26 Jul 2013

Prominent NZers scathing of GCSB bill

1:36 pm on 26 July 2013

More than 400 people turned out in Auckland to hear a line-up of prominent New Zealanders denounce the Government's spy agency bill.

The Intelligence and Security Committee has reported the Government Communications Security Bureau Bill back to Parliament with some changes, but speakers at the meeting were scathing in their criticism, describing it as a threat to democracy.

Anthropologist and New Zealander of the Year Dame Anne Salmond spoke against the bill at Thursday evening's meeting in Mt Albert War Memorial Hall.

Dame Anne said her father's generation had fought for people's freedoms, including the right to privacy, but said the Government's bill defeats that by allowing the it to spy on its own citizens.

She said the Government should remember it was elected to represent people, not rule them, and any MP who lacks the backbone to vote against the bill should in future stay home on Anzac Day.

Internet businessman Kim Dotcom told the meeting he was a living example of why the security service should not be given expanded powers.

Barrister Rodney Harrison QC said the Government's bill was hopelessly broad and changes negotiated by independent MP Peter Dunne are effectively a "Dunne deal" that is no more than window dressing, and do nothing to reduce the risks.

Opposition not appeased by bill changes

Opposition parties say their misgivings over the legislation are in no way allayed by changes made to it. The main changes are an advisory panel to sit alongside the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, and a set of guiding principles.

Labour says the definition of private communications is too broad. It says metadata is not seen as a communication, so details such as the time a phone call was made and its length can be collected without a warrant.

Labour leader David Shearer says while Labour recognises that there are security risks here, those need to be balanced with protecting New Zealanders' privacy and human rights. He says amendments to the bill negotiated by Mr Dunne only make a bad bill slightly less bad.

The Green Party says the bill allows GCSB to share New Zealander's information with overseas agencies.