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Secretive Committee Refuses to Review Security

Immediate Release: Friday December 27, 2002

Secretive Committee Refuses to Review Security

ACT New Zealand Leader Hon. Richard Prebble today expressed concern that Parliament's secretive Intelligence and Security Committee has declined his request for a review of New Zealand's security and intelligence arrangements following the Bali bombing.

"The Intelligence and Security Committee - a body set in statute that doesn't operate like a normal parliamentary select committee - wasn't even set up at the time of the Bali bombing. I wrote to the Prime Minister in September asking the Committee to hold a review of our security and intelligence arrangements after the Bali bombing. The Committee has declined to hold any inquiry.

"Our Government has taken a consistent "it can't happen to us" attitude. New Zealand is the only western nation that has contributed troops to Afghanistan that has not carried out a significant review.

"The British parliament held a review despite being on the other side of the world from Bali. The Australian review determined that its embassies not only need a major security upgrade, but some need to be closed down because they cannot be made secure.

"I am disturbed that the Government has decided there is no need to review the security of our embassies.

"The lesson of the Bali bombings is that terrorists are indiscriminate and either cannot distinguish between different western nations, or don't care. Yet our Labour Government's philosophy still appears to be that we live in a "benign strategic environment".

"The Minister of Immigration boasts that the recent arrest of Algerian Islamic militant Ahmed Zaoui shows New Zealand's border security is secure. What it actually shows is that distance is no guarantee of safety. Mr Zaoui declared his identity to Immigration officials and asked for asylum. His documentation had been sufficient to enable him to travel from Africa through Malaysia and onto a plane for New Zealand, without apprehension.

"My concern is that the Labour Government is going to wait for a tragedy before acknowledging that we live in a global environment. The Clark doctrine that we are protected by distance is a dangerous illusion. The only way that a western nation like New Zealand can protect itself from sophisticated terrorists is by close cooperation and coordination with other western nations," Mr Prebble said.

ATTACHED: Richard Prebble's Letter to Helen Clark. He has now received a response declining his request.

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister
Parliament Buildings

WELLINGTON Dear Prime Minister

Re: Intelligence and Security Committee

This letter is to ask why this parliamentary committee, which oversees our Intelligence Services, has not been set up.

It is extraordinary that given the lack of intelligence of the Bali bombing this committee should not have been immediately set up and inquiring of officials why New Zealand wasn't given any warning of the attack.

The failure of the government to set up this committee would appear to be evidence of the lack of priorities Labour gives to intelligence matters.

I spoke with the Leader of the Opposition more than three weeks ago about this matter.

As you are aware this committee is not a select committee of parliament but is instead a special committee of parliamentarians set up by statute.

The members of the committee are nominated by yourself and the Leader of the Opposition, and are approved by a resolution of parliament.

Please advise whether you intend setting this committee up. Secondly, could you inform me why the committee hasn't already been set up? I appreciate that the committee can't formally meet until parliament ratifies it but there is nothing to stop the committee meeting informally.

There is widespread concern over the reliability and quality of, and access to, intelligence regarding possible terrorism attacks. It is my understanding that the British equivalent committee has already publicly stated that it is holding a review of intelligence that was available to the British government regarding the Bali bombing.

The Australian government has also said it is reviewing its intelligence.

Here in New Zealand we are so complacent that the Intelligence and Security committee has not only not met - and it hasn't even been set up.

New Zealanders are travelling today not knowing how much reliance they should place on travel advisories issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I put it to you that the Intelligence and Security committee should be now urgently reviewing the intelligence services to ascertain: * how reliable they are;

* whether New Zealand or any other country which we have intelligence links with had knowledge of the Bali bombing;

* are there other matters which require review such as the priority that the intelligence services are placing on terrorism?

* is New Zealand in the "intelligence loop", or have we been excluded by Australia, the UK and the USA? As a former member of this committee I would appreciate an urgent response.

Yours sincerely,
Hon Richard Prebble CBE Leader,
ACT New Zealand.

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