Showing posts with label democracy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label democracy. Show all posts

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Council for Civil Liberties condemns regulations allowing for bans on public gatherings on public land

Excerpt from New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties post, 20 June 2018:

NSW Civil Liberties Council (CCL) is appalled to learn that in 12 days, the NSW State Government will have incredibly wide powers to disperse or ban protests, rallies, and virtually any public gathering across about half of all land across the state.

On 16 March this year, the NSW State Government published the Crown Land Management Regulation 2018(NSW). Included was a provision which provided that public officials would have broad power to “direct a person” to stop “Taking part in any gathering, meeting or assembly”. The only exception provided for is “in the case of a cemetery, for the purpose of a religious or other ceremony of burial or commemoration”. Alternatively, public officials have broad discretion to affix a conspicuous sign prohibiting any gathering, meeting or assembly – again, unless the public gathering was a funeral.

Police, Local Council officials, and even so-far unspecified categories of people or government employees could soon have the power to ban people from holding public gatherings on public land. The territory where these incredibly broad powers would apply are called Crown Land - land owned by the State Government. This includes town squares, parks, roads, beaches, community halls and more.

These powers will come into effect from 1 July. If these regulations are allowed to stand, the effect will not just be that protests, rallies and demonstrations can only occur at the sufferance of police and other officials. It will be that virtually all public events will only occur with the tolerance of public officials. Our right to assemble on public land will become something less than a license. That right may temporarily be granted by public officials, but it may just as easily be withdrawn, at any time, for any reason. The penalty for defying such a ban or order to stop meeting in public could be up to $11 000……

The time to speak out against these regulations is now. CCL objects to these regulations in the strongest possible terms, and urges their immediate and unconditional repeal……

Excerpts from Crown Land Management Regulation 2018 under the Crown Land Management Act 2016:

9 Conduct prohibited in dedicated or reserved Crown land

(1) A person must not do any of the following on dedicated or reserved Crown land:

(e) remain in or on the land or any part of the land or any structure or enclosure in or on the land when reasonably requested to leave by an authorised person,  

Maximum penalty: 50 penalty units.

13 Activities that can be prohibited on Crown land by direction or notice under Part 9 of Act (1) Each of the activities specified in the following Table is prescribed for the purposes of sections 9.4 (1) (b), 9.5 (1) (b) and 9.5 (2) of the Act:

3 Holding a meeting or performance or conducting entertainment for money or consideration of any kind, or in a manner likely to cause a nuisance to any person

4 Taking part in any gathering, meeting or assembly (except, in the case of a cemetery, for the purpose of a religious or other ceremony of burial or commemoration)

6 Displaying or causing any sign or notice to be displayed

7 Distributing any circular,

1.7   Definition of “Crown land”

Subject to this Division, each of the following is Crown land for the purposes of this Act:

(a)  land that was Crown land as defined in the Crown Lands Act 1989 immediately before the Act’s repeal,

(b)  land that becomes Crown land because of the operation of a provision of this Act or a declaration made under section 4.4,

(c)  land vested, on and from the repeal of the Crown Lands Act 1989, in the Crown (including when it is vested in the name of the State).

 Clause 6 of Schedule 7 provides for certain land under Acts repealed by Schedule 8 to become Crown land under this Act. Section 1.10 then provides for this land to be vested in the Crown.
Land that will become Crown land under this Act includes land vested in the Crown that is dedicated for a public purpose. This land was previously excluded from the definition of Crown land in the Crown Lands Act 1989. See also section 1.8 (2).

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

In incremental moves Trump is distorting rights and protections in the U.S.

The U.S. Dept. of Justice Manual contains a collection of basic manuals, guidelines, policy statement and procedures that govern the action of U.S. Attorneys working for the department.

The U.S. Attorneys’ Manual having recently been reviewed by the Trump Administration no longer contains this section for the instruction of its law officers – in PUBLIC SAFETY,  PUBLIC TRIALS, PUBLIC SAFETY & MEDIA RELATIONS sections 1-7.112 Need for Free Press and Public Trial.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Quote of the Week

“There are no saviours of democracy on the horizon. Rather, around the world we see a new authoritarianism that is always anti-democratic in practice, populist in appeal, nationalist in sentiment, fascist in sympathy, criminal in disposition, tending to spew a poisonous rhetoric aimed against refugees, Muslims, and increasingly Jews, and hostile to truth and those who speak it, most particularly journalists to the point, sometimes, of murder.” [Author Richard Flanagan writing in TheGuardian, 18 April 2018]

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

National ID Database: so you think if you do nothing wrong you'll have nothing to fear?

“There is also a tendency for technologies to converge, allowing for the creation of devices with increased surveillance capabilities. CCTV, for example, may be combined with facial recognition technology….to identify individuals from their images. Another example is modern mobile phones, which combine telephonic services with GPS tracking software, digital visual and sound recording capabilities, and connection to the internet. A consequence of the convergence of surveillance technologies is the greater ability of surveillance users to compile detailed pictures of members of the public, making it increasingly difficult for individuals to maintain their privacy and anonymity.” [Victorian Law Reform Commission – Surveillance in Public Places: Final Report 18, 2010]

This month the Turnbull Government, state and territory governments have agreed to add the photo IDs of all registered drivers to the Facial Biometric Matching Capability (FBMC) database (est. 16 November 2016) which already has access to passport photographs, visa application photos, airport surveillance images and arrest ID images from the criminal justice system.

Additional images will probably be harvested from social media and added to this database which is to be used with CCTV footage of the general population going about their daily lives when considered necessary by police and security services. The biometric 'map' of an individual's face created by FBMC being easily applied to searches of video footage from public venue, shopping centre, street and road cameras as CCTV technology is now capable of recognising faces of people, vehicles, animals and bags automatically.

FBMC will involve using a Face Verification Service , Face Identification Service, One Person One Licence Service and Facial Recognition Analysis Utility Service in identity matching, along with a the Document Verification Service, Identity Data Sharing Service and/or any other government identity matching or data sharing service and, of course one of the areas it will be used is in so-called crime prevention.

Use of this facial recognition database will also be available to authorised private sector agencies and, like many new tools it is likely there will be function creep so that photo IDs will be required by more government agencies and private businesses when interacting with individuals in the future.

The Facial Biometric Matching Capability database will function alongside the Biometric Identification Services (BIS) which features national identification capability using fingerprints, palm prints, foot prints and facial recognition, person identity and evidence image case management, image enhancement tools and record auditing, matching services of one to one, one to few, one to many, and many to many, as well as photobook, photo line-up and witness viewing services.

But what’s the worry? After all if you are an ordinary person not committing a crime you have nothing to fear. Right?

Well there is this on the horizon…………..

Criminologists at Monash undertake cutting edge research in the areas of risk and security that is theoretically sophisticated, innovative and highly relevant to areas of pressing national and international concern. The discipline hosts two recipients of the Australian government’s prestigious Future Fellowship Award, Professor Sharon Pickering and Associate Professor Weber, both undertaking programs of research on border policing. Their jointly authored book Globalization and Borders: Death at the Global Frontier was awarded Australia’s most significant criminology publication award in 2013. The Border Crossing Observatory is the online repository of all border-related research undertaken by Monash Criminology and our national and international partners. Criminologists at Monash have received multiple highly competitive Australian Research Council grants to investigate a host of risk and security related topics, amongst them, counter terrorism laws and policing, immigration and exploitive labour practices, deportation, regional security, and the gendered nature of border crossing and transnational law enforcement. Our risk and security research expertise includes the interrelated topics of borders, counter terrorism, state crime, transnational crime, irregular migration, human trafficking, risk and disability, and pre-crime. [my yellow bolding]

What is “pre-crime”?

Put simply, “pre-crime” activity is a crime not yet committed – it is the suspicion that an individual might be capable of breaking an unidentified law at some unspecified time in the future.

Such suspicion does not mean there is a need to charge, prosecute or convict for a specific crime. Intervention at “pre-crime” stage is supposedly risk containment.

You don’t have to be researching bomb-building or Googling how to buy a weapon online to commit a “pre-crime” activity - it can be your thoughts and political opinions spoken aloud or written down, as well as your actions at a public meeting or protest rally.

It can even be allegedly ‘guilty knowledge’ in that you knew the time and place a small environmental activist group was going to confront their local MP or you saw a person painting an anti-government picket sign ahead of a planned street march.

Going to the media – social or mainstream – with a genuine complaint against a government department might be considered a “pre-crime” if you visibly persist in seeking answers, redress or apology. You could easily be labelled "fixated" by police if a government minister takes offence and decides to complain.

If you make a small donation to a group the police or government consider problematic, troublesome or obstructive of the aims of government or big business you may at some time in the future be considered politically partisan and displaying “pre-crime” tendencies.

These are just some of the groups that are already complained about by big business and politicians: Environment Victoria, Wilderness Society (Australia, Victoria & Queensland), Friends of the Earth, Victorian National Parks Association, Australian Conservation Foundation, Lock the Gate Alliance, Australia, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth Australia, Politics in the Pub and GetUp! as well as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd.

Just belonging to a group or community association which speaks up on matters of social, economic, environmental or political concern could see you being eyed off as part of a potential conspiracy in the making.

In at least one Western country pre-crime can also manifest itself as a suspicion that you have come into a city centre with the intention of having a drink or two and you will be given a 48 hour direction-to-leave order.

With the notion of “pre-crime” there is no presumption of innocence and little more than lip service to due process if any arm of state or federal government decides you are a person of interest.

So how will pre-crime activity be monitored by police and security services? Well one of the methods used will be surveillance and this surveillance may involve use of the Facial Biometric Matching Capability database created by the Turnbull Government.

Surely this couldn’t possibly happen in Australia? you say. Think again. 

We already keep individuals in gaol long after their court-imposed sentence has been fully completed under continuing detention legislation, have preventative detention without charge and control orders which can be applied to both minors and adults, police are known to use spyware to enter, monitor and control home computers and, in certain circumstances your home can be entered and searched without your knowledge by police and security services.

And here in Australia we have a history of unwarranted surveillance based on an individual's political association (1950s Cold War era) and political dissent (1960s & early 1970s Viet Nam War era) as well as virtually unchallenged unlawful use of coercive powers (Border Force 2014 to 2017).

Police and security agencies are constantly pushing for more legislation which would allow amongst other matters the creation of a raft of pre-emptive, punitive measures based solely on suspicion and an individual’s “pre-crime” tendencies.

Right now in Australia governments are all about political and physical control of the population - they are not about human rights, 'civil liberties' or a free, open and democratic society.

As a society Australia has been sliding down that slippery slope towards an authoritarian destination for years now and in 2017 we appear to have reached the bottom of the slope.

“For years, there’s been ample evidence that authoritarian governments around the world are relying on technology produced by American, Canadian, and European companies to facilitate human rights abuses.  From software that enables the filtering and blocking of online content to tools that help governments spy on their citizens, many such companies are actively serving autocratic governments as "repression’s little helper."
The reach of these technologies is astonishingly broad: governments can listen in on cell phone calls, use voice recognition to scan mobile networks, read emails and text messages, censor web pages, track a citizen’s every movement using GPS, and can even change email contents while en route to a recipient. Some tools are installed using the same type of malicious malware and spyware used by online criminals to steal credit card and banking information. They can secretly turn on webcams built into personal laptops and microphones in cell phones not being used. And all of this information is filtered and organized on such a massive scale that it can be used to spy on every person in an entire country.” [Electronic Frontiers Foundation, accessed 7 October 2017]

“Australia’s leading privacy and civil liberties organisations condemn the decision by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to provide all images from state and territory driver’s licence databases to the federal National Facial Biometric Matching Capability.
The creation of such a comprehensive national facial database is an unnecessary and disproportionate invasion of the privacy rights of all Australians, is the foundation for suspicionless, warrantless mass surveillance and is fundamentally incompatible with a free and open society.

David Vaile, Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation said, “This government has proven it is blind and deaf to privacy and personal information security threats. Make no mistake – this database will affect all Australians, even the most conscientious and law-abiding. It will likely generate massive ‘false positive’ lists that will flood our very effective police and security services with useless distractions. We’ve already seen calls for ‘scope creep’ to cover welfare enforcement, and there’s every reason to expect this capability will come to be used to identify people with unpaid fines and other minor issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” [Electronic Frontiers Australia, 6 October 2017]

“Every single portion of human rights activism overlaps, manifests or is exercised with the use of technology. That alone caused attackers and adversaries to recognize that technology itself is a good vehicle to get to these people and interfere with them or cause them harm.” [Claudio Guarnieri of Amnesty International quoted in Threat Post at Kapersky Lab, 4 October 2017]

Tuesday, 2 May 2017


BROWN & ANOR versus THE STATE OF TASMANIA, High Court of Australia, Canberra on 2 May 2017 at 10.15 am before the full court:

Date Special Case referred to Full Court: 13 December 2016

The issue in this proceeding is whether the Workplace (Protection from Protesters Act) 2014 (Tas) (‘the Act’), in whole or in part, contravenes the implied freedom of political communication in the Commonwealth Constitution.

The plaintiffs were each arrested and charged, purportedly under the Act, in early 2016 as a result of their onsite political protest against the proposed logging of the Lapoinya Forest in Tasmania. The respective criminal proceedings against them were abandoned by the police after the commencement of this proceeding. The plaintiffs contend that the Act is either wholly invalid or, at the least, is invalid in so far as it applies to forestry operations on forestry land as defined in s 3 of the Act.

The Act allows police officers to prevent the commencement or continuation of an onsite political protest that they reasonably believe is preventing, hindering or obstructing or is about to prevent, hinder or obstruct a "business activity" at any "business premises" or "business access area" as defined in s 3 of the Act, anywhere in Tasmania. The key provisions empower police officers to prevent the commencement or continuation of onsite political protests by directing the protesters to leave and stay away from business premises and business access areas for up to three months under pain of arrest and of criminal penalties if they do not do so.

The plaintiffs contend that ss 6 and 7 of the Act target and single out for prevention and punishment onsite political protest and protesters without any broader purpose of preserving, enhancing or protecting political communication. Further, they contend that no reasonable provision has been made in the Act to preserve or protect political communication.

The defendant contends that the Act protects (amongst other things) business activity lawfully carried out on land in the lawful possession of a business operator, and that the plaintiffs are seeking to prevent, hinder or obstruct activity of that nature. They submit that the Act does not restrict protest activity on land other than business premises or business access areas; it has a narrow operation and effect; it is compatible with the freedom and is in any event reasonably and appropriately adapted to the fulfilment of a legitimate purpose.

On 13 December 2016 Gordon J referred the Special Case for consideration by the Full Court. Notices of Constitutional Matter have been served. The Attorneys-General for the Commonwealth, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia have filed Notices of Intervention. The Human Rights Law Centre has been granted leave to appear as amicus curiae, limited to submissions in writing.

The question in the Special Case is:
• Is the Workplace (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014 (Tas), either in its entirety or in its operation in respect of forestry land, invalid because it impermissibly burdens the implied freedom of political communication contrary to the Commonwealth Constitution?

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Peril Of Intergenerational Theft

In his speech to the Press Club on 2nd February, Tony Abbott once again called up the spectre of intergenerational theft:

And reducing the deficit is the fair thing to do – because it ends the intergenerational theft against our children and grandchildren.
We’ve never been a country that’s ripped off future generations to pay for today.
And under my government, we never will.

"Intergenerational theft" has been a catchcry of the Prime Minister and other ministers such as Joe Hockey and Eric Abetz.  It has invariably been used in defence of the Government's budget and its cost-cutting measures.  According to them we should suffer some pain now in order to leave the nation in a sound state for our children and grandchildren.

On one level this seems eminently commendable.  But it completely misses the point of another area of government policy where today's Government is severely ripping off future generations. Our children and grandchildren and their descendants are being ripped off because of the Government's tepid and ineffective policy on climate change.  There is no Government understanding of a need for urgent action and of the impact ineffective action now will have on the economy of the future and the health and lifestyle of our descendants as well as the health of the natural world.

And the truly amazing thing is that no-one in the Government seems to recognise the inconsistency of their position on inter-generational theft.  A cynical person could claim that at least some Government MPs do see this inconsistency – and just choose to ignore it. After all it would be decidedly awkward to concede that climate change is a really important and urgent issue and therefore know that not taking effective action will severely penalise future generations.  It's much easier to pay lip-service to the climate problem with a shonky "direct action" plan and to claim that the government will do more when other major emitters take more action.  Interestingly, the fact that many other major emitters are starting to take more action appears to have escaped the attention of the Abbott Government.

Obviously the Government's tepid climate policy suits those dinosaur Liberals and Nationals – and there appear to be quite a few of them - who are climate change deniers.

I suspect that the inconsistency about intergenerational equity/theft probably is seen by very few, if any, government MPs. After all, many of them still don't seem to understand that a great number of people oppose their budget because it is inherently unfair – that it places all of the pain on the less well-off in our society. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and many others just don't get it.  Many Coalition MPs still seem to believe that the policies can be delivered if they improve their communication strategy. In their self-centred view those benighted electors just don't understand.  In reality very large numbers of electors understand only too well.

The core of their problem is that they are out of touch with ordinary Australians.  They are purblind inhabitants of a series of ivory towers.

Until the Government starts to take effective action on climate change, it should stop using the argument of intergenerational theft to justify other aspects of policy.  That would eliminate one of the areas in which it renders itself ridiculous.

Northern Rivers

 Guest Speak is a North Coast Voices segment allowing serious or satirical comment from NSW Northern Rivers residents. Email ncvguestpeak at gmail dot com dot au to submit comment for consideration.

Monday, 30 June 2014

A matter for His Excellency Dr. Hassan Hanafy Mahmoud El-Laithy to ponder upon, as it reflects the view of many Australians concerning Egypt, its government, judiciary and people

Statement by the National Press Club of Australia


The National Press Club of Australia deplores the treatment of Australian journalist Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed s and appeals to the Egyptian authorities to ensure, even at this late stage, a sensible and truly just outcome.

By any reasonable assessment the saga involving Peter Greste and his Al-Jazeera colleagues represents a gross miscarriage of justice that the Egyptian Government must overturn.
Throughout the trial, the actions of Egyptian authorities have been unconscionable.

In the extraordinarily extended “trial” not a shred of evidence was produced in support of the charges against the journalists.

There was nothing in the proceedings to suggest that the authorities had the slightest appreciation of the role of journalists and journalism in society, nothing to suggest an appreciation of the damage being done to Egypt’s standing in the international community.

In the wake of this verdict, the claim by Egypt’s President al-Sisi, that the court was independent, respected and beyond criticism, lacks all credibility.

That the former head of the military chose to make such a statement at a military graduation ceremony is an ominous portent.

President al-Sisi must use his power to overturn the penalties imposed on these journalists who were doing no more than their professional duties – and, from the evidence, doing it well.

A failure to act will seriously diminish Egypt’s reputation and influence in regional and world affairs.

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