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Waihopai Spybase Rethink Needed

European Parliament Inquiry should produce Waihopai rethink

The Green Party is calling for the government to rethink its commitment to the Waihopai electronic interception station in light of developments in the European Parliament.

The Green Party's European MPs now have the signatures of more than 160 parliamentarians - enough to force a formal inquiry into the suspected commercial espionage by the Echelon electronic spy system, of which the Waihopai station is a part.

"It seems likely that New Zealand's continued involvement in Echelon will get us into deep trouble with European governments and undermine our trade relations," said Green Party MP Keith Locke.

"This is just the wrong time to put into the Radiocommunications Amendment Bill, now before the House, a section explicitly allowing the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) to intercept radio communications from foreign companies.

"Tonight the Parliament will resume discussion of my amendment to remove references to the SIS and GCSB in the bill, and I am glad I have Alliance support for the move," he said.

"Labour and National Party MPs have combined against the amendment, claiming it weakens our fight against terrorism. I have argued that leaving the police with interception powers would be sufficient, and would prevent the duplication of anti-terrorist functions across two agencies."

Mr Locke said there are major accountability and privacy problems with the SIS and GCSB.

"I have a private members bill on the order paper to dissolve the Intelligence and Security Committee and allow proper select committee oversight of all intelligence agencies.

"The privacy issue also worried members of the European Parliamentary delegation who visited New Zealand last week. One of them, Green MP Gerard Onesta, visited the Waihopai site and complained that it was "big brother. It's George Orwell put into reality", (Marlborough Express) said Mr Locke.

Ends

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