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Flavell: GCSB Bill Third Reading

Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill (GCSB Bill)
Wednesday 21 August 2013; 5.40pm
Te Ururoa Flavell

On Monday night, 1500 New Zealanders gathered at a public meeting in the Auckland Town Hall, coming together in opposition to this Bill.

I wasn’t there.

But that doesn’t mean the issues raised and the concerns expressed haven’t been heard by the Māori Party.

I understand that speakers at that event talked about this Bill as a threat to our fundamental freedom.

I am told that one of the challenges put at that hui was from Dr Rodney Harrison, QC, who told the crowd that we are a nation, sleep walking into a surveillance society”.

Today the Māori Party stands – as we have at every single stage of this bill – to oppose the virtual nightmare it in its absolute entirety.

While the crowd was gathered in Auckland, I was with representatives of whānau, hapū and iwi across the motu, at another major gathering just down the road.

This week, Mr Speaker, is the occasion of the Koroneihana, and I want to acknowledge the incredible organisation, the devoted commitment and the inspirational momentum that this hui represents in the heart and soul of tangata whenua.

Since 1858, the Kingitanga has stood strong to survive intense challenges, wars, land confiscation, poverty and destitution. It has endured two major global conflicts and several bouts of severe economic crisis.

This attack on our freedom –the introduction of mass surveillance – must surely be seen in yet another injustice that our iwi have had to withstand.

Tangata whenua are saying in this House today - we will never ever agree to submit to surveillance by the Government’s spy agency.

Each of our iwi has horrendous stories to tell of the experiences we have been put through in the name of colonial rule.

I have listened to the perspectives of Tuhoe leader, Tamati Kruger, about the impact of this bill.

Tamati has told the nation that Tuhoe knows all too well about injustice resulting from Crown suspicion, as highlighted by their fraught historic relationship.

It was his advice that extending the powers of the GCSB will only fuel the Crown's suspicion of New Zealanders and contribute to further injustices. Indeed, according to Tamati, if the bill is made law, Tuhoe – and by default all other iwi - must find ways of protecting itself by being vigilant that its privacy is no longer respected. I have seen for myself some of the logs of surveillance on innocent Tuhoe citizens. The Tuhoe raids are a blight on New Zealand history.

The Māori Party has put it out there from the moment this bill was floated, that we will oppose the legislation because it is intrusive and lacks justification for what we believe is an extraordinary extension of their powers.

This is absolutely consistent with our vigilant opposition to all of the variations of legislation that have paved the way to this bill.

In 2011 we opposed the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill which was being pushed through under urgency and called for our constituents and the public to make submissions. Such an issue of importance -yet New Zealanders were given only 24 hours to have their say.

We also opposed the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Act 2007 introduced by Labour, which was passed post Operation 8 to justify and validate the actions of the police during Operation 8.

The Māori Party believes that this latest Bill is inconsistent with the rights to freedom of expression and freedom from unreasonable search or seizure under our law and will merely validate actions like those of Operation 8 where some police actions were also deemed illegal. As this House knows full well the Independent Police Conduct Authority report on Operation 8 found in some areas police acted "unlawfully, unjustifiably and unreasonably" during those raids. All that this Bill does is to increase the powers of the GSCB – to make it easier to spy on New Zealanders.

Last year we opposed the Search and Surveillance Bill for similar reasons because we believed the search powers vested in police officers under the bill were too broad and were concerned that they did not require a search warrant. That bill allowed more government agencies to carry out surveillance operations, changed the right to silence and allowed judges to decide whether journalists can protect their sources or not.

Earlier this year the Kitteridge Report revealed that 88 New Zealand citizens were subjected to surveillance by the GCSB. In the interests of transparency the Maori Party requested that these names be revealed, however, this request was declined.

And I think this is one of the key issues of concern for all of us in the Māori Party and indeed in Maoridom generally. Why on earth would Māori believe that the state through its agencies would ever act honourably when history suggests otherwise?

I want to conclude this debate by referring to an issue I spoke of earlier at the second reading debate and that was the claims made in 2004 in a newspaper article by Anthony Hubbard and Nicky Hager. Their claims were that SIS spies were investigating Māori activists and Māori in general including the Māori Party.

The article revealed a campaign coded Operation Leaf, in which the SIS were told to gather intelligence on internal iwi business negotiations, finances and Treaty of Waitangi claims, and inter-tribal communications. The article went further to suggest that agents were instructed to watch for dirt on Māori leaders, and that computer geeks had been hired to plant bugs in the computers of Māori organisations.

I think it is important to further describe the context of this time. These were the heydays of Don Brash and his infamous Orewa tirade attacking special treatment for Māori. My co-leader Tariana Turia crossed the floor in abject opposition to the Foreshore and Seabed Bill. The mighty Māori Party was born and took out four seats at the 2005 elections. And then to cap it off an ancient charge of sedition was taken out by Labour against Tim Selwyn, a young man accused of throwing an axe through Helen Clark’s electorate office in protest to the foreshore and seabed bill.

Selwyn was later charged under the Crimes Act for the act of sedition – defined as "speech, writing or behaviour intended to encourage rebellion or resistance against the government". Selwyn was charged for the publication of a pamphlet – his crime being the opportunity to incite, procure, or encourage violence, lawlessness, or disorder through publication of said leaflet. It was the first prosecution for sedition in at least 75 years and drew considerable controversy.

Mr Speaker, I take us back to that history – less than a decade ago – because the Māori Party has an extremely powerful objection to any such power of the state. We believe that all these Acts do is to invite abuse of our right to freedom of speech.

I want to conclude by stating two facts for the record.

Firstly, as a result of the extreme agitation in Māori communities about Operation Leaf, Tariana Turia called for an independent inquiry, writing to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security. Her statement at that time was that an inquiry was needed as New Zealanders take for granted that our freedom to live in an open democracy is a basic standard of living for our nation.

In April 2005 the official investigation overseen by Justice Paul Neazor concluded that there was nothing to suggest that the allegations around Operation Leaf were true – and SIS Director of the time, Richard Woods assured Mrs Turia that there was no cause for concern.

The second development was that the crime of sedition – inciting insurrection against the state – was eventually thrown out by this Parliament in October 2007 by an overwhelming majority of 114 to 7 – the only party to vote against being, ironically, New Zealand first.

This history is a vital backdrop for the GCSB we are debating today. We do not need to waste time trying to fix something up that is not worth salvaging. It was for that reason that we came out yesterday and declared our universal opposition to amendments put up by all parties.

We must be free to associate with whom we want, wherever we want, whenever we want.

This law threatens our basic human rights, it is invasive, intrusive and we will never ever support it.

ENDS

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