7 May 2013

Peters 'not interested' in discussing spy law with PM

5:16 pm on 7 May 2013

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says he is not interested in sitting down with the Prime Minister to talk about legislation updating the rules governing the country's electronic spy agency.

John Key says he is willing to compromise on the legislation to get New Zealand First's support and has written to Mr Peters, seeking a meeting to discuss the party leader's view of the bill.

Legislation will be introduced to Parliament under urgency on Thursday allowing the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) to legally spy on New Zealanders on behalf of police, the Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service.

Mr Peters has indicated he would support the bill if it includes a panel of three people to supervise the GCSB and the warrants under which it operates.

John Key has said he is willing to compromise on those points to secure New Zealand First's support and has written to Winston Peters suggesting they discuss that idea further.

However, Mr Peters said on Tuesday that he is not interested in sitting down with Mr Key or his officials.

"The Prime Minister's said that if we like, we could have a briefing from the officials. With respect to the officials, those are the same people that screwed it up in 2003 and screwed it up in 2009 and onwards.

"So we don't think that's going to be very helpful. It's better if we just work our way calmly through the legislation ourselves and say what we think."

Mr Peters said he would put any suggested amendments to the bill to the Government in writing.

'No blank cheque'

Earlier on Tuesday, Winston Peters told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme that safeguards should ensure that those who carry out surveillance are monitored.

"We will not give this government, or any government, a blank check to spy on its citizens.

"But the fact is, we live in, unfortunately, a very, in some cases, evil world - we have got international drug dealing, we've got terrorism and we can't stand by and paralyse ourselves when we should be taking action."

The bill will be supported by the ACT and United Future parties through its first reading.

The Government usually tries to achieve cross-party support for such legislation, but Labour and the Greens remain opposed to any changes without first holding an independent inquiry into the country's intelligence agencies. The Maori Party is still to decide which way it will vote.

Labour Party leader David Shearer told Morning Report that legislation allowing New Zealanders to be legally spied on is papering over the cracks of laws covering intelligence agencies.

Mr Shearer said there has been no independent inquiry into the country's intelligence agencies since the 1970s and one should be ordered.