundreds of thousands of photographs of NSW citizens to bolster their ability to investigate planned and actual terrorism acts.
The NSW government has authorised the release of photographs taken of people who are granted an extensive range of licences and permits to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the state crime commission without a warrant or court order.
But the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said there was no need for the change noting that people expected their personal information only to be used for the purposes which they agree to hand it over to the government.
"With a single stroke of a pen the government says it doesn't matter you gave you information on that basis, we're going to make it available on some other basis."
"The security agencies needing data in order to foil potential attacks can be done quite properly and adequately through the existing warrant system," he said. "That gives an independent oversight of the process and makes sure the access process is not abused."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Delays in investigating social media, foreign translation and gathering international evidence are some of the recently given reasons justifying extension of time terror suspects can be held without charge. Government sources said traditional policing wasn't keeping pace with the new style of lone wolf terrorist threats emanating from social media.
But NSW Civil Liberties Council president Stephen Blanks has rejected the push for 28 days, and said new technology was "not a valid excuse" for keeping people locked up without charge for longer periods.
"It is not the way a free society or our legal system works. Frankly, there's nothing different about this kind of criminal investigation just because a terror offence has occurred."
Mr Blanks said police need to charge people and bring them before the courts. If a person was believed to be a danger to the community, there were other preventive detention powers that could be used.
Moving to 28-day detention would put NSW out of step with the British legislation upon which the Baird government claims to be modelling its proposed law.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Commentators are pointing out that if Premier Mike Baird pushes ahead with his plan to detain terror suspects for 28 days without charge, it will place NSW on its own among Western democracies.
Baird, the sure-footed politician, stumbled on national security this week and it stood out because the Turnbull government has been trying to leave behind fear politics and build a new language on national security.
NSW government insiders offer the explanation that tension is high at NSW Police, and there was a sense nothing had been done about the request for greater powers – then came the Parramatta attack.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks says Baird's actions this week were "odd", and suggests the NSW government is unprepared to say "no" to police.
"This is very damaging to his ability to maintain trust with the Muslim community and the wider community. Everybody thought they [the NSW government] had gone down a different path of engaging positively and listening," says Blanks.
Source: The Brisbane Times