NSWCCL in the media

NSWCCL on unprecedented new powers for law enforcement

Media coverage: Innovation Aus

The government-funded cybersecurity research centre has thrown its support behind the proposed “extraordinary” new hacking powers for the Australian Federal Police, its position that is at odds with human rights, civil liberties and digital rights groups, as well as a group of Senators who have all raised significant concerns about the new laws.

In a submission to government, the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRC) said the Identify and Disrupt Bill, which hands sweeping new powers to the AFP and the Australian Crime and Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to hack into the devices and networks of suspected criminals, is proportionate, appropriate and safe.

The NSWCCL said that the new powers are “next in an accelerating wave, strengthening the powers of the state without any humility about the cumulative erosion of democratic freedoms they entail”.

“This bill builds on this ominous trend and takes it to a new level, providing unprecedented new powers for law enforcement to interfere and ‘disrupt’ communications of citizens without effective restraint. The abuse of power this bill enables will happen. Enough is enough,” the NSWCCL submission said.

A coalition of digital rights and civil liberties organisations said that the powers amount to “state-authorised hacking”.

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NSWCCL on Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020

Media Coverage: iTWire

'The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has slammed the proposed authorisation of coercive search powers for the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission in a current bill — the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 — saying the warrants sought are not traditional evidence gathering tools, but effectively tools to prevent crime before it took place.

"We cannot accept a new species of warrant that is based on the notion that the role of law enforcement is to stop possible future offences from being committed where the breadth of their application is so wide," NSWCCL secretary Michelle Falstein said in a submission to an inquiry into the bill, being conducted by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

"The minister’s focus on the need to, for example, delete online child abuse material, distracts from the real implications of this bill and pretends law enforcement agencies are not already taking appropriate action against such material." The submission was one among 13 released on Monday.

The bill, introduced on 3 December 2020, seeks to give the AFP and the ACIC three new warrants in order that they can handle serious criminal acts online.'

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New powers like science-fiction movie Minority Report, NSWCCL says

Media coverage: Innovation Aus

'The federal government’s proposed new hacking powers for the Australian Federal Police are a “catch-all formula for abuse” and resemble something from the Hollywood film Minority Report, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says.

The federal government late last year quietly introduced legislation to Parliament handing broad new powers to the AFP and Australian Crime and Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to hack into the computers and networks of suspected criminals.

In its submission, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) said it was time to draw a line in the sand over increasing laws that erode privacy under the guise of preventing “serious crime”.

The council said the latest legislation is the “next in an accelerating wave, strengthening the powers of the state without any humility about the cumulative erosion of democratic freedoms they entail”.

“This bill builds on this ominous trend and takes it to a new level, providing unprecedented new powers for law enforcement to interfere and ‘disrupt’ communications of citizens without effective restraint,” the NSWCCL submission said.

“The abuse of power this bill enables will happen. Enough is enough.”

The NSWCCL said that the data disruption warrants and account takeover warrants are “crime prevention” tools that resemble something from the science-fiction movie Minority Report.

The powers will apply to a wide range of potential crimes – any carrying at least three years of jail time – not just those referenced by the government in announcing the laws, the submission said.

“This is an extraordinary catch-all encompassing fauna importation, fraud and importantly, such vaguely worded offences as ‘communication and other dealings with inherently harmful information by current and former Commonwealth officers’,” the NSWCCL said.

“These secrecy provisions have already been used to intimidate whistleblowers in several high-profile cases over the last few years. They are framed in a way that prevents vital information regarding government wrongdoing from ever coming to the attention of the public.”

The NSWCLL said that the data disruption warrants, and account takeover warrants, are “crime prevention” tools that resemble something from the science-fiction movie Minority Report.

“We cannot accept a new species of warrant that is based on the notion that the role of law enforcement is to stop possible future offences from being committed where the breadth of their application is so wide,” the NSWCCL said.'

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NSWCCL on One Nation Education Bill 'reject this unnecessary and harmful bill'.

Media coverage: The Star Observer

The New South Wales Parliament has permitted One Nations leader Mark Latham to lead an inquiry into his own controversial Bill.

The Parliament committee headed by Mark Latham is inviting submissions through an online questionnaire and LGBTQI advocacy organisations are asking the community to register their protest against the Bill. 

The Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 says its aim is to give parents, not schools, the primary responsibility “for the moral, ethical, political and social development of their children.” The Bill allows parents to object to the teaching of anything related to gender identity and sexuality in schools if it contradicts their values. 

The danger from the Bill is not just to the LGBTQI community. The NSW Council For Civil Liberties said that if the Bill is enacted, “parents could object to curriculum that covers Australian Indigenous history, the Stolen Generations, climate change, immunisation, evolution, LGBTIQ+ people, different cultures and religions, science, refugees and people seeking asylum.”

The Council said it was important to ensure the NSW Parliament “rejects this unnecessary and harmful bill.”

The submissions to the inquiry into Mark Latham’s Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 can be made by filling the online questionnaire here. 

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NSWCCL on Australians stranded overseas due to COVID caps

Media coverage: Brisbane Times

The Morrison government is under pressure from within to increase the caps on the number of Australians allowed back into the country after Emirates abruptly suspended flights and cut off a major option for stranded travellers trying to get home.

Stephen Blanks, a spokesman for the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said it was extraordinary that Australian citizens were unable to return to Australia because of quotas on the number of arrivals.

"The quotas have been set at a level where Australian citizens are left in distressing situations," he said. "There should be a scheme for ameliorating the hardship that Australian citizens face overseas as a result of this government policy."

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COVID-19 regulations for compliance, rather than criminalising mistakes

Media coverage: Daily Mail

'Heavy-handed fines should be reserved for people who deliberately, flagrantly
and dangerously flout the rules, not for people who are confused and make
an innocent mistake.'

- NSWCCL Spokesperson Stephen Blanks

A young couple accused of 'fleeing' quarantine at Melbourne Airport on New Year's Day could sue Victoria's Health Minister for defamation if found innocent, experts claim.

The couple, from Goulburn in NSW, have apologised for leaving the airport but said they had a green zone permit and made an innocent mistake due to the confusion caused by the rapidly changing regulations.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said on Saturday that the pair would each be fined at least $19,000 for breaching Victoria's public health state of emergency. 

But both Victoria Police and Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that their organisations were still investigating.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Stephen Blanks said the pair may have an action for defamation when outed as being guilty despite ongoing investigations. 

'Government ministers need to be careful to ensure not to accuse people of being guilty until all the relevant investigations have been carried out,' he told Daily Mail Australia on Sunday.

Mr Blanks said while it was possible Victoria could issue the pair on-the-spot fines, they still have the right to go to the courts and dispute the alleged offense - and that right had to be respected.

He said heavy-handed fines should be reserved for people who deliberately, flagrantly and dangerously flout the rules, not for people who are confused and make an innocent mistake.

'When these rules change day-by-day as they are at the moment, it's very onerous for people to know what they are and aren't allowed to do,' he said. 

'The objective here is to generate community compliance with the orders and criminalise people with heavy fines who may well have made an innocent mistake - if they made a mistake at all.

'It doesn't create the right environment in the community to create co-operation and compliance.' 

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Moves for compulsory COVID travel vaccines should be government-led

Media coverage: 9News

NSWCCL spokesperson Stephen Blanks said any moves to make vaccines compulsory for travel should be government-led.'

"The Federal Government would need to regulate this to ensure that appropriate allowances are made for people who have legitimate reasons for not getting vaccinated," he said.

Those reasons could be health, religious or conscientious based, he said.'

The comments come after Qantas boss Alan Joyce told A Current Affair on Monday he foresaw a future where Australians must be COVID-19 vaccinated if they wish to board his airline's international jets.

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NSWCCL on COVID-19 vaccine

Media coverage: 7News

Could your boss make you get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The answer is more complicated than you think.

'NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Stephen Blanks agreed the issue was a complex one.

“[It] depends on the circumstances of the employment and the employee; there is no blanket rule for everyone,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.

“There could be more justification [for a mandatory jab] for staff working in a high-risk environment who have exposure to many members of the public, but there needs to be recognition that some employees may have a legitimate reason for not having the vaccine.

“These may range from religious belief through to personal health reasons, meaning a vaccine is not appropriate,” Blanks said.'

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NSWCCL on NSW Drug Supply Prohibition Order legislation

Media coverage: The Echo

'The Drug Supply Prohibition Order Pilot Scheme Bill 2020 [NSW] was recently introduced to parliament, which if passed, would allow a police officer ‘to stop, detain and search a person… who has been convicted of a serious drug offence, without the requirement for a warrant’.

As it’s a pilot scheme, the presumption of guilt and lack of basic civil rights would apply to those living in Bankstown Police Area Command and the Coffs-Clarence, Hunter Valley and Orana Mid-Western Police Districts.

The NSW Law Society told The Guardian that if passed, it could lead to people previously convicted of lower-level drug offences being harassed by police. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties said in their submission that the 10-year period within which police can apply for an order may, ‘have the unintended impact of interfering with rehabilitation efforts’.'

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Concerns about facial recognition inside every Australian 7-Eleven store

Media coverage: 7News

As individual cities such as Boston and San Francisco in the United States are banning the use of facial recognition technology as part of the #BLM response, 7-Eleven in Australia has launched the technology across all of its 700 Australian stores.

The convenience store chain will use the facial recognition software within its ‘Rate It’ customer service tablet, and “not for any other purpose”.

“The use of facial recognition within the Rate It tablet is to ensure that the feedback is accurate and valid, and given customer feedback is so important to us we don’t want the system being ‘gamed’.

It’s an assurance that doesn’t sit well with Stephen Blanks from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

“This kind of information gathering should be against the law. It’s certainly against good privacy practice and principles.”

Blanks said collecting the data of people trying to provide feedback made little sense.

“They are creating an incentive not to use the feedback tablet – which is contrary to what they’re wanting to achieve.”

7NEWS.com.au understands that an element of the software’s facial recognition is to discourage 7-Eleven staff from self-rating during a shift.

“That’s not an adequate justification for gathering the information,” Blanks said.

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