19 Dec 2018

Spying on citizens: has the public service lost its way?

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 19 December 2018

The public service spying on citizens is an affront to democracy and Thompson and Clark spying on earthquake victims is not the first time this has happened, says a government expert.

Late night internet addiction or working late man using laptop computer in the dark

Photo: 123rf

Dr Chris Eichbaum of Victoria University's School of Government told Nine to Noon government agencies and departments should know better.

"When we've got Crown Law apparently complicit in this, when we've got the Ministry of Social Development apparently complicit in some of these actions, that's deeply worrying."

There is no reason why private sector agencies like Thompson and Clark should be used to undertake survelliance of citizens, he said.

"These are egregious failings and this is an affront to democracy," he said.

"It betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the basic rights that people have in this country to demonstrate lawfully, to prosecute their interests and the interests of those in the community in an appropriate lawful manner."

Solid Energy, under the previous government, also contracted Thompson and Clark to carry out survelliance on people who were concerned about mining operations, he said.

"This has been going on for some time."

Dr Eichbaum worked in Parliament as a senior minister and advisor, worked briefly under Helen Clark as well as Geoffrey Palmer.

He said there is a contract between the citizens and the state.

"It's vitally important that those working in the public service, and obviously their ministerial principles, are very very clear on the nature of that contract."  

Dr Eichbaum added there is now the possibility of a reset and of putting values back to the front end of what it is that drives the public service.