Civil Source Newsletter - May 2013

A newsletter from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties
Have you renewed your membership yet? Click here to renew! May 2013

THE CIVIL SOURCE

A revamped approach to NSWCCL communication

Members will have noted that our Journal Civil Liberty is well overdue. This arises from a combination of factors including changes in roles and a high level of CCL activity on many fronts. We apologize to members for this gap in our information flow. We know from our last members’ survey that the journal is a highly valued source of information. This interruption in our formal communication to members has stimulated a determination to trial a new approach that has been discussed for some time. We will:
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Produce regular email newsletters to provide members with short information pieces. This is the first of these. Maintain the quarterly journal to provide more substantial and more analytical discussions of civil liberties matters. We will continue to produce hard copy versions of the Journal for members who prefer this - but will continue to encourage members to move to an electronic version if they have the capacity. This saves us substantial publication and postage costs as well as allowing us to generate better design quality. Greatly improve the NSWCCL website and our presence on Internet social media communications channels. The Management Committee has agreed to allocate funding for expert assistance in building this capacity.

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Let us know your thoughts on this. Contact our new office coordinator Caitlin Dixon (office@nswccl.org.au) if you have any suggestions or feedback on our new approach, or things you might like to see. Please also get in touch if you are interested in assisting with the journal production or in contributing articles – any and all assistance gratefully accepted!

Can you help contribute to CCL's work?

Most of CCL’s work is done through its sub-committees. The Privacy and Freedom of Information Committee is short on active members this year. There are a host of current issues with major civil liberties implications across both these areas. If you are interested in contributing to the work of this sub-committee, contact Glen Phillips (glenn@amphictyony.com). If you are interested in contributing to any of the sub-committees or campaigns (refer to the NSWCCL website for a full list) please contact our Office Coordinator (office@nswccl.org.au).

Joan Kersey

It is with deep sadness that NSWCCL learnt of the recent passing of long time member and supporter, Joan Kersey. Joan dedicated much time and effort as a committee member, and was instrumental in raising the profile of NSWCCL through fundraising events. We are sure our members will join us in acknowledging Joan’s long-standing involvement in the NSW Council for Civil Liberties and her contributions to supporting civil liberties in Australia.

National ASIO Campaign launched

The National ASIO Campaign was launched by Professor George Williams at the NSWCCL annual dinner in October last year. The aim of the campaign is to remove the most antidemocratic and most dangerous of the post 9/11 anti-terrorism laws from our statute books. Over recent months the focus has been on building a strong alliance of progressive organisations and individuals to drive and support the campaign. This has progressed well and we now have a core group of key organisations active in development of the campaign. The immediate focus is influence any decisions our political leaders make in relation to antiterrorism legislation in the September 2013 context. We have agreed to campaign on only a few key issues on which it is reasonable to think we might get some positive movement in the election context. We have been given an opportunity for intervention by the release of a reform oriented Senate Committee report on Tuesday 30th April relating to the shameful lack of procedural fairness for refugees subject to an adverse security assessment from ASIO (and thereby refused a visa and consigned to indefinite detention). The Campaign will push hard for the Government and Opposition to commit to providing a legislated right to a robust and effective merit review process in a court of law with power to make binding decisions. For more information see the ASIO Campaign Summary. If you would like to be involved please register your interest here.

Nowra CCTV cameras switched off

On the 2nd May the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT) brought down a dramatic decision in a case which grew out of a long running battle between the Shoalhaven City Council and a local citizen, Adam Bonner, who objected to the capturing and retention of his image on CCTV without his permission- which he declined to give Council. There have been a number of actions in this battle, but on Tuesday the ADT determined in favour of Adam. It made two orders: one was for the Council to make a written apology to Adam Bonner for breaching his privacy and to advise him of steps it would take to ensure no further breaches. The other decision, which forced the CCTV closedown, was that the Council must refrain from future contravention of any of the legislated information protection principles (IPP). The crux of the reasoning for the decision related to the actual (as against claimed) function of the CCTV system. Available evidence indicated the CCTV cameras were sometimes of use to police in evidence gathering and prosecution of crime. These are state government, not local government, functions. On the other hand there was no hard evidence – as distinct from anecdotal information from police – that the cameras reduced crime or improved local safety – which is a Council responsibility. The Privacy and Personal Protection Act 1998 (NSW) specifies that personal information can only be collected and retained if it is reasonably necessary for it to fulfil its functions. In actual practice, information collected by the CCTV cameras cannot be demonstrated to be necessary for the council’s crime prevention functions – because it has little impact. The Council decided to close the system down because it could not be sure it could avoid future breaches as it could not demonstrate the system was necessary for its crime prevention and community safety functions. This outcome has caused quite a stir with an immediate response from the Premier Barry O’Farrell indicating he would review the decision and legislate as necessary to ‘fix’ it so the cameras could be turned on ASAP. Even Tony Abbot felt the need to call for legislation to protect CCTV systems given their important role in crime prevention and community safety. NSWCCL and the Australian Privacy Foundation have regularly noted that there was no available research to demonstrate significant crime prevention as a result of rapidly proliferating CCTV camera systems in public spaces. From a public good perspective, we have always argued this is a very expensive crime prevention system for what it delivers. CCTV does have value in helping with detection and prosecution – as we have seen dramatically in several high profile cases recently. But that is not the point here. The important matter now before us is how the NSW Government will react. The NSWCCL will write to the Premier and AG arguing the importance of maintaining strong policy guidelines for the operation of these surveillance systems and the use of material gathered by them. It would

be a major retrograde step if the Government responded without careful consideration of the implications, and watered down the existing protections or gave local governments broad exemptions from these provisions (as is currently the case with the police). The resolution of this matter will be important to monitor and – in so far as we can – influence.

News from the Sub-committees
ASIO Campaign
Update from Convenor Lesley Lynch

The Campaign now has a strong advisory group established. Stephen Blanks will represent the NSW CCL. Lesley Lynch will convene and chair the group. It will do its work via the web/ teleconference. The first of the expected reports relating to the Campaign's priorities will be released next week. On 30 April the report from the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into Migration and Security Legislation Amendment (Review of Security Assessments) Bill 2012 was published. It is our intention to use this as a stimulus for various campaign activities to gain profile for our immediate reform goal on this issue. We hope to have a dedicated Facebook and Twitter presence very soon as well as an expanded website.

Police Reform
Update from Convenor Hans Heilpern

The Council has recently decided to put resources and time into achieving meaningful reforms to the NSW Police Force. We have been waiting in vain for an appropriate response from the Government and the Police Force in relation to the well-publicised incidents of police brutality, use of excessive force, incompetence and dishonesty. As far as we are aware no police officer has been demoted or dismissed as a result of any of these events yet many have been promoted. Police who have clearly assaulted members of the public are still going about their jobs. This has led to mistrust in the police and the oversight bodies (Ombudsman, Police Integrity Commission, internal reviews) and a growing demand for the establishment of a new and independent body to handle complaints with the power and ability to independently investigate serious incidents involving the police. Any member wishing to contribute to the campaign or with suggestions should initially contact

the CCL office (office@nswccl.org.au).

Police Powers and Civil Rights Sub-committee
Update from Sub-convenor Sacha Cohen

The Police Powers and Civil Rights Subcommittee has made many submissions to NSW and Commonwealth reviews and Parliamentary inquiries since the start of the year. A couple of submissions are mentioned below. We made a submission to the NSW Ombudsman commenting on the Ombudsman’s review of NSW police move-on powers relating to intoxicated people under the Summary Offences Act. We emphasised that it was undesirable for Parliament to not define ‘disorderly’, and that the operation of the legislation may impact marginalised, mentally ill and/or people experiencing homelessness. We also said that behaviour should only be considered to be disorderly in respect of its impact on other people. We also made a submission to the NSW Legislative Council inquiry in the use of cannabis for medical purposes. This issue has a long history in NSW, with the then-State government seeking to undertake a trial about ten years ago, but without apparently receiving the needed agreement from the then-Federal Government. In our submission we said that drug use should be addressed as a health issue rather than a legal issue, that a trial of medical cannabis be commenced as soon as practicable, and that the Inquiry should only consider the health impacts relating to the medical use of cannabis (and not any wider impacts). We also commented to the NSW Greens’ MPs on their draft Human Tissue Amendment (Trafficking in Human Organs) Bill, saying that legislation operating outside NSW should be confined to those matters the United Nations has mandated extra-judicial operation in a treaty. Lastly, we made a submission to the current Senate inquiry into the impact on Federal Court fee increases since 2010 on access to justice. We stated that access to the courts is a civil right that must be maintained regardless of financial resources, and that is was unclear whether price signals are an appropriate tool to use in improving the efficiency of the use of judicial resources. We also stated that the grounds for exemption from Federal Court fees should be expanded. In addition to the existing exemption categories and financial hardship criteria, people should be exempt from paying fees if otherwise their combined savings and disposable income would fall below a level that would provide a buffer from financial hardship. Police Powers and Civil Rights Sub-committee

Update from Sub-convenor Martin Bibby

In anticipation of the Federal Election, there has been a wee rush of Federal bills of interest to NSWCCL, which have been referred to Senate Committees, amongst them a bill to provide for citizen initiated referenda and one that would cut Medicare funding of abortions done for the purposes of sex selection. Of particular note is the Government's Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013. If passed, this bill will provide the same protections against discrimination for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex persons which are at present provided against discrimination on the grounds that a person is of male or female gender. CCL will of course support this bill, and will take the opportunity to again press for the exemption permitted to schools run by religious organisations to be removed, or at least for organisations that wish to discriminate to have to make a case specifying what it is in their principles or theology which requires an exemption. Of interest is a bill from Senator Xenaphon which would make it a crime for persons over 18 to lie to one under 18 to lie about their age to persons under 18 for the purpose of securing a meeting with the latter or with the purpose of committing a crime. Thus an 18-year-old boy who pretended to be 19 in the hope of getting a date with a 17-year-old girl would be guilty of a crime. CCL will be opposing this bill--there are already grooming offences relating to persons under 16--for it has the potential to impact greatly on many Australians, young and old alike, who do not necessarily possess any criminal intent, without providing sufficient nexus to the more serious offences the bill aims to prevent.
Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Would you like to contribute? Contact our office coordinator at office@nswccl.org.au
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