Ministers from the Five Eyes grouping of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom have agreed to new measures to combat global threats, including seeking access to encrypted data and communications.
Minister Responsible for the NZSIS and GCSB Andrew Little and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway attended the two-day annual Five Country Ministerial, held on the Gold Coast, this week. Five Eyes refers to the intelligence-sharing between the five countries.
The meeting of interior ministers and immigration ministers from the five countries discussed counter-terrorism, countering violent extremism, cyber security, countering foreign interference, protecting critical infrastructure, migration, border management and law enforcement.
A communique issued at the conclusion of the meeting detailed the discussions and agreements made to address those issues.
Among them was agreement that there was an urgent need for law enforcement agencies to gain access to encrypted data and communications, subject to conditions.
"The inability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to lawfully access encrypted data and communications poses challenges to law enforcement agencies' efforts to protect our communities.
"Therefore, we agreed to the urgent need for law enforcement to gain targeted access to data, subject to strict safeguards, legal limitations, and respective domestic consultations.
"We have agreed to a Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption that sets out a framework for discussion with industry on resolving the challenges to lawful access posed by encryption, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms," the communique said.
The ministers also agreed to establish a new aviation group to better share information about emerging threats in that sector, including from criminals and returning terrorist fighters.
"The aviation environment continues to be seen as a high-value target by terrorist and criminal networks. We committed to work together to build the capability of other states in border security and measures to monitor, screen, track, and share information on returning foreign terrorist fighters and local terrorist networks," the communique said.
On foreign interference, which has become more of an issue with the increasing presence of states such as China in the Pacific, and claims of foreign interference in countries' elections, the ministers agreed to establish a mechanism for the five countries to share their own developments to deal with it.
"We agreed the five countries would work collectively to counter foreign interference, protect our individual sovereignty, and ensure our values and interests are upheld.
"We undertook to share information on foreign interference activities with a view to advancing our collective knowledge of how to counter such threats. In the event of a severe foreign interference incident within our sovereign nations, we agreed the five countries would co-ordinate on appropriate responses and attribution."
Little said New Zealand had a long, shared partnership with its Five Country colleagues and the meeting was a valuable opportunity to discuss their shared challenges.
"Finding collaborative ways to address national security issues will help to better ensure the safety and security of New Zealanders," he said in a statement.
Attorneys-general from the five countries, including New Zealand's David Parker, also
met to discuss national security issues from a legal perspective.
"National security issues are complex and global by nature and we are committed to working together to address our current and emerging national security challenges," Parker said in a statement.