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Napier J.P.Resigns Following Passage of GCSB Amendment Bill

Napier J.P.Resigns Following Passage of GCSB Amendment Bill

Yesterday, Parliament passed the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, making it possible for New Zealand citizens and residents to be spied on in a new manner which contradicts the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

Today, Dr Robin Gwynn submitted his resignation as a Justice of the Peace and as a warrant Issuing Officer, with immediate effect.

JPs are judicial officers, and Dr Gwynn said he could not in conscience continue in these unpaid appointee roles with their legal implications, for a country which so lightly dismisses the fundamental rights of its citizens.

‘The reason that the original Bill of Rights came into being’, Dr Gwynn said, ‘was that people came to realise that while governments are necessary, they are also potentially so dangerous to their subjects that some basic bounds must be set to their powers.

‘Powers to spy on civilians are, and rightly should be, exceptional – granted only when there is demonstrable cause to suspect particular individuals, at which point the public good overrides their natural rights.

‘But here we have an Act which enables widespread state spying on New Zealanders, and couples it with the ability to collect and retain “incidentally obtained intelligence”.

‘This is not a power that should be held by ANY democratic government, of any country or any political colour or ideology.

‘It doesn’t make any difference even if the Prime Minister of the day is the most trustworthy person in the world. It is a power that simply should not exist.

‘And if the Bill of Rights is to be amended, it should not be possible to do so against the will of most New Zealanders, under urgency, against the best legal advice, without a significant majority in Parliament, and without full and proper explanation and discussion.’

Dr Gwynn explained this was a matter on which he felt very strongly because his entire professional life as a historian had focused on the 1680s, the decade that culminated in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. That Bill was on our own statute book until it was replaced by the New Zealand equivalent in 1990.

‘For many years, my research has been about people made refugees in large numbers, not because they did anything wrong – they were mostly peace-loving, hard-working citizens - but simply because their government did not like their ideas.

‘If we can’t learn obvious lessons from history, we are condemned to repeat its mistakes. The lesson of the period I study is that there are some powers with which NO government should ever be trusted.

‘It is ironic that the Prime Minister has used this week the very same mantra - that he could always be trusted - which was used by the apologists of the King whose actions brought about the original Bill of Rights.

‘And when the government of our own country in 2013 so frequently abuses its trust, when the Defence Force cannot distinguish between journalists and potential terrorists, when ACC cannot control leaks damaging to defenceless individuals, when even our Parliamentary Service will just hand over private phone records, the need for vigilance could hardly be more obvious.’

Robin has been a JP for fifteen years. He said, ‘I will be sorry not to be able to join again with my fellow JPs, with whom I was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Hawke’s Bay Justices of the Peace Association earlier this month. As we were then reminded, the work of JPs is about “people helping people”. Those undertaking it are interesting people with a strong ethos of community service. I wish them well in their on-going efforts for our community.

‘I will also regret being unable to make fuller use of the qualification as Issuing Officer which I achieved last year after considerable time and study and which was intended to be for the benefit of the common good.

‘But I’ve spent my life studying what happens when a government acts without proper regard for fundamental rights and when it claims, and abuses, unreasonable powers. I cannot in conscience be party, however remotely, to such a process. So I have no choice but to resign.

‘I look forward to the day when our Bill of Rights is secured against all infringements from governments with short-term agendas and an unreasonable wish to act in haste.’


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