Civil liberties councils across Australia organised the screening [of Citizenfour] with the help of Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. The award-winning film documents the circumstances in which Snowden blew the lid off the NSA's mass surveillance activities in the US and the Britain.
Queensland Labor MP Graham Perrett says he has serious concerns about the Abbott government's proposed data retention bill but remains confident it can be passed with judicious amendments.
"I'm not a big fan of anyone revealing information that puts any of our professional staff at risk but I do know that the enthusiasm of intelligence agencies needs to be moderated and I think that Parliament has an important role in that,"Mr Perrett.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 11/2/2015
Article: Civil liberties councils bring #Citizenfour to Canberra, No Fibs, 11/2/2015, The content we linked to is no longer available
Article: Data retention hinges on Labor's support, ZDNet, 13/02/2015
Article: Citizenfour: meet NSA whistleblower Snowden, Honi Soit, 18/02/2015
Details of the illegal surveillance of over 100 people - including senior NSW police - under scrutiny in a NSW parliamentary inquiry should ring alarm bells on another front in the digital privacy wars.
As Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas described the "decade of angst" caused by the invasion of his privacy, and the bugging of his ex-wife and children's home, NSW Police were down in Canberra arguing to federal politicians that they should have open slather to invade the privacy of the public at large.
...Judges are rubber stamps when it comes to police seeking warrants for telephone intercepts in NSW. The NSW Civil Liberties Council has previously called for the introduction of the Queensland system to cut out rubber-stamping. A Queensland public interest monitor scrutinises each surveillance warrant and questions whether the police evidence justifies the privacy invasion of a "bug", and can argue this case before the judge.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 8/2/2015
NSWCCL calls on the Australian government to make all diplomatic efforts to stop the executions of the two Australian citizens on death row in Indonesia facing imminent execution. The NSWCCL has signed a joint letter with a range of other organisations to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, urging such efforts be made, and to the Indonesian Ambassador in Australia seeking mercy for the two Australian citizens facing imminent execution.Read more
"The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties is taking an unusual route in the fight to stop data retention, swapping out Twitter for the silver screen... [The council] aims to screen the film for politicians and media in Canberra, raising money to rent a viewing space in Parliament House for a February 9 screening, presented in conjunction with Madman Entertainment and Electronic Frontiers Australia."
Article: CITIZENFOUR to Screen at Parliament House
Source: 4:3 Film, 23/01/2015
"In an effort to persuade MPs of the bill’s danger, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties is currently hosting screenings of Laura Poitras’ documentary film CitizenFour, an insider look at the Edward Snowden affair which exposed the global scale of the National Security Agency’s data gathering operations... All federal MPs have been invited to the film’s Canberra screening, to be held Monday night, which the organisation is currently fundraising for."
Article: Abbott 'Bullying' Labor On Data Retention Laws, Says Ludlam. Article no longer available
Source: New Matilda, 05/02/15
Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2015, comments on the Australian government’s human rights record in 2014, stating that the government's failure to respect international standards protecting asylum seekers and refugees continues to take a heavy human toll and undermines Australia’s ability to call for stronger human rights protections abroad. HRW reports on the introduction of new counterterrorism measures, describing them as 'overboard,' stating that the measures would infringe on freedoms of expression and movement. The report also highlights the government's failure to take action to address indigenous rights and disability rights.Read more
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has responded to the suggestion made by a former judge that terrorists should be kept in prison after their sentences expire if they still hold extreme religious views. Speaking to ABC Radio Current Affairs AM, Stephen characterised these comments as "a scorched earth policy":
"What a dangerous suggestion it is that people should be kept locked up just because of their opinions, and what a terrible indictment on our system that we can't, through a process of programs in prison, deradicalise these individuals."
Listen: Stephen Blanks stunned by suggestion of not releasing terrorist from jail. The content we linked to is no longer available
Source: ABC Radio Current Affairs, AM, 29/01/15
See also: Prison radicalisation expert Clarke Jones says segregation only strengthening terrorists' beliefs, Sydney Morning Herald, 29/01/15
Judge's call to keep terrorists in prison indefinitely stuns civil liberties campaigners, ABC Radio, The World Today, 29/01/15
Death row inmates Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan stand in a grim line of nearly 90 Australians who have faced a possible death sentence overseas in the past 30 years.
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks stated "Every criminal is entitled – even the worst murderers, the worst drug dealers – to the opportunity to reform themselves."
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 25/1/2015
Last year civil liberties and human rights groups resisted, with limited success, the worst elements of the veritable tsunami of new counter-terrorism laws the Abbot Government brought in swift succession to the Parliament. Now we are fast approaching a decision point in the highly significant and contentious debate as to whether the Australian Parliament will legislate the mandatory collection and retention of mass telecommunications data for the bulk of the population to enable retrospective access by authorities.
It would be a major negative step for a democratic system. It will be a major intrusion on every citizen’s right to privacy - including those not suspected of any unlawful activity. This will have major flow-on implications for other freedoms and democratic values. In particular, it will undermine a robust and free press and constrain legitimate whistle-blowers by removing any confidentiality from all phone and internet communications.
The combined CCLS consider it to be a step too far. We strongly oppose the policy concept and urge the Parliament to reject it.Read more
Paid interviews with Sydney siege hostages should be prevented from going to air because they risk tainting future evidence and weakening the coronial process, former state coroner John Abernethy says.
Former Director of Public Prosecutions and NSWCCL committee member Nicholas Cowdery AM QC also fears hostages involved in exclusive cash-for-comment deals may give colourful, definitive accounts to satisfy a television audience, then feel compelled to repeat the same accounts in court, even if their views have shifted.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 22/1/2015
A number of Sydney siege survivors have reportedly signed six-figure deals to tell their stories to television networks, however legal experts have raised concerns about impacting the inquests into the deaths which are currently underway.
Former Director of Public Prosecutions and NSWCCL committee member Nicholas Cowdery AM QC raised concerns saying it could lead to the victims exaggerating their accounts to make good TV.
"There are a lot of areas of concern - moral, ethical, freedom of the press, and so on," he told AAP on Thursday.
"The part of it I'm particularly interested in is the integrity of the formal legal processes to run their course without being hampered by the sale of stories beforehand."
Source: SBS, 22/01/2015
Bali Nine death row inmates Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are on a list of 26 prisoners Indonesia says will be executed this year, including six who will be killed this Sunday.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said the Australian government should be making it clear to Indonesia that the Australian public "regards these executions as unacceptable and unjustifiable".
Mr Blanks said it was "reprehensible" that Indonesia was resuming executions.
"The death penalty is wrong in all countries and in all circumstances," Mr Blanks said.
Article: 'Outrage' if Bali Nine executions proceed. The content we linked to is no longer available
Source: Yahoo 7, 16/11/2014
In response to the rekindled debate around section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, NSW Council for Civil Liberties Committee Member Lydia Shelley writes about Islamophobia and freedom of speech. She argues that the greater threat to Australians’ civil liberties comes from the lack of legal protections in the form of a Bill of Rights:
"Not all those who pose a threat to civil liberties and freedoms stand behind a foreign flag and hold Kalashnikovs. Some stand behind the Australian flag and promote the myth that civil liberties and freedoms need to be sacrificed in order to obtain security.
They can be persons in positions of power who seek to use freedoms and civil liberties as tools to maintain their power. They draft, and then pass, draconian legislation that strikes at the heart of democracy and the very same freedoms they are purporting to protect."
Article: Giving Bigots More Rights Is The Wrong Response To Charlie Hebdo Massacre. Article no longer available.
Source: New Matilda, 14/01/2015
Proposed laws could ban Queenslanders from smoking on their balconies in apartment buildings, following on from similar tightened laws in NSW. President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, spoke to The Project:
"An owners corporation for a block of flats can regulate smoking on balconies, and perhaps should where it’s detrimentally affecting other residents who don’t want it."
Source: The Project, Channel 10, 13/01/15
A man died in police custody in Bowral after a taser was used to subdue him. An investigation into his death will be overseen by the Police Professional Standards Command. President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, discussed the incident on Sunrise.
Blanks emphasised the need for police investigations to be overseen by an independent authority, and highlighted problems with the use of tasers by police.
He said: "The community cannot be satisfied with the police investigating themselves. We’ve seen too many cases where the police twist the facts to exonerate themselves in situations like this."
"The problem with tasers is that there is misunderstanding about their potential lethality. Police can tend to use them in circumstances not realising what the consequences could be."
Watch video: 37yr old dies after tasing
Source: Sunrise, Yahoo!7, 13/01/2014
NSW Council for Civil Liberties co-founder Kep Enderby QC died on 8 January 2015. Media reports credited the “lifelong civil libertarian” with his contributions to politics, the law and civil liberties in Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald remembered his political and legal achievements through the words of his peers: “Gifted, ebullient, imaginative, well dressed, with a razor sharp mind, gaunt face and beautiful speaking voice, Enderby cut a confident figure.”
“Enderby was one of Australia's most significant and interesting left liberal intellectuals, who was widely respected, despite disagreements, for the passion and honesty he brought to his convictions.”
Article: Former federal Attorney General Kep Enderby remembered among his peers (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 14/1/2015)
As well as his political and legal career, The Australian highlighted Enderby’s work as the head of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of NSW, as President of the World Esperanto Association, and his support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“Mr Enderby was a lifelong champion of human rights, civil liberties and the underdog; a romantic idealist who learnt Esperanto out of a belief that if the world spoke a single language it would lessen conflict.”
Article: Enderby a man of achievement, from the cockpit to the bench (Source: The Australian, 9/1/2015)
“Age did not weary this crusader. Right up until his later years, Kep Enderby remained a vocal proponent of civil liberties, unafraid to write and speak on controversial issues such as the rights of prisoners. Thanks to the changes Enderby brought about, Australians now suffer less discrimination than they did before his time in politics.”
Article: Vale Kep Enderby (Source: City News Canberra, 12/1/15)
Article: Former Whitlam minister Kep Enderby dies aged 88 (Source: ABC News, 9/1/15)
Two men, who were part of a group of seven told they would be released after Asio reversed its negative security assessment, are still in detention
The head of the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said Australia had made security determinations about Tamil asylum seekers based on its close relationship with the Sri Lankan government.
Sri Lanka’s outgoing president Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose government was unexpectedly defeated in last week’s election, has been accused of committing war crimes against the Tamil minority in the dying days of the civil war.
“Given the election result in Sri Lanka, it is time for Asio to reassess whether assessments made of Tamils are still relevant,” Blanks told Guardian Australia.
He said he hoped Dutton would take a “fresh look” at the refugees who were still in limbo following adverse security assessments.
“It was never appropriate to lock these people up,” he said.
Blanks said the fact that the refugees had been released quietly over the past few years meant it was likely they were never a real threat to in the first place, but he said the secrecy around the issue meant the public would never know for sure.
Source: The Guardian, 12/1/2015
A group of 10 refugees assessed by ASIO as threats to national security have been freed to live in the Australian community after the agency quietly reversed its decision.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said it was good ASIO had cases under review but the lack of transparency was "completely unsatisfactory".Read more
It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of one of NSWCCL’s founding members, Kep Enderby QC, on 8 January 2015. Kep was lifelong advocate for civil liberties and an active progressive force in Australian politics for decades.Read more
A 'one-punch' incident involving two Irish brothers will not be subject to the new mandatory minimum sentencing laws as the accused had a blood-alcohol reading of below 0.15, the minimum threshold for the law to apply.
President Stephen Blanks spoke to Channel 7 News about the case, reaffirming NSWCCL's opposition to arbitrary mandatory minimum sentencing laws:
"Mandatory minimum sentencing is a bad idea because it inherently results in the court being unable to take into account all of the unusual circumstances of a particular case"
Watch video: Brother escapes one-punch laws. The content we linked to is no longer available
Source: 7 News, 4/1/2015
The 33-year-old man, who is being held in the Wickham Point Immigration Detention Centre near Darwin, refused to eat after being denied refugee status.
Human rights lawyer Steven Blanks said there was legislation in place that would allow authorities to save the man's life.
"It authorises the Department of Immigration to direct doctors to provide medical treatment against the consent of asylum seekers where that medical treatment is necessary to preserve their life or health," he said.
The Iranian man has given written instruction that he must not be revived if he loses consciousness.
But Mr Blanks said international standards specify medical treatment should be used, even if an asylum seeker had refused it.
Article: Asylum seeker in Darwin 'would rather starve to death than return to Iran' (article no longer available).
Source: Yahoo 7 News, 20/12/15