Audrey Young

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

Dunne supports controversial GCSB bill

Peter Dunne. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Peter Dunne. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister John Key has secured the numbers to pass the controversial GCSB amendment bill after agreeing to a series of changes put forward by United Future leader Peter Dunne.

The changes to the bill include:

• An independent review in 2015 of both the GCSB, the foreign spy agency, and SIS, the domestic spy agency, and thereafter every five to seven years.

• The GCSB having to declare annually the number of times it has helped the SIS, Police and Defence Force use its specialised equipment.

• A requirement to notify the Inspector-General when a warrant to spy against a New Zealander is issued.

• A requirement by the GCSB to report annually on the number of warrants and access authorisations it has obtained.

• Ensuring that any expansion of the number of domestic agencies the GCSB can help with specialised equipment has to be made by Parliament, not the cabinet by regulation.

• Require the GCSB and the SIS to hold public hearings before the Intelligence and Security Committee for an annual financial review.

• Having the definition of the term ''private communications'' reviewed to ensure the definition is updated and there is consistency across the GCSB law, the SIS law, and other relevant legislation such as the Crimes Act and the Search and Surveillance Act.

Act and National will support Mr Dunne's changes and the bill will have a majority of at least one. Act's John Banks has got acceptance for a set of principles to be written into the GCSB legislation which will require the GCSB to have regard to the Bill of Rights Act 1990.

The Inspector-General, the watchdog of both the GCSB and SIS, will also have a two-person support panel though decision will remain the Inspector General's.

Mr Key said he was still open to discussions with other parties in Parliament to increase support for the bill so it could pass with a majority larger than one.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Bill expands the legal power of the GCSB to spy upon New Zealanders. Its empowering legislation prohibits it from spying on New Zealanders but it has done so 88 times since 2003, mainly in helping other domestic agencies.

The amendment bill will explicitly allow it to do so now, and it will also allow it to intercept the communications of New Zealanders in its role as the national cyber security agency.

Labour leader David Shearer says Labour will still vote against the bill. It wanted a review to be held before legislation was introduced.

The Intelligence and Security Committee met today and the bill will be reported back to Parliament by Friday.

Mr Key said today that he did not believe that the GCSB had engaged in the mass collection of metadata and he confirmed that it should be treated the same as communication and any collection of it would require a warrant. He planned to make a clear statement about it in the bill's second reading.

He believed the changes made to the bill should go some way to addressing the concerns of groups such as the Human Rights Commission, the Privacy Commissioner and the Law Society.

- NZ Herald

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