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Corin Dann interviews Winston Peters on GCSB Bill

Published: 12:28PM Sunday July 21, 2013

Corin Dann interviews Winston Peters 

CORIN Winston Peters, New Zealand First leader, thank you very much for joining us on Q+A this morning. The GCSB bill is coming to the crunch now with the report back to select committee this week coming. Where is New Zealand First at in terms of its possible support for it?

WINSTON PETERS - NZ First Leader
Look, we haven't got the information, and I don't think most parliamentarians have the information required to make a decision or give you an answer of the type you're looking for. The fact is it's been done with breathtaking speed. The sittings and submissions have been done more on the basis, from my observation - and I was there as an observer - more on the basis of, 'Let's get it over with as fast as possible. We'll get them out of here within 10 minutes or quarter of an hour.' And this was when you had serious submissions made by pretty serious entities. So, look, we haven't got the information. The balance of Parliament and observers outside of Parliament who are seriously interested and, I believe, the media just don't know what's going on here, and so one can't answer your question.

CORIN Initially, it sounded like you were prepared to try and offer support if there was some concessions made, particularly around a panel. Has your position changed now? Are you saying that it's harder for you to support this legislation?

WINSTON No, it's a matter of principle. From the word go, you recall we said back in April that if the legislation had the following features - that is it was going to be overseen by three independent people in whom the public can have confidence; if, second, it did not infringe the rights - the human rights and civil rights - of New Zealanders; and, thirdly, if it dealt with the issue of the wider cyber issue that's now not new but in a greater dimension that it has ever been before - then we would seriously look at it. We've not changed our mind on that.

CORIN But hasn't John Key, though? I mean, he has offered up this idea of a panel. Has he spoken to you about that? Has his office spoken to your office about that? He is making steps towards what you've asked for.

WINSTON No, no, he hasn't. What he's done is say, 'Look, we're looking for two people to be in the panel. One is internal, and one is external. It's Peter Dunne's idea, and that's what we're going to do.' Now, that's not what New Zealand First said. We said we wanted three external people, independent, and in whom the public could have total confidence. And on the question of public safety as to their privacy and their fundamental rights, he has not addressed that at all. And you cannot go past the Privacy Commissioner, the Human Rights Commissioner and the Law Society and all the rest, who are all- I mean, they're not left-wing, violent radicals, these people. They're fundamentally pillars of our society if you look at our good- our institutions as a modern country and a great civil society. So we had a legal problem that arose because of Kim Dotcom and legal activity, and instead of addressing that, we have got a massive expansion, we're now an international surveillance body, the GCSB is to become a domestic surveillance body-

CORIN That's an interesting point, because-

WINSTON …and having all the powers if they are helping a New Zealand enforcement agency like the SIS and Police.

CORIN So you're very clear, because John Key says this is not an expansion of the powers of the GCSB, you don't believe that?

WINSTON Well, look, John Key is, with the greatest respect to him, a sharemarket trader who likes to get a deal done as fast as possible and is not a lawyer. All the Law Society- The Law Society is saying that. The Human Rights Commissioner is saying that. The Privacy Commissioner, who was a long-term Secretary of Cabinet with high regard across the political divide, Marie Shroff, is saying that. Now, Mr Key cannot get away with the argument, 'Well, if you're not doing anything wrong, what have you got to worry about?'

CORIN It must be-

WINSTON That's the North Korean answer-

CORIN But it must be your instinct - you have been a Minister of Foreign Affairs. You have signed off warrants. It must be in your instincts to want to pass this legislation, to want to have that level of security there for New Zealanders.

WINSTON It is. I know what this is like and what's important about these issues. But if you do that, and in terms of hunting for people who are a clear and present danger to New Zealand and you yourself endanger New Zealanders, that is a bridge far too far. And the Prime Minister should've stopped this process at the very beginning and said, 'Look, let's get a group of parliamentarians across the political divide together and try and solve this issue.' Instead, he's attempted, sad to say- And this is regrettable because it is about an issue far bigger than politics - national security - he's attempted to ram it through, and frankly, there have got to be people, surely like the Attorney General and other lawyers in his caucus, who think this is really bad.

CORIN You must be- What are the threats? I mean, I asked this of Russel Norman a couple of weeks ago. Do we need a GCSB? What are these threats? Because we don't know. They didn't come to the select committees. We don't know what they are. Do you know what they are?

WINSTON Yes, I do.

CORIN Can you tell us?

WINSTON Well, I've sat- I've signed out warrants when there was a clear and present danger to New Zealand in what people were doing offshore. And if that's happening onshore, then we would rue the day we did nothing. Now-

CORIN Are you talking terrorism here?

WINSTON Well, issues like terrorism, a massive drug importation - potential importation - by another country. There's a whole range of issues, and, you know, I look at these legal submissions from a wide group of different people. They all admit the need to have laws in place to protect us against that.

CORIN But isn't the issue-?

WINSTON But that's far too far-

CORIN But we haven't got them in place at the moment, have we? Those agencies aren't able to necessarily act on those threats at the moment, because the law has been deficient, so surely there is an onus on a parliamentarian like yourself to work with John Key and get this through as quick as possible.

WINSTON If you're saying the law's in limbo, you're right, but that's no reason to panic and end up with something worse than- dramatically worse than we've had before and we're all now being spied upon. And when I see the guy- What the guy Snowden is saying in Moscow, that has widened things considerably because there is information that shows New Zealand itself may well have been spied upon by our allies.

CORIN Can you just give us a sense - so are you saying you can't support this bill as it stands at the moment, that John Key's going to have to make some serious concessions either in the next week before the bill is reported back from select committee or in the committee stages in Parliament? You're still leaving open the possibility you could support it?

WINSTON Well, what's one's duty in Parliament? Put aside the politics, it is to ensure that you have a law that protects the security and safety of New Zealanders whilst protecting their fundamental basic human rights and their privacy. Now, everyone recognises sometimes you have to make a compromise when the risk and danger is so great, and that's what the community needs to understand. But we will not support…it will give the Government a blank cheque that goes from a situation of crisis of their own making, don't forget - of their own making - and then massively widen the law by, how say I put it, railroading us into some sort of compromise. The answer to your question is, no, we won't on what we've seen so far.

CORIN Okay, that means he's going to need to talk to you. Have your offices talked on this issue?

WINSTON Not really, no. I haven't talked to John Key on this issue.

CORIN What about your chief of staff?

WINSTON Well, they've had the odd conversation but of no merit and no value to us, because-

CORIN So you're saying today that you want to actually sit down with John Key-?

WINSTON No, no. John Key was never interested until he got desperate. Don't forget John Key put on this committee, the Intelligence and Security Committee, the head of the ACT Party, the head of the United Party, and we have got far more members in Parliament in New Zealand First than those two parties put together. And more importantly, the leader of New Zealand First, myself, I've been on the Intelligence and Security Committee, and I have been a Foreign Minister and signed out- have got far more experience about warrants. Now, when Mr Dunne got found out, what did he do? He didn't put any relief on from another party. He again went for Tony Ryall from his own party, so it shows he had no good faith in trying to get together a non-political bipartisan arrangement.

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