NSWCCL in the media

Our Common Cause: New security laws an assault on our freedoms

In an atmosphere of manufactured hysteria about “Muslim terrorists” in our midst, the Coalition government has introduced sweeping attacks on civil liberties in Australia.

ASIO was also given expanded powers to break into more actual houses with force and without being accompanied by the state or federal police. They have the power to break into neighbouring houses to those targeted and to use “reasonable” force not only at the point of breaking in but right through the operation.

The new laws also give ASIO legal immunity for breaking the law in any “special intelligence operation” designated by the attorney-general as long as such lawbreaking does not cause death, serious injury, torture, sexual offences or significant damage to property.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has warned that this expanded power to conduct searches and use force, without the presence of the police, formally turns ASIO into a “secret police” and is a “significant danger to Australian democracy”.

Article: Our Common Cause: New security laws an assault on our freedoms

Source: Green Left Weekly, 11/10/14


Security laws could subject travellers to invasive screening without safeguards

The next tranche of the Australian government’s national security legislation could allow biometric information to be shared with domestic and foreign agencies

Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the ability to share with other agencies without a warrant was concerning.

“Sharing of data collected for immigration control with other agencies ought to be subject to independent oversight and should only be done in circumstances which would justify the issue of a warrant,” he said.

Article: Security laws could subject travellers to invasive screening without safeguards

Source: The Guardian, 7/10/14


Concerns raised over 'foreign fighter' laws

Under the proposed laws, people travelling to terrorism hotspots could be jailed for five years; their passports could be seized for two week periods; while welfare, family payments and paid parental leave could be cancelled on security grounds.

Stephen Blanks, from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, says children could be the real victims.

"We have concerns about the provisions for secret cancellation of passports, or cancellation of passports without notice. There are some consequences of those provisions are likely to result in children being put into detention. Now that's a hot-button issue at the moment. One can expect that the way in which cancellation of passports and visas impacts on dependents will result in detention of children.

Mr Blanks is calling for a public interest monitor to oversee the proposed laws.

Listen now: Concerns raised over 'foreign fighter' laws

Source: SBS World News Radio, 6/10/2014


Government's counter-terrorism laws a step too far with little scrutiny

This week saw the passage of legislation that will give the Australian Security intelligence Organisation new powers to conduct "special intelligence operations", where agents will be permitted to break the law and journalists, whistleblowers and others will be penalised with up to 10 years in prison if they reveal any aspect of them.

Meanwhlie, ASIO will only need one warrant to spy on networks of computers, which some intepret to mean the entire internet.

"That could be to really any device that's connected to the internet,"  says Stephen Blanks of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. "[Intelligence agencies] will access information concerning people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing."

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 3/10/2014

Security proposals 'significantly lower' legal standards, says human rights chief

Australia’s domestic intelligence agency would have almost “total control” over the cancellation of passports for people who are considered a security risk under proposed laws which the Australian Human Rights Commission has warned may have severe consequences.

Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, also expressed concerns about the passport changes, and said it could see more people being held in detention.

“One can expect that the way that that impacts the cancellation of dependants passports will result in detention of children,” he said.

Article: Security proposals 'significantly lower' legal standards, says human rights chief

Source: The Guardian, 3/10/2014


Taser use now allowed against unarmed people by South Australian police

As part of changes to guidelines, officers have been told offenders do not have to be armed before an electronic control device (ECD) can be used, but a situation must be considered high risk.

Article: SA police officers allowed to carry Tasers on their belt

Source: Yahoo!7 News, 1/10/2014


Counter-terrorism laws could pave way for torture

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has called for a one-line amendment to ensure the government’s proposed changes to counter-terrorism laws do not leave the way open for ASIO officers to argue they have legal immunity for torture.

The call has been triggered by concern that planned changes aimed at protecting undercover ASIO officers might have the unintended consequence of encouraging them to believe they have legal immunity to engage in torture.

Article: Counterterrorism laws pave way for ASIO to use torture, says Council

Source: The Australian, 19/9/14


NSWCCL accuses Labor of hypocrisy for not opposing controversial changes to bails laws

NSWCCL says it would be an extraordinary manifestation of hypocrisy for Labor to 'not oppose' the legislation, as it has suggested it will do.  CCL Secretary Lesley Lynch says  CCL greatly disappointment with the Government putting forward this bill and argues that if it is bad process and bad law, Labor should oppose the bill. 

Article Labor accused of hypocrisy over controversial changes to bail laws SMH 


NSW Police cyber hacking could be breaking the law, warns civil liberties lawyer

WikiLeaks documents suggest that NSW Police have invested more than $2.5 million on German surveillance software that officers are using to hack into suspects' smartphones and computers. NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks speaks to ABC Radio about NSW Police usage of cyber hacking tools.

Listen now: NSW Police cyber hacking could be breaking the law, warns civil liberties lawyer

Source: ABC Radio, 16/9/14


Revelations that NSW Police use sophisticated hacking software raises serious concerns

Documents published by Wikileaks on Monday have revealed NSW Police usage of sophisticated hacking software to spy on smartphones computers. Police can obtain 'covert' warrants allowing them to gain secret access to suspects devices and data, however the software offers potentially broader spying capabilities leading to concerns that it could be used inappropriately beyond the intended scope of the search warrant.

NSWCCL's Stephen Blanks offered the following comment: "The use of software like this to enable law-enforcement agencies to remotely access computer networks raises particular concerns and it is vital that there is sufficient information made available about the use of [the associated] warrants so that the public can be satisfied that they are not being abused."

Article: NSW Police use hacking software to spy on computers and smartphones: WikiLeaks data

Source: The Age, 15/9/14