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Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
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RAW DATA: Patrick Gower interviews Green Party co-leader Russel Norman

The Greens co-leader Russel Norman talks about the GCSB and his relationship with National

Sun, 14 Sep 2014

RAW DATA: The Nation transcript: Patrick Gower interviews Green Party co-leader Russel Norman

Watch the interview here

Patrick Gower:  Well, the behaviour of New Zealand spies is, of course, a very big concern for the Green Party, and co-leader Russel Norman is with me now. Good morning, Dr Norman, and if we just pick on what Glenn Greenwald said there, talking about the prime minister's declaration that our agencies aren't involved in mass spying, but Glenn Greenwald was saying they may be involved in massive, indiscriminate spying on a massive and indiscriminate scale in New Zealand. What do you make of that?

Russel Norman: Well, I mean, it's clearly yet another reason to change the government. I mean, we've got a prime minister who's in charge of the security agencies, who's enabling them and allowing them to engage in mass surveillance. I mean, I'm a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is supposed to provide oversight. John Key and I are the longest standing current members of it. I learned a lot more about what the GCSB and the SIS are doing from Glenn and from Snowden than I did by being on that committee, and so that's why we need a full and independent inquiry into the spy agencies once we get a new government on Saturday.

Because what we have here is a situation where the prime minister, and of course the GCSB, has said there is no mass surveillance on New Zealanders, it may be, from what Glenn Greenwald was saying there, that there is perhaps not mass, complete surveillance, but there is massive, indiscriminate spying of some sort on New Zealanders.

And of their metadata, and so that's, you know, not necessarily the content of every phone call or the content of every email, but who it went to, how long you're on the phone for. All that kind of metadata which tells an enormous amount of what you're doing in your behaviour. And I just want to go back to the last point Glenn made about the value of privacy, and privacy is linked to freedom. It's tremendously important. It's about being able to be a full human person; is that having some privacy is critical to that. And so, you know, this is like a— this is an incredibly important issue, because we've seen the rise of the technology to engage in this kind of surveillance, and it really corrodes our democracy and our freedom. That's why we need a full and independent inquiry once we can change the government on Saturday.

Glenn Greenwald also saying there that Xkeyscore — that invasive technology — is in use in New Zealand. We've had denials on that as well.

Yeah, I mean, you know, obviously we'll see the full report. I think it's gonna come out in a few days. But even what we've seen so far is incredibly suggestive that the New Zealand government as part of the Five Eyes has access to this network, and it means that New Zealanders' privacy and freedoms are being corroded, and the New Zealand GCSB is a part of that.

What did you take from Glenn Greenwald there in terms of talking about the prime minister's assurances about these kind of issues? Glenn Greenwald said that he had been working for months on the New Zealand side of things with the Snowden documents. Do you think, from the sounds of things, that he is gonna make the prime minister out to be a liar on this issue?

Well, I mean, I guess we'll see. I mean, we've already seen a lot of evidence that suggests—

And what did you make of what he was saying there?

Well, what we know is that Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden, they haven't been proved wrong. So they've released a whole set of documents, and nobody has disproven what they're doing because they're based on the original documents that came out of the NSA. So, you know, we'll see the full report in a few days, but even what we know already, I think there's heaps of evidence that John Key's reassurance that there's no mass surveillance just isn't true, and we'll see more evidence of that in a few days, and once we change the government, then we can have a full inquiry.

Speaking of changing the government, I mean, if you want to do that, what were you up to this week by saying you wanted to work with John Key?

Well, what we've said since 2008 all the way through is we want to change the government because we don't support National's policies.

You reached out to John Key this week. It looks like you think it's over, and you had a crack with John Key, and you know what happened? He slapped you down, and he laughed at you, and you gave him an opening to attack the left. What were you thinking?

And so since 2008, we've had exactly the same position, right? Which is that we wanna change the government—

I know that.

Hang on. Let me finish.

Yeah, but what were you thinking? What were you thinking?

All through that period, right, what we've said is that we'll work where we can find common ground with National. The home-insulation scheme — it's hundreds of thousands of houses. Well, nod your head, but it's a big deal for people, right? We achieved that.

Yeah, but nothing happened till the last term. You reached out to National this week, and it looks like you've given up on the left.

And so we also said we'd be a strong opposition, and over the last three years, in my opinion, led the opposition because we've been incredibly effective, right?

Why are you even thinking about opposition? Why are you even thinking about opposition? There's a week to go. There's a week to go.

This week, what we did was we flushed Key out. So Key now, there's a lot of people out there who are saying, 'Oh, I'll vote for John Key cos I think he'll be reasonable about various things.' Everyone now knows if you vote for National, it means he's gonna accelerate the pollution of rivers. He's gonna accelerate climate-change emissions because he doesn't want to work with anyone except, you know, you've got Jamie Whyte. So we're gonna have a loaded shotgunbehind every dairy in the country.

You didn't flush him out. Everybody knew they didn't want to work with you, Russel Norman.

Well, actually, Paddy, there's a lot of people who are voting for National who still have some illusions as to John Key being reasonable on the environment or other policies. Think about child poverty. Child Poverty Action Group, this week, said—

We've got time to ask you one last question.

Hang on. Hang on. We want a cross-party accord on child poverty in New Zealand. The Green Party's up for that. We've released policy. John Key has just turned around and said, 'No, I'm not gonna be part of a cross-party accord to reduce child poverty in New Zealand.' And people who are thinking about National need to know that. John Key is a problem for child poverty in trying to reduce numbers. He's a problem for climate change, clean rivers, and he just reinforced it this week.

Just quickly — co-deputy prime ministership. Have you talked to Labour how that would work?

Not in any detail. It's on the table, post-election. You know, obviously, in post-election negotiations.

Is that something you'd be prepared to trade off? Being deputy prime minister if it meant getting Winston into the house? Into the tent?

Well, what we've said is that we want policy gains. You know, to get clean rivers—

So would you be happy not to be deputy prime minister if that was the price of getting Winston into a three-way coalition and getting a change of government?

I'm really focused on policy change. So that's clean rivers. Getting kids out of poverty. A cleaner economy. Smart, green innovation. That's the top priority for the Greens. That's why we're in politics.

Russel Norman, thank you for your time this morning.

A pleasure.

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RAW DATA: Patrick Gower interviews Green Party co-leader Russel Norman