Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GCSB Bill expected to pass final reading - TVNZ

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

Debate is currently raging in Parliament, with MPs arguing through the controversial legislation's final reading.

The GCSB amendment Bill, will give the spy agency the power to provide support for the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service.

Prime Minister John Key launched the debate this afternoon by defending the Bill, saying that it would not give the GCSB sweeping powers to spy.

"It [the Bill] 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," he said.

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," he said.

The Prime Minister also rejected Opposition claims that the Bill would allow "wholesale spying on New Zealanders".

"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," Mr Key said.

"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 explained.

Mr Key also said that the Bill allows for conditions to put on warrants.

"I will not allow cyber security warrants in the first instance to give GCSB access to the content of New Zealanders' communications.

"There will be times where a serious cyber intrusion is detected against a New Zealander and the GCSB will then need to look at content - that's why the law allows that. But that should be the end point, not the starting point," he said.

During the debate, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson emphasised that the legislation allows for a review of the GCSB in 2015 and every five to seven years thereafter.

'A sad day'

In response, Labour leader David Shearer said that Mr Key had left it too late to clarify aspects of the Bill.

"This is a sad day, we are passing legislation that is ad hoc, that is Mickey Mouse, that you have to have a third reading of to explain exactly what the Bill will do.

"It will do nothing to reassure New Zealanders that their private lives are safe from the prying eyes of our spies.

"Right up to the last minute, the Prime Minister has been forced to clarify exactly what the GCSB will actually achieve," he said.

Up until yesterday, Mr Shearer was still pushing for changes to be made to the Bill.

He 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, but the idea was swiftly shut down.

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

Mr Shearer also said that if Labour got into power, he would replace the legislation after an inquiry into the intelligence agencies.

Echoing Mr Shearer's statements, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said that the Government has "consistently tried to confuse people" about the Bill.

"It is a very sad day in this Parliament, when it would appear we have a majority of a single vote in favour of progressing this law at a time when the global debate is exactly around these issues," he said.

In a statement to ONE News this evening, internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom criticised the lack of independent oversight within the legislation.

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

"It's a sad day for NZ if the bill passes without a prior independent inquiry into illegal spying and implementation of proper oversight to protect Kiwis from abuse.

"The GCSB and other intelligence agencies have a right to exist and are necessary to keep us safe.

"But the overreach, the lack of independent oversight, and the connection to the Five Eyes spy cloud which includes all communications of all New Zealanders are turning this new law into a serious threat to our basic human right to privacy," Mr Dotcom said.

Dunne thanked for his support

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 back the Government.

Today, Mr Key thanked both Mr Dunne and Mr Banks for their support of the Bill.

"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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