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PM dismisses protests against GCSB Bill as 'misinformed'

Published: 1:32PM Sunday July 28, 2013 Source: ONE News

The Prime Minister has dismissed mass protests against his controversial 'spy bill'.

Speaking to ONE News Deputy Political Editor Jessica Mutch in South Korea, John Key said protesters were either politically aligned or "misinformed", and described attendance as "quite light".

Thousands of people took to the streets yesterday to voice their anger at the PM's proposed Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) Bill. Protest marches and rallies took place in 11 towns and cities across the country with vocal opponents, such as internet millionaire Kim Dotcom, addressing the crowds.

But Mr Key told TV ONE's Q+A programme that such gatherings represented just a small minority of the country.

"At the risk of encouraging them to have more protests, I would actually say those numbers are quite light. It wasn't anything like what we saw for mining or anything like that," he said.

"A lot of people who would go along [to the protests] would be a) politically aligned, or b), with the greatest of respect, misinformed."

During the interview Mr Key said he is prepared to compromise with other political leaders in order to get further support for the bill.

He said he "wouldn't rule ... out" working with NZ First leader Winston Peters to secure the passing of the controversial bill in Parliament.

"In a theoretical world, if NZ First or any other political party - let's take NZ First - came along and said, 'We will support the legislation if you make these changes', and they were acceptable to the Government, there is always that window of opportunity to make that change," Mr Key said.

The Prime Minister said his office has approached Mr Peters on numerous occasions. Asked if the lack of response meant it was unlikely the two could work something out, Mr Key said: "Never say never."

The GCSB Bill is likely to pass through Parliament with the help of ACT's John Banks and United Future's Peter Dunne, who has pledged his support after introducing some changes to the bill.

Mutch asked the Prime Minister whether a deal had been agreed with Mr Dunne in order to gain his support, but he said Mr Dunne had not asked for other things outside of the changes to the GCSB legislation.

Mr Key also said he wouldn't rule out having a "cup of tea" with Mr Dunne in his Ohariu electorate. A reference to the Prime Minister's symbolic sit down with ACT leader John Banks in a café in Auckland before the last election, as a signal he wanted voters to choose Mr Banks in the Epsom electorate in order to send ACT back to parliament.

Meanwhile, Mr Key said the question of who owns the metadata that each person generates online, including when they email, text, or use a search engine, is more about "who can access data and under what conditions".

"I'm not quite sure it's really an ownership issue. It's who can actually see the information," he said.

However, when pressed over who has rights over such metadata, Mr Key said: "Well, I think in certain circumstances, the Government, if it's collecting that data for the purpose of trying to understand whether something untoward is taking place.

"For the most part, the individual obviously owns it, because you understand through your own phone bills or your own emails who you communicate with, what, where, and how and why. But obviously there are circumstances, and this is where the touchstone is or where the dilemma is, what is the demarcation line between the right of the Government or its agencies to look at information vis-à-vis the privacy of an individual.

"And my view is that we've got the balance about right, because the alternative here would be either we don't collect this data at all."

Mr Key added that if he has to pass the GCSB legislation with only one vote to push it over the line, he would do that rather than not pass it at all.

* Watch Q+A every Sunday at 9am on TV ONE or at the repeat time of 11.30pm. Join the debate on Facebook and Twitter. *

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