Home > The Body Politic > State-sponsored voyeurism? No thanks, Mr Key.

State-sponsored voyeurism? No thanks, Mr Key.

The Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill is perhaps one of the shortest pieces of legislation ever brought before Parliament. The text is barely three paragraphs long.

Yet, the implications of this Bill is far-ranging in it’s impact on our society which supposedly values freedom, privacy, and civil rights.

With this Bill, the government is effectively over-riding a Supreme Court decision, and re-writing law to suit itself – and the Police force.

Many New Zealanders who understanding the ramifications of this Bill are not just unhappy – they are scornful of John Key’s government. That scorn was publicly expressed today (Saturday, 1 October), when a protest closed much of Victoria Street in down-town Wellington, opposite the Central Police Station.

The protest was peaceful and made it’s way to the nearby Wellington waterfront.

Mainstream media – except for the Radio NZ website – did not report any of todays’ protest event.

From Radio NZ,




Meanwhile, the Dominion Post fed this to the Happy Folk of Wellington,


Full Story


Now don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against the military. (Even if they have mis-spent $20 million of our tax-dollars on advertising and PR campaigns.)  The NZDF generally do a damned good job.

Then, for the media to report on the pomp and ceremony of our Armed Forces – whilst ignoring protest activity  opposing a Bill that is both invasive of our privacy and contemptuous of the Courts – is frightening. And lazy. There is a tinge of subtle “stalinism” in this affair; public displays of our clean-cut, brave boys (and girls) in uniform – whilst in the back-rooms of government offices, politicians are doing sneaky things to undermine our civil rights.

Thankfully, there are those who are not prepared to take such an affront to our freedoms lying down, like sheep-in-a-paddock.



Something of immediate importance that did make it into the Dominion Post,



Never under-estimate the media’s priorities in presenting critical, news-worthy stories to the public.




+++ Updates +++




Whilst this is a slight improvement, it still doesn’t resolve serious concerns that are held about this piece of legislation.

New Zealand has become a much-surveilled society in the last 20 years, with cameras everywhere, including your local public library.

If people had seen this coming in 1984, I wonder how they would have reacted? With horror and anger I am guessing.


+++ Updates +++


As part of the campaign opposing this atrocious piece of  “1984ish” piece of legislation, this Blog lobbied several ACT and Labour MPs to encourage them to vote against it.  Charles Chauvel (Labour) was one of only two MPs to respond,


from:    Charles Chauvel Charles.Chauvel@parliament.govt.nz
to:    [email]
date:   Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM
subject:    RE: Video Camera Surveillance Bill!

Good morning

Thank you for your email regarding the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill.

Labour has strongly opposed National’s attempt to push through legislation on this issue under urgency and without giving the public a say. We were instrumental in forcing National to send their original legislation to a Select Committee. We made clear that we could not support the Bill that was introduced by National as it had unacceptable retrospective provisions and appeared to widen the powers available for surveillance.

After hearing evidence from experts and other interested parties the Select Committee has significantly altered the Bill.  This has addressed a number of significant issues:

1. In order to allow the Police to resume covert video surveillance from the date of the Bill’s assent, their powers to do so are affirmed, but only on the basis of the law as it was understood prior to the Supreme Court decision, no more broadly than that (as the draft government Bill did), and only on the basis of the most serious offending. Labour would have liked the Bill to go further, and provide a warranting procedure, but the Government left the drafting exercise needed too late to make this happen;

2. The legislation will apply for a maximum of 6 months only, meaning that legislation that can deal with a proper warranting procedure for surveillance will be passed;

3. Cases currently under investigation, whether or not yet before the courts, will not be interfered with by Parliament. The Courts must be left free to determine under existing law whether evidence gathered in support of any such prosecutions is admissible. The overwhelming evidence before the committee was that s30 Evidence Act and s21 NZ Bill of Rights Act give the courts this power, and that there is no justification for Parliament to try to intervene.

With these significant changes, Labour is able to support the Bill.  We believe we have struck a balance between allowing the Police and other investigating agencies to use video surveillance where it is needed, but not giving them wider power or interfering with cases that are currently before the courts.

Persons convicted in cases where covert video surveillance was used in the past cannot now seek to overturn their convictions, or seek compensation from the Crown for wrongful conviction or imprisonment, only by reason of the use of covert video surveillance.  In other words, the law that applied at the time of conviction must clearly continue to apply, rather than the conviction being measured against a later standard.  

I appreciate that this position might not be all that you want. While it would be good to live in a world where video surveillance by the Police was not necessary, sadly we do not live in that world at the moment. Equally, if we are to give powers, we need to ensure they are used only for the most serious cases, and with the appropriate safeguards and procedures.

Labour believes that we have greatly improved this Bill, and a number of the legal academic experts who appeared before the Select Committee have acknowledged that the changes we insisted on have resolved the main issues (though not quite all) they had with the Bill.  I am attaching links to two of those blogs for your information.



Many thanks for taking the time to write. I appreciate you voicing your views.

Yours sincerely

Charles Chauvel

Labour List MP based in Ohariu
Spokesperson for Justice and the Environment

Lets hope that when the “sunset” clause takes effect, that no government of any hue will attempt to resurrect it. New Zealand is a thoroughly surveilled society without adding more to Big Brother.


Additional Reading

Welcome to 1984

1 October:  Citizens Marched against the new Police Surveillance Bill



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