John Key. Photo by Getty
The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related
Legislation Amendment Bill has passed in Parliament tonight
after its third reading.
Prime Minister and Minister Responsible for GCSB John Key
welcomed the passing of the legislation.
"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
"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.
The legislation passed today makes the GCSB's three functions
clear, he said.
"These are: information assurance and cyber security; foreign
intelligence, and assisting other agencies.''
The Green Party said a fundamental constraint on freedom had
"The National Government, along with Peter Dunne and John
Banks, have signed away significant freedoms of New
Zealanders by passing the Government Communications and
Security Bureau (GCSB) legislation tonight,'' Greens'
Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said.
"This legislation...restricts our freedom of expression and
our right to live without surveillance,'' he said.
During today's debate, Mr Key said if he could disclose some
of the briefings he has had about risks to New Zealand it
would ''cut dead" some of the opposition to the GCSB bill,
but he could not divulge them.
He said he regretted that many citizens had become agitated
and alarmed about the bill but he would be more regretful if
the bill's changes were not passed.
"The bill is being passed right now because it is needed
"Others may play politics with the security and lives of New
Zealanders, but I cannot and I do not and I will not."
Mr Key made his comments during the third reading and final
reading of the Government Communications Security Bureau and
Related Legislation Amendment Bill.
He said the bill "isn't a revolution in the way New Zealand
conducts its intelligence operations."
It made it clear what the GCSB could and could not do.
He said nothing in the bill allowed for wholesale
surveillance of New Zealanders.
He repeated the statements he made to the Herald last week
that approving interception warrants of New Zealanders under
the cyber security function would be a two-step process and
that a warrant to look at content would be with the consent
of the New Zealander unless there was a good reason not to.
It is Mr Key's first speech in Parliament on the bill, with
previous debates having been handled by Justice Minister
Judith Collins and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.
Under the bill, the GCSB will have three functions. It will
retain its traditional function of collecting foreign
intelligence, and it is not allowed to spy on New Zealanders
under that function, either under the current law or the new
Another function will be to assist the SIS, the police and
Defence in conducting duly warranted interceptions of New
Zealanders. It has been doing this already under doubtful
legal authority, because while the current law says it can
help such agencies in on specific ways, it explicitly says it
cannot spy on New Zealanders.
A further expansion of powers comes under the GCSB's
cyber-security function. Until now its job has been to
protect Government communications only from attack, but it
will be extended to private-sector cyber systems if they are
important enough to New Zealand.
In his speech, Mr Key also reiterated the position on
metadata - that it would be treated the same in bill as
communications, which means that before a New Zealander's
metadata can be collected, it will require a warrant to be
signed by the Prime Minister and the Commissioner of Security
Labour leader David Shearer said a Labour led Government
would hold an inquiry in order to create a world class
Labour deputy Grant Robertson said Mr Key's claim that the
bill did not expand the GCSB's function was "fundamentally
There were clearly new powers under the cyber security
Greens co-leader Russel Norman said many people died last
century fighting for freedoms "and we here today are fighting
for those basic principles."
He said it was hard to have a debate about protecting freedom
in the abstract and that was made harder with the Prime
Minister "screaming hysterically about Al Qaeda."
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 the GCSB Sir Bruce Ferguson,
and historian and academic Dame Anne Salmond.
He said the bill hadn't been rushed through but perhaps it
had not been long enough for Mr harrison to come to grips
with it; he said much of difficulties that the bill addressed
had occurred under Sir Bruce's watch despite him trying to
reinvent himself as a commentator;
He said Sir Geoffrey Palmer had allowed the GCSB to operate
without any legislation at all while he had been Prime
Minister and he described Dame Anne's attacks as "shrill and
The real problem had been with the passage of the 2003
legislation which should never have been passed.
- by Audrey Young of the New Zealand Herald