17 Feb 2015

Greens offended at spy committee snub

8:06 pm on 17 February 2015

The Green Party is accusing the Labour leader of breaking the law by not consulting it about who he's chosen to go on a government spy oversight committee.

Labour leader Andrew Little speaks to media about Iraq's request.

Labour leader Andrew Little speaks to media about Iraq's request. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Andrew Little chose not to include one of its MPs on the committee reviewing spy agencies, the Intelligence and Security Committee, but instead his Labour colleague David Shearer.

The move broke recent tradition of having broad political representation on the committee, but Mr Little was satisfied he has acted correctly.

Green Party co leader Metiria Turei in question time.

Green Party co leader Metiria Turei in question time. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

However, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei was miffed at what she saw as a snub.

She said the law was clear - Mr Little was required to consult with the leaders of opposition political parties about the appointment and he had not.

"Andrew Little has made a Captain's call, he's made the wrong decision, he's acted unlawfully - I expect to ge a phone call quite soon," Ms Turei said.

Ms Turei said the Greens were the only party that genuinely tried to hold the country's spies to account.

"But the issue really is the Greens should be represented on this committee.

"We are the critical eye on intelligence and security matters and I expect Andrew should follow the law and come and talk to me."

David Shearer

David Shearer. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Labour foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer was on the intelligence committee when he was party leader.

Mr Little said he was the best person for the job.

"There is no MP more experienced, more skilled in dealing with security issues and security agencies than David Shearer, this is about the best person for the job, and I'm confident and satisfied that the best person has been appointed to the job," he said.

"My obligation is to make sure that an appointment to that committee is somebody who is competent and capable and experienced and I'm satisfied that I've put the most competent and capable and experienced person in security issues on that committee."

Prime Minister John Key (right) in a media scrum with RNZ Chief Parliamentary Reporter Jane Patterson.

John Key. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

And Prime Minister John Key also said Mr Little got it right.

"Labour have made absolutely the right call, I mean in the end the Intelligence and Security Committee is a very important committee, I think it's very important that it works in a bipartisan way if at all possible.

"And Labour and National have historically worked very successfully on that committee together," Mr Key said.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters giving his opening speech for 2015.

Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters said given Labour and National's past record it was farsical to suggest they could protect New Zealanders from the country's spies.

"But it's not my beef, the fact is this has happened in the past countless times."

Picked for his expertise, Mr Shearer today described the spy oversight committee as toothless and clearly conflicted too.

"Very powerless compared to say the British or the American or the Australian (committees), we need to do something about that.

"We have the head of those intelligence committee's, intelligence organisations, sharing and having the casting vote on the committee that is supposed to be the oversight - now to me that is a conflict of interest," Mr Shearer said.

The other members of the spy oversight committee were Mr Key, Justice Minister Amy Adams and the SIS Minister Chris Finlayson.

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