I vividly remember the morning that news of the September 11 attacks broke.

Like most others, I watched the world's biggest news event unfold in disbelief.

The attacks changed the world. They not only brought down that powerful symbol of Americanism in New York, but made the US tremble at its knees. It seemed unthinkable. It brought terrorism and the importance of national security into terrifying focus.

But times change. Sure, there have been wars and skirmishes in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, and other terrorist attacks around the world, but for many of us in New Zealand these issues seem far away.

Advertisement

Even the latest terror wave - the onslaught of ISIS through Iraq and other parts of the Middle East and the decisive, powerful and much-needed response by the US and others - should not be of much concern to us here in New Zealand, right?

Wrong. These world events and our national security should be of concern to everyone.

I fear that New Zealanders have been lulled into a false sense of security as the memory of 9/11 fades with each passing year - and the commentary and publicity around our own national security and government spy agencies during the unseemly election campaign underscored this perfectly.

Kim Dotcom (who should be deported) did his best to undermine the Prime Minister on national security by wheeling out renegade US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald published material from Snowden, which he claimed showed the Government Communications Security Bureau was involved in indiscriminately harvesting the electronic data of New Zealanders.

It was rolled out during Dotcom's so-called "Moment of Truth", which as we know turned out to be a fizzer.

Prime Minister John Key says plans for such a scheme never went ahead.

I refrained from editorialising on this before September 20 but, now the election is over, it is time to have my say.

Advertisement

The GCSB, its sister organisation the Security Intelligence Service, and police counterterrorism exist to help protect us from the bad guys. And this should mean we help them to protect us rather than try to hinder them.

These organisations need to be given appropriate tools to identify terrorists and cyber criminals, and prevent any acts of terror and other high-level crimes on our soil.

The Prime Minister summed it up well in August last year when commenting on the GCSB bill: "People can't have it both ways. They can't say potentially there is a risk which we need to monitor, and then say we don't want you monitoring anyone."

He's right. We can't have it both ways.

If security agencies can use programs, warrants and surveillance to identify terrorists and cyber criminals, then they must. It is important to remember we have safeguards, such as the Prime Minister (elected by the people) and inspector-general of intelligence, monitoring these agencies.

I find the outcry over the GCSB ironic because so many people are blase about their privacy anyway. Companies monitor computer use and telephone conversations, data about us is collected by all sorts of companies and organisations, we are filmed in many public places, we are constantly at risk from computer hackers - and the clincher for me is the number of people who share just about everything about themselves online anyway, especially on social media.

Liberals who say civil liberties are being trampled should look no further than Australia for a sobering lesson in reality.

The recent events across the ditch, in which anti-terror police thwarted a plot to behead a random person in Sydney and police shot a terror suspect, have sent a shudder through our Aussie friends.

It sent a shudder through me too.

This is not Iraq or the US. This is our closest neighbour, a country where many New Zealanders have friends or family. This is the threat of terrorism practically on our doorstep.

We must ensure our police and spy agencies have the powers they need to prevent such a thing happening here. It is crucial they work with the likes of the US National Security Agency.

The discussion around metadata collection, and the role and powers of our security services, is one this country needs to have in light of recent events.