Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Labour open to vote for NZ spying

Party may support law change to allow GCSB to keep watch on Kiwis but only if full intelligence review held.

Labour has been on the attack over Mr Key's oversight of the GCSB. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Labour has been on the attack over Mr Key's oversight of the GCSB. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Labour would consider allowing the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders in limited circumstances but only if that was recommended by a full independent review of intelligence agencies, party leader David Shearer says.

Last week's report by Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge found the Government Communications Security Bureau may have unlawfully spied on New Zealanders 88 times in the past decade.

This week, Prime Minister John Key will give further details of proposed law changes which will remove any doubt that the bureau is allowed to intercept New Zealanders' communications when it is assisting the Security Intelligence Service under a warrant.

The Greens and other opponents say such a move is in direct conflict with the GCSB Act 2003 which forbids the bureau from spying on NZ citizens or permanent residents.

But while Labour has been on the attack over Mr Key's oversight of the GCSB, Mr Shearer said yesterday that the party might consider backing a change to the legislation.

"If that comes out as the result of an independent review, and it's carefully prescribed and recommended on the basis of the balance of intelligence versus privacy, then we would certainly look at it," he told the Herald.

However, any changes needed to start with a full independent inquiry into New Zealand's intelligence agencies, something the Government has so far resisted.

"An inquiry's necessary because it's not just about the GCSB, it's also about the SIS and the relationship with the police. It's right across the board and what I don't want to do is to have a narrow, quick-fix Bandaid type of solution for something that is much more fundamental."

Mr Shearer said Australia had independently reviewed its intelligence agencies twice in the past 10 years and New Zealand last did so in 1976.

"We should be following their lead and looking into all these issues so that people can have confidence."

Meanwhile, after Labour's attacks on Mr Key last week for choosing not to halt GCSB operations in support of the SIS when he first learned of potential problems last July, the Prime Minister yesterday emphasised the co-operation between the agencies was nothing new when he came to office in 2008.

"GCSB prior to the 2003 act were always doing this sort of activity," he told TVNZ's Q+A programme.

"It may have increased a bit more over time, but they were doing it. Helen Clark [PM at the time] challenged when the law came in, 'Are you sure we can actually do this?' And the advice she got was, 'Yes, you can, and it's consistent with what we see operating around the world."

Shearer warns Mighty River investors

David Shearer On the eve of the Mighty River Power share offer opening this morning, Labour warned potential investors it will shake up the electricity market when it is next in government.

Finance Minister Bill English and State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall gave the final tick to the share offer yesterday.

Ordinary investors have three weeks to apply to buy shares, starting today.

The ministers expected the company would be listed on the sharemarket on May 10.

But Opposition Leader David Shearer yesterday warned of Labour's intention "to make changes to the electricity sector to stem the relentless rise in power bills and to ease future pressure on prices from foreign investors looking to boost profits at the expense of consumers".

He said New Zealanders considering purchasing shares in Mighty River Power should be aware of Labour's plans before making the investment.

"The Mighty River Power offer document already includes regulatory risk," Mr Shearer said.

"But while we will detail our proposed changes in the near future, we believe it is responsible to signal our intentions now."

- NZ Herald

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