Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

GCSB hearing: Submitters fire up

Dr Rodney Harrison, QC, makes his submission to Intelligence and Security select committee members, from left, Tony Ryall, John Key, David Shearer and Russel Norman. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Dr Rodney Harrison, QC, makes his submission to Intelligence and Security select committee members, from left, Tony Ryall, John Key, David Shearer and Russel Norman. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Submitters continued to voice their opposition to the Government's controversial new GCSB legislation in an occasionally fiery committee hearing at Parliament this morning.

Chaired by Cabinet Minister Tony Ryall in Prime Minister John Key's absence, Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, made up of Labour Leader David Shearer, the Green's Russel Norman and Act's John Banks raced through nine submissions in the space of an hour and a half.

All of them were opposed to the bill, which for the first time would explicitly allow New Zealand's foreign intelligence agency the Government Communications Bureau (GCSB) to spy on New Zealanders.

Activist Valerie Morse, one of 17 people arrested in the Urewera raids, gave a forcefully voiced presentation, loudly telling the committee she was disappointed that Mr Key wasn't present, "so that I get to tell him face to face that he's totally and completely unfit for the job as Minister Intelligence and Security".

"I was going to say to him that he's obviously not particularly concerned about the safety and security of the 88 New Zealanders who have been subject to human rights violations and crimes committed by the very agency he oversees."

She also attacked former Prime Minister Helen Clark's oversight of the intelligence agencies.

The Labour-National "consensus" on intelligence and security, "has not served the New Zealand people well over the last 12 years".

In her written submission Ms Morse had pointed out the genesis of the bill was illegal activities by the GCSB.

"The criminal offending of the state against its citizens should not be rewarded by expanding the power of the particular institution in question".

Having described surveillance of New Zealanders by intelligence agencies as a form of state terrorism, Ms Morse and her associate Annemarie Thorby brought their presentation to a close by dumping handfuls of colourful plastic whistles on the desk in front of them and storming out of the committee room.

Earlier, another activist Frank Macskasy told the committee the existing oversight of intelligence agencies hadn't worked.

Mr Macskasy said he was concerned that within a few years the GCSB and other intelligence agencies would be seeking additional powers.

He warned the expanding powers of intelligence agencies spy on New Zealanders was creating a society similar to those in Soviet era Eastern Europe.

"There's no just reason for spying on New Zealanders it should be taken off the books, it's as simple as that."

He made an appeal to committee members Labour Leader David Shearer and Greens Co-leader Russel Norman to review the law and hold a wide ranging independent inquiry should they form the Government in 2014.

Self-described "kiwi kid" and patriot John Boomert argued the bill should be halted until the extent to which it could potentially be "misused by interests that are malevolent to the good of our society and humanity as a whole".

Mr Boomert indicated he was particularly concerned that "big business interests" would be able to exert influence over government to access surveillance capability for their own ends.

He warned the bill put New Zealand on a "a bad trajectory" toward becoming the type of totalitarian society which New Zealanders had fought to oppose in the past.

"This does not honour the people who gave their lives for this country."

Asked by Act's John Banks whether greater oversight of the GCSB's activities would address his concerns, Mr Boomert said that would be a help, but he believed the bill "needs pulling apart" and full analysis.

- NZ Herald

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