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Data Retention begins...NOW!

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Tuesday (13 October) is the key date in data retention. From this day, most internet companies and telcos must start storing their customer's metadata and making it accessible to government agencies without a warrant.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015 requires telecommunications service providers to retain their customers' metadata for 2 years. Retained data will include the customer’s identity, and the date, time and form of communications. There is an exception if the Commonwealth decides that a service provider is allowed to delay implementation. The exception lasts for up to 18 months.

Government agencies tasked with enforcing criminal law such as the state and federal police will be able to access the retained data, if they consider it reasonably necessary for enforcing the criminal law. Other agencies tasked with imposing civil fines (such as the Australian Tax Office, Local Governments or the RSPCA) may also be given access to the data.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties considers mandatory data retention a core civil liberties issue. NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks said "the regime is indiscriminate and poorly regulated. There is a real risk the stored information might be misused by government agencies. It’s akin to banning everyone in the country from having blinds on their windows because a handful among us might be engaged in crime."

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Concerns AFP detaining teenage terror suspect without charge

A teenager arrested during counter-terror raids in Sydney on Wednesday morning is still being held without being charged. Yesterday a court granted the Australian Federal Police (AFP) an additional 100 hours to question the 18-year-old male. Lawyers say they have grave concerns about allowing detention without charges, saying it amounts to a form of torture. 

Similar laws have been enacted before, most notably with the example of a Queensland doctor, Mohammad Haneef, being detained in July 2007 for 12 days on suspicion of involvement in a terror attack on Glasgow airport.

The case against Dr Haneef ultimately fell apart, and he later won significant compensation from the Australian Government.The president of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, says the Haneef case exposed deep flaws in this legal provision.


"These are the types of laws that bring the authorities into disrepute and bring the law into disrepute. It's the kind of law which is so unfair that the community loses respect for the authorities when these kinds of detention powers are exercised and you only have to look at the Haneef case how that occurs."

Radio broadcast/transcript Concerns AFP detaining teenage terror suspect without charge

Source: ABC AM Radio

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Police arrest teen en route to school

Police have charged a student after he was arrested on his way to Arthur Phillip High School - the same school attended by the 15-year-old who shot a man dead at Parramatta's police headquarters last week. At around 8.30am (Oct 6th), police approached the teenage boy about alleged posts on social media - which appeared to celebrate the shooting death of New South Wales police employee Curtis Cheng.

During the interaction, police allege the teenager threatened and intimidated police. But there have been questions about the circumstances of the arrest.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks says the actions were not appropriate and could be damaging to community relations.

"For all that's been said over the last few days about a new approach by the authorities towards the Muslim community, this incident shows that there is still some way to go before that community. Indeed the whole community is treated by police with the respect that the community is due," he said.

Mr Blanks says it will be interesting to see what the boy recorded of the police moments before his arrest.

"Police know that they don't have the right to access schools without going through the Department of Education's processes. The principal has to be notified and has to approve police being on school premises; parents have to be notified and given an opportunity to attend."

Article: Police charge teen from same school as Parramatta shooter

Source: SBS News

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Settlement awarded to Class Action on behalf of falsely imprisoned youth

The NSWCCL, in partnership with the Law Society, is planning a forum on the recent COPS Database, and its implications for the public. Notable speakers from the police force and legal profession are expected to host a conversation on many of the matters associated with the program. One of these is the recent settlement awarded to a class-action lawsuit on behalf of young people whose information was incorrectly entered into the database and resulted in a wrongful arrest.

The parties to a class action on behalf of young people, run by The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and Maurice Blackburn,  have reached a settlement of at least $1.85 million. The settlement is subject to final Court approval and paves the way for the young people affected to be properly compensated.  The class action is on behalf of young people who were allegedly wrongfully imprisoned by NSW police as a result of problems with the NSW Police database.

You may be eligible for compensation if:

1. you faced charges in the Children’s Court of New South Wales; and
2. you were arrested before 20 May 2014 by the New South Wales police for a breach of bail conditions; and
3. you weren’t actually on bail at the time you were arrested, or you were on bail but not subject to the condition you were arrested for.

Find out more here: Public Interest Advocacy Centre

**And look out for further notices about our upcoming COPS Database Forum here**

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Tasers now used by police to subdue more mentally ill people than drunks

For years alcohol was the main reason for police to draw their Tasers, but police use of the electric weapon against ­violent and aggressive drunks now ranks second behind mentally ill people which make up 36 per cent of all Taser use by police. 

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has called on NSW Police to improve training and find less confrontational ways to deal with mentally ill people.

“We really need to ask why police are using Tasers against people who are mentally ill,” Stephen Blanks, the organisation’s president, said.

“Surely there must be more appropriate ways to deal with noncompliant people who are suffering an episode.”

Article: Tasers now used by police to subdue more mentally ill people than drunks (article is no longer available)

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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Right to Know Week

A Right to Know? NSW Council for Civil Liberties Calls out for Freedom of Information Requests

New South Wales is celebrating ‘Right to Know Week’ soon, and to celebrate, we’re helping you get access to information that you have the right to know.

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 gives you the right to access most information held by NSW government and public bodies.

The idea is that our democracy depends on a representative government that is transparent and accessible to its citizens.

However, some people have expressed concern that the system doesn’t work: that agencies over-charge, or don’t comply with the law. That means that the right to know isn’t as powerful in practice as it should be.

Our plan is to help you get access to information that you are legally entitled to access, and see how well the system works in the process.

So: what are you curious about? Tell us what information you’d like to know, and we’ll try to get it for you.

FYI, the Act applies to:

  • All governments agencies
  • Ministers and staff
  • Local council
  • State-owned corporations
  • Courts
  • Public authorities, like universities

So get thinking!

We’ll track our progress on getting the information for you – from the application process to the outcome and whatever happens in between.

Send in your requests to [email protected] by 4 October 2015 and we’ll choose the five most interesting. 

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Civil libertarians question police cameras

The rollout of 248 video cameras worn on police officers' uniforms across Sydney's eastern beaches started on Thursday and questions are being raised about their impact on the rights of individuals.

Council for Civil Liberties NSW president Stephen Blanks said there would be cause for suspicion in cases where an officer had a camera but did not use it.

"You should have a rule that where police have got a body camera and are giving evidence in court, they shouldn't be allowed to give evidence unless the body camera is on," he told AAP.

"The possibility that police are not being completely truthful about the evidence is too high."

Mr Blanks said instances where police misrepresented or misunderstood members of the public could be brought to light through video evidence.

"I think the public will have more confidence in police if they know that police are behaving in a thoroughly accountable way because they're being recorded," he said.

Mr Blanks suggested the camera be on at all times, saying having to manually turn it on and off meant officers could be selective about what to film.

Article: Civil Libertarians question police cameras (The content we linked to is no longer available) OR Civil libertarians question police cameras 

Source(s): Sky news OR Channel 9 News

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Submission: NHMRC draft ethical guidelines on assisted reproduction technology

The National Health and Medical Research Council has published draft ethical guidelines on the use of assisted reproduction technology in clinical practice and research. 

Responding to an invitation to comment, the NSWCCL has made a submission that supports these draft guidelines, applauding the NHMRC for their support for the autonomy of all involved and their rights to detailed, accurate, contemporary and relevant information concerning the procedures, legal consequences and otherwise of their decisions.

Some questions for which further comment is requested of the NHMRC include, (1) Payment for the risks and labour involved in egg donation, (2) Sex selection on non-medical grounds, and (3) the potential establishment of an Australian egg bank. 

Read the full submission here

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NSW Police to rollout random drug testing statewide

Of the 36,000 drug tests police have administered to NSW drivers in 2015, Insp Blair said almost 12 percent returned positive readings; while an operation in the Shoalhaven, on the NSW south coast, over the weekend netted 27 drug-affected drivers. In August 2014, NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said 11 percent of fatalities on NSW roads involved motorists with illicit drugs in their system.

Inspector Steve Blair, commander of the random drug testing unit, would not confirm exactly how many drug testing units would operate in NSW, but said by 2017 there would be "quite a large number out there" that are "portable and can radiate through the state."

Police claim drug driving offences are growing at an alarming rate, but the NSW Council for Civil Liberties does not support the further rollout of roadside drug testing technology. Stephen Blanks, president of the NSWCCL, said the strict liability offence was unfair to drivers.

"The testing only discloses prior drug usage, which may have no adverse impairment of driving ability. Cannabis can hang around in your system for days, maybe even a few weeks, but not have any impact on your ability to drive," he said.

"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 a major reservation he held about drug testing.

"With alcohol, there is a threshold below which it is recognised that usage doesn't impair ability to drive. With drug tests, there is absolute zero tolerance," he said.

"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. Society would get a better outcome if we took a health and harm minimisation approach, rather than a law enforcement approach."

Article: NSW Police To Rollout Random Drug Testing Statewide

Source: The Huffington Post Australia

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Vodaphone admits employee illegally accessed journalist's phone records

Telco giant Vodafone Hutchison Australia has admitted that an employee illegally accessed the mobile phone records of Fairfax Media investigative journalist Natalie O'Brien.

Vodaphone head of fraud COlin Yates admitted in an email from 2012, "If the issue relating to breaching the reporter's privacy by searching her private call records and text messages gets into the public domain, this could have serious consequences given it is a breach of the Australian Telecommunications Act."

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks called on the government to investigate the incident as a matter of priority.

"What's extraordinary is that the regulatory system is inefficient to find out about this blatant breach of law and one has to bear in mind that Vodafone's business is entirely dependent on a government license," Mr Blanks said. "It's very disturbing that one telecommunications carrier thinks nothing of breaching the privacy of its customers in order to find out information of commercial advantage to it."

Article: Vodafone admits employee accessed Fairfax journalist Natalie O'Brien's mobile phone records

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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PM seeks to smooth way for refugees

The government's decision to take an additional 12,000 women, children and families, mostly from United Nations camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, has generally been well received...But a diverse group of refugee advocates, and Christian and Muslim representatives, have condemned suggestions Australia would favour members of persecuted minority groups, especially Christians.

Representatives of the Refugee Action Coalition, the NSW Council of Civil Liberties and the Lebanese Muslim Association issued a joint statement calling on the government "to be genuine with a humanitarian intention":

"In light of recent media reports regarding the discriminatory nature of the refugee intake, we are obliged to condemn in the strongest of terms the suggestion that priority should be given to people of one faith over another."

Article: PM seeks to smooth way for refugees

 

Source: Channel 9 News

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NSW community groups rally for refugees

Religious and community groups will join with councillors near Sydney's Lakemba mosque calling for a more constructive approach to the refugee crisis. On Wednesday the federal government announced Australia would increase its refugee and humanitarian intake by 12,000 permanent places and provide more than $40 million for United Nations efforts to deal with the Syrian crisis.

The Lebanese Muslim Association, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, the Refugee Action Coalition several church groups and Muslim media advocates are expected to meet near Lakemba mosque on Thursday afternoon and call for the government to welcome all refugees, regardless of religion.

Article: NSW community groups rally for refugees

Source: Channel 9 News

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Plan to deport bikie boss deportation 'abuse of the system'

Sydney bikie boss Sam Ibrahim's lawyer, Brett Galloway, has described a decision by the Federal Government to deport his client as "stupid politics".

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has signed papers ordering Ibrahim's deportation on the grounds he has failed the Government's character test for foreign nationals.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said the Government's decision would mean Ibrahim would not face justice for his alleged crimes.

"If he's found guilty, he would've served jail time in Australia and now we're proposing to let him free. That just seems bizarre. Never before has someone been deported or proposed to be deported before they even serve time for any criminal offences they've committed. That seems inappropriate. For the Minister to make the decision himself that somebody is guilty of a criminal offence and then apply the character test ... is really an abuse of our system."

Article: Sam Ibrahim: Plan to deport bikie boss deportation 'stupid politics by stupid politician', lawyer says

Source: ABC Online

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PJCIS report recommends going ahead with bill despite significant reservations and criticism from civil society

The PJCIS report on the proposed change to the Citizenship Act, which would strip dual nationals fighting overseas of their Australian citizenship without conviction, has been released on Friday 4th September. Australia’s leading constitutional lawyers, human rights groups, ethnic community organisations, refugee organisations and human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs have all objected to part or all of the dual national bill as it was drafted.

In his statement, Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW CCL, notes:

"The committee’s first recommendation that the removal of citizenship without conviction would only apply to those offshore significantly cuts down the scope of what the government was trying to do. The way it was drafted it would have applied to significant numbers of people on shore so that is significant but the fact remains citizenship stripping is an inappropriate punishment."

"If people commit a criminal offence it doesn’t mean they should be deprived of their nationality or family should be deprived of their nationality. They should be brought to justice so the whole idea to use citizenship as a tool is really going to do nothing about the threat of terrorism."

Blanks went on to say that stripping people and their families of citizenship would only alienate them from the Australian community and be “counterproductive in our struggle against terrorism. It should not go ahead but it is much less dangerous than the government had originally proposed.”

Article: Convict first before dual nationals in Australia lose citizenship

Source: The Guardian

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Heydon may have misread public mood

Dyson Heydon has decided to stay on as Royal Commissioner, despite intense Labor and Union opposition. After a series of emails were shown to have verified his acceptance and later rejection of attending a Liberal Party event calls were made for him to step down due to possible political bias in his handling of the commission. 

Heydon determined it was not the case that a "fair-minded lay observer" would conclude that he would be incapable of bringing an "impartial mind" to the work of the commission. However, others aren't so sure it will stand up to public scrutiny.

President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, notes, "There's obviously going to be a high degree of contention about whatever he recommends. Whether or not the recommendations withstand scrutiny in part will depend on whether the public have faith in his objectivity."

Transcript/Audio: Heydon may have misread public mood: Council for Civil Liberties

SEE ALSO:Dyson Heydon: Labor wants Governor-General Peter Cosgrove to remove trade union royal commissioner

Source: ABC AM Radio/ABC Online

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Six things you need to know about Police and Immigration Officer powers

In a recent announcement, the Australian Border Force (ABF) announced it was conducting a massive joint operation in the Melbourne CBD with police and transit officers. Th dramatic release from the ABF and Victoria police has raised serious questions about the extent of policing in the city.

The prospect of immigration officers conducting large scale operations to check visas around cities raises serious privacy and civil liberties concerns note the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks.

“Police forces generally speaking are not allowed to simply stop people and ask for ID. No state government has gone so far as to say that police will have a power to stop a person who has not engaged in any criminal activity to demand identity details, let alone any other information such as citizenship and visa details. One wouldn’t expect immigration officers would be roaming the streets of Melbourne, and if that were to occur it would make people very uneasy.”

Follow the link below to learn more about your rights and the true extent of power of the police and border patrol.

Article: Stopped on the street by border force? Six things you need to know

Source: The Guardian

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The Australian Parliament should legislate for same sex marriage

The last English speaking country remaining on the list.

 

 

The NSW CCL supports marriage equality and opposes holding a plebiscite or referendum on the issue. Peoples’ rights and freedoms must not be subject to a vote of a majority of citizens.

 

A cross party bill supporting the legalisation of same-sex marriage was brought to the Australian Parliament as it resumed this week, forcing us to consider the question of marriage equality. Sadly in a marathon party-room debate last Tuesday night, the Coalition decided against granting its members of parliament a free vote on marriage equality before the general election, postponing the debate. Again. Australia is indeed the only English speaking country which has not (yet) legalised marriage for same sex couples.

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Maximum security for preacher "unfair and unjust"

Junaid Thorne, a self-styled preacher who has been supportive of IS, was jailed last week by a NSW court of appeal for flying under a false ID and buying tickets with a false ID. After a few days in Sydney’s Silverwater jail his lawyer Lydia Shelly said her client was moved to Australia’s highest security correctional facility, Goulburn Correctional Centre. 

Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said Thorne had not been convicted of any terrorism offences and should not be placed under maximum security. He went further to note that "The whole community should be alarmed because this could happen to anyone."

Article: Maximum security for preacher "unfair and unjust"

Source: SBS

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NSW public school plans for student prayer group register

Recent attempts by one NSW public school to initiate a prayer group register have been revealed alongside premier Mike Baird's proposed audit of school prayer groups, causing concern amoung parents and the public at large over government encroachment on religious freedom.

President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, called the move "thoroughly alarming". 

"There are many people in the Australian community that will have personal experience, or whose parents had personal experience, of adverse consequences that flow from registration of religious affiliation. That a NSW school principal can even suggest such a scheme suggests an appalling lack of knowledge of history, or a terrible insensitivity to the experiences of many in the community.  Religious freedom is protected under the Australian constitution, and that includes the right to practice religion privately. If religious activities are to be permitted in public schools, then they must be managed in a way that does not impinge on fundamental freedoms."

Article: NSW public school floated plan for student prayer group register

Source: The Guardian

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2015 Annual Fundraising Dinner

The 2015 NSWCCL dinner last Friday was the largest such gathering in living memory – and certainly one of largest in our 52 years of dinners

The huge attendance (and the numbers turned away) reflects the intense public interest in hearing Professor Gillian Triggs speak about current threats to human rights, the rule of law in Australia and the AHRC’s  ‘ year of living dangerously'.   It also reflects the determination within the community to defend the AHRC and its President from the unwarranted and extreme attacks by the Coalition Government and some members of the media throughout this year.  

Professor Triggs did not disappoint. She gave a powerful and chilling analysis of executive government overreach and encroachment on fundamental rights and freedoms over recent years.

Probably even more disturbing was her critique of the recent failures of Parliament to protect these fundamental liberties, leading her to pose two very large questions for Australians:

What then are the safeguards of democratic liberties if Parliament itself is compliant and complicit in expanding executive power to the detriment of the judiciary and ultimately of all Australian citizens? 

and 

What are the options for democracy when both major parties, in government and opposition, agree upon laws that explicitly violate fundamental freedoms under the common law and breach Australia’s obligations under international treaties?

Part of Gillian’s address focussed on the controversial issue of the moment- the Government’s proposal to strip dual citizens of their Australian Citizenship for certain actions deemed to justify such extreme punishment.  she described this  proposal as  striking 'at the heart of Australia’s successful migrant and multi-cultural nation and threatens social cohesion.’

(The deeply flawed Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 is currently before Parliament.   NSWCCL, with many others, opposes this bill and will,  over coming weeks, continue our advocacy to members of parliament to reject the bill.)

The 429 people crammed into the restaurant made their appreciation of Gillian’s speech clear both by applause and the hugely positive vibe for the rest of the evening.  In summary, it was a tremendous evening and for the moment at least, there was a perverse mood of optimism within the very crowded room.

Ray Davison - a Gadigal man – opened the dinner with a warm and interesting ‘welcome to country’.

Apart from the key note address, the gathering was treated to a lively summary of the state of affairs of civil liberties and the NSWCCL by President Stephen Blanks.   

A welcome side benefit of the crowd and the mood was that our fundraising efforts were very successful- facilitated by a host of volunteers moving round the room and by a few very generous donors of auction and raffle items.  

 

Speeches

Professor Gillian Triggs keynote
President Stephen Blanks
MC and NSWCCL VP Pauline Wright welcome

 

Photos

Browse Photos here

 

Video of Speeches

Watch film of speakers here

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