Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Does the government have a majority for GCSB "reform"?

The government's response to revelations that the GCSB has been spying illegally is to make it legal and allow them to spy on New Zealanders. That's morally untenable - but I'm wondering if its politically untenable as well. The government has two paths to a majority: with the Maori Party, or with ACT and Peter Dunne. The Maori Party is unlikely to vote for legalised spying. And judging by his past comments, Peter Dunne might not either. Here's what he had to say about the GCSB in October last year:

I am starting to feel very uncomfortable.

First, there were the revelations about GCSB acting improperly in the Dotcom case; now we have the Police false arrest case. Neither look particularly good.

I am a supporter of the institutions of the state – like the Police and the security services – to protect the public interest, and I readily acknowledge their task is often a thankless one, which I would not want to undertake.

But I also believe very strongly that when exercising their responsibilities the agencies of the state must at all times act within the law they are pledged to uphold. In a free state, it cannot logically be otherwise.

So, when I hear of instances when law enforcement agencies have not been doing so, and more than that, seem to have actively conspired to subvert the particular provisions of the law to achieve an outcome they might regard as being in the wider interests of upholding the law, I become extremely concerned.

No matter the history or integrity of the agencies, it is not for them to decide how the law should be applied. That is the prerogative of Parliament or the Courts.

Would the man who wrote this vote to confirm a self-serving interpretation of the law to justify state intrusion explicitly forbidden by Parliament? Not if he is consistent. It will be interesting to see whether Dunne is, or whether he'll bow to National and vote to give GCSB carte-blanche.