Archive for the ‘Civil Liberties’ Category

Media Release: 30th June 2010: Random Drug testing law is costly and flawed, say Democrats

30/06/2010

DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 30th June 2010:

Random Drug testing law is costly and flawed, say Democrats

“The Legislative Assembly has failed Canberrans by passing a costly and flawed Random Drug Testing law.” says ACT Democrats President, Darren Churchill

The Oppositions’ Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) (Random Drug Testing) Amendment Bill 2009 was rushed through the Legislative Assembly today with support from the Liberals and the Greens, despite the ACT Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Helen Watchirs warning that the law would fail a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

“Dr Watchirs has repeated her concerns of two years ago that the legislation will breach the Human Rights Act. But the Assembly has gone ahead and passed this intrusive law anyway. “

“Not even so much as a statement of intent about “road safety” and simply ignoring the concerns of the Human Rights Commissioner. This clearly shows that the Liberals and the Greens are more concerned about increasing police powers than they are about human rights. And the Labor government is weak for not being able to negotiate a better outcome.” declared Mr Churchill

“Mr Stanhope was right to raise Dr Watchirs concerns. But it’s not enough. It is essential that all ACT legislation conform to our Human Rights Act 2004, which both the Labor government and the Australian Democrats have championed as being a good model for similar national legislation.”

“On top of this there is the added problem of stretching already insufficient police resources in order to implement the scheme. There will be no increases in police resources and training despite the time taken to test people and the cost involved, diverting police resources from solving real crime.”

“The law will make a mockery of the rules of evidence by disregarding the level of a drug required for impairment. This is just a facade of trying to appear tough on drugs with no real intention of improving road safety or public safety. Surely, it would be better to utilise police resources in improving the overall enforcement of traffic laws and other laws?” Mr Churchill continued.

“This law should be repealed and should not be re-introduced until there is a proven scientific method of measuring the relationship between different quantities and types of drugs and the level of impairment to driving associated with them for a legislated drug induced impairment equivalent to 0.05 Blood Alcohol Concentration scientifically established.”

“The law must also be written to conform with our excellent Human Rights Act 2004.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

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Media Release: 30th June 2010: Proposed drug testing law raises human rights and effectiveness concerns, say Democrats

29/06/2010

DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 30th June 2010:

Proposed drug testing law raises human rights and effectiveness concerns, say Democrats

“The proposed Random Roadside Drug Testing legislation must be based on driver impairment levels and take account of the requirements of the Human Rights Act,” says ACT Democrats President, Darren Churchill

The Oppositions’ Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) (Random Drug Testing) Amendment Bill 2009 is expected to be debated by the ACT Assembly this week. The government has already referred the Bill to the Police Chief and the Human Rights Commissioner for comment.

“We await with anticipation the report of the Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Watchirs,’ Mr Churchill said. “In a speech in 2008, Dr Watchirs outlined the need for human rights to be at the centre of the discussion and raised concerns about Random Drug Testing being compatible with the Human Rights Act 2004, particularly in relation to ‘arbitrary detention/arrest of the individual, subjecting people to have medical treatment without free consent, an arbitrary interference with their privacy, arguably creating problems of an unfair trial; negatively impacting on children’s rights.’

“No wonder Mr Stanhope has referred the proposed legislation to Dr Watchirs again! Our Human Rights Act is landmark legislation and has been widely championed by both the government and the Australian Democrats as being a good model for similar national legislation.”

“If it does meet the human rights test, other things the ACT Democrats would expect to see in the legislation are:

· An “intent” clause to ensure that the Bill is for “road safety” and not for any other purpose. This would allow protection of persons randomly tested to ensure the results of any specimens collected under the legislation will not be able to be used to establish any offence that is not related to road safety;

· Is there balanced and reasonable science from other Australian jurisdictions that Random Drug Testing is effective in contributing to improved road safety? Perhaps we need a “sunset clause” after which time the effectiveness of the legislation in it’s intent can be evaluated and reviewed, and if not effective that it be discontinued;

· an impairment provision to determine what level of a drug in the body is proven to impair driving to the equivalent of a 0.05% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Something such as the Standardised Field Sobriety Test (SFST) currently used in some form in US, NZ and Europe. This could be replaced by other more scientific tests as the research becomes available and enable testing for impairment by licit as well as illicit drugs;

· the removal or modification of Clause 12A (2) which could allow a pedestrian, a passenger or anyone at all to be tested and prosecuted. It should be deleted from the bill or clarified as to whom it refers;

· The increases in police resources and training that would be needed to implement such a costly and questionable scheme would perhaps be better utilised by improving the overall enforcement of traffic laws.”

“I made a submission (on behalf of the ACT Democrats), to Territory and Municipal Services just over two years ago where I raised many of the above points. It seems that more than two years down the track, we are still unable to determine an effective scientific or human rights basis for this legislation.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 14th June, 2010: Rudd government scared of everyone and everything.

14/06/2010

DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 14th June, 2010:

Rudd government scared of everyone and everything.

“First there was the seriously flawed internet filter, that expected ISPs to block web sites on a secret, arbitrary government list. Now there is the equally flawed proposal by the Attorney-General, which expects ISPs to record every web site you visit and keep copies of all your emails”, said ACT Democrats President and Privacy campaigner, Darren Churchill today.

The proposal is modelled on British legislation where telephone and Internet companies are forced to log details of communications for up to two years. But, only details about the date and time of each phone call, or each time a user connects to the Internet, are collected. The content of each communication is not stored.

“The Australian version is much more draconian. It contains no need for an interception warrant, as is required under current law. As far back as 2004, the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) executive director Irene Graham said the that the then Telecommunications Interception Legislation Amendment Bill “would remove all protection on users’ privacy and private e-mails and SMS messages would be easily accessible by government agencies”. And now the government wants to take us either further down this totally illiberal path.” stated Mr Churchill.

“Another major concern is the elimination of restrictions on how long the collected information will be kept by the government agency and to what extent it will be used.”

“Like the Internet filter, the Internet interception won’t work – for the same reasons. The real criminals will use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and encryption to avoid being caught.”

“So, what will the Bill achieve? It will place a massive storage burden on ISPs. It will significantly slow the Internet – on top of the slowing caused by the Internet filter. It will create a vast security problem – every ISP will have to keep these records secure and private, and there will be many copies at many ISPs for hackers to attack. It is a gross invasion of civil liberties and of personal privacy!” declared Mr Churchill.

“The government must explain why they regard this sort of legislation as necessary. If they claim it’s for our protection – then protection from whom? From what? And how do they believe the existing laws don’t do this already?”

Mr Churchill said, “The Democrats call on the Rudd government to stop being Big-Brother – stop treating ordinary, everyday people as if they are criminals. Don’t introduce draconian legislation that won’t even achieve the stated goals. Do the hard yards and find a solution that works without the flaws. And, the Democrats believe that existing legislation can achieve what is required.”

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 26th February, 2010: Proposed police powers laws labelled “Draconian” by Democrats

26/02/2010

DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 26th February, 2010:

Proposed police powers laws labelled “Draconian” by Democrats

ACT Democrats President and civil libertarian, Darren Churchill has urged Assembly members to avoid legislating draconian laws when they consider the government’s Crimes (Surveillance Devices) Bill and Serious and Organised Crimes Bill, introduced into the Legislative Assembly yesterday.

News reports yesterday stated that the government had introduced new ACT legislation to give police increased powers in fighting organised crime.

“We don’t want to see a local version of the draconian laws introduced in other States!” Mr Churchill declared.

“There need to be strong safeguards to protect against the misuse of electronic surveillance. Can we be assured that the forms of surveillance mentioned in the legislation will only ever be used with a warrant? And only ever when there is reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime?”

“What guarantees are there that the “Emergency authorisation” provisions under Section 25 of the Crimes (Surveillance Devices) Bill will only ever be used in an emergency – and not just as an excuse to inappropriately assume extra surveillance powers?” questioned Mr Churchill

“Section 35A of the Serious and Organised Crimes Bill creates a new offence of “Affray.” This makes it an offence to threaten someone with unlawful violence or make them fear for their safety.”

“Doesn’t this already exist under the offence of “Assault”? We need to see clarification as to how the interpretation of these offences differs. Or is the government just trying to sound tough?” continued Mr Churchill.

“And surely penalties should be prescribed by the courts, not by legislation.”

“We are also concerned about the ACT Government’s plan to make it illegal to participate in a group which may or may not be labelled as illegal. Under Section 652 of the Serious and Organised Crimes Bill, it says that:

“A person commits an offence if the person—

(c) knows, or ought to have known, that the person’s participation

in the criminal group contributes to criminal activity.”

“I don’t think it is wise to concentrate heavily on membership of groups and the Australian Crime Commission has already said so in a submission to the Federal Government. Focusing on group activity is not an effective way to fight organised crime.”

“Alleged criminals should be charged for an offence they commit as individuals, but it is not right nor appropriate to charge someone for the group they may belong to and the people they associate with.”

“There are serious freedom of association issues at stake here, which echo the anti-bikie laws in other jurisdictions.” warned Mr Churchill

“A properly resourced and increasingly visible police presence would surely be more effective in combating all types of criminal activity, rather than invasive surveillance technology and draconian increases to police powers. The well-intentioned efforts to fight organised crime should not be at a cost of personal freedom. We don’t want to see organised crime legislation become the anti-terror legislation of the new decade.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473