NSWCCL in the media

NSWCCL welcomes Martin Place smoking ban

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to SBS News welcoming the 12-month trial of a smoking ban in Sydney's Martin Place. 

He did say, however, that it was important for the change to be introduced gradually. "It is very important that the enforcement of this ban is done in a sensitive way. It would be wrong for Council officers to be fining people in a heavy handed way." Stephen said.

Rangers will walk around Martin Place asking smokers to put their cigarettes out, and will not fine anyone at this stage. Smokers could face a $110 fine at the end of the trial.

If the trial is successful, it could be expanded to other areas such as the Pitt St Mall.

Video: SBS World News 11 May 6:30 - part 2 (The content we linked to is no longer available)

Source: SBS World News, 11/05/2015


Privacy concerns for smart phone GPS tracking

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has spoken to 7 News expressing concerns about how Apple and Google are tracking mobile phone users' every move and storing this information.

"I think we’re going to get to the stage where we will have consumer legislation that recognises those kind of terms as being unfair," Stephen said. 

Both Apple and Google track and store this data. Apple stated it uses it to provide personalised services. 

Video: Smart phone security explained The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: 7 News, 30/04/2015


CCL defends free speech on University of Sydney campus

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that over a hundred people attended the Staff and student meeting 'Defend USYD civil liberties' at the University of Sydney campus on Wednesday 29 April. NSWCCL President spoke at the event, defending the right of free expression on campus, and criticising the university's use of its Code of Conduct in disciplinary proceedings. 

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks told attendees, "Universities, which have been a hotbed of free speech for centuries, are threatening staff and students with disciplinary action for expressing themselves."

Article: Protest fallout: University of Sydney under fire for 'restricting free speech' Article no longer available. 

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 30/04/2015

See also: Read the full speech made by NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks


CCLs argue that the new ASIO law on Special Intelligence operations should be repealed

The Australian reports that at a recent public inquiry by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM), CCL Secretary Lesley Lynch argued that the new s35P in the ASIO Act should be repealed. The provision gives ASIO officers immunity for unlawful criminal conduct in these operations and makes it a serious criminal offence for anyone, including journalists, to disclose any information about them. This will seriously constrain the ability of journalists to report on wrongdoing or abuse of power  by ASIO.

Article: ASIO Act could conceal ‘torture, murder by agents’

Source: The Australian, 28/04/2015

See also: Combined CCLs submission to the inquiry


NSWCCL supports the right to protest on Sydney University campus

In the lead up to speaking at the University of Sydney staff and student meeting 'Defend Civil Liberties at University', CCL President Stephen Blanks has spoken to the Sydney Morning Herald and New Matilda on the importance of protecting free speech and the right to protest on university campuses. "How bizarre is it that universities, which have been a hotbed of free speech for centuries, are threatening staff and students with disciplinary action for expressing themselves," Stephen told the SMH. 

Stephen condemned the university's decision to invoke its 'vague' code of conduct against staff and students involved in legitimate protest. He told New Matilda: "The Code of Conduct has in it an obligation on staff to treat people with respect and dignity. That of course is fine in academic discourse but in the context of a protest it’s completely inappropriate. The essence of protest is that one can be contemptuous of those with whom you disagree and you don’t need to treat them with respect. That’s not to say that there’s any justification for breaches of the peace, but that’s not the allegation here."

He also questioned whether the use of force by security guards was proportionate to the situation. 

NSWCCL's involvement comes after the University sent "show cause" letters to 13 people - including five students, a Professor, and two security guards - in relation to a protest held during a public talk on a Sydney University campus by retired British Colonel Richard Kemp.

Article: Academic Jake Lynch cleared of anti-Semitism in ugly stoush at Sydney University

Source: Sydney Morning Herld, 27/04/2015

Article: University Of Sydney Accused Of Threatening Right To Protest And Self-Expression

Source: New Matilda, 24/04/2015



AFP and Bali Nine: CCL President says guidelines now offer better oversight

Lateline obtained documents under FOI containing correspondence between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Ministers. The documents show requests to pass on information to foreign authorities about Australians who potentially could face the death penalty under other nations' laws. 

This process of obtaining Ministerial authority when the AFP passes on information in these contexts is in line with guidelines implemented in 2009, following an ongoing campaign by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. 

CCL President Stephen Blanks told Lateline: "It should make the AFP very wary about how they behave in these sorts of situations... the 2009 guidelines are entirely appropriate to make sure that there is some oversight of what they're doing."

Unfortunately, the guidelines came too late for Bali Nine pair Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, scheduled to be executed this week. The AFP, however, claim they acted appropriately in passing information about the Bali Nine on to Indonesian authorities. 

Video: Bishop to plead for Bali pair

Source: ABC Lateline, 24/04/2015

See also: AFP must explain its role in Bali executions, The New Daily, 29/04/2015


ICAC coercive powers must be subject to checks, argues CCL President

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to The Australian on the disturbing revelations that NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) may have acted inappropriately  when seizing the phones of crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen and her family members during a corruption investigation.

The Australian reports that ICAC officers used a notice to produce, rather than a warrant, to seize mobile phones. This highlights the importance of checks and balances when agencies use coercive powers, with Stephen Blanks warning without these checks, such powers can be abused. “ICAC should not be able to self-issue warrants,” he said.

Article: ICAC’s Margaret Cunneen warrants 'invalid use of power'

Source: The Australian, 17/04/2015


CCL President highlights dangers and privacy issues of phone monitoring apps for kids

CCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to A Current Affair about his concerns if parents use phone monitoring app Teensafe, a tool marketed at parents to monitor and track the phone activity of their kids. The app allows parents to view their children's texts, calls, GPS location, web browsing, messaging through other apps, Instagram and Facebook activity. 

"It's absurd that children aged 16 can consent to sex, but this product can be used to spy on their private lives," Stephen told ACA. 

He also warned that there is a danger the account information could fall into the wrong hands and that adults could be breaking the law if the app is used to spy on people over the age of 18. 

The implications for the privacy of children is also critical. "All parents have got a responsibility for keeping their children safe, of course," Stephen said, "But that's not to say that parents should be allowed to deprive their children of necessary privacy."

Video: Would you spy on your kids to keep them safe? The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: A Current Affair, 14/04/2015


Labor And Journalists Have Sold You Out On Brandis' Surveillance Law

CCL Executive Member Hannah Ryan has written a powerful opinion piece for New Matilda, arguing that Labor has been 'bought out' on data retention and has not lived up to its responsibility as a robust Opposition. The small amount of protection for journalists offers little consolation and leaves "the rotten core of the bill entirely unassailed". She writes:

"But if one imagines a responsible opposition party, genuinely interested in making good law and sticking up for journalists, one would think that party might have allowed news organisations to put their case on data retention to Parliament, as they were due to do before Labor agreed on the amendments and cancelled the hearing...

But the focus on its own interests is both predictable and irresponsible. The question of the design of the warrant scheme for access to journalists’ data has obscured the stark fact that we are a hair’s breadth away from legislating the loss of privacy for all Australians...

The weakness of the protection given to journalists should be of concern to anyone interested in the practice of investigative journalism, and ultimately in democracy, but it is most remarkable for the fact that it was the sorry bartering chip which Labor accepted in exchange for the transformation of this country into one where we are all suspects."

Article: Labor And Journalists Have Sold You Out On Brandis' Surveillance Law. Article no longer available. 

Source: New Matilda, 24/03/2015


Privacy concerns when shopping centres track customer habits

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has warned consumers about the potential for misuse of their data in shopping centres' new strategy of tracking shoppers' habits over centre-provided Wi-Fi. 

A basic connection to free Wi-Fi made available in Westfield centres will allow them to track information about the phone user, and send marketing material directly to the phone based on this data. 

Stephen Blanks prompts consumers to question: "How is my information going to be used? Is it going to be compiled for a long-term tracking history? Is it going to be saleable information? Is the shopping centre going to make money [from it]?" 

Article: Major retailers join scheme to track shoppers' actions via store wifi

Source: 9 News, 23/03/2015