NSWCCL in the media

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveils plan to introduce 'nation's toughest terror laws'

The Premier's comments come the day before the Council of Australian Governments, a meeting of Australian state and federal governments on Thursday where strengthened national security policies will be high on the agenda.

But the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said there was no need for any extension of post-sentencing policies.

"It can only be [a] political [measure]," said President Stephen Blanks. "It's just an abuse of what the courts are there for, which is to find truth.

"This is a regime which will result in the continued detention of people simply for what they say or think. It's fundamentally contrary to the idea of a free society". 

The Premier said her government was still considering the details of a federal government proposal to grant its authorities access to states' databases to harvest licence photos that could track suspects using facial recognition technology and surveillance footage. 

But Ms Berejiklian said the NSW government generally supported strengthening national security protections. 

"All of us have to accept, from time to time, that our civil liberties aren't what they used to be," she said. "I'm keen to support any measure that supports public safety.

"I think all the community would expect us to have a no regrets policy; I don't want us to say what could we have done?

"Sometimes it means all of us have to give up a little bit of our civil liberties.

"It's not a 'maybe' threat; the threat in NSW is probable. When the threat is probable you need to look at what you're doing." Berejiklian said.

Article: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveils plan to introduce 'nation's toughest terror laws'

Source: Sydney Morning Herald


Civil liberties groups 'Alarmed' over National facial recognition database

The Prime Minister will use tomorrow's COAG national security summit to urge the Premiers to hand over the photos and information on state drivers' licences.

Malcolm Turnbull says the aim is to build a national facial recognition database for use by law enforcement agencies.

Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says Australians should be very alarmed by such a proposal.

He's speaking to Cathy Bell.

Interview: Civil liberties groups 'Alarmed' over National facial recognition database

Source: ABC News on Radio


Expanding facial recognition database in Australia not justified, watchdog warns

Australians should be gravely concerned about moves to add millions of people to a facial recognition database because of perceived terror threats, according to a leading civil liberties body.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will urge state and territory leaders to hand over license photos of all drivers at a special national security summit in Canberra on Thursday.

The federal database could be used, for example, to conduct surveillance at airports, sports stadia, shopping malls and other public places.

But the Turnbull strategy has been sharply criticised by Stephen Blanks, president of NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL).

He accused the federal government of "whipping up fear" and questioned if the likelihood of terror threats in Australia justified a marked increase in state surveillance.

"This proposal has a grave danger to it," Blanks told nine.com.au.

He also claimed the move would undermine trust in government.

"It is quite alarming when information you have given to government for one purpose … is then used for an entirely different purpose."

Government sources on Tuesday told 9NEWS that driver's license information was the "mother-load" it needed to build a powerful law enforcement tool.

On Wednesday, in front of media, Turnbull kept repeating "keeping Australia safe" was the relentless focus of any changes to legislation.

The prime minister talked about how facial recognition tools would help alert counter-terror agencies to incidents such as the recent alleged Etihad bomb plot at Sydney airport.


"The system was designed so that people who looked 50% or more similar to the wanted suspect were flagged as a possible match. This means that a vast number of 'possible matches' will be completely innocent people."

The technology also frequently misidentifies African-Americans, according to a recent US government hearing.

NSWCCL president Stephen Blanks questioned if there had been sufficient debate and community consultation about the issue.

Blanks said the media's focus on acts of terror taking place in other parts of the world made Australians feel unsafe in their own country.

"It's easy to whip up fear where we have media that gives big publicity to individual instances of terror but without the context of how much dangerous activity there really is in Australia.

"Totalitarian governments who want to abuse their position often find databases of this kind very useful to pursue unacceptable policies."

Last month, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller proclaimed crime rates in NSW were "at 20-year lows".

Blanks claimed it had probably never been a safer time to be an Australian.

He cautioned counter-terror laws, once passed, were rarely reversed.

"These proposals are going to be a permanent arrangement in the hands of good government and bad government," Blanks said.

It is unpopular and politically unacceptable to question if national security agencies are sufficiently empowered, Blanks added.

Article: Expanding facial recognition database in Australia not justified, watchdog warns

Source: 9 News


Turnbull defends proposed anti-terrorism laws as constitutional

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties president, Stephen Blanks, told Guardian Australia that plot was a “worst-case example” and police hadn’t needed the 14-day period, showing there was no need for “draconian” new laws.

“We don’t think detention without charge ought to be permitted at all … It’s just inappropriate in a free society for police to be able to detain people without charge,” he said.

Blanks questioned if hearings to extend detention would be conducted in secret and how detained persons, even if they were represented, could convince a judge to let them go. “It’s a misuse of the position of the courts to involve them in detaining people without due legal process,” he said.

Earlier Turnbull said the government worked with the AFP, state counterparts and legal advisers to “fine-tune and improve our national security laws”.

“Our primary, overwhelming responsibility is to keep Australians safe. We are relentless in that and we will always continue to improve and enhance the tools our agencies have to keep us safe.”

The Australian governments will also discuss improving access to existing databases of drivers’ licences to give federal police and security agencies national facial biometric matching capability.

Turnbull said about half of Australians already have their photo in a federal government system, but bringing together driver’s licence photos would help “build up a national system that will enable us … particularly to be able to identify people that are suspected of, or involved in, terrorist activities”.

Article: Turnbull defends proposed anti-terrorism laws as constitutional

Source: The Guardian


Why a Blackberry Will No Longer be a Criminal's Best Friend


Councils ‘spying’ on residents with tracking devices on bins

A small device has been fitted on bins around Sydney to see what's being thrown out but critics fear where personal information could end up.

NSWCCL Stephen Blanks contributed to this story with concern for what happens to the information collected by these devices.

"My concern is that Council is not being transparent about what is being done with the data that is being collected. The data could be valuable to data and could be some thing that Google, for example is prepared to pay for. "

David Vaile from Australian Privacy Foundation also questions the future use of data gathered. "The big question is, what else can they do with it later on? Can they tie it with other information and discriminate against you or maybe discriminate against your neighbourhood?"

Video: Sydney Councils ‘spying’ on residents with tracking devices on bins

Source: Channel 7 News


NSW Police say it is public fear, not police agenda behind new terrorism powers

Public perceptions about safety and the fear of terrorism are behind the push for tough new police powers in NSW, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has said.

Speaking at a NSW Law Society forum, Commissioner Fuller said it was the public's belief they were unsafe that was driving legislative change, rather than an agenda by police.

Nevertheless, police do welcome the state's new anti-terrorism laws, Commissioner Fuller said, which include the "lethal force" powers.

"The fear of crime drives a lot of public policy, rather than the reality of crime," he said.

"I think if the community started the conversation about how safe they are, and we spoke more about how safe we are, then there would be less pressures perhaps on stronger, harsher legislation."

Commissioner Fuller said people need to start appreciating that they are safer than ever before.

"Why the doom and gloom — why are people so scared? What are we scared of?"

"I think if we could overcome that and say 'crime's down, it's the lowest it's been in 40 years and I feel safe' perhaps police don't need new powers."

The Commissioner did say however that the terrorism powers, which allow police to pre-emptively target terrorists with intentional kill shots, are needed to keep up with the realities of modern crime.

"When you talk about modern policing around organised crime and terrorism — they are new types of crimes," he said.

"It is very difficult to police new crimes with old laws … new types of crimes will often require new legislation for us to address it effectively."

'Maximum power with minimal accountability'

However, Commissioner Fuller was sharply criticised by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks, who told the forum the recent bolstering of anti-terrorism powers appeared to be the result of lobbying by the police force.

"NSW has engaged in a law-and-order auction where the tougher the law, the better," he said.

"The way in which these laws have been enacted look as though they've been pushed by a police agenda trying to get maximum power with minimal accountability."

The new "lethal force" powers passed State Parliament less than a month after they were announced by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

But Commissioner Fuller defended the process, telling the forum the new laws had the same parliamentary oversight as other new legislation.

"Legislation may get rushed through but it still has to go through both sides of Parliament, there's a whole process that needs to occur," he said.

"Yes, sometimes police want new legislation for issues but our voice at the table is no greater than anyone else."

The NSW coroner recommended police be given greater legal protection to shoot terrorist suspects dead when he handed down his findings into the Lindt Cafe siege earlier this year.

Article: NSW Police say it is public fear, not police agenda behind new terrorism powers

Source: ABC News


Expanding Police Powers to Use Lethal Force

President of NSWCCL, Stephen Blanks discusses the amended Terrorism (Police Powers) Act with FBi Radio and provides the following comments:

"Well, what the legislation enables is the Commissioner, or if he's not available, the Assistant Police Commissioner to declare an event to be a terrorist event or a likely terrorist event. So it doesn't actually have to be a terrorist event, just likely -- and in that situation police are authorised to use lethal force to bring the event to an end, regardless. And what that means in practice is that they can sue lethal force even if there is no imminent threat of danger to life or serious injury."

"The recommendation came out of the Coroner's report and the problem that the Coroner identified was that the police were confused about the extent of the power they had. and instead of treating it as a situation where the police lawyers needed better training or police needed access to better legal advice, the recommendation was to change the law to enable the police to use lethal force in circumstances where the seriousness of the event might not justify it. What we've ended up with is very unsatisfactory and that it got rushed through Parliament in just a day."

"Effectively the religious or political motivation, or imputed political or religious motivation, of the event is going to be the criteria for using lethal force. Now that is just entirely inappropriate. You can just see the way in which if this power is used without a great deal of care, it is going to cause significant community opposition if somebody gets killed."

"The unintended consequences are that somebody could be killed by police where there has been no imminent threat to life or serious injury, and the use of lethal force, objectively is unnecessary, in order to resolve the situation. I'm not sure that's an unintended consequence, that might actually be the intended consequence or there's no other reason for bringing in the legislation. That is what it's going to enable, and then the police will be legally unaccountable for their actions."

Hear the entire Radio Show: NSW Police Powers, The Vatican and Sydney Fire Safety

Source: FBi Radio


Warning over politicising parole system

Allowing attorneys-general to make decisions about parole is a "recipe for corruption", warns the NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks.

Malcolm Turnbull will meet with state and territory leaders in Hobart on Friday to discuss an overhaul of the parole system after Melbourne parolee Yacqub Khayre shot dead a clerk and took a woman hostage in an apartment block on Monday night.

The prime minister said any decision to grant parole to a person with a background of violence and terrorist-related activity should go "to the very top", referring to state attorneys-general.

Mr Blanks said Mr Turnbull, as a lawyer, should know the role of attorney-general is "a political role not a judicial role".

"If a decision to grant parole is to be subject to approval of an attorney-general, one might take bets as to how soon it will be before an attorney-general was the subject of proceedings in ICAC for corruption - it is a recipe for corruption," Mr Blanks told AAP on Wednesday.

Article: Warning over politicising parole system

Source: The Australian

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Border Advice for Muslims Alarms Australian Official — but It Came From His Department

Mr. Edries [President of the Muslim Legal Network NSW] said his group had received similar advice in 2015 from representatives of the Border Force, which is under Mr. Dutton’s authority, in a training session. He said he was dismayed by Mr. Dutton’s letter Tuesday and by how the network’s guide, “Anti-Terrorism Laws: ASIO, the Police and You,” had been depicted in the news media.[...]

“It was pretty upsetting for it be portrayed as anything other than an education piece, particularly because we used information provided by the government,” Mr. Edries said.

It was not the first time Mr. Dutton, a conservative, had offended Muslim communities. Last year, he caused an outcry after asserting that former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser should not have allowed Lebanese Muslim migrants into Australia.

The 95-page booklet by the Muslim Legal Network NSW, released last week, is the most recent edition of its guide to Australia’s complex counterterrorism laws, originally published in 2004. Mr. Edries said lawyers and other experts had worked on the latest version for more than 18 months.[...]

The edition has been updated to cover new laws related to citizenship and passports, mandatory metadata retention, and the extension of control orders — court-imposed restrictions on movements or communications — to children as young as 14. It also features a new section on secrecy provisions, preventive detention and police stop-and-search powers.

“It’s really difficult when we try to pick up information that is provided generally from the government and provide it in an easy to understand communiqué and then be put under suspicion,” Mr. Edries said.

Lesley Lynch, vice president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, called the reaction to the booklet “a heartbreakingly outrageous interpretation.” She said the legal network should have been praised for producing an easily understood guide to terrorism laws.

“A huge of number of people get picked up for having material that is entirely innocent,” she said. “It’s one of those kinds of things the average person in whatever community is not going to be on top of. The serious terrorist would be researching this stuff anyhow.”

Article: Border Advice for Muslims Alarms Australian Official — but It Came From His Department

Source: New York Times