NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks was quoted in The Saturday Paper on Labor's position on data retention and other national security issues, particularly their continued alignment with the Government on all aspects. Stephen indicated he was appalled not only by the various tranches of unnecessary national security legislation itself - including the extraordinary powers given to ASIO to access individuals computers, the exemption of ASIO officers from prosecution, the criminalising of reporting on ASIO special operations, and the ability to cancel passports without notice or right of appeal - but also that Labor has "rolled over" to pass them.
"I’m afraid I’ve got to the point where I don’t think Labor believes in anything," Stephen said, "Everything is tradeable. It is a political tactic to enable them to say there is not a cigarette paper of difference between them and the government on this stuff."
Source: The Saturday Paper, 14/03/15
NSW Council for Civil Liberties has indicated its opposition to the creation of a new spitting offence, proposed by the Police Association of NSW. An act of this nature is already covered under the existing offence of assault, and so further legislation is unnecessary. The police union is also calling for powers that force anyone who transmits a bodily fluid - including spit, blood or urine - to emergency workers, to be tested for diseases. CCL would support the introduction of this kind of mandatory testing provided there is appropriate regulation and safeguards in place.
Source: 9 News, 11/3/15
NSWCCL President warns against 'not guilty' pleas and privacy issues concerning domestic violence register
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has warned against the automatic placement of offenders on a proposed domestic violence register, strongly urging that a court should decide whether to place somebody on the register based on an assessment of their risk to the community.
"If it's automatic, we will see an enormous change in the way people treat their defence," he said. "It will be a huge incentive on everyone charged with domestic violence offences to plead not guilty, which is quite counter-productive. We want a system where people are encouraged to recognise their guilt."Read more
Following on from the release of the PJCIS Report into the Data Retention Bill on Friday 27/02/15 CCL Vice President Oscar Coleman spoke to FBi's Backchat program about the report, labelling the proposed metadata laws 'the worst in the developed world'. Oscar stated the report made only minor recommendations to the Bill and still supports 'largely what [Attorney-General] Brandis wanted to do in the first place'. He encouraged listeners to contact their Labor MP or Senator.
Audio: Data Retention Bill
Source: FBi Backchat, 28/02/15
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to The Wire in response to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments that mandatory data retention is necessary to combat terrorism and child sexual abuse, arguing that this is not a counter-terrorism measure.
Stephen told The Wire: "The Government should allow parliament proper time to consider all of its ramifications… In countries where there are human rights standards, Governments and Parliaments are rejecting this kind of legislation because it involves a disproportionate invasion of people's privacy for no proven benefit."
He warned that police will have easy access to the metadata as "there is no independent supervision of the law enforcement agencies when they access data…There are [also] a very large number of [other] agencies in Australia that have access to metadata and this proposal will give those agencies enormous powers." Stephen further stated that access to our collected metadata should be subject to a court warrant first.
Story/Audio: Metadata laws; fighting crime or invading privacy? The content we linked to is no longer available
Source: The Wire 18/02/2015
In a YouTube video released on Sunday the Prime Minister has hinted at a national security crackdown involving the tightening of migration and welfare rules. On SBS News NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks argued that a further national security crackdown could be counter productive:
"You don't defeat every terrorist incident by increasing the powers of the national security agencies. You don't destroy freedom in order to protect it. What you do is you should promote community coherence. You should make sure everybody in our society is committed to our common ideals and not drive wedges between them because driving wedges between them is going to perpetuate these kinds of attacks."
Stephen also warned that possible welfare changes could result in a backlash from innocent Australians:
"The community is going to find that very intrusive and unacceptable. People should not have to say they reject terrorism in order to get a Centrelink benefit. That is something that something that is just going too far. That is going to make people suspicious of the entire security apparatus that has been erected around them."
Stephen also spoke to "the Wire", noting that following the extraordinary case of Man Haron Monis, reactionary bail reforms appear to be on the agenda and threaten to undermine the fundamental presumption of innocence: "Bail is not an excuse to start locking people up as if they are presumed guilty." He also warned that welfare reforms could potentially lead to 'McCarthy' style systems where welfare recipients may need to prove that they are not terrorist sympathisers in order to receive benefits.
Transcript/Audio: Criticism of Abbott's new security proposals
Video: Criticism of Abbott's new security proposals. The content we linked to is no longer available
Source: SBS News, 16/2/2015
Article/Audio: National Security - have we been too lenient too long?Source: The Wire, 16/2/2015
Civil liberties councils across Australia organised the screening [of Citizenfour] with the help of Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. The award-winning film documents the circumstances in which Snowden blew the lid off the NSA's mass surveillance activities in the US and the Britain.
Queensland Labor MP Graham Perrett says he has serious concerns about the Abbott government's proposed data retention bill but remains confident it can be passed with judicious amendments.
"I'm not a big fan of anyone revealing information that puts any of our professional staff at risk but I do know that the enthusiasm of intelligence agencies needs to be moderated and I think that Parliament has an important role in that,"Mr Perrett.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 11/2/2015
Article: Civil liberties councils bring #Citizenfour to Canberra, No Fibs, 11/2/2015, The content we linked to is no longer available
Article: Data retention hinges on Labor's support, ZDNet, 13/02/2015
Article: Citizenfour: meet NSA whistleblower Snowden, Honi Soit, 18/02/2015
Details of the illegal surveillance of over 100 people - including senior NSW police - under scrutiny in a NSW parliamentary inquiry should ring alarm bells on another front in the digital privacy wars.
As Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas described the "decade of angst" caused by the invasion of his privacy, and the bugging of his ex-wife and children's home, NSW Police were down in Canberra arguing to federal politicians that they should have open slather to invade the privacy of the public at large.
...Judges are rubber stamps when it comes to police seeking warrants for telephone intercepts in NSW. The NSW Civil Liberties Council has previously called for the introduction of the Queensland system to cut out rubber-stamping. A Queensland public interest monitor scrutinises each surveillance warrant and questions whether the police evidence justifies the privacy invasion of a "bug", and can argue this case before the judge.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 8/2/2015
"The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties is taking an unusual route in the fight to stop data retention, swapping out Twitter for the silver screen... [The council] aims to screen the film for politicians and media in Canberra, raising money to rent a viewing space in Parliament House for a February 9 screening, presented in conjunction with Madman Entertainment and Electronic Frontiers Australia."
Article: CITIZENFOUR to Screen at Parliament House
Source: 4:3 Film, 23/01/2015
"In an effort to persuade MPs of the bill’s danger, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties is currently hosting screenings of Laura Poitras’ documentary film CitizenFour, an insider look at the Edward Snowden affair which exposed the global scale of the National Security Agency’s data gathering operations... All federal MPs have been invited to the film’s Canberra screening, to be held Monday night, which the organisation is currently fundraising for."
Article: Abbott 'Bullying' Labor On Data Retention Laws, Says Ludlam. Article no longer available
Source: New Matilda, 05/02/15
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has responded to the suggestion made by a former judge that terrorists should be kept in prison after their sentences expire if they still hold extreme religious views. Speaking to ABC Radio Current Affairs AM, Stephen characterised these comments as "a scorched earth policy":
"What a dangerous suggestion it is that people should be kept locked up just because of their opinions, and what a terrible indictment on our system that we can't, through a process of programs in prison, deradicalise these individuals."
Listen: Stephen Blanks stunned by suggestion of not releasing terrorist from jail. The content we linked to is no longer available
Source: ABC Radio Current Affairs, AM, 29/01/15
See also: Prison radicalisation expert Clarke Jones says segregation only strengthening terrorists' beliefs, Sydney Morning Herald, 29/01/15
Judge's call to keep terrorists in prison indefinitely stuns civil liberties campaigners, ABC Radio, The World Today, 29/01/15