Transcript: David Shearer – Stop the GCSB Bill Meeting – 19/08/2013

Labour Party leader David Shearer addresses the audience at Stop the GCSB Meeting, Auckland Town Hall, Monday 19th August 2013

Kia ora katou, it is so great to be here with you all tonight, turning out for an issue that strikes at the very heart of our freedoms and rights as New Zealanders. 

Let me start by saying, in case you missed it, that we in Labour oppose this Bill utterly [audience claps].

We are fighting, and have fought it all the way, to stop this Bill with you, with the other political parties, because this Bill will make bad law.

It fails to get the basic balance right between the need to keep our country safe and our fundamental rights to privacy – and those rights are something I am absolutely committed to protecting as the leader of a future Government [audience claps].

Because some, some people might say this issue doesn’t matter to New Zealanders – in fact there was a poll the other, about 4 months ago that said thirty-two percent of New Zealanders said that they had full trust, sorry ‘only’ thirty-two percent of New Zealanders said they had full trust in our intelligence agencies, we have to revise that in light of John Campbell’s latest poll.

And that’s why a Labour led Government will commission a full, independent inquiry across our entire intelligence network and of the basis of that replace the current law [audience claps].

We need to restore that trust that people have, and this review should not be just about the GCSB, it has to be about the SIS, and the Police, and the Defence Forces, and how they actually work together, because we do know before the GCSB issue came up that there was new legislation being proposed for the SIS as well – and the idea was to bring the SIS and GCSB even closer together – that’s been shelved because of what’s going on now [audience claps].

So we will work with the other political parties including those here, and it’s been a privilege to work with them over the last few months, to set the terms of reference for that inquiry – and we will talk to you, to make sure that we have the right changes made for this law in the future.

This Government isn’t listening; it’s ramming this Bill through, not because of any urgent changes are actually needed – but because it wants to get this issue off the political agenda. 

Y/know I actually asked John Key if he had any evidence that New Zealand would be at risk if his legislation wasn’t rushed through, would there be a greater threat somehow without this Bill? And he couldn’t come up with a case for why these changes are so urgent. 

This Bill is being rushed through, put together in an ad-hoc, Mickey Mouse way – that even the Prime Minister is unsure about it, what it will actually do. One day he said that the new law won’t let our spy’s look at the content of New Zealander’s emails , the next day he writes a to the Herald saying,

“actually they will be able to do that, but I’ll put a stop to it by putting conditions in the warrant I give the GCSB,”

– it’s a just a matter of trust really isn’t it.

“Hey she’ll be right. It will be okay,”

Well if that’s the case? Why not put it in the legislation [audience claps]?

So tomorrow in the House, Labour will propose an amendment to put that promise, of not looking into the contents of New Zealander’s emails into law.  And we’ll see if Mr Key stands by his word and support’s it – because the whole trust thing hasn’t worked out that well so far [audience laughs].

We’ve had to drag the truth out on every issue, on each of the debacles that have continued to go down the tracks.  From Dot Com – actually I want to just acknowledge Kim Dot Com and say we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him – looking at our legislation [audience claps]. 

From Dot Com, from appointing your mate as the Head of the GCSB, to illegal spying, to snooping around in journalists emails – it took weeks, and weeks until we got to the bottom, in each of those cases, to what was going on.   Now as New Zealanders we deserve much better than that.  They need to know there is proper oversight of our intelligence agencies, and right know too much power lies in one person’s hands.

The Prime Minister appoints the Head of the GCSB, currently his mate, Prime Minister heads the Committee overseeing the agency, sets the agenda of that Committee, and has the casting vote – so during the inquiry we had, I asked because he was the, the committee overseeing the agency sets the agenda of that committee, and has the casting vote.

So during the inquiry we had I asked, because he was, the, the proposal was that the GCSB was going to be helping out the SIS, the Police, the Defence Forces – perhaps we could hear from the Police, and the SIS about exactly what they were going to be doing, why the need the GCSB.  That was refused, it was voted down by the committee. So you can see what sort of role that committee has.

But the Prime Minister also appoints the Commissioner of Warrants who issues the spying warrants, appoints the agency’s watchdog, the Inspector General – there’s nobody else providing those checks and balances and that is utterly unacceptable [audience claps]. 

New Zealanders are looking for leadership on this issue.

We went to the Government to see if we could find some way forward but it wasn’t interested.  Instead I was told Peter Dunne was willing to give his vote, and get them across the line [audience heckles].

A ‘willing buyer’ and a ‘willing seller’ as Dunne so eloquently put it.  So the Government has got the numbers to slip it across the line – on a profoundly important issue and that’s simply not good enough.    If we truly want to restore public confidence in our intelligence agencies we have to move beyond the fog of scandal and actually work together. 

We could do much better than this Bill.

Some of the best safe guards in the world could be put in our legislation – we could actually have some of the world leading legislation here – we have that opportunity, we have that chance.  But we’ve squandered it. It requires a commitment to do what is in the best interest of New Zealanders rather than what’s politically expedient [audience claps].

Labour will provide that commitment and that’s the promise I bring to you tonight.

Thank you very much.

Download pdf transcript: GCSB 2013 08 19 Auckland Town Hall – David Shearer

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