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Dunne: Address to Rotary Club of Tawa

EMBARGOED AGAINST DELIVERY

HON PETER DUNNE

MP FOR OHARIU

LEADER, UNITEDFUTURE

ADDRESS TO ROTARY CLUB OF TAWA

TUESDAY 15 JULY 2014 AT 7:00 PM

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of my first election to Parliament.

There are some days when it feels like it has been all of that time – but others, many more others, feel like it was just literally yesterday, and I have only just begun.

In that time, Jennifer and I have had, and seen our family grow up.

Both our sons have now embarked upon what already have been extremely successful careers for them – one as a lawyer, and the other as a doctor.

The last 30 years have seen remarkable change.

When I first became an MP, Parliament was still dominated by men – mainly men too – who had fought in World War II, and who had come back, keen to preserve the New Zealand of their youth for future generations.

By 1984, the sad folly of that approach had been exposed for all to see, and although I have no doubt that they were genuinely conceived, the controlled economy and Fortress New Zealand approaches of the Muldoon Government were hopelessly and dangerously disconnected from the reality of the times.

Sir Robert himself increasingly seemed like the Franco of the South Pacific – irascible, often dictatorial, and out of touch, but so fearsome that few dared challenge him.

The 1984 election and the advent of the process of economic reform of the 1980s and 1990s changed all that forever.

However, I do not accept the view offered by some – invariably opposed to the reform process – who say that the reforms turned New Zealand’s traditional values on their head, and made us a different country from what we were before.

In my view, there has been a consistent thread in New Zealand’s economic and social history over the past nearly 200 years that the 1980s and earlier reforms reflect, and which remains a powerful policy driver today.

It is the quest for security.

Economic depressions in the 1870s and 1880s – following the gold booms and the New Zealand Wars – led to the development of the refrigerated meat export trade to the mother country in return for imported consumer products, which was to be the backbone of our economy and society for almost a century thereafter.

In the aftermath of the Great Depression, we clung more tightly than ever to the skirts of Mother England, the disdain of Montagu Norman, Governor of the Bank of England notwithstanding.

Michael Joseph Savage’s famous “Where Britain goes, we go” statement at the outbreak of war in 1939 was as much an economic statement as it was a political one.

Although the advent of the Labour Government in 1935 did see attempts at diversification, principally through industrialisation as a means of import substitution, (to control the balance of payments and keep the Bank of England happy) which continued through until the 1980s, there was to be no real change to this equation until Britain started to look seriously at joining the European Community in the 1960s.

At that time, the quest for security was manifest every year in the annual pilgrimages of successive New Zealand Overseas Trade Ministers, most notably Sir John Marshall, and others through to the 1980s to Brussels to plead for New Zealand’s annual export quota for sheepmeat, beef and dairy products.

Looking back, the tragedy was that New Zealand took most of the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s to wake up to the fact that Britain was serious about Europe and that when the crunch came, Commonwealth sentiment would count for only so much.

I always found the so-called “New Zealand Case” a little incongruous and naïve – that we seriously expected farmers in Europe’s agricultural nations to give something up for farmers nearly 20,000 kilometres away on the other side of the world.

But we clung to the “New Zealand Case” with almost unnatural fervour, and it was not really until the early 1970s that we realised things had to change here.

That process had only just begun when the first of the oil shocks hit in 1974 and again in 1977 with dramatic effects on our vulnerable, now exposed economy.

Little wonder, then that the Muldoon Government reacted the way it did – the men of the depression generation reverted to the methods that had served the country so well in the 1930s.

But times had changed, and it was the Lange and Bolger Governments historic mission to reinvigorate the quest for security by bringing New Zealand into the modern economic reality, through the pursuit of open markets, a floating exchange rate, and far more transparent management of monetary and fiscal policy.

As a result, the subsequent Clark and Key Governments have had the leeway to pursue the quest for security in other ways – through social policy initiatives like Kiwisaver, and foreign policy developments like our improved relationship with the United States of America.

It has been my privilege to have been part of the Executive at one time or another of every New Zealand Government since the time of Sir Robert Muldoon, and therefore I have been fortunate enough to have seen many of these changes discussed and implemented at close quarters.

That experience has reinforced some key values in me.

I am fiercely proud that we, as New Zealanders, believe in a “fair go” as a foundation stone of our way of life.

We must always be there to help people in health, in education, and in welfare.

But I am also more certain than ever that we cannot live a fair life unless we have a viable and flourishing market economy.

Labour and National seem to believe these two things are an “either, or” but to me, as a liberal, they are inextricably linked.

That pursuit of balance is why I belong to UnitedFuture.

When I started thinking about politics in the 1960s, I was an idealist.

I wanted a better, bolder, freer, more independent New Zealand.

I admired Norman Kirk as the man who spoke passionately about our nationhood, and who put us on the world stage all too briefly in the 1970s.

I am just as much an idealist today.

An important part of that idealism is appreciating the significance of our historical quest for security.

But, today, it is not just economic security through a properly functioning and competitive economy that produces wealth and income for families, or community and social security through policies that contribute to a safe and compassionate society.

It is also increasingly about protecting personal security from the intrusive powers of the state, or other states, under the perfectly understandable guise of preventing the scourge of terrorism, something previous generations of politicians could never have contemplated.

This is an area that I have followed closely for many years.

In 1991, I introduced the largest Private Member’s Bill ever – the Information Privacy Bill, to protect people from intrusions on their privacy, which laid the foundations for the Privacy Act passed three years later.

I have had a close and ongoing interest in intelligence and security matters, having served on the Intelligence and Security Committee, and also having experienced personally what happens when the State uses intrusive powers improperly and recklessly to access private communications.

That was why I was so determined to make our intelligence services more fully accountable to Parliament and the public and why, when given my situation at the time there were arguably strong incentives for me to do the opposite, I worked closely and strongly with the Prime Minister to tidy up the security legislation last year to stop illegal activity by our intelligence agencies.

Today, as Minister of Internal Affairs, I have responsibility for the range of IT services across government.

That represents a likely investment of $30 billion or more over the next decade, as we modernise and upgrade systems across government from Inland Revenue, to MSD, the Cabinet Office, the ACC and others besides.

Two things are important to me in this process.

First, the services we provide must make it easier for citizens to do their business with government, in a joined-up way, when and where they want.

And second, citizens must be able to be confident that their personal data is at all times secure, and free from improper access or snooping.

But my interest goes beyond that.

I do not have a problem with countries that work together sharing intelligence when it is in their mutual interests to do so.

That, to me, makes common sense.

So, I am not inherently against arrangements like the Five Eyes partnership New Zealand belongs to.

But when I hear that the United States, for example, is spying on Germany, and other partners, and read of some of the revelations of whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, I become extremely worried indeed.

I accept the reality of the explosive growth of telecommunications services around the world and how profoundly that changes the international security game.

I am as mind-boggled as anyone when I hear that over 200 million emails are sent every minute of every day, and I understand the potential implications of that.

Speaking about this recently, the Director of our GCSB contended that, “intelligence collection and self-protection in the information domain will continue to be a proper activity for liberal democracies.”

It is very hard to argue against that.

He then went on to lay out three pillars of how an agency like GCSB should operate in today’s environment.

He said it should be “effective at defending the government’s own critical information against sophisticated cyber espionage, and against disruption from any source.”

Again, a reasonable assumption, although one might quibble at the breadth of the description of “disruption from any source.”

However, his two further pillars are potentially more problematic in my view.

He said his agency should be “conducting sophisticated intelligence activities against any legitimate target, no matter how hard”, and that it should also be “a potent and effective contributor to military capability.”

With respect, I say to the Director those are not his calls to make.

One of the concerns people around the world have about intelligence agencies is that they operate in a way that is often unaccountable and in spite of the law.

And that accordingly, because they are in the shadows, they have developed a culture that not only are they above the law and government, but also quite detached from it.

According to this culture the pursuit of their objectives, regardless of what governments or anyone else might think, is paramount, because no-one else understands the subtle world in which they operate.

Indeed, it was the disclosure last year that the GCSB may have spied illegally on 88 New Zealanders that did its credibility the most damage.

The determination of what is a “legitimate target, no matter how hard” is one for the Government of the day to make, not the intelligence agencies.

And, again, the extent to which the intelligence agencies may contribute to military capability is a Government decision, not a GCSB one.

And as they are Government decisions, they should be formally conveyed by the Minister to at least the Intelligence and Security Committee and arguably the whole Parliament, and then the GCSB required to report upon them.

At a time when there is constant speculation about drone attacks in the Middle East and potential New Zealand casualties, this becomes more than an arcane point.

Now, of course, while important, this is not the major issue gripping the country as it prepares for the General Election.

Issues such as ensuring we have a stable, coherent functional government that stands up for the values and aspirations of families and communities in electorates like ours, and respects the love of the great outdoors that many New Zealanders feel, are far more to the fore, and I will have plenty to say about them in the weeks ahead.

But to the idealist who entered politics 30 years ago to seek a bolder, freer, more independent New Zealand, that, and the ongoing quest for security are important and enduring, and are what spur me on, which is why I am a candidate for Parliament once more at this election.

Ends


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