1 Dec 2014

Spy bosses fronting terror bill hearing

1:00 pm on 1 December 2014

The country's spy bosses are appearing in secret before the select committee considering new anti-terrorism legislation.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn appears before the select committee.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn appears before the select committee. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge and Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn have been called to answer questions that emerged during the rushed public consultation on the bill.

The select committee chair, Mark Mitchell, said a few points needed clarification. The bill will allow the SIS to conduct video surveillance without a warrant for up to 48 hours.

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee member David Shearer said the public submission process raised a number of questions that needed answering by the spy bosses.

He said Labour was still determined to try to limit any new powers for spies, while ensuring there were safeguards.

"If anything needs to be done it should be the absolute minimum. We should be as conservative as possible given the fact that, generally, intelligence doesn't go back to being less intrusive, it usually becomes more instrusive," Mr Shearer said.

Mr Shearer joins a number of people who believe the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill would compromise civil liberties.

David Shearer arriving at the Select Committee hearing.

David Shearer arriving at the hearing. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

A lawyer at Chen Palmer told Morning Report the legislation seemed like an excuse to allow the SIS greater surveillance powers. James Dunne said it did seem like a license for the SIS to go on fishing expeditions.

But speaking to TVNZ this morning, Prime Minister John Key defended the Bill again.

"If you go back to my real job, running the country and trying to keep New Zealanders safe, I've got two options: One is ignore all the advice I get that there is a growing number of people that present a threat and do nothing about it. Or actually do something about it. I'm absolutely adamant and of the view that I have to protect New Zealanders, and I intend to do that."

Today's hearing will be held in private. The committee will report back to Parliament tomorrow and the bill will be law by Christmas.

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