Monday, December 15, 2014

A pure power grab

When the government proposed extending the duration of passport revocations in its recent urgent spy bill, several people raised the obvious question: what was the justification? Why was it necessary? Had the government ever had trouble using the courts to extend a revocation?

Thanks to an FYI requester, we now know the answer: no, because they never tried:

No application to a Judge of the High Court has been made for an order to extend a cancellation of a New Zealand passport on the grounds of national security using the provisions of section 8A(3) of the Passports Act 1992.

So, there was no "problem" to be solved by the bill (though if the courts were rejecting extensions, it wouldn't be a problem with the courts, but that Ministers were revoking passports without justification). Instead, it was a pure power grab. The bill's shoddy Regulatory Impact Statement said that it was just too much hassle for them to prepare documents for the courts after a year. Even if we accept that at face value (difficult given that they also say that they would be preparing repeated documentation and ongoing risk analysis for the Minister in the case of any extended travel ban), the administrative convenience of officials is simply not a good reason for interfering with fundamental human rights.

Naturally, Peter Dunne buried this admission until after the bill had passed. But he voted for this legislation knowing that there was no case for it. People should judge him at the ballot box for that.