'Undemocratic' Search and Surveillance Bill made law

Collins: warrant-less seizure of confidential NBR docs doesn't merit law change

All it took was four votes for the controversial Search and Surveillance bill to be passed into law.

After the third reading of the bill yesterday afternoon, the bill will now be rubber stamped.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the new Search and Surveillance Act 2012 brings “order, certainty, clarity and consistency” to messy, unclear and out-dated search and surveillance laws.

The Act follows a 2007 Law Commission report that recommended search and surveillance powers be consolidated and updated.

Part three of the bill, which deals with production and examination orders and directly relates to the Serious Fraud Office’s power to demand documents from media organisations without a warrant, was one of the most contentious issues debated during the committee stages of the bill.

Labour’s David Parker said the SFO’s powers should have been brought in line with the now standardised powers of the police. The SFO, like the police, should have to go to a judge to get a warrant, Mr Parker said.

“The real example lies in the raid of the National Business Review by the SFO in 2010. The National Business Review was doing its own inquiries into what had gone wrong in the South Canterbury Finance collapse.  They relied on confidential sources telling them in confidence what they knew,” he told the house on Thursday afternoon, adding that the fourth estate’s ability to shed like on irregularities was vital to maintaining democracy," Mr Parker told Parliament.

“I might not like what the media has said about me, but I will defend until my last day in this place their right to make those criticisms, because their role in keeping democracy free is far more important than my sensitivities,” he said, adding that protecting NBR’s sources from inappropriate abuse of powers by the SFO is “absolutely essential”.

“People have confidence to give NBR information in confidence because if they can’t be assured of that they clam up and the public interest is not served because these issues will not be brought to light,” he said.

New Zealand First’s Dennis O’Rourke agreed with Mr Parker.

“I have been persuaded by the arguments of the Labour party. It is simply illogical that the SFO is not included with the safe guards that are provided in this bill,” he said.

Despite the continuous calls for the SFO’s powers to be standardised with those of the police, Ms Collins refused, saying “due process” needed to be followed in order for the powers of the SFO to be changed.

In a late night sitting on Tuesday, Ms Collins acknowledged Mr Parker had written to former justice minister Simon Power, about standardising the powers of the SFO with the same powers that apply to the police, she said Mr Parker should have “followed it up”.

A resolute Ms Collins said she was not prepared to overnight, or “even over a month,” change the powers of the SFO without it having first gone to a select committee.

“We have discussed what we should do with the SFO over the powers; we have heard allegations made around alleged miss-use of the powers. The only example given to me was when the SFO served production orders on the National Business Review once last year. Just on that one issue I don’t think we should be completely changing a law that has been in place in 1990 and which, by the way, was brought in by the then Labour government to deal exactly with the issue of financial crime,” she said.

The bill also put in place a judicial process for a journalist to protect the name of a source when the police were trying to obtain that information.


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33 Comments & Questions

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A very sad day for journalism and the media. One of the low points of the country's history.

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Yup, Just another step in incremental creep of legislation toward totalitarianism.

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They are the National Socialists. So 2014 we have a choice between National Socialists and Envious Socialists.

Democracy: not really working out, is it. Note to self: never confuse democracy with freedom.

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Tribleless ... very clever. Except it's not that democracy isn't working out, we have MMP, not democracy.

And where were all the Kiwi 'journalists' when this was making its way through parliament? Where are they now?

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Let's see, democracy. Say we have ten people in our democracy, 4 of them are purple, 6 are green. A plebiscite is held on the proposition that green people have an 'entitlement' to live off the efforts and profits generated by purple people, and they need do nothing for that entitlement. In a democratic, majority vote, the proposition is won.

Spot a moral problem here? No freedom to be found when a majority can enslave a minority to their whim.

Democracy is most certainly not freedom. Only a society based on the smallest minority of all, the individual, with a constitution and the rule of law protecting individual property rights, will a free society be found.

The real problem here is that Gramsci in our state school system has taught children freedom is a dirty word, and they should strive to be slaves.

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Lay off the Ayn Rand nonsense. It's unbecoming.

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Name one comment I've made on this thread that is not relevant to the header post?

You, on the other hand ...

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Would you have any faith in our drongo cops to execute the wide-sweeping warrants with prudence? Their adrenalin rush was the excited dress-up as Teenage Ninja Turtles for the farcical pantomime which was the Urewea "raid".
And don't forget the wild shootout on the NW motorway by the St Lukes off-ramp.

More police training should be given to check the bleeding obvious, such as: covers on storm water covers and knowing how to pop the boot of a locked car.

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what a wonderful new world

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High time...
Perhaps, West Auckland Police could now investigate a fully fenced cud-de-sac property (without any visible business signboard) visited by a lot of cars, reported to the New Lynn Police on the first week of this month.

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How is it that the Search and Surveillance Act is undemocratic if the problem you see with it is that it doesn't give powers to a particular agency, which will just rely on the same powers it always had. If you've a problem with that agency and those powers, surely the undemocratic law is the one empowering the SFO, not the one which doesn't touch it?

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Graeme, I'm not too sure how to read your question. For me, this Act attacks a sacrosanct pillar for a free society: the right of a journalist to protect their sources. SFO have now been granted the (Police State) power of being able to legally (by immoral law) ask media for their sources, and it will be illegal (under immoral law) not to hand over same sources.

No free society should have gone here. Every Western politician should have had the philosophical nous to not even think to go here. And from that, you can therefore imagine my opinion of Herr Collins.

This is a disgrace, and further proof the State is operating way beyond <a href="http://www.solopassion.com/node/8802">the rule of law</a>, and that is not healthy for any of us. As I said above, never confuse democracy with freedom. They are not the same thing.

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Right of journalists to protect their sources is an archaic law only given to journalists and is no relevant today than unions (when did you last see small boys pushed up chimneys).

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As I said, Gramsci won, by stealing the minds of the young to a point they are so stupid they write statements like, quote, "right of journalists to protect their sources is an archaic law ...'

You see, you've mixed up 'archaic' with 'fundamental. The free press as a protector of the freedom of us all, is as 'old' as the notion of a free (classical liberal) society, and the institution of the fourth estate: that is, it is a sacrosanct fundamental of a free society; an absolute that will not change for all of time. Once it is abolished by the State, you must assume that State is some form of a police state, not a state in which freedom can flourish.

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The press is still free, they are not told what to publish but recent events (News Ltd etc) shows some abuse their powers. Publish & be dammed I believe it is called.
Will this law be used very often. Absolutely not.

It might just make them think twice about publishing any old garbage. Plus it might make NZ Herald employ journalists who can spell ... in Headlines!

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Never mind journalists who can spell, we need people who can think, and understand the philosophical precepts of a free society.

You are unfortunately not amongst them. Read my posts above, rather than just punching randomly at your keyboard.

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The media should not be used as an information gathering arm of the police or any other government department.
We need a free and open media.

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Great to se all of you who want the media able to shelter and shield criminals, Some on us want to see crims especially the white collar variety bought to justice, They have been able to get away in the past. Not now.Why should the media have special priviledges. If I have info on crims I have to give it to the authorities. Why should the prissy little prima donas of the fourth estate be treated any different

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This is just insane.

Let me explain just one way in which a free press, protecting its sources, ensures a free society and the rule of lay, by quoting, through tears, Numbnut at 10.38am: 'some of us what to see crims, especially the white collar variety bought to justice...'

Ask yourself, if a source who wants to remain nameless, perhaps fearing for their safety, knows of nefarious goings on in Mafia Front Finance Company, with links high up in government, are they going to go to the press if they know the State can uncover their identity?

No. They would be mad to do so.

Thus, while protection of sources would bring this story to the public attention, and then the rule of law, a society in which the press can't protect their sources would see no such exposure of, say, corruption, and allow it to continue on.

A free press is our protection against the crims.

Get it yet?

Thinking. What's happened that you are not able to?

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It will be lawyer client privilege next...

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Typo: that's rule of law, not lay ...

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I this is what it takes to penalise a child murderer / family, who close ranks with a 'right to remain silent', then I'm all for it.
the Media have been tapping phones etc for years obviously. so we cant use them as the moral standard.

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The quality of the press ( particularly the daily papers) reporting is generally so pathetic, irresponsibly sensationalist and obsessively biased in favor of left wing, minority or extremist points of view thatl they have blown any crdeibility to argue the point. free press my arse !
What were the Urewera fours Lawful intentions ?

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And the 'quality of the press' relates to this topic, freedom of the press, how?

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White collar crims are a different speices entirely, they don't fall for all the usual tricks. The authorities need all the help they can get.

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Quote: "White collar crims are a different speices entirely, they don't fall for all the usual tricks"

You're reading too many comics. <a href="http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/tag/bob-newhart/">Stop it</a>.

Quote: "The authorities need all the help they can get."

Let's go straight to the Godwin and say that's exactly the theory Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, et al, were working on. All of them. Rule of law - pfui, who needs it anyway.

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The Fourth Estate must be protected.
It protects our society.
Perhaps no other government has done so much in such a short time to allow its officers to invade the privacy of New Zealanders and their right to live lawfully and peacfully without "unwarranted" intrusion by the state.

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Or even better 1.34pm, argue against my example of how democracy does not equal freedom?

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Poor ole Tribeless trying to protect the media protecting the crims. Moron. The regulators need all the help they can to defeat the white collar crims and their highly paid briefs. Go tell the Mom and Pops who lost millions in the finance companies that the media should be allowed to protect the crims by not giving info to the regulators. And as for the media. What credibility do they have. How do we know that the NZ media havent been up to the same tricks as their Uk brethen. Afterall there is a significant interchange between media in both countries

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Did you actually read more than one of my posts? I rebutted, soundly, every foolish point you've just made.

I'm starting to understand how Hitler got himself voted in. Just replace 'Jew' for finance company director. Perhaps humans are too stupid to live free ... not me though, let me off this bus to the Gulag.

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Most of this article focuses on the fact that the SFO rules haven't changed. Since NBR seems to pride itself on journalistic integrity, why not offer a balanced assessment of the law changes, rather than a review of what was so wrong in 2010.

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From "nanny state" to Brig Brother state... Oh joy.

I love Dear Leader.

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Collins' comments are unnecessarily arrogant and regretfully this is becoming the hallmark of this administration. A more considered response would have been more appropriate.
WG

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