NSWCCL in the media

Abuse of power by Australian customs agents

NSW CCL President Stephen Blanks condemns the abuse of power by an Australian customs agent through his 'inappropriate' use of a confiscated mobile phone for personal texting last November. 

"The Australian people should be frightened that a public official in a position of apparent authority can illegally access people's phones and send messages and then the department thinks that is not a matter of public interest. That is the kind of secrecy a police state relies on to damage the reputation of people who are being targeted," Mr Blanks said.

Article: Customs officer confiscates passenger's phone and then uses it to secretly text

Source: Sydney Morning Herald


Scapegoating minorities may reap a bitter harvest

NSWCCL committee member Lydia Shelly has expressed deep concerns following a consultation on the Government’s plans to remove Australian citizenship for citizens found guilty of terrorist related activities.

"As lawyers, mothers and Australian Muslims we are committed to the rule of law, civil liberties and social cohesion. We do not believe the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act are necessary, proportionate or productive. Existing legislation gives the government many ways to tackle terrorism," Lydia argues in her article co-written with Mariam Veiszadeh.

Article: Scapegoating minorities may reap a bitter harvest

Source: Sydney Morning Herald


Sharrouf's children should be allowed to return: NSWCCL

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks recently appeared on ABC radio's PM program, condemning the Australian government's reluctance to admit Khaled Sharrouf's wife and children back into Australian society. He suggested that turning a cold shoulder toward vulnerable children, who have been exposed to traumatic events, may lead to further alienation.

"It's very important that we don't make these children the next generation of terrorists. We have to bring these children into our society and show them through our actions that they are part of our society and should be proud to be," Stephen said. 

Audio: Sydney's Muslim community reacts to news of Sharrouf/Elomar deaths

Source: ABC Radio


Vague internet piracy legislation may result in an Australian internet filter: NSWCCL

NSWCCL's Hannah Ryan recently spoke to FBi radio's Backchat program, expressing concerns over the Government’s Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill that passed the senate last week. It is feared that the vague wording of these laws may result in an "internet filter" and blanket bans on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

"Our concern, from a civil liberties point of view, is that (the Government's Copyright Amendment) is a really disproportionate response (to internet piracy). The way that the legislation is phrased means that any overseas site, with the primary purpose of facilitating copyright infringement, might be blocked. Our concern is that this could lead to a lot of collateral damage," Hannah stated.

Audio: Hannah Ryan on this week’s new internet piracy laws (Link no longer available)

Source: FBi Radio


CCL labels Abbott government more secretive than its predecessors

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has argued that the Abbott government is withholding more information from the public than previous administrations. He has suggested that its attempts to prevent the flow of information about key internal decisions and proceedings are more pervasive than the previous Coalition government and its more recent Labor predecessor.

He told the Saturday paper, “This government is building a multi-level approach to stifle the ability for people to know what is really going on. Hand in hand with being secretive is a set of other measures designed to stifle free speech and stop people speaking out.”

Article: Abbott government weakens FOI and public service disclosure

Source: The Saturday Paper, 20/06/2015


Law enforcement drone use must have clear guidelines: NSWCCL

NSWCCL has warned that use of drones by law enforcement, including NSW Police, must have clear guidelines about how the information collected will be used, and who has access.

While acknowledging the benefits for criminal investigations, President Stephen Blanks drew attention to the 'grey area' around privacy issues in relation to drones, and that individuals who may be unrelated to investigations could have their images and activities captured by these kind of devices and stored. 

"There are obvious benefits for crime investigation as long as guidelines are in place which clearly say how the information is going to be used and how inappropriate access is going to be prevented," Stephen said.

Article: Drones may be future of law enforcement but will they compromise civilian privacy?

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 17/06/2015


NSWCCL opposes appalling proposal for warrantless access to bank records

The proposal by NSW Police to have warrantless access to bank records is another example of the pervasive creep of law enforcement powers, NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has told CNET, calling it "appalling". 

"One of the terrible aspects of the anti-terrorism laws that have been introduced is we just see them creeping and creeping into every other field of criminal investigation," Blanks said. "What was justified originally as extraordinary powers for investigating the very worse of crimes which threaten national security...[are now] to be used for financial matters and investigations of all kinds. 

"That is one of the great dangers of giving executive agencies extraordinary powers."

He also continued: "I think it's terrifying to think that law enforcement can have access to banking information, which can be hugely revealing, without any independent oversight. Traditionally, this is through the warrant system -- if police want access to information, they have to persuade a judge to give them permission.

"That's a very important safeguard to ensure that police are not making indiscriminate requests to access data and that they're having to promptly justify the requests which they do make."

Article: Critics shocked as NSW Police push for bank data access

Source: CNET, 17/06/2015



Stripping citizenship proposal "unacceptable and outrageous": NSWCCL

NSWCCL has condemned the Government's proposal to strip citizenship from Australians involved in terrorism as against the rule of law, and a particularly cynical attack on fundamental principles of the due process of law given the 800 year anniversary of the Magna Carta this month. 

President Stephen Blanks spoke to The Wire, claiming that by stripping either dual national or sole Australian citizens of their citizenship will subject those individuals to arbitrary detention "without any trial, without any evidence being presented to a court, without any judicial decision". He labelled this an "unacceptable and outrageous idea that should be rejected firmly by the community". 

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NSWCCL says Opal card data should only be accessed by warrant

The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed that Transport for NSW has provided both police and the Department of Immigration with the data from Opal cards in over 50 cases, including relating to proceedings of an offence, reasonable grounds of an offence, and missing persons.

The department also stated that it has denied requests in about 70% of instances. NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks warns that this suggests that police were attempting to abuse their access to Opal card information: "I'm concerned that police are not exercising the necessary degree of restraint in asking for personal information where it's not appropriate."

NSWCCL again called for warrants for access to Opal card data. "It's unsatisfactory that it's left to the Department of Transport to decide whether or not this personal information should be handed over," Stephen said. "That decision should be in the hands of a judge, or a person who issues a warrant."

Article: Opal card data surrendered to police and immigration authorities

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 22/05/2015

See also:

No warrants needed to access Opal Card records, Sydney Morning Herald, 15/07/2014


Australian laws must reflect opposition to death penalty

NSW Council for Civil Liberties has joined with a number of other rights groups arguing that if Australia wants its opposition to the death penalty worldwide to be credible, it is important that Australian laws consistently reflect that opposition.

They spoke on the issuance of a blueprint for change entitled “Australian Government and the Death Penalty: A Way Forward”, which details four steps the government should take to build on the current momentum to end the death penalty.

NSWCCL joined with Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), the Human Rights Law Centre, Reprieve Australia, Australians Detained Abroad, Civil Liberties Australia and Uniting Justice Australia.

Article: Australian laws must reflect opposition to death penalty: Groups

Source: Jakarta Post, 21/05/2015