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.
Source: ABC Lateline, 24/04/2015
See also: AFP must explain its role in Bali executions, The New Daily, 29/04/2015
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.
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.
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.
Source: The Australian, 17/04/2015
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
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.
Click here to read the speech by CCL Vice President Pauline Wright on the night.
Following on from NSWCCL's successful screening of CITIZENFOUR at Parliament House in February, we're pleased to partner with award-winning cinema Avoca Beach Theatre to bring this special screening of the Oscar-winning documentary on Tuesday 24 March at 7pm, introduced by Vice President (and Avoca Beach local) Pauline Wright.Read more
NSW Council for Civil Liberties recently wrote to all ALP members and all senators urging that the Data Retention Bill be delayed until key issues in the bill are resolved.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties has formally endorsed two separate Shadow Reports for the United Nations' 2015 Universal Periodic Review of Australia: firstly, a Joint NGO Submission together with a wide range of NGOs across Australia; and secondly, a submission specifically relating to Surveillance in Australia together with international and national surveillance groups.
CCL Executive Member Hannah Ryan has written a powerful opinion piece for New Matilda, arguing that Labor has been 'bought out' on data retention and has not lived up to its responsibility as a robust Opposition. The small amount of protection for journalists offers little consolation and leaves "the rotten core of the bill entirely unassailed". She writes:
"But if one imagines a responsible opposition party, genuinely interested in making good law and sticking up for journalists, one would think that party might have allowed news organisations to put their case on data retention to Parliament, as they were due to do before Labor agreed on the amendments and cancelled the hearing...
But the focus on its own interests is both predictable and irresponsible. The question of the design of the warrant scheme for access to journalists’ data has obscured the stark fact that we are a hair’s breadth away from legislating the loss of privacy for all Australians...
The weakness of the protection given to journalists should be of concern to anyone interested in the practice of investigative journalism, and ultimately in democracy, but it is most remarkable for the fact that it was the sorry bartering chip which Labor accepted in exchange for the transformation of this country into one where we are all suspects."
Article: Labor And Journalists Have Sold You Out On Brandis' Surveillance Law. Article no longer available.
Source: New Matilda, 24/03/2015
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has warned consumers about the potential for misuse of their data in shopping centres' new strategy of tracking shoppers' habits over centre-provided Wi-Fi.
A basic connection to free Wi-Fi made available in Westfield centres will allow them to track information about the phone user, and send marketing material directly to the phone based on this data.
Stephen Blanks prompts consumers to question: "How is my information going to be used? Is it going to be compiled for a long-term tracking history? Is it going to be saleable information? Is the shopping centre going to make money [from it]?"
Source: 9 News, 23/03/2015
Asylum seekers are subjected to mandatory detention in a number of countries. A notable example is Australia. Asylum seekers who arrive (or who are intercepted while attempting to arrive) in Australia by boat are held in detention centres in Australian territory and in other countries under arrangements made and funded by Australia. These days, most such arrivals are detained in Nauru and in Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Such detention occurs automatically, and normally lasts for the entire period in which an asylum claim is being determined, which can be a very long time. Both adults and children are detained.
There's more resources on their website.
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks was quoted in The Saturday Paper on Labor's position on data retention and other national security issues, particularly their continued alignment with the Government on all aspects. Stephen indicated he was appalled not only by the various tranches of unnecessary national security legislation itself - including the extraordinary powers given to ASIO to access individuals computers, the exemption of ASIO officers from prosecution, the criminalising of reporting on ASIO special operations, and the ability to cancel passports without notice or right of appeal - but also that Labor has "rolled over" to pass them.
"I’m afraid I’ve got to the point where I don’t think Labor believes in anything," Stephen said, "Everything is tradeable. It is a political tactic to enable them to say there is not a cigarette paper of difference between them and the government on this stuff."
Source: The Saturday Paper, 14/03/15
Next week the Parliament of Australia will debate the highly contentious and dangerous data retention bill (Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014). This bill, if passed, will mandate the collection and retention for two years of telecommunications data on all citizens – suspect and non-suspect alike – for subsequent access and analysis by intelligence and security agencies, police and other agencies.
No warrant will be necessary to access this data.
If this bill becomes law, Australia will have one of the most extensive and intrusive data collection and surveillance regimes in the democratic world.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties has written to all Labor MPs and Senators. We need you to do this too.Read more
NSW Council for Civil Liberties has indicated its opposition to the creation of a new spitting offence, proposed by the Police Association of NSW. An act of this nature is already covered under the existing offence of assault, and so further legislation is unnecessary. The police union is also calling for powers that force anyone who transmits a bodily fluid - including spit, blood or urine - to emergency workers, to be tested for diseases. CCL would support the introduction of this kind of mandatory testing provided there is appropriate regulation and safeguards in place.
Source: 9 News, 11/3/15
NSWCCL President warns against 'not guilty' pleas and privacy issues concerning domestic violence register
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has warned against the automatic placement of offenders on a proposed domestic violence register, strongly urging that a court should decide whether to place somebody on the register based on an assessment of their risk to the community.
"If it's automatic, we will see an enormous change in the way people treat their defence," he said. "It will be a huge incentive on everyone charged with domestic violence offences to plead not guilty, which is quite counter-productive. We want a system where people are encouraged to recognise their guilt."Read more
Following on from the release of the PJCIS Report into the Data Retention Bill on Friday 27/02/15 CCL Vice President Oscar Coleman spoke to FBi's Backchat program about the report, labelling the proposed metadata laws 'the worst in the developed world'. Oscar stated the report made only minor recommendations to the Bill and still supports 'largely what [Attorney-General] Brandis wanted to do in the first place'. He encouraged listeners to contact their Labor MP or Senator.
Audio: Data Retention Bill
Source: FBi Backchat, 28/02/15
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to The Wire in response to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments that mandatory data retention is necessary to combat terrorism and child sexual abuse, arguing that this is not a counter-terrorism measure.
Stephen told The Wire: "The Government should allow parliament proper time to consider all of its ramifications… In countries where there are human rights standards, Governments and Parliaments are rejecting this kind of legislation because it involves a disproportionate invasion of people's privacy for no proven benefit."
He warned that police will have easy access to the metadata as "there is no independent supervision of the law enforcement agencies when they access data…There are [also] a very large number of [other] agencies in Australia that have access to metadata and this proposal will give those agencies enormous powers." Stephen further stated that access to our collected metadata should be subject to a court warrant first.
Story/Audio: Metadata laws; fighting crime or invading privacy? The content we linked to is no longer available
Source: The Wire 18/02/2015
In a YouTube video released on Sunday the Prime Minister has hinted at a national security crackdown involving the tightening of migration and welfare rules. On SBS News NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks argued that a further national security crackdown could be counter productive:
"You don't defeat every terrorist incident by increasing the powers of the national security agencies. You don't destroy freedom in order to protect it. What you do is you should promote community coherence. You should make sure everybody in our society is committed to our common ideals and not drive wedges between them because driving wedges between them is going to perpetuate these kinds of attacks."
Stephen also warned that possible welfare changes could result in a backlash from innocent Australians:
"The community is going to find that very intrusive and unacceptable. People should not have to say they reject terrorism in order to get a Centrelink benefit. That is something that something that is just going too far. That is going to make people suspicious of the entire security apparatus that has been erected around them."
Stephen also spoke to "the Wire", noting that following the extraordinary case of Man Haron Monis, reactionary bail reforms appear to be on the agenda and threaten to undermine the fundamental presumption of innocence: "Bail is not an excuse to start locking people up as if they are presumed guilty." He also warned that welfare reforms could potentially lead to 'McCarthy' style systems where welfare recipients may need to prove that they are not terrorist sympathisers in order to receive benefits.
Transcript/Audio: Criticism of Abbott's new security proposals
Video: Criticism of Abbott's new security proposals. The content we linked to is no longer available
Source: SBS News, 16/2/2015
Article/Audio: National Security - have we been too lenient too long?Source: The Wire, 16/2/2015
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties condemns the Prime Minister’s attack on the credibility of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), and Commissioner Gillian Triggs following the release of the Commission’s damning report into the detention of asylum seeker children.Read more