The controversial GCSB bill has the numbers to pass in
Parliament after United Future leader Peter Dunne secured some
significant changes for the price of his support.
New Zealand's domestic spy agency, the SIS, and its foreign
spy agency, the GCSB, will be the subject of an independent
review in 2015 and an automatic review every five to seven
years after that.
But Labour and New Zealand First, who wanted a more immediate
review, last night remained adamant that they would oppose
the bill, and it will pass with a majority of just one.
The Greens called the changes cosmetic and will also oppose
Other announced changes yesterday will require the GCSB to be
more transparent about the number of warrants and access
authorisations it gets each year, with an annual public
Every time it gets permission to spy on a New Zealander, the
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security will have to
be told. And the GCSB will be required to declare the number
of times it helps the Police, the SIS or Defence Force with
its specialised interception equipment.
If the Government wants to expand the domestic agencies that
the GCSB will be able to help, it will have to get the
support of Parliament for another amendment bill, rather than
Cabinet just ticking it off via regulation.
The annual financial and public hearings for the financial
review of the GCSB and SIS will be before the Intelligence
and Security Committee.
Difficulties around the term "private communications" which
were highlighted by the Legislation Advisory Committee and
the Law Society will be reviewed under Mr Dunne's deal in a
bid to get consistency across the GCSB law, the SIS law, and
other relevant legislation such as the Crimes Act and the
Search and Surveillance Act.
Prime Minister John Key said yesterday he believed that the
changes addressed many of the concerns raised by submitters
on the bill.
Mr Key also declared yesterday that the GCSB did not engage
in the mass collection of metadata and that under the bill
any collection of metadata of New Zealanders would require a
warrant to be approved - by himself and the Commissioner of
"On the best advice I have had, I believe there has been no
mass collection [of metadata]."
He said he would make a fuller statement about it during the
bill's second reading.
Mr Key does not anticipate urgency being used to pass the
bill through its remaining stages.
"Our view with the GCSB legislation is there's a balancing
act here between national security and doing our best to keep
New Zealanders safe, and the privacy of New Zealanders," he
He understood that events such as Edward Snowden's leaks and
Wikileaks changed the political appetite and the political
The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related
Legislation Bill expands the legal power of the GCSB to spy
on New Zealanders.
The bureau's empowering legislation prohibits it from spying
on New Zealanders but it has done so 88 times since 2003,
mainly in helping other domestic agencies.
The amendment bill will explicitly allow it to do so now, and
it will also allow it to intercept the communications of New
Zealanders in its role as the national cyber security agency.
Act leader John Banks has secured a change to get a set of
principles written into the bill including the requirement
for the GCSB to have regard to the Bill of Rights Act 1990,
which protects New Zealanders against unreasonable search and
- Audrey Young of the New Zealand Herald