Thursday, September 29, 2011

Submitters hate the video surveillance bill

Yesterday the Justice and Electoral Commission began hearing submissions from invited experts, mostly lawyers and legal groups, on the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill. Their overwhelming view? They hate it. Here's some examples:

  • The New Zealand law Society says the bill is "objectionable", an interference in the judicial process, and an attack on the rule of law. They think it effectively amends the Bill of Rights Act to nullify the right against search and seizure (because if it allows the police to stick a camera in your bedroom with no real oversight, what doesn't it allow?), and that it systematically misrepresents the legal position around the Supreme Court's judgement.
  • The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties agrees, and notes that police have an obligation to uphold the law, which they appear to have violated.
  • The Human Rights Commission says that retrospective legislation is unnecessary, and that the bill is contrary to the ICCPR. Enacting it would invite challenges under the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which would damage our international reputation.
  • The Law Commission says it is overbroad, allowing Customs, Fisheries officers, or any other government agency to stick cameras anywhere they want. They criticise the lack of safeguards in the bill.
  • Former Prime Minister, Law Commissioner, and architect of the BORA Geoffrey Palmer calls the bill "oppressive" and a "constitutional perversion" which would deprive people of a legal defence.
And that's just (some of) the experts. The public have also been having their say, with Labour's Clare Curran personally delivering "about 20" submissions, and an unknown number of people submitting via the online form or other MPs. Which is quite good compared tot he number of submissions bills usually get, especially in the rushed circumstances.

The consensus so far from the experts is that there is no need for retrospectivity, and that the prospective authority needs more safeguards than the government's proposed blank cheque. The question is whether the Select Committee will listen, or whether National will just use it to rubberstamp this bill, then dare ACT and Labour to vote against it. Sadly, I'm expecting the latter.