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

Spy bill hits roadblock as Peters lays into Key's changes

Mr Shearer said he would be willing to talk to Mr John Key if he approached him. Photo / Neville Mariner
Mr Shearer said he would be willing to talk to Mr John Key if he approached him. Photo / Neville Mariner

While Prime Minister John Key is still scrambling to get enough support to pass his GCSB spy bill by one vote, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said his concerns about the bill had widened beyond the four he specified in his first reading.

And Labour leader David Shearer scoffed at Mr Key's offer to review the new law in 18 months and provide for a mandatory review every five years after that.

Mr Shearer and Mr Peters criticised Mr Key yesterday for engaging only United Future leader Peter Dunne in talks when his stated aim had been wider agreement.

"The Prime Minister has botched this up from the word go and he is still doing it," Mr Peters said yesterday.

"This is no way to conduct the development of a very serious bill and a very serious issue.

"There is no way legislation like this, if it is to last, will last if it only by a bare cigarette paper majority."

Mr Shearer said he would be willing to talk to Mr Key if he approached him. He refused to say if he had any bottom lines for talks but reiterated Labour's view that a new law should have followed an inquiry.

"What we want is the review before the law, rather than afterwards. It's not good enough to suddenly say we'll rush though this law and if it's broken we'll fix it up in three or four years' time."

The law expands the legal powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau to spy on New Zealanders, both helping other agencies such as the Police and Security Intelligence Service, in an expanded cyber security function which takes in the private sector as well as Government communications.

At the first reading, Mr Peters suggested he could support the bill if his concerns were addressed.

But yesterday he said having sat through part of the committee hearings on the bill last week, those concerns had broadened to include at least the issue of metadata.

"We are going through the submissions made by some very, very qualified and serious submitters and we'll work our way through it but it doesn't look good."

Mr Peters was not impressed with the changes Mr Key has agreed to by way of giving the oversight watchdog, the Inspector General of Security and Intelligence, a panel of two to act as a sounding board.

"The surveillance panel was right only if the law was right and the law is not right.

"This bill does not work."

Mr Peters, who was regularly consulted about interception warrants when he was Foreign Minister, suggested in the First Reading Debate that safeguards include:

•Each surveillance of the GCSB had to be authorised by a warrant (some interceptions that do not require a device, do not require a warrant);

•Each warrant to identify the potential security risk;

•The method of surveillance and timeframe of each operation be specified;

•Every warrant be reviewed within three weeks by an independent authority selected from the judiciary, the Defence Force and Police.

- NZ Herald

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