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The panel response to the GCSB bill

Published: 3:15PM Sunday July 21, 2013

In response to THE GCSB BILL

SUSAN Jennifer Curtin, Wyatt Creech and Josie Pagani, back with the panel. What I don't understand with this, Wyatt Creech, as Winston said, these are hardly left-wing crazies out here; these are pillars of our society. You've got the Privacy Commissioner, the Human Rights Commissioner, the Law Society saying, 'Slow down.' Why is the Government not slowing down?

WYATT CREECH - Former National MP

I sense it is. John Key has been asking some questions about bringing support in from a wide range of parties. But I think most New Zealanders would agree with Winston, and I certainly would, that this is a kind of legislation that should be supported by a wide overwhelming majority of Parliament if at all possible, so I think that is the sort of attitude where people get to. I mean, I don't want them spying on me, and they shouldn't. Therefore, this system whereby they had to go and get some independent person to justify the spying because the circumstances were so great that it was justified is the logical way to go. But I do think that this type of legislation needs wide support.

JOSIE PAGANI - Former Labour Party Candidate

I think that's the problem. That's what's uniting the Law Society, Privacy Commission, Human Rights Commission is the concern about the warrant process, for a start, and the checks and balances.

SUSAN Overseeing that, yes.

JOSIE Yes, because if you remove that, you actually remove something that's the core tenant of our democracy. And it's like you're shifting from a situation where you can go, 'We have evidence that there may well have been a crime committed, therefore give me a warrant because I want to search in this house,' to, 'I'm just going to go in and have a look around and see if there's a crime - any evidence of a crime.' Now, that is a massive-hundreds of years of legal precedent changes if you change that. So, you know, it's not clear when you only need an access authorisation, for example, which is when simply the Prime Minister signs something and the GCSB can go into a telecommunications organisation and put in equipment that they can access at any time without getting a warrant. It's not clear when and how these warrants or the checks and balances work. That's the problem.

SUSAN Jennifer, there's old line about justice being done and needing to be seen to be done. It's like this with the oversight, isn't it? We need to know there's robust oversight from people that we can trust.

DR JENNIFER CURTIN - Political Scientist

Yes, and the thing about New Zealand voters is they feel very confident in their democratic institutions. They have less trust in politicians, and when the two collide like this, it's going to be very complicated for voters to feel that they can trust the Government if these institutions that represent their democracy are being- like their rights, but also when the Human Rights Commission, which is an important institution, is being challenged by the Prime Minister. I think the second problem is that they're in the habit of doing things under urgency and they're trying to do this under urgency as well, and not all legislation is the same, right? So there needs to be some more time given to this.

JOSIE Well, that's right. What's the imminent threat? I mean-

SUSAN Well, we are in limbo with the law at the moment. We have a law- You know, we know about all the people who have been spied on illegally, and they're trying to tidy it up, I guess, Josie.

WYATT I imagine that's what it is. This grew out of an initial attempt to tidy it up, but inevitably when you raise the issue, you raise the broader issue of how do you protect people's basic rights while ensuring we've got national security.

JOSIE Even when you have a warrant system - I looked at the NSA in America with all the stuff with Ed Snowden - you've got the secret court, the FISA, which is the court that issues the secret warrants. Now, I looked at a statistic there. Since 1979 and 2012, they've had, I think, 44,000 applications for warrants. Of all of that, 11 have been rejected. So even when you have a warrant system, is it robust, you know? If you're only rejecting 11-

SUSAN Mind you, that's-

WYATT That's the US, and also it's not saying in New Zealand- I wouldn't be surprised if most were approved, because I wouldn't expect the authorities to try and get them unless there was a real case for it.

JENNIFER I think Winston's point about the independent panel is also a really important one, because the Government up until now has started to get a bit loose with process and appointments and the way that they've done it. And if they want an internal and an external person, and what Winston's talking about is three externally independent people doing the oversight, that could be seen as quite an important way of ensuring that there is no sliding around the way in which the oversight process happens.

SUSAN So you're talking people with judicial-type backgrounds, people who are respected within the community.

JOSIE Ex-prime ministers. If we can clone John Kirwan, the most trusted man in New Zealand.

SUSAN I'm not sure he's up for that.

JOSIE I don't think he'd want to do that.

SUSAN No.

JOSIE But, yeah, I mean, an external panel, I think. And also the politics of it - he's got to do something to get either Labour on side or Winston or Peter Dunne. So having an external panel, I would've thought, wouldn't be a step too far.

WYATT And it would be judicial people mostly, I would think.

SUSAN Very good. Thank you, panel.

WYATT Thank You.

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