2013 POLICY RESOLUTION
WHISTLE-BLOWERS, FREE MEDIA AND THE RIGHT TO KNOW
Lesley Lynch and Pauline Wright spoke briefly to the resolution. Glenn Phillips proposed an amendment, noting that there it was important to maintain confidentiality in some circumstances – therefore in relation to 6.3.3, there should be an emphasis on a legal framework for disclosures that are in the public interest. It was agreed to amend 6.3.3 to read “… commit to greater government transparency and the establishment of a legal framework for openness and fair and proportionate protection…”
The CCL committee recommended that the following amended resolution be endorsed by the AGM:
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties:
1. Recognises Edward Snowden, Chelsea (previously Bradley) Manning and Julian Assange as courageous, global champions of democracy who have made, at great personal cost, extraordinary contributions to civil society by challenging the excessive secrecy of the state and revealing to the citizens of the world vast quantities of hidden information about the activities of the state that should always have been in the public domain in any democratic society
2. Condemns the current unprecedented and ferocious attack by the USA and other states on whistle-blowers – most dramatically manifested in the relentless pursuit of Assange, Manning and Snowdon as traitors and spies and the attempt to disable Wikileaks. With growing state secrecy the attack on whistle-blowers poses a global threat to the capacity of a free press to inform the people and to the citizens’ right to know what governments are doing in their name.
3. Urges the Australian Government to distance itself from these extreme attacks on whistle-blowers and commit to greater government transparency and the establishment of a legal framework for openness and fair and proportionate protection of whistle-blowers.
Moved Lesley Lynch / Pauline Wright: That the proposed resolution as amended relating to whistle-blowers be approved. Carried.
2013 MOTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
RIGHT TO SILENCE
Pauline Wright raised an issue relating to police claiming that solicitors are ‘exploiting a loop-hole’ relating to the right to silence. She explained that under the present law, a person’s right to silence is preserved where a solicitor for the accused is not present at the time they are questioned by Police. She advised that there had been reported cases where police were ‘assisting’ suspects gain legal representation (eg by walking them to Legal Aid offices) in order to ‘remove’ the right to silence by purporting to administer a caution at the Legal Aid office.
Pauline emphasised that the requirement for a solicitor to be present before a person’s right to silence is effectively waived was not a ‘loop hole’ that people of interest were exploiting but an important legal protection. She suggested that NSWCCL should write to the NSW Police Force Commissioner urging police to adhere to the spirit of the provision. Hans Heilpern recommended an amendment to the motion to include writing to the Attorney-General. The amendment was accepted by Pauline and the amended resolution was put.
That the NSWCCL write to the Attorney-General and NSW Police Commissioner to register its objection to the conduct of police officers accompanying persons of interest to legal aid offices and purporting to administer a caution at the legal aid office. NSWCCL reminds police to adhere to the spirit of section 89A of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002.
Moved Pauline Wright / Martin Bibby: That the proposed resolution relating to the right to silence be approved. Carried.
2013 POLICY RESOLUTION
GLOBAL SURVEILLANCE AND DATA COLLECTION
Lesley Lynch spoke to the resolution. She noted two particular dimensions of the recent surveillance furore: vast and extensive data mining, who has been the focus of a lot of the media attention, and the explosion of analytical power that governments now have to analyse this data. Lesley outlined the concerns of the blanket surveillance by states on citizens on global and national scales, and the worldwide responses from civil liberties
organisations. Some, such as Canada and France, have taken on legal cases challenging these powers, and the cases of this kind are growing.
Stephen Blanks also spoke in strong support of the resolution, agreeing with Lesley’s points and also suggesting that a similar case against the government here in Australia is limited by the lack of a human rights framework. He also pointed out that this issue is not just of concern for lawyers and civil libertarians, but effects the whole community.
The following amendments to the resolution contained in the papers were discussed and
- Malcolm Ramage proposed that in item 6.2.2 be amended to read “… surveillance
data it and its agencies collect or receive from foreign intelligence sources…”
- Sacha Blumen proposed that 6.2.4 be amended to read “Australia’s participation in
covert and other exchanges… obtained through these covert or other…”
- Glenn Phillips proposed that 6.2.5 be amended to read “NSWCCL to participate…”
The CCL committee recommended that the following amended resolution be endorsed by
1. Communications surveillance and data collection programs by the Government or its agencies for any purpose must have the prior informed consent of the citizens consistent with the protection of core civil liberties and democratic values.
2. The Australian Government immediately inform the Australian public clearly and honestly as to the extent and nature of communications surveillance data it and its agencies collect or receive from foreign intelligence sources and internet
communication entities and the broad uses made of this data.
3. The Australian Government implement stronger accountability parameters relating to communications surveillance and data retention on Australians from internal and foreign sources –having special regard to the impact on privacy. 1
4. NSWCCL work with other concerned groups to identify whether there are any grounds for a legal challenge in relation to Australia’s participation in covert or other exchanges of intelligence data with foreign intelligence agencies and/or use of intelligence data obtained though these covert or other arrangements.5. NSWCCL to participate in the global effort by concerned civil liberties, human rights and privacy advocates to develop strong and effective international instruments in relation to communications surveillance and data retention which will better protect
privacy and basic democratic freedoms.
Moved Lesley Lynch / Stephen Blanks: That the proposed resolution as amended relating to
global surveillance be approved. Carried.
1 As recommended by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of
Australia’s National Security Legislation, May 2013 (recommendations 1-3,5-7).exchanges of intelligence data with foreign intelligence agencies and/or use of intelligence data obtained though these covert or other arrangements.
2013 POLICY RESOLUTION
David Bernie spoke to the resolution. David outlined that this year there were two examples of films not being allowed to be screened at film festivals on classification grounds. Seeking a review for such classification is expensive ($10,000) and unreasonable for smaller, independent filmmakers and film festivals. In response to some previously outlined concerns by CCL members that this could allow material such as child pornography to be shown at festivals, David noted that such material is governed and illegal under separate laws.
Martin Bibby also spoke briefly in support of the resolution.
The CCL committee recommended that the following resolution be endorsed by the AGM:
CCL calls for film festivals to be exempt from the film classification system and further exempt from the fees required for review of adverse decisions.
Moved David Bernie / Martin Bibby: That the proposed resolution relating to censorship at
film festivals be approved. Carried.
2013 POLICY RESOLUTION
Jo Murphy spoke to the resolution. She suggested that over the past two years the right of people to seek asylum in Australia had been eroded, and many asylum seekers had been treated unjustly and unfairly. In this context, Jo advised that the Asylum Seeker sub-
committee had put this resolution to the Committee, which asks for the Australian Government to meet its international obligations, which protects the right to seek asylum, and the rights of asylum seekers in Australia.
Suzanne Tzannes also spoke to the resolution, noting a particular erosion of asylum seeker rights in the past few months, and condemning the government’s use of the term ‘illegal’ in reference to asylum seekers arriving by boat.
There was discussion over the reference to “refugees with adverse ASIO assessments” in point two. Stephen Blanks clarified that this refers only to “mandatory or indefinite detention”, and the rest of point two included all asylum seekers. David Bernie proposed an amendment to include a further dot point: The Council calls on the federal government to desist from using the word “illegal” in relation to asylum seekers.
The amendment was accepted by the proposer and incorporated in the resolution.
That the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties calls for all Australian Government policies and statutory instruments to adhere to the principles and spirit of the UN Refugee Convention, Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including:
* Article 31 - refugees have a lawful right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents
* Article 31 - no restriction on the freedom of movement of refugees who arrive without authorisation, with the exception of restrictions necessary for regularising their status - no mandatory detention or indefinite detention (Refugees with Adverse ASIO assessment);
* Article 33 - refugees must not be forcibly expelled or returned (refouler) to a situation where their life or freedom may be threatened – it is noted that PNG not a suitable destination;
*Refugees have the same rights as citizens in relation to freedom of religion, intellectual property, access to courts and legal assistance, accessing elementary education, labour rights and social security ;
* Effective protection must be available to refugees – it is noted this is not likely to be available in PNG
*The Council calls on the federal government to desist from using the word “illegal” in relation to asylum seekers.
Moved Jo Murphy / Suzanne Tzannes: That the proposed resolution as amended relating to
asylum seekers be approved. Carried.