Posts Tagged ‘Privacy Issues’

Media Release: 23 November 2007: Democrats warn about Databases and Identity Theft


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ACT Democrats 2007

Media Release 23 November 2007

Democrats warn about Databases and Identity Theft

“How much personal data should the government be allowed to keep about people? Identity theft is a real concern and highlights the dangers of an Access Card” warns outspoken ID card/database opponent and Australian Democrats candidate for Fraser, Darren Churchill.

In July 2000 the Liberal government with the support of the Labor opposition set up Crimtrac, an agency supposedly to facilitate sharing of criminal information between states/territories. It also has access to information about minor traffic infringements and parking fines. And has recently been classified as an enforcement agency.

Last nights episode of Lateline, on ABC TV contained a report about two computer disks being stolen/missing from a government department in the United Kingdom due to an administrative bungle. The disks contained personal information about people receiving government benefits.

The Australian government plans to replace the Medicare Card with an Access Card (a national identity card with data storage and record keeping capabilities) by 2010.

“This shows why an identity card is such a ridiculous idea. Imagine what would happen with cards containing peoples’ personal information and able to be accessed by anyone with a scanner, being lost. Identity theft is allegedly the fastest growing white-collar crime in the UK. And the British had the sense not to go down the Identity Card line. But even that hasn’t avoided the loss of stored personal information.” Mr Churchill said.

“The questions that have to be answered are:

  • Does the government need to keep centralised personalised information?
  • How much information is allowed to be held about a person?
  • What right’s to challenge personal information held in databases (accuracy and whether the person wants that information held at all) are put in place?
  • How open, accountable transparent and available is a person’s right to know the information held about them?
  • And is there a limit on how long information can be held?”

We need answers to these questions!“ Mr Churchill insisted

“It is horrendous that the Liberals want to take us down this path. And that Labor won’t speak out against it.”

“We delude ourselves if we think large-scale identity theft can’t happen in Australia. Centralised databases and ID cards are a serious threat to privacy. We need safeguards to protect our personal financial, health and welfare information, and restriction on what is actually allowed to be held about people.” declared a concerned Mr Churchill.

Darren Churchill

Australian Democrats candidate for Fraser

0412 196 473


A national ID system too risky

Media Release: 20 November 2007: Only the Democrats will protect your privacy


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ACT Democrats 2007

Media Release 20 November 2007
Only the Democrats will protect your privacy

“We will stop mobile phones from being bugging devices!” declared privacy campaigner and Australian Democrats candidate for Fraser, Darren Churchill

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 which gives significant new powers to law enforcement agencies to listen to private conversations, was passed by the Liberal government with the support of the Labor opposition in September

There is no provision for them to require a warrant. And no accountability to the courts or to the parliament. The government plans to replace the Medicare Card with an Access Card (a national identity card) by 2010.

The Democrats Privacy Policy and Access Card survey were released by Senator Natasha Stott Despoja in Adelaide today.

“We need to reform the Privacy Act to give people greater protection. Our privacy laws haven’t kept pace with new technologies. Anti-terror laws forced through by the government and the opposition have increased the powers of enforcement agencies, but have failed to guarantee protection of privacy.” Mr Churchill said

“There is no accountability, no checks and balances under these laws. The Democrats are committed to reform the Privacy Act to ensure peoples’ privacy and to making sure the draconian anti-terror laws are wound back immediately”

“Peoples’ right to privacy includes being protected from the introduction of an Access Card. It is nothing short of a national identity card, and will create the largest mass centralisation of personal information we have ever seen in Australia” Mr Churchill said. “The government claims it won’t be compulsory, but people won’t be able to use government services without it. That mightn’t be technically compulsory, but it is coercion, a bit like the poll tax the Thatcher government had in the UK.”

“The Access Card is worse that the old Australia Card which was proposed in the 1980s because technology and the ability to store and track personal information is so much more sophisticated than it was back then”

Mr Churchill (who was involved in the anti-Australia Card rallies of 1986) said “Only by the Democrats using the balance of power to block the Australia Card were we able to see it eventually abandoned. Again, it is only the Democrats who will protect people from the Access Card and centralised data bases now.”

“Even the best intended privacy legislation will not prevent future governments from increasing the coverage and uses of the card (function creep). It has the potential to become a domestic passport and will enable peoples’ every movement to be tracked.” Mr Churchill said.

“The Democrats survey showed that 73% of people are opposed to an ID card outright. I will continue to campaign against an Access Card, as the Democrats and I have always done. Democrats are the only party that can be trusted to protect your privacy.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

Australian Democrats candidate for Fraser

0412 196 473

Media Release: 16-11-2007: Democrats demand full Inquiry into anti-terror laws


Bring Back Balance

ACT Democrats 2007

Media Release 16 November 2007

Democrats demand full Inquiry into anti-terror laws

“A full and wide ranging inquiry is needed into Australia’s anti-terror laws!” insists Australian Democrats candidate for Fraser, Darren Churchill.

Inquiries have been announced by both the Inspector-General of Intelligence & Security, Ian Carnell and the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty.

Mr Churchill said, “That’s not enough. It’s far too simplistic to assume that public confidence can be restored in our Federal police and Intelligence agencies by internal watchdog inquiries”

“There’s far too much power been given to our enforcement agencies under the government’s anti-terror laws. The courts have recognised the risk to basic human rights under the laws. At the very least, we need a Senate Select Inquiry to investigate the matter and redress the balance. The Ul-Haque and Haneef cases clearly show there are major problems”

“These intrusive and unfair laws were passed by the collusion of both Liberal and Labor. Only the Democrats have consistently questioned the lack of accountability under the laws.”

“I’ve often stated that our Parliament, courts and security agencies need to be accountable. That our freedoms are precious and need to be protected, not given away through legislation that seeks to control the very people it is supposed to protect. It is society at it’s worst when poor decisions in relation to our laws fail to uphold the very freedoms they claim to protect” stated a deeply concerned Mr Churchill

As recently as Tuesday, Mr Churchill had called for a review of the anti-terror laws, in the light of the Ul-Haque decision by Judge Michael Adams.

Darren Churchill

Australian Democrats candidate for Fraser

0412 196 473

My speech to The Justice Project – Human Rights Forum, Dickson College, 08/11/2007


(Thanks Kurt. I thank Matilda for her welcome and I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet).

Anti-terror laws are supposedly about risk mitigation, protecting us from a present risk of terrorism. What is the “present” risk of terrorism? The government is using the perceived risk of terrorism. to frighten us. The government thrives on creating a climate of fear. It used to be “reds under the beds” in the old days of the Cold War. Now it’s “terrorists behind the lampposts” or some other such phrase, for fostering fear, and making us suspicious of anyone who is visibly different from “us” (whatever “us” may be taken to mean). The perceived risk of terrorism is high. But the actual risk of terrorism is minimal by comparison.

Accountability is all about contestable decisions being heard by a court. The right to trial, the principle of habeas corpus, is a protection of liberty and enables people to challenge unlawful custody. There is a right to be heard: for decision makers to be unbiased, the right to know the evidence used against you and the right to know the case against you. This is referred to as “natural justice” (also known as “procedural fairness”). It prevents inaccurate results and means that you are able to defend yourself in court, where only relevant information is taken into account and irrelevant information is put aside (this is why the Haneef case was such a travesty) The courts have a role to act as a balance to the decisions of the executive. They can also act as a protection of peoples’ rights against overenthusiastic law enforcement agencies. (Especially when the government and opposition collude to increase the powers of those agencies, as happened recently).

A government has a duty and a fundamental responsibility to protect it’s citizens but this must be done in accordance with upholding the freedoms it is setting out to protect.

Even in the case of a “national emergency” such as war (or terrorism), basic human rights principles, our civil rights and freedoms (whether under statute or common law) as well as International Humanitarian Laws and the Geneva Conventions must be upheld.

There can still be a presumption against bail in dangerous and drugs cases. And if necessary an arrest order or warrant can still be issued in a very short period of time (about half an hour). But that doesn’t take away the right to have a person’s status determined by a court.

Politicians have an agenda. Courts, rely on evidence and development of the law. Keeping information “protected” from the court, or the defence, and closing courts from public view (except in cases justified to the court for the protection of one of the parties involved, eg. children, (or) domestic violence) (protected Information) involves a lack of scrutiny that risks poor decisions being made.

Our worst comes out when we justify poor decisions in the name of fighting threats of terror or war. When our rights and freedoms are eroded by government actions in the name of fighting some perceived threat to our freedoms, there is also an erosion of our morality. It occurs by undermining all we have worked towards in the evolution and historical development of our justice system. We throw it all out the window in a few short years when we fail to uphold the basic principles of justice on which our civilised society is built.

There is something morally wrong with imposing gaol sentences on journalists for reporting accountability issues. It is not about protecting people from terrorists. It is playing politics. Again, we have a situation of creating a climate of fear. No one is able to say anything, journalists become frightened to report anything for fear of imprisonment. This denies freedom of expression and a free press. It places our law enforcement agencies above the law, above scrutiny. It punishes freedom of information and takes away the publics’ right to be informed by a free and independent press

We need a balance, protecting us from excessive concentration of power by government . The separation of powers and the idea of responsible government as defined in the Australian Constitution is what is meant to give us the checks and balances between the branches of government without fear or interference. However, concentration of the government in the executive has increased with recent decisions by Ministers (such as the Attorney-General or Immigration Minister) to take powers away from the courts (as referred to above). We need to address constitutional reform to give greater clarification and definition to the relationship between the Executive, the Parliament and the Judiciary.

The Australian Democrats have long been the balance between the excessive power of Liberal (and) Labor governments. We will continue to fight for balance, for human rights and protection of privacy, freedom and accountability.

(Thank you).

(Speech given by me at the above meeting at approximately 6.45pm on 08/11/2007 addressing:

Does the “present risk of terrorism” justify:

– The new control orders. Which allow a person considered a threat to be restricted to their home where the person concerned has not been found guilty of an offence by a court?

– ASIO’s new power to detain a person suspected of being a terrorist but against whom there is not enough evidence to bring charges?

– laws that impose a 5 year gaol term on a journalist who reports the fact of a person held in detention under the powers referred to in the previous question?

- the new power of the Attorney-General to close courts to public view?

– the new power of the Attorney-General to prevent a litigant from seeing the evidence used against him or her?)

(Italicised parts of the main text are additional or “ad libs” to the original speech)

Draconian law highlights need for third-party role


The Liberal Government and Labor Opposition have voted for draconian laws in the House of Representatives.

I can only assume the two of them will do the same in the Senate.

The laws will give the police and ASIO the power to trace our mobile and internet activity without a warrant. Court approval will not be needed, nor will there be supervision of the process.

Labor and the Liberal/National Coalition have teamed up on a number of occasions to restrict the privacy of citizens and this is the latest example.

It is yet another example of a Government that is no longer accountable to the people because of a majority in both houses of Parliament and an ineffective Opposition that says “me too” to the Government’s agenda, providing no real alternative to a tired old government.

As always, it is up to the Australian Democrats to speak out. But what has a minority party, which for so many years has been the conscience of the Parliament, been able to do without having the balance of power?

This mobile and internet tapping issue is a matter that should be of concern to all Australians.

Our Parliament, courts and security agencies need to be accountable. Our freedoms are precious and need to be protected, not given away through legislation that seeks to control the very people it is supposed to protect.

With an election looming and the question of accountability at the heart of our democratic system, we need desperately to restore balance to the Senate.

We need a third party that will make government by and opposition from the major parties accountable. And to enable a brake on extreme legislation.

We probably have nothing to lose except freedom from overly powerful government and stand to gain more credibility than the opposition.

(This is a reproduction of my letter published in the Canberra Times, 21 September, 2007).

Why I oppose an ID card


The Access card is nothing short of a national identity card. The government has argued that it is not compulsory. However, citizens will not be able to obtain government health and welfare services without it. In fact, the Access Card website even states that from 2010, the Access Card will replace the Medicare Card. Effectively, it is every bit as compulsory as was the Thatcher government’s poll tax in the UK.

The Hawke government’s Australia Card in 1986/87 was considered such a threat to privacy that it was blocked three times in the Senate providing a possible trigger for a double dissolution. It was subsequently abandoned. The problems the Hawke government aimed to address with it’s Australia Card were subsequently address with the Tax File number, payment of welfare into bank accounts, the 100 point identification check. Photo ID’s acn be obtained, optionally, by anyone but they are not linked for access to anything (except perhaps in the case of driving or international travel).

The Howard government’s Access Card is far more of a threat than the Australia Card ever was. Modern surveillance technology, databases and photgraphic technology (biometrics) are far more sophisticated thatn they were in the 1980s – and the risks associated with them are consequently also far more sophistacted. Hackers, privacy concerns, monitoring of citizenry, the card becoming a domestic passport are all very real concerns and cannot be addressed by legislation. Even the best intended privacy legislation will not protect people from a more “power-and-control” orientated government than the current Australian government from increasing the scope and coverage of the card (function creep).

We mustn’t allow Australia to join such dubious company as Nazi Germany, occupied pre-unification Berlin, and white South Africa. I will fight to keep us free from an identity card.