Liberty Watch April-May 2016

Round up of civil liberty news for April and May.


Wicked Campers slogans ruled objectionable by Chief Censor

Three slogans on the vans of tourist rental company, Wicked Campers, have been ruled R16 by the Chief Censor and are now "objectionable publications".

The ruling against the three slogans means Wicked Campers faces a fine of up to $200,000 for each instance in which vans with the slogans are caught out in public. Enforcement is down to the police, which was the agency that raised the issue with the Chief Censor.

Associate Minister of Tourism Paula Bennett said slogans that promoted drug use and sexual violence "totally overstep the mark". She said further rulings were to come from the Chief Censor with the current three being those issues first raised.

The vans affected by the ban are those carrying slogans that linked drug use to images recognisable by children. One carried an image of Snow White using what appeared to be a crack cocaine pipe, while another featured cartoon characters Scooby Doo and Shaggy smoking marijuana. The third van to have its slogan banned showed a Dr Seuss character also talking about smoking marijuana. 

The Chief Censor's decision shows that Ford Sumner lawyers were hired by Wicked Campers, and relied on an argument of "humour through social commentary" to defend the slogans.

The submission from the law firm to the Chief Censor said the slogans "attract and reflects Wicked's young customer base through its extensive use of popular culture touchstones".

Wicked Campers said it would be an unreasonable limitation on freedom of expression to rule against the slogans when "painting a vehicle with artistic imagery and provocative phrases is no different from an individual displaying artwork in a gallery".

The Chief Censor's ruling said the three vans "promote and encourage criminal acts". While saying the material was shown in a humorous way, there was concern it would attract children and teenagers who might then see the displayed drug use as "funny and cool".

Freedom of speech was also considered, but the ruling said the overwhelming balance fell against open publication. The ruling found the slogans were R16 content, then invited Wicked Campers to raise the issue again if it found a way to display the content without those under-16 years of age seeing it.


New Zealand Herald 28/4/16


Criminal Justice

Prisons to introduce visitor new approval process for children

Rules surrounding children visiting prisoners will be tightened around the country following safety concerns.

From September all child visitors will have to be approved before they can visit a prison. It was previously up to parents, caregivers and guardians to decide whether it was appropriate to bring someone under-16 to prison. Some prisoners, such as those with convictions for hurting children, may have restrictions placed on the contact they have with child visitors.

Corrections Department service development deputy chief executive Jo Field said applications would be assessed on a-case-by-case basis. "To do that we need to know who the children are and how they are connected to the prisoner they are visiting,” she said.

The application process for a child will be similar to that for adults: Prisoners typically send a private visitor application form to any person they would like visits from.  The forms typically ask their name, date of birth, relationship to the prisoner, and any criminal history. The visitor completes the form and sends it back to the prison for approval. Child visitor application forms can be sent to the child's guardian to complete on their behalf.

"One of the key benefits of the work we are doing in requiring child visitors to be approved will be robust data on the number of children visiting prisoners, giving us the ability to reliably report on this information."

Deputy national commissioner Rachel Leota said the primary motive for the new rules was child safety.

"Knowing who the children are and how they are connected to the prisoner they are visiting plays a key role in this.


The Dominion Post 3/4/2016


Fears proposed Bill could leave addicts languishing in cells

A court judge who presides over one of the country's busiest courts has criticised a proposed Bill which he says could see drug and alcohol addicts forced to languish in a police cell before being admitted to secure treatment centres.

District Court Judge Philip Recordon said the Substance Addiction Bill did not yet have the safeguards to ensure individual rights are protected. 

The proposed Substance Addiction Bill replaces the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act and allows for the compulsory assessment and treatment of drug and alcohol addicts. In a six-page submission to Parliament's health committee, Judge Recordon said he supported the intent of the proposed new Bill, but was worried individual rights were not protected.

"Is it anticipated that under the bill, individuals will have to wait in securely contained in police cells without access to lawyers?

"We anticipate that such an arrangement will not sit favourably with the police who understandably do not like holding those with clear mental health issues, and who are already called on too often to do this."

Judge Recordon also said he had been made aware of 14- and 15-year-olds having to spend four to five nights in police cells, due to a lack of secure community facilities.

The Human Rights Commission agreed there was a real possibility patients could be held in police cells or other substandard places for long periods of time before being admitted. Chief legal adviser Janet Anderson-Bidois said adult addicts could be held for up to 27 days in such conditions before a decision was made to admit them for treatment. As a safeguard, she said there should be an urgent review process with a turnaround of 48 hours.

The health committee is due to report back in September. 19/5/16


Human Rights 

UN concern at Māori in prison

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has criticised New Zealand’s record on Māori unemployment, imprisonment, the foreshore and seabed and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The committee has just finished its sixth periodic report on a range of issues submitted by the government and by non-government organisations including iwi.

Among the positive moves since the last report it identified the law banning foreign charter fishing vessels, the 2014 Vulnerable Children Act, the adoption of a Māori action plan for disability support services and the Ka Hikitia Māori education strategy.

But it was concerned the Government continues to pass laws that are inconsistent with the 1990 Bill of Rights and with the UN Convention on Human Rights.

It also said New Zealand needs to address the high Māori and Pasifika unemployment, especially among women and young people, and needs to do something about the disproportionately high rate of Māori at all levels of the criminal justice system including prison.

Other concerns include whether the replacement for the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the Māori and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act of 2011 has helped any Māori secure rights to their customary land, and that there wasn’t enough engagement with Māori before the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership. 5/4/16



Amnesty criticises denial of visa to Iranian filmmaker

A visa was granted for an Iranian filmmaker to attend documentary festival in New Zealand after a petition attracted around 1000 names.

Amnesty International had criticised the original decision to deny a visa to Iranian film director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, who visited New Zealand during the Documentary Edge Film Festival.

A human rights activist, Ghaemmaghami was invited to speak at screenings of the documentary and also to feature as a guest speaker at an international industry event.

“Film directors are often the target of crackdowns by governments in their own countries, but it is deeply concerning to see our own country rejecting this visa application”, said Margaret Taylor, activism manager at Amnesty International, at the time of the original decision.

“Rokhsareh plans to visit several other countries such as Australia, Turkey and the United States on her worldwide tour to promote this documentary, so it’s surprising that New Zealand has rejected her application on the grounds that she may be a flight risk.”


Asia Pacific Report 18/4/16; The Daily Blog 21/4/16


LGBTI Rights

Transgender woman 'humiliated' after told she can't board Jetstar flight

A transgender woman who was unable to board a flight because she didn't have identification has described the experience as humiliating. Jetstar has apologised to Darci-Lee Hume of Christchurch, who said she was due to board a flight out of Christchurch airport with a friend yesterday morning, but was not able to check in.

She told Fairfax the pair were asked to show identification by Jetstar staff. The friend used a bankcard, but Miss Hume did not have any ID so was not allowed to board the flight. Because Miss Hume is a transgender woman, her ticket was booked with the honorific "Miss".

But she said staff told her that her details didn't match, Fairfax reported.

"When they came to me they said 'your details don't match up'. Miss Hume alleges she spoke to a manager who said her details didn't match up, saying, “you are clearly not a Miss, Sir”.

Miss Hume said she had "never felt so humiliated".

A Jetstar spokesman told Fairfax that Ms Hume's gender was not an issue when they asked for identification, and regretted any offence caused. For travel within New Zealand, the airline requires that identification be shown if requested.


New Zealand Herald 8/4/16


School installs toilet for transgender pupil

A popular Auckland primary school has been praised for installing a unisex toilet to help a 6-year-old transgender pupil feel safe and accepted. The toilet was installed earlier this year with the support of the Board of Trustees and the Education Ministry after the child's transition from boy to girl.

The reporting newspaper, the Herald on Sunday chose not to name the school to protect the child's privacy, but stated that sources said that schoolmates have happily accepted the child's transition and parents who know the girl have also been supportive.

The school's board chairman said their decision was about supporting a pupil. "We have a policy of safety around identity and culture, and that includes gender. We feel strongly that every child deserves to feel safe in the school environment."

Duncan Matthews from Rainbow Youth applauded the school."It is awesome the school has taken active steps helping those people who wouldn't feel comfortable using a gender-specific bathroom," he said. "It is great this school is leading the way to show other schools the sky doesn't fall down if you have a gender-neutral or unisex bathroom."

A recent youth survey revealed 1.2 per cent of New Zealand school-aged children identified as transgender, over 3000 in Auckland, and more than 9000 nationwide. It is not known how many primary-age children are transgender and the Ministry of Education said it did not keep such figures.

Katrina Casey from the Ministry said unisex bathrooms were becoming common at schools and there were no separate boys and girls toilets in new builds. "Our standard design is for individual self-contained bathrooms that can be used by either gender," she said.

Last year the ministry revised sexuality education guidelines which included the suggestion of gender-neutral uniforms and a review of toilet spaces.

Earlier this year, two Wellington secondary schools decided to fit gender-neutral bathrooms for students who felt uncomfortable using "male" or "female" bathrooms. Wellington High School has already transformed its boys' bathroom into gender-neutral facilities and Onslow College is about to do the same, spending thousands of dollars to convert an old block of girls' toilets.


Herald on Sunday 15/5/16



Government agencies to share data

The government wants to bring together the data held by 10 government agencies so that more can be known about New Zealanders.

The agencies include health, education, social development, justice and Inland Revenue, creating what the government calls a "data highway".It is planned to give government workers access to it, even on their Smartphones, so they can draw information on people from multiple sources before making decisions that affect them.

Bill English, the Finance Minister has also said he wants to go much further, and use the information to target families and funding, like Facebook uses its algorithms to target adverts. "We're not looking at reducing privacy or confidentiality," he says. "We're looking at sharing it."

The sharing is already well underway in what's called the Integrated Data Infrastructure, which already has 166 billion facts and 177 active projects. Mr. English is already using it to turn down funding for proposals in this year's Budget. 19/4/16


Kiwis to Government: ‘Don’t share our social media records’

New Zealanders are more worried about government agencies sharing their social media records than their credit history, income details, family court records and even their suspected but unproven criminal activity. That’s just one of the findings in a newly released report from Perspective, Colmar Brunton’s regular social research study, that reveals what New Zealanders think about government departments sharing information.

Group Account Director, Social Research Agency, Dr Andrew Robertson says 77% of New Zealanders oppose government agencies accessing their social media records without permission. “The sensitivity around social media is a little surprising given the public nature of social media activity itself,” he says. “Kiwis need to realise that their social media activity can not only be extremely widely viewed but is also discoverable in the legal sense.”

“It’s likely that for many New Zealanders, the social media voyage of discovery over the past decade has been one of ‘post first, think later’, with people only recently beginning to understand the implications of their online activity.” Dr Robertson says the other types of information Kiwis are most protective of could be described as inherently private matters.

The top five information types Kiwis oppose being shared by government agencies without permission are financial assets and savings (90%), sexual orientation (83%), history of physical illness and treatment (80%) and history of mental illness and treatment (78%), ahead of social media records in fifth place. 

Dr Robertson says the survey was carried out in the context of the Government’s ‘data highway’, initiated in 2015. Under this scheme departments including Health, Education, Social Development, Justice, Inland Revenue and eventually all others, will be able to share information easily between each other.

“Kiwis have mixed views on this idea. More than a third (36%) disagree with government departments sharing personal information but almost half (47%) agree with the move and 14% are neutral about it,” he says.

The information Kiwis are most relaxed about government departments accessing without permission includes their country of birth (77%), criminal convictions (75%), date of birth (69%), whether a person has a passport (69%) and whether a person has been declared bankrupt (66%). 19/5/16


Security and Intelligence Services

SIS data protection shows 'significant' failings – report 

A report into the Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) has found "significant shortcomings" when it comes to data protection. The first part of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security's review into how the spy agency holds and uses information collected for assessing security clearances was recently released.

In it, Inspector General Cheryl Gwyn says while there are strengths to their processes, there were also major problems around the access and use of vetting information. "I recognise the serious commitment to privacy that is made by the SIS staff who undertake this difficult and sensitive work.  What is also needed, and what is required in any Government agency that deals with personal information, are systemic safeguards to back up and verify that commitment," Ms Gwyn said. 

"For instance, I found electronic records for the largest category of clearance holders and candidates were accessible at any time to 60 or so staff who carry out security clearances."

Under standard data protection requirements, staff should only have access to files they're working on and only while the files are active.

Ms Gwyn has recommended the SIS has stronger systems to track access to files, record and check the reasons for accessing them and making clear the conditions information can be collected and used.

As part of its job, the SIS is required to undertake inquiries into whether people should be granted New Zealand Government security clearance which is required to access classified information as part of their work. Security clearances require the SIS to look into a person's personal and professional life, which amounts to a "large volume" of highly personal and sensitive information.

"In both sensitivity and scale, the SIS’s records are one of the most substantial compilations of personal data about New Zealanders that the Government holds," Ms Gwyn says.

It completes around 5000 of these inquiries per year.

The Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, said the report shows, “the fact that they [the SIS] have not been adequately protecting this information is very concerning,"  

"Many New Zealanders should be worried about how the SIS has been using their private information and how many people may have seen it," she said.

The Director of the SIS has accepted the report's findings and recommendations, and work has already begun on making changes. 7/4/16



'Innate tension' stops GCSB helping other agencies

An "innate tension" in the current law has stopped the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) help other agencies by monitoring New Zealanders' private communications, the new director of the intelligence agency says. Andrew Hampton, who has been in the role for almost a month, said the current legislation contained an "innate tension, or some would say a contradiction". 

"On the one hand saying we are prohibited from intercepting the communications of New Zealanders, but at the same time it says we are able to help agencies do [so]. So I think that tension probably drives a bit of conservatism." 

Mr Hampton said another reason the bureau had acted conservatively was after "challenges" in recent years, such as the public outcry over the GCSB's possibly unlawful spying on New Zealanders, uncovered in the 2012 review by Rebecca Kitteridge. 

"We now have a very healthy culture of compliance. I am satisfied that everything that the bureau does, there are systems and processes in place to ensure that it is both in accordance with the law, and in accordance with our national interest. 

A recent broad-sweeping intelligence review by Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy recommended the agencies effectively work as one agency, and the GCSB be given the power to spy on New Zealanders for itself, rather than on behalf of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS). 

The report noted that the outcry following the Kitteridge report had made the agency reluctant to undertake intelligence work for other agencies like the SIS, even after the law was changed to specifically allow it soon after that report. 


Otago Daily Times 24/5/16