Tuesday, August 20, 2013

GCSB Bill expected to pass final reading; debate underway - TVNZ

One of the most polarising pieces of legislation in recent history is expected to pass into law this afternoon.

The GCSB amendment Bill, which will give the Government Communications Security Bureau power to provide support for the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service, will have its third and final reading this evening.

Prior to the vote, Prime Minister John Key has defended the legislation, telling Parliament that the law is necessary so that intelligence agencies can do their jobs properly.

"It isn't a revolution in the way New Zealand conducts its intelligence operations. It is not about expanding the powers of a mysterious intelligence empire.

"It simply makes clear what the GCSB may and may not do, and it fixes an Act passed under the Labour Government a decade ago which is not, and probably never has been, fit for purpose.

Mr Key also emphasised that warrants to allow for spying would not be given out without approval from the top.

"The Bill requires GCSB to get a warrant from the independent Commissioner of Security Warrants and me before it can intercept a New Zealander's communications.
"That warrant must be issued for a particular function, in this case cyber security. The clear intention of that function is to protect, not to spy," he said.

Mr Key also rejected Opposition claims that the GCSB be able to conduct "mass surveillance".

"There have been claims this Bill offers no protection of metadata and allows for wholesale collection of metadata without a warrant. None of that is true.
"Metadata is treated the same in this Bill as the content of a communication.

"So when the GCSB wants to access metadata, it is treated with the same level of seriousness and protection as if the GCSB was accessing the actual content of a communication. And there are protections around that," he said.

The Government's push to get the bill through Parliament has seen thousands turn out at protest marches and public meetings, as well some high-profile opposition and the latest twist, a promise from Prime Minister John Key that he will resign if there are any major mistakes with the new law.

However, Labour is still pushing for changes to the Bill.

Yesterday, Labour leader David Shearer proposed that restrictions to curb the GCSB's ability to access New Zealanders' email content should be added to the law.

Mr Shearer reached out to United Future leader Peter Dunne, who holds one of the deciding votes, yesterday morning in a last ditch effort to change bill.

But it wasn't soon enough, Mr Dunne said.

"That is far too late for a serious amendment of this type," he said.

MPs urged to break rank

Speakers at a meeting in the Auckland Town Hall on Monday night, which attracted more than 1000 people, urged MPs to vote against the proposal.

"I think it will pass unless there is a brave National MP who's not following John Key blindly into disaster," internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom told the meeting.

Mr Dotcom if one of the key figures in the fight against the bill, after it was discovered that he was being monitored illegally.

"Maybe we'll get lucky and one of those 50 National Party members will have a conscience," added Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.

However, ONE News Deputy Political Editor Jessica Mutch said it was unlikely the meeting would change the way MPs vote.

"It would be a pretty brave National MP that would cross the floor over this issue, but whether they genuinely think they can change MPs minds, that's probably a little naive," she told TV ONE's Breakfast.

Mutch said the Government has to rush the process through as there is currently no legislation for the GCSB.

"We're in limbo, and in an ideal world it would be great if we could get cross-party consensus," she said.

"Politically the Government has to rush this through and they're in this precarious position where they have to get this through with just one vote."

The GCSB bill passed its second reading by 61 votes to 59 on August 1, after Act leader John Banks and independent MP Peter Dunne agreed to support the Government.

Today, Mr Key thanked Mr Dunne and Mr Banks for their support.

"I acknowledge Mr Dunne and Mr Banks for their efforts to strengthen this legislation, it is a better Bill for their imput," he said.

The revised GSCB bill now includes a code of principles for the spy agency to follow as well as the introduction of an oversight panel.

Copyright © 2013, Television New Zealand Limited. Breaking and Daily News, Sport & Weather | TV ONE, TV2 | Ondemand

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