Keith Locke on Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill – Third Reading


: The Green Party will support the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill, but we are concerned about the expansion in the number of people who are private investigators or security people. I think a figure was thrown around in one of the earlier debates of about 18,000 people working in this area. It has been the growth area in New Zealand society over recent years, and in general it produces nothing in terms of the productive economy of our country. More and more of our resources are being diverted, we might say, into the area. The question I start with is why in this modern society we need so many private eyes, security guards, property guards, personal guards, crowd-control people, security consultants, people who secure areas, check security cameras, and people who destroy documents—the list goes on and on. I remember when I was growing up a few years ago that just about the only security people I came across were one or two other people, who did not have uniforms on, at the door of the dances I went to. In that time there were a couple of people, the private investigators, whom we did not see and whose main job was to spy on people to see who was committing adultery, so that one of the partners in a marriage could use the information in a divorce suit. I remember that I used to regularly go down to Lancaster Park to watch the rugby games, and I cannot remember seeing any security guards in uniforms there, although there might have been a couple of police around, just to tell people which direction to go in. It was a different society altogether, and now we are thinking about the Rugby World Cup next year, for which there will be a whole array of people with uniforms on to protect the World Cup and all the people going into the games. It seems totally out of proportion. When Sir Roger Douglas started in Parliament here a few years ago—

Shane Ardern

: Was that before you, Keith?


: —and that was a few years ago, was it not—I do not think there were any security guards in Parliament to speak of. Apparently a couple of people were stationed at the doors to welcome people coming in. They did not see the people as any threat, and they said “Come on, come in.” There was no security around the building to speak of. There are two concepts that we seem to have lost sight of in all this, and one of those is trust. In those past days I am talking about, people basically trusted each other, and they did not think we needed a whole lot of people running around in uniforms to protect some people against other people. The second concept we seem to have lost sight of a bit is the concept of risk. We are much less likely to take risks and to risk something going wrong. In the past, when there were not any security guards around in crowds, at rugby games, or wherever, there was occasionally a bit of mayhem, and there might not have been people on hand to stop it immediately, but it was a much better society because we took that risk. We were not scared that if something went wrong or someone got hurt it would be in the papers the next day, and someone would have to be responsible and someone would have to be blamed. We had more of a concept of risk, an understanding that in society we have to take some risks. Our national hero, Sir Edmund Hillary, is a person whose life was built on risk, yet we seem to have forgotten about that as an important factor in society. In those days, as was pointed out by a previous speaker, most of the control was done by a few people in police uniforms. Now we have a lot more people who are not in police uniforms. Is that a move to greater efficiency? I think it was much more efficient when we had a few people, who were fully trained and respected because they had police powers.

I will go into the issue of clause 66, which has been omitted from the bill. The Greens and Labour, as members know, have opposed the elimination of clause 66. We want to continue the prohibition on private investigators taking photos, videos, and audio recordings of people, all of which clause 66 prohibited. There is even more reason to do that now, given the advance of technology. It is not now the situation it was in the days of the earlier legislation, when only still photographs were used. Now videos are used, and more and more the videos are electronic videos, rather than the old video tapes. Those devices are much cheaper and much more intrusive. They are often much smaller, and they can be very covert, as we saw in the recent case, over the last week, surrounding Stephen Wilce. As a result of a

60 Minutes

documentary Stephen Wilce, who was the head of the Defence Technology Agency, appears to have not been entirely truthful about his background. That issue started off when TV3 went in and interviewed him with a covert camera, which he did not know was present. The thing about those cameras is that they are fairly easy to run continuously. If they are put in an office, house, or wherever it might be, they keep going and going, and they can be accessed remotely. The person running the show does not need to be in the vicinity, just as our traffic cameras, which of course perform a good purpose, are accessed remotely in a control room some distance from the particular intersections at which the cameras are directed. It is also easier, because of the electronic timing positioning and timing in video tapes today, to focus back and forth on whatever we want. A particularly interesting and worrying development is the spread of facial recognition systems, through which we can apply facial characteristics to a whole set of video tapes, and find a particular person in a very quick space of time. That means it is much easier for private eyes to track people around a city, if they have cameras in place. With audio interceptions, the technology has marched on as well. All the things I mentioned for video technology apply to audio interceptions as well. Audio interception devices are small, and they can be covert and unknown to the person who is under surveillance. They can be permanently in place, accessed remotely, and can have directional microphones attached, which means they can be quite a bit further away from their target. Voice recognition systems are available, and automatic transcription systems can also be used for transcribing the voice intercepts, and I think the Hansard Office

of this Parliament uses that technology as well. In terms of what private investigators are trying to do, that reliance on technology has a big downside. Those investigators who have been contracted by outsourcing by Government departments, such as Momentum Consulting Group in the Stephen Wilce case, might have been relying too much on technology, and googling the name “Stephen Wilce” to see whether he came up on Google or whatever, rather than talking to the people he had worked with over the years, by which I mean the seven different employers those recruiters do not seem to have had a chat to.

One of the problems with any electronic interception system, be it audio or video, is that if someone gets round behind the system and changes something, everyone accepts that the person is OK, because the background part of the system has been falsified. There are also problems with private investigators being outsourced from State agencies such as Solid Energy, which outsourced private investigation through Thompson and Clark Investigations, which infiltrated the Save Happy Valley Coalition, an environmental group that was trying to protect a pristine area on the West Coast. That was very destructive to that organisation, and very unethical. That is the problem when we allow private agencies to go beyond the legal and moral constraints that operate for the State agencies that report to the Government and this Parliament, and which we can keep an eye on. I think it is good that this bill exercises, in general, a lot of controls over the field of private investigators and security people, but we have to be wary about going too far down the track. Thank you.