Budget bonanza for spies

The near-doubling of the vote for Security and Intelligence in the Budget calls for an explanation now, and effective oversight of the security services afterwards, Green Party Security and Intelligence Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“Our spies got $23.28 million to do their job last time around. But in the year 2006/07, this will rocket up to $43.49 million – without any explanation in the Budget about what this money is for, what dangers it is intended to dispel, or how this massive increase will make any of us any more secure.

“Could any other department virtually double its Budget allocation without a word of justification ? This increase comes at the same time that our aid vote – which could actually help to reduce income disparity and instability in our region, if properly funded – is being held to its current paltry ratio of our national income,” Mr Locke says.

“Logically, some of the spendup is likely to be for kitting out the offices of the security services as they move into the top floors of the spanking new building being prepared for Defence, once it vacates its recently re-furbished premises in Stout St, in downtown Wellington.

“However, that can be only half of the story. The spies’ bonanza is not simply a one-off. The funding levels projected are $32.3 million in the subsequent year, and $32.5 million for 2010, figures well above the current levels.

“Around the world, the worth and accuracy of intelligence information is being questioned, and calls for effective oversight are being made in the wake of major reviews in both Britain and the US.

“In New Zealand, more money is being allocated without any improvement in the oversight mechanisms so obviously needed. We have seen the security service bungles over the course of the Ahmed Zaoui case.

“Under the Labour-led Government, the security services budget has more than trebled. This spendup has occurred even though New Zealand has not been part of enforcing the military occupation of Iraq, and has therefore not generated the kind of resentments that have fuelled the security concerns in Britain, Australia and the United States.

“We should not allow ourselves to be stampeded into giving the security services a blank cheque to commit further bungles, in the name of countering a largely non-existent threat to this country.”