Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Key may make second concession on GCSB bill

Prime Minister John Key
Prime Minister John Key

The bill expanding the legal powers of the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders may be required to have regard to the Bill of Rights Act within a new set of principles, Prime Minister John Key has said.

That would be a second concession Mr Key has made this week in the face of strong opposition to the bill that expands the power to spy on New Zealanders.

Earlier in the week he agreed that the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security should have a two-person panel that could be used as a sounding board for decisions.

Mr Key said that Act leader John Banks wanted the bill to have an overriding statement of principles, as does the legislation giving authority to the domestic spy agency, the SIS.

"I actually think that's quite a good idea," Mr Key told reporters at Parliament yesterday.

"That's the idea of having, for instance, principles that would lay out that the legislation has to have regard to the Bill of Rights [Act], to adherence to the law, those sorts of thing," Mr Key said.

Mr Key said he would ask officials advising the Intelligence and Security Committee to work on that suggestion.

The committee was due to meet last night.

The Bill of Rights Act 1990 affirms a set of rights and freedoms such as freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

Rodney Harrison, QC, the Auckland lawyer who presented the Law Society's highly critical submission on the bill, said last night was "better than nothing" it did not address the detailed criticisms of the bill as it stood.

He also said that an addition into the bill that the GCSB had to abide by the Bill of Rights Act might not add much because under section # of the Bill of Rights Act, it already had to apply to the GCSB in exercising their powers.

Mr Key said he was now confident he could get the bill passed with the support of Act and United Future leaders. He also hoped to get New Zealand First and his office had rung Winston Peter's office to offer briefings and answer any questions.

"I am confident we can get a deal across the line in terms of the bare majority. Hopefully we can build that out further."

The Security Intelligence Service Act principles state that the service:

1. contributes to keeping New Zealand society secure, independent, and free and democratic;

2. contributes to the participation of New Zealand in the maintenance of international security;

3. Acts in accordance with New Zealand law and all human rights standards recognised by New Zealand law, except to the extent that they are, in relation to national security, modified by an enactments, acts in the discharge of its operational functions, independently and impartially, acts with integrity and professionalism; and acts in a manner that facilitates effective democratic oversight.

- NZ Herald

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