The bill covering the activities of intelligence security agencies made progress in Parliament today.
The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill completed its second reading by 61 to 59 with National, ACT and Peter Dunne in favour.
Leading off the debate Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said there had been a great deal of debate and scrutiny over the bill, though there had also been a lot of misinformation.
The bill was not a revolution or an expansion of powers, it was an attempt to fix legislation which was not fit for purpose.
It would define what security intelligence services could and could not do.
When those services were turned inwards there were threats to liberties which must be protected by the law.
The bill struck the right balance between allowing the security intelligence services to protect New Zealand, while protecting the liberties of New Zealanders, Finlayson said.
Labour Leader David Shearer said his party opposed the bill. While Labour agreed the law needed fixing it could not support the bill as it was rushed and ill-informed.
Shearer said the Prime Minister had failed to make a case for the bill and there needed to be a wider look at the intelligence agencies, the way they operated and the law they operated under.
The public needed to know the intelligence community were working in their best interests and confidence had been lost in them.
There had been a farcical series of events which led to the bill showing the Government was not competent. It should have taken Labour’s suggestion of holding a full and independent inquiry to restore public confidence and build a political consensus, Shearer said.
Green Co-leader Russel Norman said the bill was “terrible”. It was a basic human right to be able to have private communications unless there was need for them to be intercepted for security reasons and that benchmark had to be high.
This bill eroded those rights, Norman said.
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters suggested Finlayson had been given the job of leading off debate for a mysterious reason which would become clear overtime.
Peters said his party had been willing to reach a political compromise on the bill, but the Government had not been interested.
Intelligence security agencies had flown under the radar getting on with their job, but since the arrival of John Key they had become a matter of public debate due to his mishandling of the issue.
He also accused Finlayson of being involved in the Kim Dotcom affair.
ACT Leader John Banks said Peters was the chief shepherd of dog whistle politics, Key had attempted to set up talks with Peters but “the phone had been off the hook”.
Following the debate and vote the Government introduced the second imprest supply bill for 2013/2014 and it received its first reading by 63 to 56 with National, Maori Party, ACT and Peter Dunne supporting. Its second reading was taken with the third reading of the Appropriation (2013/14 Estimates) Bill.
Debate was interrupted when the House rose at 6pm.
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