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Q+A Panel: Response to Paul Brislen, Russel Norman, Amy Adams


PANEL DISCUSSIONS
HOSTED BY SUSAN WOOD

In response to PAUL BRISLEN and RUSSEL NORMAN interview and
AMY ADAMS interview

SUSAN WOOD
Welcome back to the panel. Stephen Franks is madly scribbling down there. Mike Williams and Jennifer Curtin. Before we get on to substance, because we’ve been talking about leadership a lot this morning, that was a powerful response there from Amy Adams, wasn’t it, Mike?

MIKE WILLIAMS - Former Labour Party President
Confusing, though. I mean, in the throes of that interview, she kept saying that there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Well, that’s because the intentions and measures within the bill have been poorly communicated. The truth of the matter is that the NSA in America has the same sort of law behind it, and over the years, this has resulted in absolutely massive harvesting of personal emails and personal telephone calls. There is nothing to stop that happening here.

STEPHEN FRANKS - Former ACT MP
I thought she did a very good job, but there’s one thing that’s very hard for a democratic leader to say in this area, certainly in our generation, that if we had an outrage in NZ, the fate of a leader who stood there in front of the people, ‘Look, I could have found it out, but we decided we wouldn’t’ would be far worse than the Pike River directors. It’s a situation. In previous generations, if you ran a railway, you were obliged to consult with defence so it could carry your trucks or your tanks in most countries. If you built a port, you reserved space for guns on a headland. Defence has always been problematic. It’s always been scary. It’s always been a potential for it to be misused. My concern about the political campaign on this is that they’re not focussing on what I want to hear, which is what are the rules that prevent this information going for commercial purposes or transmitted on offences that wouldn’t be offences here but are overseas? How do you protect New Zealanders from uses? I think the door was opened long ago. We have to assume that in all prudent countries, the data will be accessed if there’s a hazard. So the key thing is, then, what are the constraints on use? And we used to have a bipartisan consensus here. Now it’s broken down.

SUSAN And that is a very good point, Jennifer. Helen Clark sat down with Jenny Shipley over it. We saw it, and it was all around national security, and this has become politicised, and, really, does it do any of us service the fact that it has not become so partisan, so polarised?

JENNIFER CURTIN - Political Scientist
Well, I don’t think you hear a lot from Labour about it, so the polarisation is between the Greens and the government. And I think then it’s about, like, the minister’s message is really clear. But up to this point, I’m not sure that the voters have been getting clear messages on the pros and cons of this bill, and partly because the focus has been so strongly on the GCSB, which is why people might be getting this mixed up. So if there is misinformation out there, it’s time to get it cleared up with the correct information, but I think voters will generally find this too technical to engage within a meaningful way.

SUSAN Stephen, you know, we’ve just heard three interviews, and it’s hard to know whether it’s the slow threat to freedom, as Russel Norman would have it, or simply just technical legislation, as Amy Adams would have it.

STEPHEN I think it’s both. Paul was very interesting, because he has looked at it technically, and he is concerned that it’ll mean they have to clear their network designs with officials who might be way behind the eight ball and we’ll lose market opportunity, and it’ll cost us a lot more. On the other hand, there are probably good reasons to think that Huawai could be a problem. IBM. We know that IBM used to put stuff into things it sold to support US defence. All countries will use opportunities, and none of the politicians really want to talk about it, because we’re supposed to be peace-loving and we don’t threaten anyone. But the truth is there are some really hard design problems, and if we didn’t have some sort of protection, for example, the Australians would see us as their flapping back door.

SUSAN And yet there are allegations, Mike, that this law, if it’s passed, will stifle innovation. We heard that from Paul Brislen.

MIKE Yeah, I can’t actually follow that argument, but what I would say is that the point the minister made was this doesn’t actually change things very much. And I’m wondering about that, because we seem to be very good at picking up paedophiles, looking at child pornography, so somehow this is working. Is this bill even really necessary? I can’t imagine what’s changed technically to make a difference. That’s the first point. The second point is I don’t think enough of an effort, as Jennifer observed, has been made to bring the Labour Party onside. I think there was a possibility there of a bipartisan. I don’t you would have ever got the Greens onside. But I don’t think enough of an effort was made to get more than that one-seat majority for that legislation.

SUSAN And it would be good, actually, whoever the new Labour leader is, Stephen, when we’re through this process in the next few weeks, if we do see some effort from John Key’s government towards him to try and get them onside. I mean, we know about the meeting with David Shearer, which may have been part of his undoing.

STEPHEN Yes, we should. Certainly, we’ve been very fortunate not to have the polarisation that we see in the United States, where that consensus is broken down. Instead of having some things where we’re all in this together, they all now fight on every front.

SUSAN Yes, because, Jennifer, you know, I think you would get 100 New Zealanders in the room, and 99 - maybe the Green wouldn’t agree on - but matters of national security, I think we’re pretty united on. None of us want to see attacks on NZ.

JENNIFER No, that’s right, and I think this is where people want to be reassured that arguments that some of the human rights activists are making or civil liberties groups are making about freedom of expression being curtailed by this bill, we really need to have a considered conversation around that to reassure voters that these sorts of-

SUSAN Well, none of us want that either.

STEPHEN Well, they do. We do. I mean, the truth is that if opportunists- I was named in the Nicky Hager book, and Don Brash was destroyed by it. And the same people who are complaining now thought that was wonderful. They’re not really interested in privacy of communication. They’re just really interested in picking a tribal fight.

SUSAN Very good, panel. We’ll leave it there. Thank you.


ENDS

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