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Citizenship-stripping bill should be abandoned

 

 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.

 

  NSWCCL Media Release 

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Citizenship-stripping bill returns to 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. 

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AGM 2015 - New Team - New Policies

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.

 

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Fresh terrorism crackdown in prisons

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."

Article:'National security interest inmate': fresh terrorism crackdown in prisons

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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NSW conducts inquiry into 'revenge porn'

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."

Article:Action against ex-lovers who distribute 'revenge porn' will be a focus of NSW inquiry today

Source: ABC News

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SMS leak sparks prosecutor feud

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.”

Article:ICAC’s Margaret Cunneen SMS leak sparked prosecutor feud

Source: The Australian Business Review

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ASIO Can Now See Your Awkward Licence Photos

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.

Article:ASIO Can Now See Your Awkward Licence Photos

Source: Gizmodo

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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.

Article:Privacy commissioner calls for new protocols before spy agencies get access to citizens' photographs

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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ASIO to get access to photo records of ordinary Australians under pumped-up anti-terrorism laws

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."

Article: ASIO to get access to photo records of tradesman, real estate agents and other ordinary Australians under pumped-up anti-terrorism laws

Source: The Daily Mail (Australia)

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ASIO, Crime Commission granted access to photographs of NSW citizens to "aid terror fight"

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."

Article: ASIO, Crime Commission granted access to photographs of NSW citizens to aid terrorism fight

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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Terror laws: Baird government says 28 days needed to translate foreign languages, IT

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.

Article: Terror laws: Baird government says 28 days needed to translate foreign languages, IT

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

 

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Baird misstep on national security jars as Turnbull tries a new language

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.

Article: Baird misstep on national security jars as Turnbull tries a new language

Source: The Brisbane Times

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Churches fight against gay marriage gains momentum

In the past few weeks, Christian leaders have decided to voice those fears from the pulpit in an attempt to reframe the public debate around same-sex marriage in Australia, most notably over the issue of 'religious freedom' where the archbishop cited the case of the Oregon bakers who were earlier this year ordered to pay almost $200,000 in damages after they refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

To civil libertarians, the notion of accommodating prejudice towards same-sex couples in the name of religious observance is absurd.

"Can bakers refuse to supply weddings to Indigenous people on the grounds of their race? Can bakers refuse to supply cakes to Islamic people on the grounds of their race?" NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said.

"I think it's an absolute misunderstanding of what cake suppliers do," he said. "They supply the cakes."

Mr Blanks said there  were already exceptions to anti-discrimination laws to accommodate religious groups.

"In my view, the ability to apply to the Human Rights Commission for exemption from anti-discrimination laws is a suitable mechanism for giving service providers an opportunity to obtain exemptions in particular cases," he said.

"There may be some service providers who are closely associated with particular religious bodies that may merit exemption. Of course, I am left wondering why a religiously oriented wedding cake supplier would feel that it is necessary for faith-based reasons to discriminate on sexual orientation grounds, but not on the basis of whether or not the wedding couple had maintained celibacy."

Article: Churches fight against gay marriage gains momentum

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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New Australian terror laws to target 14 year olds

Further proposed changes to the anti-terror laws by the Turnbull government have seen interest internationally from various groups pointing out Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government has seized on the tragic October 2 shooting in western Sydney of a police staff member by a 15-year-old boy to bring forward planned laws that will include imposing control orders on children as young as 14.

No evidence has been produced that the teenager, Farhad Jabar, shot and killed police accountant Curtis Cheng as an act of terrorism. Jabar himself was quickly gunned down by police and killed. No group, including Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has claimed responsibility for his action.

They note however, that there is already growing (domestic) public opposition to the new laws. NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said they were “undoubtedly going to be in breach of human rights standards,” and condemned as “obviously unacceptable,” the “idea of detaining 14-year-old children for questioning without charge, and secretly for long periods of time.”

Provocatively, Sydney Muslim community leaders were not told about the latest measures when they met for “consultations” with Baird on Monday. Silma Ihram, from the Muslim Women’s Association said the laws would “feed straight into the narrative” of ISIS and “make things worse, unfortunately.”

Article: New Australian "terrorism" laws to target 14 year olds

Source: The World Socialist Web

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ACT government concerned by moves to extend control orders to 14 year olds

The ACT government has expressed concern about a proposal to extend the reach of counter-terrorism control orders to youth as young as 14. Federal Attorney-General George Brandis said he would make the change after a request was made by NSW Premier Mike Baird. The request was prompted by the shooting of NSW Police accountant Curtis Cheng by a 15-year-old boy who has been linked to Islamic extremism.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has also criticised the proposed lowering of the control order age threshold.

"The proposed laws are undoubtedly going to be in breach of human rights standards," president Stephen Blanks told the ABC, "The idea of detaining 14-year-old children for questioning without charge, and secretly for long periods of time, should be obviously unacceptable to the whole community."

Article:ACT government concerned by moves to extend control orders to 14 year olds

Source: The Canberra Times

 

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Debate continues on tougher terror laws

In many people's estimation, NSW Premier Mike Baird is justified in making the case for tougher anti-terror laws in the wake of the October 2 jihadist murder outside Parramatta police station. In Monday’s letter to Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Baird restated the argument for lowering the threshold age for control orders from 16 to 14 and for law enforcement agencies to be allowed to hold terrorism suspects without charge for 28 days rather than the present 14.

However, Stephen Blanks, from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the Baird proposal “undoubtedly” would breach human rights. “The idea of detaining 14-year-old children for questioning without charge, and secretly for long periods of time, should be obviously unacceptable to the whole community.”

Article: Tougher terror laws are needed

Source: The Australian

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NSW looks to toughen up anti-terror laws

NSW premier Mike Baird's bid to allow police to hold terror suspects for four weeks without charge is "window dressing" and will not stop young people being radicalised, say civil libertarians. Mr Baird wants police to be given the power to keep suspects in custody for up to 28 days without charge and to lower the age from 16 to 14 years at which someone can be placed under a control order.

Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said the changes will not prevent future attacks.

"I don't think these proposed laws are a genuine attempt to make the community safer. They are simply window-dressing to give the appearance of doing something."

Mr Blanks said community programs, engagement and educational initiatives are the only way to ensure people do not become alienated.

Article: NSW looks to toughen up anti-terror laws

Source: Channel 9 News

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Teen Control: Tough New Terror Laws Proposed

In the wake of the shooting of a Sydney Police accountant by a boy, terrorism suspects as young as 14 could have their movements restricted under new federal counter-terrorism laws. Attorney-General George Brandis has flagged the fifth tranche of Commonwealth anti-terror laws, less than two weeks after a 15-year-old boy shot dead Curtis Cheng outside NSW Police Headquarters.

However, Civil Liberty groups believe the existing laws are adequate.

The move, according to the President of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, will be draconian and counter-productive.

“Well, it is another knee jerk reaction to a problem that needs to be addressed in a different way,” he told ABC News Breakfast,"We need to have a conversation in Australia about how we deal with the threat of terrorism while at the same time maintaining human rights, and these laws are just going to be inconsistent with human rights protections.”

Article: Teen Control.. Tough New Terror Laws Proposed (article no longer available)

Source: The Huffington Post Australia

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Federal Government set to introduce new terror laws

The Federal Government is set to introduce tough new anti-terror laws into Parliament.The legislation will include a proposal to lower the age at which a control order can be applied from 16 to 14. The New South Wales Government also wants changes that will allow terror suspects to be held for up to 28 days without charge.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties President says such laws would be draconian and ultimately counter-productive.

"The last thing we need is more laws. Australia has legislated more than any other country in response to terrorism and the legislation has been utterly counterproductive. What more extreme legislation does is alienate sections of the community. The proposed laws are undoubtedly going to be in breach of human rights standards."

Article/Radio Broadcast: Federal Government set to introduce new terror laws

Source: ABC AM Radio

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Tougher terror laws 'another knee-jerk reaction'

Law changes requested by the New South Wales Government and agreed to by Senator Brandis could see young people closely monitored under potential laws aiming to lower the age of control orders from 16 to 14. The NSW Government also wants the legal time limits on holding suspects changed so that they could be held for up to four days (in place of four hours), with a court able to extend the detention period to 28 days (in place of 8 days).

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties said existing laws were adequate and the proposed changes would be excessive.

"The proposed laws are undoubtedly going to be in breach of human rights standards," council president Stephen Blanks said, "The idea of detaining 14-year-old children for questioning without charge, and secretly for long periods of time, should be obviously unacceptable to the whole community."

Article:George Brandis flags tougher controls on teenage terror suspects as NSW pushes for tougher laws

Video: Tougher terror laws 'another knee jerk reaction'

Source: ABC News

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