NSWCCL in the media

Jedi knights don't need protection from free speech

President of NSWCCL, Stephen Blanks, wrote an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald in defense of the NSWCCL position to oppose religion being added to the racial vilification criteria in upcoming laws. 

Noting the important distinction of 'ethno-religious' groups and 'religion', for example the difference in being a Muslim and a Jedi, Mr. Blanks argues in favour of balance, whereby "Some beliefs which are claimed to be religious, and their adherents, ought to be open to ridicule, even severe ridicule" in the defense of free speech. 

For the full article, see below.

Article: Jedi knights don't need protection from free speech

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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NSW Council for Civil Liberties opposes the inclusion of religion in racial vilification laws.

The Baird government's refusal to legislate against anti-Muslim hate speech is "playing into the hands" of terrorist groups such as Islamic State, as well as extreme right-wing groups, Muslim community leaders and counter-terrorism experts have warned.

The NSW government is formulating a long-awaited overhaul of racial vilification laws, promising to strengthen the legislation and streamline it to make prosecutions easier. Fairfax Media understands the government will not consider including religion in the Act, which outlaws inciting violence based on race, colour, descent or ethno-religious origin.

NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton would not say why religion would be omitted. However a spokeswoman pointed to the government's 2013 review of the Act, which made no recommendation to include religion.

In that review, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties was among those who opposed the inclusion of religion. The council's president Stephen Blanks told Fairfax Media that religion was "not an inherent characteristic of a person like race is ... and one should be free to criticise religion".

NSWCCL stands by this statement and continues to oppose the inclusion of religion in racial vilification laws.

Article: Anti-Muslim hate speech 'fuels extremism', experts say

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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Stephen Blanks talks about the 2016 Census

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks chats with hosts of 2UE News Talk Radio Jon Stanley and Garry Linnell about the privacy issues around the 2016 Census. 

Audio: Stephen Blanks Chats with John and Garry 

Source: 2UE 954 Radio.

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NSW Police announce plans to give former officers identity cards

Former police officers are to be issued with identity cards they can carry around in their wallet to acknowledge their service. New South Wales Police plans to hand out the first ID cards by the end of the year.

However, Stephen Blanks from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties described the plan as "extraordinary".

"The idea of issuing a card to former police officers is absolutely absurd. It is entirely predictable that it will be used by former police officers to get favours from shops and local businesses, who will feel intimidated into giving free goods and services because of a concern that putting a former police officer offside might cause them trouble."

He said such a card could also be used to fool people into thinking the holder still held a position of authority.

Article: NSW Police announce plans to give former officers identity cards

Source: ABC

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Support for laws to keep terrorists in jail after sentence

The Federal Government received some crucial support today for its plan for a tough new anti-terrorism detention regime.

New laws would let convicted terrorists be kept in jail after finishing their sentences, if they were deemed still to be a risk to the community.

Civil libertarians have raised concerns. Outside wartime, Australian law does not usually allow for indefinite detention.

Stephen Blanks from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties argues the intense surveillance available under control orders is enough.

STEPHEN BLANKS: What is the point of those halfway regimes if they aren't to keep the community safe within the principles of a free society? And remember, if we give up having a free society, we're creating incentives for terrorists to attack us. 

Article (with Audio): Support for laws to keep terrorists in jail after sentence

Source: ABC PM

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Legal experts divided on Turnbull government's latest terrorism laws

Legal experts are divided on the need for the Turnbull government's latest swath of terrorism legislation that would allow convicted terrorists to be kept in jail once their sentence ended if they were deemed a risk to public safety.

The New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties president, Stephen Blanks, said the legislation was a distraction from the issue of dealing with the risk of terrorism.

"People who have been convicted of serious terrorism offences are in jail for many years to come. We're not being told who is about to be released that they're concerned about." Mr Blanks said.

"With the sex offender cases, there were particular individuals that we were told were about to be released that represented a danger. We're not being given that information now. I don't think there's anybody about to be released, this is possibly just window dressing."

Article: Legal experts divided on Turnbull government's latest terrorism laws

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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Turnbull says terrorist threat in Australia is real as he pushes for indefinite detention

Malcolm Turnbull has warned Australians that the threat of terrorism in Australia is real as the Coalition prepares to push ahead with new measures for indefinite detention of some convicted terrorists after attacks in Nice and Kabul.

His announcements follow his direction for a review by the counter-terrorism coordinator Greg Moriarty on the implications of the lone terrorists such as the attack in Nice, which killed 84 people.

But the president of the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said it was a fundamental principle of a free society people were “at liberty unless you’ve committed a criminal offence and been convicted”.

“The reality is that anybody leaving jail who the authorities think is not repentant will be subject to the most intensive monitoring that is imaginable,” Blanks told the ABC.

“Terrorism offences are so broad that planning an offence, thinking about planning an offence, attempting to plan an offence, doing any preparatory act is itself a criminal offence so the authorities will pick up anybody who reoffends, like that.”

Article: Turnbull says terrorist threat in Australia is real as he pushes for indefinite detention

Source: The Guardian

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Terrorists may soon be detained indefinitely in Australia

The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has proposed legislation that would allow for convicted terrorists to be held indefinitely in prison if considered a threat.

Australia has no Charter of Human Rights which would require the Parliament or the courts to consider whether counter-terrorism laws comply with human rights principles. Without this charter, the Australian Government can operate in a legal grey area.

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks told the outlet there is every possibility these proposals are just "window dressing," as the general public will not be told when terrorists the Government is concerned about are released.

Article: Terrorists may soon be detained indefinitely in Australia

Source: Mashable Australia

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Laws to keep high-risk terror suspects behind bars an 'attack on a free society'

Proposed laws that would see high-risk terror suspects behind bars have been labelled an attack on freedom by civil liberty groups.

The federal government is reportedly considering fast-tracking laws to keep high-risk offenders locked away, even after their sentence is served.

But Stephen Blanks, president of the NSW council for civil liberties, told Neil Mitchell it wasn't the answer.

He said it undermined one of the key aspects of a free society.

"It's handing terrorists a victory," he said on 3AW Mornings.

Article (with Audio): Laws to keep high-risk terror suspects behind bars an 'attack on a free society'

Source: 3AW Mornings with Neil Mitchell

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Census 2016: changes an "abuse" of public's trust

PRIVACY experts claim people may list false information on next month’s census because their names and addresses will be kept as part of the data.

Previously identifying information was destroyed once the other census data had been recorded but it will now be kept until 2020.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics spokesman yesterday said all personal information would be stored “securely and separate” but the NSW Council for Civil Liberties warned that some people’s concerns over how the government might use the information could cause a backlash of false information, from income bracket to religion.

“If people know their information will be identifiable and retained by the government, then it is very likely some people may chose not to answer all the questions honestly,” president Stephen Blanks said.

“We now have some politicians calling for discriminatory action against people of a particular faith, for example. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to think twice (before filling out the survey).”

Article: Census 2016: changes an "abuse" of public's trust

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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