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Goff wants SIS bill submissions made public

Submissions on a bill which will allow cellphones and the internet to be monitored should be heard in public, Labour leader Phil Goff says.Prime Minister John Key introduced the bill yesterday, saying the legislation hadn't been updated for 40 years and S

NZPA
Tue, 07 Dec 2010

Submissions on a bill which will allow cellphones and the internet to be monitored should be heard in public, Labour leader Phil Goff says.

Prime Minister John Key introduced the bill yesterday, saying the legislation hadn't been updated for 40 years and Security Intelligence Service (SIS) needed laws that were "relevant to the global security environment" in which it operated.

It updates the warrants framework, especially around electronic tracking devices and computer surveillance, and technology like mobile phones and cyber identities.

Parliament's Security and Intelligence Committee will hear public submissions on the bill in secret -- something Mr Goff said he disagreed with strongly.

"There is no reason why public submissions cannot be heard in open session," he said.

"The deliberation and the consideration, that's normally heard in private in select committees anyway.

"But what people have to say about the bill should be open to the public to follow."

The committee could hear anything sensitive in private, Mr Goff said.

He said he planned to raise the issue with Mr Key.

But he is unlikely to gain any ground, with Mr Key saying it had always been the case for anything to do the SIS to be held in private -- including under the previous Labour government.

Mr Key said he had nothing against releasing written submissions, as long as they were not against the national interest, and he would talk to the committee about that when it met tonight.

"There's nothing secret about the bill. You're free to read it. Anyone is free to interpret it," he said.

"(But) it's important to understand the way that that committee is established means unless there is unanimous support, then it's heard in private.

"It has always been heard in private. There's nothing new there. There are potentially issues of security. We don't want to compromise those."

Mr Goff said there was logic in bringing the SIS powers into line with what police and customs already had, but that his party would listen to the submissions before deciding whether it supported the bill.

Under Parliament's rules, Mr Key and Mr Goff are automatic members of the committee.

The prime minister appoints two other members, and when the committee was formed after the last election he named Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia and ACT leader Rodney Hide. Mr Goff named Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.

Mr Key yesterday said next year's Rugby World Cup was one of the reasons the legislation needed to be updated.

"We obviously need to make sure that we provide all the national security that is appropriate," he said.

"We're not predicting instability but we have to have the right legislation in place."

The Green Party said the Rugby World Cup was being used as an excuse to extend SIS powers.

"The main security problem for the World Cup will be drunken fans, which is best dealt with by restricting the supply of alcohol, not restricting our civil liberties," MP Keith Locke said.

"It is a pity there wasn't any advance public consultation on the proposed changes -- the SIS culture of secrecy at all costs prevented this."

NZPA
Tue, 07 Dec 2010
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Goff wants SIS bill submissions made public
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