Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Bill – Second Reading

The Green Party will be opposing this bill, as it has previously.

We do not see the need to grant these powers to the police and the intelligence agencies at this time. No objective case has been made, either in terms of this bill or the other bill that authorises such interceptions, the Crimes Bill Amendment Bill (No 6), which passed through the House a year or so ago, that we would catch many more criminals, be they terrorists or anyone else through the exercise of these powers.

In our opinion, the downside is much greater than the upside. No one doubts that by having greater surveillance, be it electronic interception or cameras in the streets or whatever, we can catch more criminals, but we have to have an objective analysis of the situation. With any advance of surveillance or security powers, we have to analysis whether the downside for privacy and civil liberties is greater than the upside. We believe the downside is greater.

The argument being advanced so far in the debate, by several speakers including the last, is that we live in a new era of terrorism. Unfortunately, Ron Mark basically said that if the Greens were affected by terrorism, they would think differently. I thought I would start at that point. Just over 20 years ago, on 27 March I was living in Wellington, and on my way down the Petone motorway to go to a meeting of the Wellington Trades Council where I was a delegate from the railway workers union. On my car radio I heard about a bombing at the Wellington Trades Hall. One of the people I was expecting to see at that meeting was the caretaker of the hall, Ernie Abbott, who I knew well and talked to a lot. When I arrived at the meeting I heard that he had been blown up by a terrorist bomb.

The second incident — there have been only two terrorist incidents in New Zealand over the last few decades — occurred on 10 July 1985. Friends of mine had come in on the Rainbow Warrior. They were active in the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement, and I knew that other friends of mine were visiting the Rainbow Warrior. I was living in Auckland at that time, and when I heard that there had been a bomb on the Rainbow Warrior I was very fearful for their safety. So the idea that people in this House, and myself in particular, are not aware of the problems of terrorism and its effects on those closest to us is quite wrong.

I think what needs to be borne in mind is that those two incidents of terrorism were terrorist acts against left-wing and progressive people. So the idea that people of my political persuasion are not on the receiving end of these things and do not understand them is completely wrong.

We hear talk that we are not in benign strategic environment and that there is a whole new era of terrorism, but we need to look objectively at the situation. We need to look at Australia, where there has not been recent terrorism, but there is history of terrorism. Again, terrorism was much more prevalent in Australia in an earlier period, particularly that of some Croatian neo-fascists who set off a whole lot of bombs.

If we look at the other countries mentioned, we see that there have been some very dramatic terrorist acts over the last year or two, particularly Madrid, Bali, and September 11. In the cases of Madrid and Bali, because of the placement of those bombs there was horrific loss of life, which we have all been very sad about, and we have been pleased that the Bali bombers have been brought to justice, and hope that the Madrid bombers will be, as well.

If one looks at Spain, historically the incidence of terrorism in earlier periods has been much higher, particularly the ETA bombings, and in Indonesia historically the incidence of bombing has been much greater before September 11, 2001.

In Britain, the incidence of terrorist bombings has been historically much greater through the IRA period. Looking at Europe as a whole, with Red Army factions, Red Brigades, and all the rest of it, there has been a much greater incidence of bombing in a previous period. Leaving September 11 aside, the interesting thing about the United States is that going from the period 1998 to now, it has been at a historic low point in terms of terrorism compared with earlier periods when there were Symbianese Liberation Army, people bombing Oklahoma, the Weather people, etc.

So the idea that we are in some new age of terrorism is statistically false — but this is not to say that there is not a problem, particularly generated from concerns in the Islamic world and in extremist sections of the Islamic community.

The idea that one has to have these powers now, is incorrect. When talking about a benign strategic environment, one must look first at where the problem is of countries going around and invading and occupying other countries. The prime problem with the world today is that there is only one country, the United States, with its allies, and unfortunately New Zealand is being dragged along in one instance. The United States has invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the cause of a lot of the upsets throughout the Islamic world, which unfortunately gives some of those Islamic extremists some degree of support for the horrific actions they carry out.

One has to remove the cause of terrorism, and particularly address the cause that has been highlighted over the last week, which is the continuing occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel. This has been a running sore and has caused a lot of the terrorism we have seen over the last decades. In fact, Palestinian terrorism in earlier times was internationalised. It was at the Munich Olympics and in a lot of aircraft hijackings.

To really root out those international forms of terrorism by small groups and non-State actors, one has to deal with the underlying problem in that region, rather than be part of the problem by, for instance, sending the New Zealand SAS back to Afghanistan.

New Zealand is involved in this electronic surveillance already, particularly through the Waihopai Valley tracking station near Blenheim, which is part of the US-led Echelon five-nation network, and what has that involved us in? It has involved us in very nefarious activities. It was exposed recently that the network spied on Kofi Annan and other UN officials, and there were reports in the Australian media that New Zealand had received a transcript of one of the interceptions of Kofi Annan. Unfortunately, the Government has pleaded secrecy on security matters as a reason for not reporting to the House whether in fact this is true. I think what that issue and the whole issue of Waihopai, which now links up with Echelon, shows is that the use of electronic interception is part of New Zealand being an intelligence dependency of particularly the United States and, alongside it, Britain, Australia, and Canada.

The description to Supplementary Order Paper 197 to this bill, which has just been put forward and which members will talk about later, shows again that there is unwarranted interception through Waihopai; that is, interception without a warrant. That is explicitly allowed in this bill, and it is very dangerous because it means that we do get involved in such things as spying on Kofi Annan, or — what also became public about a year ago — the National Security Agency issuing instructions to its overseas partners such as in Britain, and presumably New Zealand, to launch spying on UN delegates, particularly those from countries that were believed to be wavering on a United Nations resolution prior to the American invasion of Iraq. For us to be involved in that sort of thing — using the electronic intelligence this bill is authorising and putting into practical effect — would be quite wrong.

We know that electronic intelligence is used for nefarious purposes and that intelligence agencies themselves are very untrustworthy. There is huge debate going on in Britain, in Australia, and in the United States in particular about the way in which intelligence is being altered and manufactured. It can be done very easily with electronic intelligence. The material coming through into computers can be altered, manufactured, and reinterpreted very easily. So it is a very dangerous road to go down when New Zealand intelligence agencies and, to an extent, the police are in a dependent relationship to such intelligence.


Second Reading, Parliament