Articles

AboutMe is to privacy as FYI is to the OIA

The New Zealand Privacy Commissioner has launched a new tool, AboutMe, to help people request their personal infomation from a wide range of government agencies and businesses.

Libertywatch March 2016

Round up of civil liberty related news in March 2016.

Libertywatch February 2016

Round up of civil liberty related news from February 2016.

Criminal Justice

More prison cells could be 'double-bunked'

Up to 130 more prison cells could be "double-bunked" to cope with an unexpected increase in the prison population, Corrections chief Ray Smith said while facing questions in a select committee about plans to cope with a record-high prison muster. 

The gaping hole at the heart of the Intelligence Review

The need to maintain both security and the rights and liberties of New Zealanders has been at the forefront of our minds.

If your report into the intelligence services has a title like 'Intelligence and Security in a Free Society', surely you've got some obligation to put a bit of effort into the "free society" part?

Libertywatch January 2016

Corruption Index

New Zealand falls again in Corruption Index

New Zealand has fallen to fourth place in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). This is its second consecutive drop in a survey it has previously topped 7 times because of the corruption-free reputation of its public sector.

"Our government must act immediately to re-establish New Zealand's stand-out reputation for a trusted public sector…New Zealand trades on its corruption free reputation", said Transparency International New Zealand Chair, Suzanne Snively. 

Libertywatch December 2015

A round up of civil liberty related news articles from December 2015.

Libertywatch November 2015

Round up of civil liberty news from November 2015.

Government ignores High Court, won't change prisoner voting law

The Government has now given its answer - "The Government has no current plans to introduce legislation allowing prisoners to vote."

When the Government passed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill in 2010 it chose to ignore the submissions from civil society groups, it chose to ignore the Attorney-General, and it chose to ignore the NZ Bill of Rights Act. It also ignored the landmark case in the European Court of Human Rights case where a similar ban on prisoner voting was found to be against the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government has now chosen to also ignore the High Court of New Zealand and its declaration that the law is inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Libertywatch October 2015

A round-up of civil liberties related news from October 2015.

 

Police control of information is anti-democratic and must stop

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned about the revelations from Dr Jarrod Gilbert today. In his article in the NZ Herald, he asserts that the Police:

Chairperson's Report 2015

I was elected as the chairperson of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties at last year’s AGM. At the time I wrote about how and why civil liberties matter to me. Ultimately I, “…believe that a freedom and rights-based democracy is the best way to build a society that gives everyone the chance to be the best they can be.”

But when I look at the events of the past year, I fear that we’re going backwards.

NZ spies deny public relations blitz

The SIS and GCSB both deny creating a communications plan/media strategy for the 2015 Intelligence Review. Apparently the wave of public appearances around the time when public submissions closed (feature in the Listener, radio interviews, newspaper articles) was all just a coincidence.

Libertywatch September 2015

A round-up of civil liberties related news from September 2015.

 

Publishing legal opinions - the SIS and GCSB respond

Back in March we wrote a letter to the NZSIS and GCSB with a suggestion about how they could improve transparency and oversight without risking New Zealand's security. We also copied the letter to the IGIS to see if they had any comment. Our suggestion was:

It is my understanding that the GCSB | SIS does prepare legal analyses of the various parts of the Act so as to ensure that staff act within the letter of the law. My suggestion is that the agency should make these legal analyses (edited for security reasons as required) publicly available. As these legal analyses would only discuss the publicly available law, I believe that making them public would not risk New Zealand's security. This would lead to a better public understanding of what the GCSB | SIS can and cannot do under the current law thereby reducing uncertainty and increasing trust.

After some nagging of a rather tardy GCSB, we now have responses from all three.

Letter: Where's the govt action on prisoners' right to vote?

We are concerned by the lack of action from the Government in response to Arthur Taylor's successful challenge to the law taking away prisoner's right to vote. The decision of the High Court to declare the law to be inconsistent with the NZ Bill of Rights Act is unprecedented and surely calls for a legislative response.

Accordingly we have written to Amy Adams, the Minister of Justice, and Chris Finlayson, the Attorney-General, to ask them how and when they intend to remedy the situation.

Libertywatch August 2015

A round up of civil liberty related news from August 2015.

Libertywatch July 2015

A round-up of civil liberty news from New Zealand.

 

Return prisoners' right to vote

The recent decision in Taylor v Attorney-General is intriguing in several respects. This decision is the first occasion that a High Court Judge has gone so far as to issue a formal declaration that a law breaches the BORA. The legal and constitutional aspects have already been addressed by other commentators, this is essentially a civil liberties perspective.

 

Secret trials by stealth

The New Zealand Law Society has pointed out that last-minute changes to the Health & Safety Reform Bill brings in secret court hearings.

People's Review of the Intelligence Service 2015

It's the final day for submissions to the Government's Intelligence Review.

To mark the day, and as a reaction to the inadequacies of the official review, the Stop the Spies coalition has released the People's Review of the Intelligence Services.

Speech: The corrosive effects of spying on New Zealand’s democracy

Edited text of speech given by Thomas Beagle to Get Smart in Wellington and Auckland.


Freedom of expression

I’m involved with the NZ Council for Civil Liberties because I’m a fan of democracy. It’s common these days to sneer at democracy, but I believe it’s still the best way we’ve found to organise ourselves on a large scale.

But democracy relies on civil liberties, and in particular, the liberty that underpins it is freedom of expression.

This is not just the right to speak, it’s also the right to listen, to find out things, to share information, to exchange views with others. It covers ideas and speech in the mainstream and it also covers radical ideas, new ideas that challenge us, ideas that are at the time obviously ridiculous.

Get Smart - the Intelligence Review

The Intelligence Review is a review of New Zealand's intelligence services being conducted by Michael Cullen (ex-politician) and Patsy Reddy (lawyer and board member). 

Our view

We have serious concerns about government spying in New Zealand. We believe that government spying has the potential to seriously undermine democracy and civil society.

The extent of New Zealand's participation in the Five Eyes global spy network has shocked us, and the carefully phrased denials about mass spying on New Zealanders are not particularly comforting.

Public meetings

To help compensate for the lack of public consultation, the NZ Council for Civil Liberties is pleased to announce that we are hosting public meetings in Wellington (6pm July 29th) and Auckland (6pm August 6th).

FYI - the Official Information Act site

Passed in 1982, the Official Information Act marked an important change in the accountability and transparency of New Zealand's government. No more would government information default to being kept secret, now the expectation was that it would be released to anyone in the country who asked for it (there are grounds for refusing - see the act for details).

Libertywatch June 2015

Criminal Justice

Police & Corrections criticised over prison death

A Coroner has criticised police and the Department of Corrections for their roles in the death of remand prisoner Jai Davis at a South Otago jail.

The 30-year-old died in a prison cell in February 2011 from a suspected drug overdose after arriving at Otago Corrections Facility near Milton with drugs concealed internally.

Govt's lack of response to the Constitutional Advisory Panel Report

In November 2013 the Constitutional Advisory Panel delivered its report to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Māori Affairs.  The Ministers then submitted a final report to Cabinet.  The Report is therefore with the New Zealand Government and it is the practice that the Government provides a response to the report within 6 months; this ought to have occurred during 2014, even with the delay around the General Election.   

Libertywatch May 2015

Assisted dying

Terminally Ill woman acts for right to assisted dying

A woman who has terminal brain cancer has said in a statement to court that she will face a choice between taking her own life or suffering a slow and painful death, if a doctor cannot lawfully help her die.

Lecretia Seales has gone to court for clarification of whether the Crimes Act prevents a doctor from helping her to die without then being charged themselves.

A suggestion for increasing intelligence service transparency

The Director
GCSB
Wellington

Dear Una Jagose,

I have a suggestion for the GCSB that I believe could help with transparency and oversight without risking New Zealand's security.

Why spying for another country matters

This morning the New Zealand Herald in conjunction with Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Nicky Hager have alleged that the GCSB (Government Communications and Security Bureau) has been spying on countries in the Pacific. The spying is allegedly not just for our benefit, we are spying on these countries on the behalf of the United States and other members of the Five Eyes security alliance.

Media release: Council refuses to take part in farcical submissions process for Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill

Media Release
27th November 2014

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties refuses to take part in the submissions process around the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill.

Thomas Beagle, Chairperson, "Giving people just two days to make a submission is farcical. It's a parody of proper consultation and New Zealand's democratic process."

New chairperson - why civil liberties matter and what we need to do

We recently held our AGM and I'm proud to have been elected as the new Chairperson for the NZ Council for Civil Liberties.

Civil liberties matter to me. I believe that a freedom and rights-based democracy is the best way to build a society that gives everyone the chance to be the best they can be. Furthermore I believe that New Zealand can be that society.

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