KEITH LOCKE (Green)
One of the problems we have with discussing this legislation—whether it is appropriate, and the particular issues that the previous speaker raised—is that the SIS is such an opaque organisation and, whatever we pass here, it is very hard to tell whether it will abide by it because we do not have the means of it being accountable to Parliament the way we have with other Government agencies. Often when Ministers come into this House they trumpet the achievements of their organisation and the importance of this legislation to improve the functioning of that organisation, but, in the case of the SIS, I cannot think of one achievement it can claim credit for over many, many years.
Hon David Parker
: Preventing thermo-nuclear war.
: Well, it is interesting that back in November 2009 there was a request from the Security Intelligence Service to vice-chancellors of different universities for those vice-chancellors and minions to alert the SIS as to any illicit science relating to problems of weapons of mass destruction. That caused a bit of consternation amongst the academic community because, first, they were not aware there were any people at Massey University who were running around producing weapons of mass destruction. As the President of the Tertiary Education Union, Dr Tom Ryan, said, they do have something called academic freedom, including freedom from having State agencies breathing down their necks. According to Dr Ryan, this request would “undermine the legislative autonomy of institutions, including the guarantee of academic freedom”. So that was another problem that the SIS had. If we look at more recent examples, there was Stephen Wilce who was the head of science technology for the Defence Force. The SIS did a vet on him. He was probably one of the very few people in New Zealand who would have any real Government secrets. We are a pretty open society and we have a pretty open Government. We are involved in the estimates process at the moment. We are getting all this stuff from each department. We know pretty much what is going on, including in defence itself, but possibly someone at the head of defence science technology might have one or two secrets. He would perhaps be the one person amongst the thousands they vet each year who they should perhaps have a close look at, but the SIS fell down on the job. Stephen Wilce was a bit of a fantasist and should not have been in the job in the first place, etc.
Hon Trevor Mallard
: What about
? Do you remember Devon?
: Devon Biggs was a student either at Auckland or Victoria University—
Hon Trevor Mallard
: —Victoria University, who many years ago, as far as students and lecturers at Victoria University were concerned, was breaching their academic freedom and the right to dissent against the Government of the day. He was an SIS agent on the campus dedicated to watching these great subversive students who were protesting the Viet Nam War, apartheid, and the like. There was a huge furore about that, and eventually an accommodation was reached with the universities that they would not put SIS agents on the campus. That was not really a feather in the cap of the SIS. Then we had the Ahmed Zaoui case, which came to public attention. The SIS claimed this as a great victory for either 4 or 6 years, I have forgotten which, before it had to admit that this chap was a legitimate democratic dissident from Algeria who is now well settled in New Zealand and no one considers him a terrorist or dangerous person at all. They completely failed in that case and caused great heartache to Ahmed Zaoui, who was in solitary confinement for a long time, in prison, then out of prison, and finally he got his family here and he is now settled in Palmerston North and running a kebab stall. That was a great failure, but even more of a failure was the fact that even though the SIS had access to all the information on Ahmed Zaoui, it did not see the light for so many years. The special advocate for Ahmed Zaoui, Stuart Grieve, made a submission to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee on the Immigration Bill. He looked at some of the material that was held against Ahmed Zaoui and he said that, for a start, most of the so-called secret material was in the public domain—about 90 percent of it—so it was not really secret material.
It was of such low quality as to be virtually meaningless.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch)
: I ask the member to refer to Part 1.
: Yes, and this is related to Part 1.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch)
: I am on my feet. Although it may have some relevance, you need to relate it back so that we know which part of Part 1 we should refer to. I ask the member to continue and bring in Part 1.
: It is relevant, particularly to the debate started up by David Parker on clause 5A where it talks about the particular duties of the Security Intelligence Service and the need for the agency to operate “in accordance with New Zealand law and all human rights standards”. I am explaining that in the particular case of Ahmed Zaoui human rights were not properly dealt with by the Security Intelligence Service. It was sort of a failure of the agency to abide by what one would think were the proper human rights standards and proper scrutiny. That issue came into public attention, and it turned out to be a failure for the Security Intelligence Service. There was another big case where the Security Intelligence Service invaded the home of Aziz Choudry. That was a big case in 1996 and, again, he was a legitimate political activist who was critical of free trade and investment agreements in the main. The Security Intelligence Service got into a lot of trouble because it broke the law by actually invading his home and the Security Intelligence Service, at that point, did not have legal powers to break into people’s homes. The judge, in the end, after a long effort to try to get the material on the case out of the Security Intelligence Service, and it was a huge struggle, eventually ruled against the Security Intelligence Service. In effect, on that case, I think Mr Choudry may have received some compensation out of it as well, but I do not have that detail in my mind. We can go back to an earlier case with Dr William Ball Sutch, who was a leading civil servant in our fine nation, a great writer, a historian, and everything else. He was found, at a trial, to be not guilty of, I think, espionage or something like that in terms of the charge. So the Security Intelligence Service failed in that case. There are all these histories of failures, but I cannot think of one single success of the Security Intelligence Service. Perhaps in this debate one single success can be given by the Minister perhaps to illustrate a success of the Security Intelligence Service to justify its existence and all the legislation we are trying to put around it. Overseas some of the intelligence agencies have the odd success, like tracking down Osama Bin Laden or whatever it might be. But I cannot think of one success for our Security Intelligence Service, so that begs the question of whether we need a Security Intelligence Service or can the police deal with criminality, including politically motivated criminality, instead of this secret agency that is pretty unaccountable. We do not even know—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch)
: I again bring to your attention that this part is not specifically about the Security Intelligence Service. I did ask if you would relate the examples you were giving back to parts of the bill. If we look at the purpose clause, it is not all about the Security Intelligence Service; it is about the authority given to it to use modern technology in the performance of its functions. That is part of it. I ask you to tie what you are saying back into the importance of the bill.
: I take your point, and we are giving access to this modern, much more intrusive technology, which is more intrusive on people’s privacy. I think that is an additional reason why we have to make sure that the Security Intelligence Service upholds the human rights standards referred to in Part 1. I personally and the Green Party are not confident that the Security Intelligence Service will match up, and that is where the record of the Security Intelligence Service has to be taken into account. Do we give more intrusive powers to an agency that does not have a track record of success, yet is getting more and more money, and more and more agents but still does not seem to be achieving anything? It is all geared to catching all of these terrorists, of which we have not tracked down one in the whole last decade in New Zealand.