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No flip flop on GCSB Bill - Peter Dunne in his own words

GUEST EDITORIAL
 
The agreement I reached with the Prime Minister over the fate of the GCSB Bill has received an entirely predictable reaction. So let me respond to the main criticisms in the most detached way that I can.
 
First is the claim that I have “performed a U-turn on a (a) flip-flop”. Colourful language certainly, but incorrect factually.
 
I supported the Bill’s introduction, but indicated misgivings I wanted resolved before supporting it further. They have now been addressed to my satisfaction, so I can continue to support the legislation. Hardly a flip-flop or U-turn, but simply doing what a good legislator should – working to improve important legislation.
 
Then there is the claim that the changed accountability regime I have negotiated does not address my “repeated assertion that only the domestic Security Intelligence Service should be allowed to spy on Kiwis.”
 
In fact, it does through the provisions making it clear that the GCSB can only operate domestically where it is doing so on behalf of the Police or the SIS, that there now will have to be annual public disclosure of both the number of occasions where this occurs, and the number of warrants issued, and that GCSB cannot become involved on behalf of other government agencies without the expressed prior approval of Parliament. None of those protections are in the current law, so these changes are a real strengthening of accountability processes.
 
Next is the argument that “there is still no mechanism in the new laws to ensure our private communications are not fed into any kind of global surveillance programme, like the NSA’s PRISM.” There is truth in that claim, but the legislation was never intended to deal with that situation, focusing instead on domestic arrangements. I think there is a legitimate debate to be had on this point, given current global revelations, and that an argument can be made for much international protocols governing intelligence sharing, but that is way beyond the scope of what GCSB does within New Zealand. But it is a separate debate, well worth having.
 
It is also alleged that “the changes do little to dilute the considerable influence the (P)rime (M)inister has on the oversight functions of the intelligence agencies.” In fact, there will be far greater accountability beyond the control of the Prime Minister. The enhanced role of the Inspector-General and the new advisory panel, the requirement for GCSB to operate to a set of principles including adherence to the Bill of Rights, the new annual reporting procedures including public hearings of the Intelligence and Security Committee, and the five yearly reviews of both GCSB and SIS, will all ensure that GSCB in particular and intelligence agencies generally will be operating far more transparently and with greater accountability than has ever been the case before, something that should be widely welcomed.
 
There is the claim that my approach to this issue has really been both a cynical ploy to curry public and political favour in the wake of the unrelated events of my Ministerial resignation and UnitedFuture’s (temporary) party deregistration, and represent the trading of “principles for pragmatics”. Dramatic journalism certainly, but both claims are incorrect nonetheless. Unlike some others, I do not operate that way. Rather, my approach has been about addressing the areas of the Bill I was concerned about – improving the oversight and accountability provisions of the GCSB; introducing more transparency into the operations of our security agencies, and clarifying the scope of GCSB’s involvement on the domestic scene. All those objectives have been achieved in the changes I have negotiated.
 
The suggestion that I appeared “for a time” to be “something of a privacy champion” overlooks history. I have been a privacy champion for over 20 years – indeed, in the early 1990s I drafted what became our Privacy Act, and have retained a close interest in privacy issues ever since. Indeed, it was on the principle of the protection of the privacy of communications that I resigned as a Minister.
 
That is why I have negotiated a comprehensive work programme to update the definition of private communications (including the treatment of metadata) across a range of legislation in this area, including the GCSB and SIS Acts, the Crimes Act, and the Search and Surveillance Act. The need to do so was raised by many submissions on the current Bill, but no-one I consulted was able to provide an immediate solution, and all agreed that a more detailed work programme was needed, which is what I have ensured will happen as a priority.
 
For me, politics has always about the art of the achievable. In this instance, I have achieved real change which will ensure that situations like the Dotcom case, which gave rise to the Kitteridge Report which led to this legislation, will never occur again, and that is good.
 
However, the wider debate about the role of our intelligence services is an important but separate issue which we, as an open society, should not shy away from.   
 
Ohariu MP and United Future leader Peter Dunne posts at Dunne Speaks.

More by Peter Dunne

Comments and questions
31

Hi Peter,

To eliminate any speculation over why you supported the bill, are you willing to rule out any accommodation with National at the next election related to National not standing a candidate in your electorate, or a cup of tea with the PM or another nod to National voters to support you?

Thanks

Good question, can he answer the following questions: "Did he receive any promises, benefit, or accommodations from National in relation to him giving the government his vote on GCSB. If yes, what are they?"

It was a flip flop in the only way that matters: philosophically. Dunne reversed his stated philosophic position of just 14 days earlier, as I demonstrated on my following blog post, in relation to a tweet he did on the night of the vote: http://lifebehindtheirondrape.blogspot.co.nz/2013/07/dunnes-contradictio... He was a willing seller of our privacy.

I agree with Peter - 'detached' is the operative word here!

Politics is a joke.
Talk about self-preservation.

Absolutely, Peter Dunne isn't doing this because voters want it - he's doing it for his own personal reasons. Otherwise he would actually listen to what people want, which he doesn't.

It is o.k for the state to read our e-mails but it is not o.k for anyone to see Peter Dunne's e-mails.
I smell hypocrisy

So much scaremongering over this bill. Dunne has now explained clearly the limitations now imposed on the GCSB and the oversight now introduced. I hope this is now reported properly.

It seems to me that Peter Dunne is a turncoat and hypocrite of the worst kind.
He has done this to preserve his job as if he crossed the floor an election would be called. John Key would put a sure-fire winner in to Ohariu and Mr Dunne would have to comb up his hair and walk from the sinecure that he claims is his.

If you watched the TV interview with Dunne, you may have noted his language; willing buyer, willing seller, best deal, shopping around...

Was he talking about buying a second hand car?

Pete will do anything and everything to keep his seat in the House.
His integrity is just like the shifting sands of the Sahara.

What do they have on him?

Methinks Dunne protests too much!
An act of good faith would be for him to release his emails to the journalist that he has been amazingly protective about.
PM

So this MP with no party and political future decides that he is important enough to decide the fate of a contentious bill that should always have wide support from both sides of the House. He is a man completely devoid of any character or respect for every New Zealander's democratic rights. He's also a pompous imbecile.

What does JK have on him?
liberte

With Peters waiting in the wings to support the GCSB Bill, no doubt accompanied with much theatre, Dunne was never going to give him the satisfaction!

It's funny how, when Key needs support, all of a sudden a deal with Peters after the next election is back on his agenda - having been dismissed as 'never going to happen' not so long ago.

There is so much hysteria about this issue. Look at reality: the only way our emails will be spied upon is if the police or SIS obtain a warrant. So long as a proper warrant is obtained in a lawful manner I don't care whether the GCSB is involved. The contents of your Gmail account are far more likely to be read by a Google employee than a GCSB "agent" - and you'll never know about it.

The people complaining most loudly about this bill (and criticising Peter Dunne) are in my opinion hopeless cynics at best, and pathetic conspiracy theorists at worst. Get some perspective. Even if you disagree with the substance of what Dunne believes, is it not possible to see how he is attempting to be reasonable? The bill is undeniably better than it was.

[Disclaimer - United Future has never enjoyed my support at any election, and nor will it in future.]

Well said. Much of the media comment on this has been at best misleading, and at worst hysterical, along with the cognisenti and academia. Dotcom's comments are worse - totally mischievous and self-serving. The sooner this convicted hacker and fraudster is extradited to the US the better. Peter Dunne's explanation is entirely ratlonal and accurate.

[Disclaimer - I have never voted for United Future, and don't intend to in future]

I can't wait for the extradition hearing! I'll be interested in your comments then. It will be more of a case of JK in the dock than Dotcom. Why do you think that it keeps getting delayed? I suspect there will be further delays whilst the Crown tries to find a way out that will let JK, GCSB and the FBI off the hook.

No conspiracy theories from me, the whole affair from the illegal raid through to the spy bill - is simply a case of 'stuff up' followed by equally inept 'cover up'.

Too true, Sarki.

Peter, your quote: ...."but simply doing what a good legislator should – working to improve important legislation."
With total respect, you have norespectability left. Produce all your emails and let the nation see what you were up to and stop hiding behind "privacy" you do not want others to have. You have no boundaries as a human being! As to your ability as a "legislator" - read that as "doing a deal to survive in the next election". In other words, using your last straw to prop up National. You really are vile.

"If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."
Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933-45.

Let that sink in for a moment...

Ok, did that. And what does that historical comment have to do with the GCSB bill?

OneTrack (how fitting).
Does one really need an explanation?

Just resign already you hypocrite.

Have you no dignity and honour left? You are smearing the institution of NZ parliament that many good people of lesser 'standing' have defended selflessly to uphold our freedoms, some with their lives.

All you can do is "wheel and deal" away our freedoms like a slick used car salesman. Can you not see how pathetic you are in the big scheme of things? History will not be kind on such spinelessness.

Mr Dunne still has a slim chance of coming back after the next 2014 election, unless he is too selfish not to give up any possible short-term ministerial position offered by Mr Key for his undivided support regardless of the opinion of all angry NZ protesters against GCSB Bill today. And the same goes to Mr Banks, if you are really worried as well.

Well at least Dunne has given us an understanding of the bill in a less emotional way than others using the media since he actually understands it. Also recognises the remaining areas to be legislated to protect info from Prism.

Perhaps the only honourable decision for Mr DUNNE now is to gather feed back from his constituents and caucus.....rather than making a hasty and disastrous commitment on GCSB towards most angry NZers.

Dunne has clearly improved the GCSB Bill by imposing limitations and introducing more oversight. Not a bad effort for a lone parliamentarian. He should be complimented for doing this.

Good to see the supporters of both Peter Dunne and this anti-democratic Bill are outnumbered by people who are questioning political decisions instead of passively accepting changes to spying and surveillance. Roll on the next election!