29 Feb 2016

Changes in NZ spy laws on the cards

8:45 pm on 29 February 2016

It is highly likely there will be a change to the laws governing New Zealand's two intelligence agencies, now a review of those laws is complete, says the Prime Minister.

Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director-general Rebecca Kitteridge

Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director-general Rebecca Kitteridge Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee will meet next Tuesday to decide when the review will be released.

The review - announced last year - looked at the adequacy of the law governing the Security Intelligence Service, and how the Government Communications Security Agency legislation is working.

It was carried out by the former Labour deputy prime minister Sir Michael Cullen and the lawyer Dame Patricia Reddy.

John Key said some changes were now likely, based on the review's recommendations.

"There's a general perspective that the SIS legislation at the moment is not fit for purpose. I think there are areas where they can see improvement in the way the GCSB and the SIS can work together."

The Act governing the GCSB was overhauled last year, following controversy over mass surveillance and some of its operations.

At the time, SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge suggested the law for that agency should also be changed, because now it focused almost solely on the process the SIS must follow to get warrants to intercept people's communications.

Mr Key said the government would work closely with the Labour Party before making any law changes.

"It's the government's intention to try and reach bi-partisan support, so I'm very reluctant to move forward if we can't get Labour's support on the legislation.

"So one of things we'll be doing is to see where there's areas of common ground and what we can craft in terms of the legislative response."

Mr Key would not say whether the review recommended an expansion of the powers of the agencies, a move that would be opposed by both Labour and the Greens.

He said any legislation could be introduced to Parliament this year, but it was extremely unlikely it would be passed by the end of the year.