The Dim-Post

March 9, 2016

Security and intelligence legislation: then and now

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:22 pm

Back in 2013 when the controversial new laws were passed:

“Despite ill-informed claims to the contrary, nothing in this legislation allows for wholesale spying on New Zealanders. It actually tightens, not widens, the existing regime,” Mr Key said.

This essential legislation makes it clear what the GCSB may and may not do, and fixes an Act passed under the Labour Government a decade ago, which was not, and probably never was, fit for purpose.

“It clarifies the GCSB’s legal framework and substantially increases oversight of the country’s intelligence agencies, which will go some way to rebuilding public confidence in the GCSB,” Mr Key said.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson attacked several critics of the bill including Rodney Harrison, QC, who presented the Law Society’s submission on the bill, former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former director of the GCSB Sir Bruce Ferguson, and historian and academic Dame Anne Salmond.

He told Parliament the bill hadn’t been rushed through, but perhaps it had not been long enough for Mr Harrison to come to grips with it.


New Zealand’s intelligence agencies should have greater abilities to spy on its citizens, but with stricter requirements on when they can do so and stronger oversight of their work, a report says.

The report into the country’s intelligence and security laws has recommended that a single piece of legislation be established to cover both the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) – and its authors would have recommended a merger of the two agencies if they had been allowed.

Cullen said the establishment of a single act covering both agencies was the “central recommendation” of the report.

Existing laws were outdated and confusing, making it difficult to understand what the GCSB and SIS could and couldn’t do.

“It’s actually quite hard to go to one place and figure out all these different things interrelate. Most importantly, it leads…to a lot of contradiction, inconsistent definitions, unclear interaction between the two at a time when the functional division between SIS and GCSB is inevitably becoming more and more blurred.”

Cullen said spying laws passed in 2014 to allow the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders had not solved the problem, with a lack of legal clarity and “some pretty condemnatory reviews” in recent years making the agency “extremely risk-averse”.


  1. No one talks about the secret decoder rings (don’t want Andrew thinking this place is getting too mature).

    Comment by Robert Singers — March 9, 2016 @ 1:47 pm

  2. No one talks about the secret decoder rings

    That’s the first rule of GCSB. The second rule of GCSB is No one talks about the secret decoder rings!

    Comment by Paul Rau — March 9, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

  3. Both your links go to the 2013 Audrey Young article.

    Comment by Mark Harris — March 9, 2016 @ 6:30 pm

  4. Thanks. Fixed it.

    Comment by danylmc — March 9, 2016 @ 6:41 pm

  5. Hang on a minute, Danyl. What about props to the Labour party for a well researched and reasonably well executed hit on Jonathon Coleman this week. Isn’t this kind of attack on government competence exactly what you say they should be doing – yet it passes without comment? A few more of these and the general public might start to question whether national can run a government properly. Along with you, I think Labour have been woefully bad at this core opposition task, but it’s nice to see some signs of life.

    Comment by Dr Foster — March 9, 2016 @ 7:01 pm

  6. @Dr Foster

    Handing out bouquets is not really what the DimPost is all about


    Comment by Antoine — March 9, 2016 @ 11:42 pm

  7. Are there any examples of ‘outdated and confusing’ that we are given, you know, as evidence.
    Then there is the oversight by the Minister in charge, who is unusual in that for all other government entities have the politicians kept away from day to day operations, but these oversights are actually legally required for the secret agencies. That was until John Key delegated it to anyone who was free in his political office. And that was after he shoulder tapped an old acquaintance who was demonstrably unsuitable for the job.

    There seems a substantial body of evidence that John Key himself has been the centre of most of the problems, and dropping the role is clear evidence of that.

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — March 10, 2016 @ 3:50 am

  8. I suppose she was otherwise occupied but if Key had got Clark to front the flag change process that would have snookered Labour in much the same way Cullen has.

    Comment by NeilM — March 10, 2016 @ 8:25 am

  9. Key didnt need to bring in Clark- who has a full time job already- all he had to do to align his legislation for the flag selection panel with that of the labour party election policy was two little words!
    Flag experts

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — March 10, 2016 @ 6:02 pm

  10. The whole debate comes down to whether or not the agencies should be concerned with human rights or economic advantage to elites at all costs; “whether it is better for the agencies to stop the traffik or stop “Stop the Traffik”, if you will…

    Comment by The Joker — March 10, 2016 @ 11:22 pm

  11. Kiwiblog post: Achievement unlocked!

    Comment by pr0gger — March 14, 2016 @ 9:39 pm

  12. A couple of observations re Twitter.

    It breeds a particular type of pack behaviour, (even) more so than blogs, because of the ability to produce and disseminate in a particular and peculiar manner long series of short snark that are both open and closed to public view.

    Even with blogs there’s some obligation to write some sort of extended explanation for ones position.

    Ostentatious display and ostentatious taking of offence appear to be endemic.

    Naively one would have expected an increase in the ability to communicate would have brought about better communication. But if even the liberal left can’t manage that what hope is there.

    Instead we’re left with possibly an increase in tribal animosity just with a great ability to dig trenches.

    Comment by NeilM — March 15, 2016 @ 6:37 pm

  13. I’m sorry, but I refuse to engage with neoliberals, Neil.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — March 15, 2016 @ 8:26 pm

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