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15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

22 March 2019 1 comment

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On a day when our young people succeeded in prodding grownups to take notice of the looming climate change disaster bearing down on us, other “grownups” had more nefarious, murderous thoughts in mind. On a day which should have been positive and filled with idealism and hope, we ended with tragedy and tears.

This was not our first terrorist attack in modern times. Many of us will recall the Wellington Trades Hall bombing in March 1984 and most of us will recall the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour a year later.

A life was lost on each occassion.

On 15 March, 49 unarmed, innocent people – men, women, children – were shot dead by a coward. His political agenda – white nationalism. His means of “persuasion” – a high-powered rifle.

It was a gutless act of terror espousing a corrupt, poisonous ideology.

The handful of fanatics responsible do not represent Aotearoa New Zealand and our espoused values. Not even close. Their minds are as alien and repellent to us as something that crawled out of a primordial swamp.

It is still early days. New Zealanders are still in shock as disbelief is replaced with reality setting in. Then will come the other stages of grief, including anger. Our Prime Minister’s steady, measured voice of calm reassurance has been a godsend. Her resolute rejection of extremism was heartening, almost Churchillian;

“For those of you who are watching at home tonight and questioning how this could have happened here, we, New Zealand, we are not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate, we were not chosen for this violnece because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism, we were chosen for the fact we represent none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it.

And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack. We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages and amongst that diversity we share common values and the one that we place the currency on right now and tonight is our compassion and the support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy

Secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology for those who did this … we utterly reject and condemn you.”

After the grief and anger, there will be debate and questioning. Perhaps I am premature, but these are some of the things we, as a nation, will have to confront and address…

1. A Message to the GCSB and NZSIS: where were you?

Why were security services targetting left-wing bloggers like Martyn Bradbury and investigative journalists like Nicky Hager – but white supremacists were “unknown” to them? What do they spend their days and budget on?

Commentator, Matthew Hooton was one if the first to put the question on social media:

@MatthewHootonNZ
I know this is early, but it seems to me the Director-General of Security should at least offer her resignation to the Prime Minister, even if it probably shouldn’t be accepted today. This is a disastrous & inexcusable failure by the intelligence services. 
9:09 PM · Mar 15, 2019
Former member of parliament, Tau Henare, put the same question;
@tauhenare
It was so easy for the Security Forces of NZ to lay camera’s in the Urewera to spy on Maori “terrorists” It was so easy for them to arrest Tame and to send him to prison for having a clapped out Lee Enfield rifel. I’m sorry, but this is NZ. “How did we miss this” the media ask?
8:22 AM · Mar 16, 2019
As events unfolded, Police Commissioner Mike Bush admitted what many were already starting to suspect:

“No agency has had any info about these people. I’ve been in touch with my Australian colleagues who had no information about them either.”

It cannot be for a lack of resources and legislative power.

Since 2002,  successive governments (mostly National) have enacted a string of amendments and new laws. Each law change ramped up surveillance powers of the State’s agencies:

Labour government

Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

National government

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (aka Customs and Excise Amendment Act 2014)

National/Labour

Customs and Excise Act 2018 (legislation) (history)

The Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013 – one of the most contentious in recent history – increased the reach of the GCSB to allow monitoring of New Zealand citizens, and other individuals, at home and abroad.

Prime Minister at the time, John Key, justified increased State surveillance by invoking the threat of terrorism;

“In a world of global terrorism where Isis is trying to reach influence into a country like New Zealand, of course on a much lower scale than they do somewhere else, we can best defend ourselves by stopping that before it ever happens.”

During a review of the security agencies in 2016,  Michael Cullen put the case for widening the surveillance powers of the GCSB by invoking emergency scenarios;

“Let us suppose a New Zealander is in imminent danger, in terms of their life overseas. Maybe lost at sea or some other example. Under this legislation as the GCSB feels it has to interpret it, the GCSB’s capacity to trace an individual’s cellphone and to say exactly where it is, cannot be used.

We have no way of finding out where that person is, using that capacity, in order to take immediate and urgent action, in whatever way, to try to protect the safety of that New Zealander.”

The National government got the “green light” and the GCSB Act was duly amended.

And it did not help us one iota.

As for financial resources, both the GCSB and NZSIS enjoyed a considerable increase in funding over a decade:

GCSB:

2008/09: $48,888,000 (up $8,543,000 from 2007/08)

2018/19: $158,029,000

NZSIS:

2008/09: $36,889,000 (up $3,138,000 from 2007/08)

2018/19: $82,843,000

So any suggestion that  State agencies did not have the legislative power or government funding to enable monitoring of extremist groups in this country is not credible and flies in the face of facts.

The threat existed. Just not from ISIS. The State was looking in the wrong direction.

Indeed, surveillance was widespread in Aotearoa New Zealand by State agencies, even going so far as to employ private investigators to spy on Christchurch  property-owners, affected by the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

The spying by Thompson and Clark was illegal, but it indicated a strong willingness by various State agencies to carry out snooping when it suited them. Thompson and Clark spied on political activists, iwi groups, and environmental protestors such as Greenpeace.

The invasive and illegal breach of Nicky Hager and Martyn Bradbury’s privacy by Police is also a matter of public record.

But when it came to keeping a watchful eye on our own, local hate groups, the Police, SIS, and GCSB failed.

They had one job to do and they failed us. They failed 49 innocent people.

Where were you?

2. A Message to Simon Bridges

As the awful horror of the terrorist attack slowly dawned on us, social media was flooded with many messages of support, well-wishes, empathy, as well as disbelief, anger, and horror, our elected representatives added their voices.

One, from current leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges, ‘tweeted’;

Simon Bridges
@simonjbridges

I’m shocked to hear about the incident unfolding in Christchurch. My heart goes out to the families and I stand with the Canterbury community.
2:49 PM – 15 Mar 2019

My response – perhaps overly emotional as the Christchurch terror-attack impacted on me – was not impressed;

fmacskasy
@fmacskasy

Replying to

Simon Bridges
@simonjbridges

Mr Bridges, I have one request of you. DON’T YOU DARE USE THIS TRAGEDY AS SOME PERVERTED LAW & ORDER ELECTION ISSUE NEXT YEAR. Don’t even think about exploiting this for votes. Just. Don’t.
6:29 PM · Mar 15, 2019

Is it a forlorn hope that National’s party strategists, desperate to regain the government benches, would not exploit this tragedy and the deaths of fortynine people? National has exploited the “law and order” issue in the past;

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If, as I suspect, National goes down this road, I hope the vast majority of good New Zealanders responds accordingly.

Does Mr Bridges really want to end his career as the self-serving politician who was willing to exploit the worst terrorist attack in our modern history? I hope that wiser heads in the National Party counsel him against such a grotesque idea.

Don’t do it, Mr Bridges.

3. A Message to my fellow Progressive Comrades
Last year, two alt-right (I call them polite-fascists) Canadian activists visited Aotearoa New Zealand. Their visit generated much soul-searching and debate – especially within progressive circles. There were many bloggers and  left-wing commentators who – whilst opposing Southern and Molyneux’s racist, transphobic, Islamophobic, and sexist beliefs – supported their right to free speech.

I held a different view.

On 29 August last year, I explained why I believed that countenancing the spread of hate-ideology by visiting “activists” was a luxury we could ill-afford;

For many others, free speech was not absolute. Spreading racist, homophobic, sexist, and transphobic vitriol belittled already-marginalised and disempowered people in our society.

For others, their Care Factor was zero. Faced with an empty refrigerator, or sleeping in a garage or car, or choosing whether to pay the power bill or medication for a child with rheumatic fever, was a closer reality for many New Zealanders.

If you were white, male, and straight – you would be right to feel safe from the bigotted chauvinism of two alt-right Polite Fascists .  A White, Male, Straight could countenance violence as a price for “free speech”.

If you were a person of colour, gay, a woman with a career and a baby, or transgender – not so much.  You might feel less inclined to welcome people into our country whose main purpose was to denigrate you; deny you your equality; your inclusivity in society; your very identity.

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For the more rational angels on the side of the Free Speech debate, it was a necessary price to pay for a free society.

Unfortunately, it could be said that ‘price’ was paid mostly by those minorities and women targetted by our Polite Fascist visitors.

Perhaps my background as the son of immigrant parents gave me an insight that other New Zealanders, whose parents were also born here (or immigrated from another Anglo-Saxon country) could not easily appreciate.

I repeated my subtle warning that “free speech” was not free and “unfortunately, it could be said that ‘price’ was paid mostly by those minorities and women targetted by our Polite Fascist visitors“.

As in the United States, many Americans support their Second Amendment “right to bear arms”. At least 5% support gun rights with “no or very few” restrictions”. For those Americans, mass-shootings is the “price” to pay for their Second Amendment rights. Unfortunately, that “price” is paid by others.

Just as the sale of one gun, from one gun shop, somewhere in New Zealand, probably didn’t contribute directly to the mass-shooting in Christchurch. Or the sale of one gun in the US didn’t contribute directly to mass shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Columbine, etc.

Am I suggesting that Southern and Molyneux were directly responsible for the terror attack in Christchurch. No, not directly.

After all, their voices were only two, of many.

But really, what did people think  was the purpose of Southern and Molyneux  to visit Aotearoa New Zealand? To engage in rational debate with progressives over a cup of Earl Grey and gingernut? To do the Tourist Thing and take ‘selfies’ on the Fox Glacier?

What did we think their purpose was to visit Aotearoa New Zealand?

Let me answer that. They were not here to debate. They are past debate.

They were here to (a) encourage new recruits amongst the disaffected and (b) re-energise existing far-right and alt-right groups.

It took barely six months after I wrote my rebuttal to permitting the Polite Fascists to visit. They came, nevertheless. They made their public speeches. (There was no debate.) And they left, to continue their ‘mission’ to spread their poison somewhere else, to eager listeners with anger and hate in their minds.

So we had our free speech. Only, it wasn’t “free”. There was a cost attached.

The price for their free speech has been paid-in-full. By the gods, we paid dearly.

Or at least, people of colour; of another religion; another ethnicity, paid. Those earnest, white, Free Speech Advocates who called for free speech – they didn’t have to pay the price.

The alleged shooter reportedly approached a white male by-stander outside one of the Mosques and spared his life. Because the person was white. Fortynine others were not so lucky. Wrong skin colour.

I hope that Aotearoa New Zealand’s naive notions of free speech for visiting far right extremists has come to an end.  Extremists have no natural, “god-given” right to enter our country. That “right” has never existed and was an indulgence we mistakenly encouraged.

The price to pay is too high.

15 March was a day when thousands of  young people took to the streets to demand action on worsening climate change; which would impact on them and steal their futures. Meanwhile another “grownup” was committing cold-blooded murder. On a day which should have been positive and filled with youthful  idealism and hope…

… it ended in tragedy and tears and grief that would break our hearts.

15 March 2019 – it was the best of days, it was the worst of days.

15 March 2019. Our Day of Infamy.

#Love

#Christchurch

#ThisIsNotWhoWeAre

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References

Radio NZ: Christchurch mosque shootings – ‘This can only be described as a terrorist attack’ – PM Jacinda Ardern

Twitter: Matthew HootonMatthew Hooton

Twitter: Tau HenareTau Henare

Maori TV: Christchurch shootings – Man charged with murder

Fairfax/Stuff media: New GCSB bill allows spying on Kiwis

Radio NZ: Focus on Politics – 11 March 2016  (alt. link)

Budget 2008/09: Vote Communications Security and Intelligence

Budget 2008/09: Vote Security Intelligence

Budget 2018/19: Vote Communications Security and Intelligence

Budget 2018/19: Vote Security Intelligence

Radio NZ: Thompson and Clark spied on earthquake victims, inquiry finds

Radio NZ: Private investigators used vehicle register to spy on environmentalists for years

Twitter: Simon Bridges – 15.3.2019 2.49PM

Twitter: Frank Macskasy – 15.3.19 6.29PM

Southern Poverty Law Centre: Stefan Molyneux

Fairfax media: Southern and Molyneux good test for our free speech tolerance video

Mediaworks/Newshub: Jacinda Ardern ‘simply can’t’ be both a mum and Prime Minister – Stefan Molyneux

Fairfax media: Oscar Kightley – This free speech victory tastes a little strange

Reuters: Gun control support fades three months after Florida massacre – Reuters/Ipsos poll

Previous related blogposts

Audrey Young, Two Bains, old cars, and… cocoa?!?!

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

An Open Message to the GCSB, SIS, NSA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland

One Dunedinite’s response to the passing of the GCSB Bill

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

Campbell Live on the GCSB – latest revelations – TV3 – 20 May 2014

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

“Free speech” – The Rules according to the Right

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 March 2019.

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I spy with my multitude of Eyes

13 September 2018 Leave a comment

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Several pieces of legislation enacted under the previous government saw a vast increase in State surveillance. The GCSB  – first created in 1977 by former National PM, Robert Muldoon, – was initially set up to provide overseas surveillance during the Cold War era.

By May 2013, the powers of the GCSB were extended to permit domestic surveillance of New Zealanders by former National PM, John Key.

A variety of  state “security” and extensions of surveillance powers have been enacted over the past sixteen years;

Labour:

Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

National:

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (aka Customs and Excise Amendment Act 2014)

Not to be outdone, the private sector also dabbles with surveillance. On most occassions, that surveillance is subtle.

In other instances, it is overt and in-your-face.

An example of this is the recently (and currently on-going) re-developement at Kilbirnie  Pak N Save supermarket in Wellington’s Eastern suburb.  The store’s internal up-grade has included the sprouting of dozens of security cameras. In some areas, the high-security of CCTV cameras, descending from the ceiling on poles – eerily like some mutant upside-down mushroom – would be more appropriate for a top secret military installation.

Upon entering the store, the first camera is apparent;

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Foyer at Kilbirnie Pak N Save

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Walking through the turn-styles, into the first part of the super-market – more cameras;

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The Fruit & Vege section;

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Meats…

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Chilled goods, heading toward the Deli and Bakery;

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The Bakery section…

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Down the side of the building (greeting cards, breads, et al)…

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And a close-up of the all-seeing eyes…

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Until  we reach the check-out – and the ubiquitous cameras become a parody of surveillance as their numbers become apparent;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog - The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Kilbirnie Pak N Save - security cameras - cctv - surveillance - nz

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In case the reader has difficulty making out the individual cameras, they are highlighted here;

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Even banks don’t have as many cameras.

In an age of tracking by online corporations like Google and Facebook; by the apps in our smartphones; by CCTVs in buildings, streets, offices, etc – we have reached a surveillance state far surpassing anything envisioned by George Orwell.

Some of us will recall the days of the friendly corner grocer;

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Acknowledgement: Wairarapa Times-Age

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Once upon a time, retailers functioned with not a camera in sight;

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Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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Those days now seem long gone.

Perhaps this is the price of “progress”?

Ironically, the advent of the Surveillance State and Surveilled Society has been long foreseen by academics, writers, activists, etc. As surveillance increased – both State and commercial – the public became more and more inured to every-present prying eyes.

The constant warnings of encroachments into our privacy; against increasing State power; alerting us to the perils of Big Data held by offshore (and domestic) corporations have become a Cry Wolf! to most of the public. Unless you are a left-wing blogger or investigative journalist who become an irritant to The Established Order, the public perceive no threat to their glacial erosion of our privacy.

Couched in terms of “preserving law and order” and/or “fighting terrorism”, people will think little of our own country as a Surveilled Society. Especially if they perceive no “down side” to their personal liberty. Previous warnings of a Big Brother State have – apparently – not become reality.

Like the frog-in-the-pan-of-heating-water fable, fears gradually gave way to blasé acceptance. We have arrived to a society where the presence of literally dozens of  overhead surveillance cameras in a supermarket now barely raises an eyebrow.

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References

Wikipedia: GCSB – History

Parliament: Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

Wairarapa Times-Age: First class First St grocer

NZ Herald: (story removed from website)

NZ Law Society: Privacy Commissioner issues guidance on personal information and transparency reporting

Fairfax media: Police apologise to Nicky Hager over Dirty Politics raid as part of settlement

Previous related blogposts

Surveillance laws, Strikebreaking, & Subversive groups

2013 – The Year We Became a Policed Surveillance State

The Growth of State Power; mass surveillance; and it’s supporters

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» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 September 2018.

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Gerry Brownlee, David Farrar, and Brett Hudson win Hypocrisy Awards

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Minister Clare Curran’s recent demotion was announced in a surprise press conference at Prime Minister Ardern’s electorate office, just before 4pm on a Friday afternoon. A government statement outlined her sin-of-omission;

In February this year Minister Curran met with Mr Derek Handley at her Beehive office in her capacity as Minister of Government Digital Services to discuss Mr Handley’s interest in the vacant Chief Technology Officer (CTO) role. This meeting took place after the first unsuccessful recruitment round for the CTO. As with approaches from other interested parties, the Minister directed Mr Handley to register his interest with MBIE officials. Applications reopened for the CTO role in May.

The meeting was not recorded in the Minister’s diary and neither the Minister’s staff nor officials were made aware of it.

The demotion and removal from Cabinet comes on top of Ms Curran’s unrecorded “secret” meeting at Astoria Cafe with former Radio NZ executive, Carol Hirschfeld, which hit the headlines in March this year.

Ms Curran’s gaffs have sparked the usual and tedious pious pontification from the National Opposition benches. Former Christchurch Re-build Minister, and airline security hazard, Gerry Brownlee, climbed the rarified heights of Mount Moral Highground to demand Ms Curran’s sacking;

But not everyone agrees. National Party MP and shadow House leader Gerry Brownlee said it was the “most limp-wristed, wet bus ticket thing” Ms Ardern could do.

He wants her stripped of the broadcasting portfolio as well.

“It’s undergoing a huge amount of change at the moment, and you need a minister that’s pretty active and onto it to make sure that broadcasting legislation is going to be the best for the sort of information and entertainment services that New Zealanders expect.”

Relatively unknown National Party List MP, Brett Hudson, devoted an entire press release excoriating the hapless Minister*;

“The decision to allow Clare Curran to retain any of her Ministerial portfolios after being dumped from Cabinet is a sign of weakness in the Government…

It’s almost comical that Ms Curran, who until today held the Associate State Services (Open Government) portfolio has failed not once but twice to answer Written Parliamentary Questions accurately.

Her punishment is a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket. She keeps her Ministerial salary and the all the perks that come with that despite demonstrating that she’s not capable of being a Minister.

It’s not good enough that it took Ms Curran five and a half months to correct her answer to a written question and to finally acknowledge she met with Derek Handley, who had expressed interest in the Chief Technology Officer role created by the Minister.”

Rightwing blogger and National Party activist, David Farrar, was equally scathing;

So covering up secret meetings is okay for a Minister outside Cabinet, just not inside Cabinet. That’s mighty low standards. A meaningful sanction would be removal from the Ministry.

The undisclosed meeting was just as improper as the Hirschfeld one, namely:

  • It was a conflict of interest as Derek Handley was an applicant for the CTO job that the Minister appoints
  • The meeting was not in the Minister’s diary
  • The meeting was kept a secret from the Minister’s own staff and officials
  • The meeting was not disclosed to a written parliamentary question

If that is not enough to be removed from the ministry, what is?

Good question, Mr Farrar: “If that is not enough to be removed from the ministry, what is?

Let’s try to answer that question. What would merit removal from office for unofficial, unrecorded meetings?

Here are three possible answers;

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But in answer to parliamentary written questions, the Prime Minister said he had “no meetings” with representatives of Mediaworks to discuss the deal.

Two days later that answer was corrected, saying he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” in Auckland where the issue was “briefly raised” and he “passed his comments on” to the responsible minister.

Was Key’s “social event” where he “ran into” Brent Impey held at Astoria Cafe by any chance?

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Earlier this week, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said Mr Key’s diary showed no scheduled meetings with Sky City representatives since July last year.

“Having said that, the Prime Minister attends numerous functions and is quite likely to have come across Sky City representatives at some stage.”

Mr Key was asked last July in a question for written answer from Green MP Sue Kedgley whether he or any of his ministers had met representatives from the casino to discuss changes to the Gambling Act.

He replied: “I attended a dinner with the Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003”.

So the former PM’s “diary showed no scheduled meetings with Sky City representatives” – but he did have dinner with the entire “Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003“.

Also held at Astoria Cafe, by any chance?

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Prime Minister John Key had breakfast with Ian Fletcher just days after he selected a panel to interview candidates for the country’s top spy job.

The pair ate together at Auckland’s Stamford Plaza Hotel on June 17, 2011. Mr Key says the vacancy, as head of the Government Communications Security Bureau, was not discussed.

Three days earlier, Mr Key had signed off on an interview panel for the job, which included then Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Maarten Wevers. Mr Fletcher was the only person to be interviewed for the post, after a shortlist of four other candidates was rejected.

Not held at the Astoria Cafe.

But Mr Fletcher did get the job.

As for Mr Farrar’s question – would the former Prime Minister’s unofficial and unrecorded meetings with Brent Impey, Ian Fletcher, and the entire Board of Skycity Casino quality to be “enough to be removed from the ministry”?

Herein lies a lesson for Ms Curran and other government ministers. If you’re going to have “secret” meetings, follow the National Party’s handbook. They do it much more effectively.

And they get away with it.

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*  Note

National Party pages are removed regularly from their website. Brett Hudson’s page/statement has been saved for future reference.

References

NZ Herald: Clare Curran sacked from Cabinet, PM Jacinda Ardern announces

Scoop media: Clare Curran removed from Cabinet

ODT: Carol Hirschfeld resigns over Clare Curran meeting

Mediaworks/TV3: Why wasn’t Clare Curran stripped of all her portfolios?

Fairfax media: Gerry Brownlee fined for airport security breach

National Party: Curran token demotion a sign of weakness

Kiwiblog: Disclosure State

Kiwiblog: Curran demoted after a further secret meeting

TVNZ:  Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Fairfax Media:  Key met spy candidate for breakfast

Other Blogs

The Standard: Clare Curran demoted

Previous related blogposts

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?! (part rua)

Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Toru)

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Disclosure: This blogger had a date with his current partner at the Astoria Cafe. It was very nice.
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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 August 2018.

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Mr English: Where are National’s secret coalition negotiation papers?

8 December 2017 5 comments

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Bill English has been kicking up a shit-storm, demanding that Labour release what they have been describing as a “secret coalition agreement” between Labour and NZ First.

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English complained;

“This is a government that said it would be more transparent and more open. The document is clearly there somewhere, it must be important because it’s 38 pages and it’s come out of the agreement – people deserve to see it.

It sounds like there might be quite a lot more in this other piece of paper. If it’s at the core of how the Government’s going to run, it’s in the public interest.”

English defended his insistence that the coalition notes be made public by comparing the Coalition with his own previous administration “transparency”;

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“By any international standard the last government was open and transparent, and this government, as with many other things, has expressed these high-minded intentions and then fails to follow through.”

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Which is a patently dishonest claim considering that the last nine years of National governance has been one of secrecy; obstructing OIA requests; increased state surveillance; and misleading the public.

Former Dear Leader, “Sir” John Key was brazenly open only in one respect of the OIA. He openly conceded that his administration regularly and willfully delayed releasing OIA requested information for purely political purposes;

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“Sometimes we wait the 20 days because, in the end, Government might take the view that’s in our best interest to do that.”

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To which  Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, responded by reminding Key and his cronies colleagues they were were not permitted to flout the OIA legislation by deliberately delaying up to the  twenty-day deadline;

“It’s pretty clear. It couldn’t be much clearer than that… As soon as you have made a decision as to whether you’re going to respond to the request or how you’re going to respond to it, you ought to convey that.”

During it’s nine years in office, National has widened the powers of the GCSB to permit it to spy on all New Zealanders; mis-used GCSB surveillance to secure leadership of the World Trade Organisation; spied on our Pacific neighbours; and unlawfully harassed National’s critics such as Nicky Hager and Martyn Bradbury.

But when challenged on whether the GCSB was conducting mass surveillance on New Zealanders, Key simply point-blank refused to comment.

Who can forget National’s obstruction and prevarication – including contradictory statements – over the SAS-led attack on two villages in the Tirgiran Valley in 2010 which caused fifteen injuries and the tragic deaths of six innocent Afghan civilians, including a young child;

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Lest we forget: Fatima, aged 3

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Just recently, it was revealed that an OIA request by Radio NZ, for details regarding the business case for a proposed new multi-million dollar Auckland City rail-line, was met with deliberate stone-walling from then-Minister, Simon Bridge’s “office“;

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has been caught trying to block an official information request for details about a proposed new $50 million Auckland railway line.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters tabled an email trail in Parliament yesterday showing that Mr Bridges’ office repeatedly urged KiwiRail last week not to release a business case on Auckland’s proposed third main railway track.

Initially, his officials opposed the document being released, saying it was part of an unsuccessful budget bid, but were told by KiwiRail on Thursday that the law was clear it should be released.

After consulting its legal team, KiwiRail told Mr Bridge’s office it would struggle to justify not releasing it.

But on Friday Mr Bridges’ office again urged KiwiRail not to release the business plan.

This time it used a scatter-gun approach – arguing the report was only a draft, was on a misleading template and that its proposed release was making them “extremely uncomfortable”.

Writer Harriet Gale…

[…]

… said KiwiRail made it clear the business case did not need to be kept secret and that the minister’s behaviour was worrying.

Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, was obviously frustrated and disturbed by National’s attempt to suppress the Kiwirail Report and their continual flouting of the OIA;

“It’s so important that we get this Act flowing better than it has been and it hasn’t necessarily flowed that well.

And that’s why I’ve used this as an opportunity to exhort the Prime Minister to help me and support me in getting the roles crystal clear.

We are coming down increasingly heavier where we see instances where the Act is not being compiled with – and in some cases, where it’s been flouted.

I think there’s an understanding that we mean business.”

Hardly the hallmarks of an “open and transparent” government when a Minister’s “office” is prepared to conspire to break the law by circumventing the Official Information Act. Also not helped when the ombudsman’s office has to write a scathing letter to the Prime Minister demanding they obey the law.

As if to underscore National’s mania for secrecy, in 2011/12, New Zealand’s ranking in media freedom by Reporters Without Borders fell from eighth place  in 2010, to  thirteenth, in the world.

The Herald’s senior reporter, Matthew Backhouse, wrote at the time;

The report did not say what was behind the fall – but it comes after a year in which newsrooms were searched by police, the New Zealand Herald was temporarily banned from the parliamentary press gallery and a proposed new law sought to give police greater powers to enter newsrooms.

Another story by Fairfax media’s Susan Edmunds, in May this year, also reported on New Zealand’s fall in World Press Freedom Index, citing Government secrecy;

The report said journalists were struggling with the Official Information Act, which gives government agencies long periods of time to respond to requests. Sometimes journalists were asked to pay for information.

“In August 2016, the government revealed a grim future for whistleblowers, announcing a bill that would criminalise leaking government information to the media and would dramatically increase the surveillance powers of the intelligence services. Journalists, bloggers, and civil society representatives would be among the potential targets of the proposed law, which could be adopted in 2017.”

Catherine Strong, from Massey University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, said;

“Our lower standing is due to the growing list of government agencies trying to hide information by thwarting the Official Information Act, and these agencies are ruining our reputation.”

What is even more grimly ironic is that having been thrown out of office, National persists in refusing to disclose information to the public.

Remember that National Party leader, Bill English, recently demanded;

“This is a government that said it would be more transparent and more open. The document is clearly there somewhere, it must be important because it’s 38 pages and it’s come out of the agreement – people deserve to see it.

It sounds like there might be quite a lot more in this other piece of paper. If it’s at the core of how the Government’s going to run, it’s in the public interest.”

Following coalition negotiations,  and Peters’s subsequent  announcement on 19 October that NZ First would coalesce with Labour and the Greens, Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson spoke with National’s Bill English on Morning Report.

On at least two occassions, Ms Ferguson asked Bill English if he would be releasing the text of coalitions negotiations with NZ First. English first replied;

@1:57

“Well again, I’m not going to be discussing that. It was part of the negotiations and New Zealand First actually required, rightly, confidentiality about those negotiations.”

When pressed, English was adamant that there would be no public disclosure;

@2:28

“I’m honour bound to stick with the confidentiality agreement. As are the other parties.”

Note English’s reference to “the other parties“.

That would be Labour. No one else was in the room with Peters and NZ First. So when it suited English, he was more than willing to point to “the other parties” to validate his refusal to release National’s own coalition discussion papers.

A month later, on 28 November, TVNZ’s talented Jack Tame interviewed Bill English on Breakfast TV. After English repeated his demands that Labour publish all coalition documents, Tame pointed out  the apparent hypocrisy of demanding Labour make public their coalition papers whilst English refused to disclose National’s;

@1:13

TAME: “So are you prepared to release what your coalition negotiations with NZ First if the government does the same?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, I don’t know if it’s a record of negotiations. We conducted ours under a confidentiality agreement. That was very clear right at the start.

So according to English, National operated under a “confidentiality agreement“.  He failed to explain how that differed from Labour’s confidentiality agreement with NZ First. As English insisted on 19 October, Labour was “honour bound to stick with the[ir] confidentiality agreement.”

Tame put the story on Twitter;

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Kudos to Jack Tame for being the only journalist (to my knowledge) to recognise and point out English’s double standard on this issue.

English’s refusal to come clean with the New Zealand public whilst demanding “transparency and openess” from Labour is a stark reminder of National’s toxic track record of paranoia, secrecy, and do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do arrogance. Every time English or one of his National Party parliamentary colleagues opens their mouths, we are reminded of their own hypocrisy.

They are political charlatans not to be trusted.

For the first time in our political history, it has become the role of the Government to hold the Opposition to account.

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And now…

Introducing the first (but not the last!) Paula Bennett Award for Hypocrisy. Named for the National party politician who used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a free, tax-payer funded university education when she was a young mother on the domestic purposes benefit. Later, in 2009, as Minister for Social Welfare, one of her first actions was to  scrap that Allowance, thereby denying other solo-parents the same opportunity for advancing their lives.

The first Award goes to Bill English, for saying one thing and doing another. Congratulations, Mr English!

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Acknowledgement

My thanks to a Radio NZ producer for locating specific audio that provided much-needed information for the completion of this story. I am indebted for the significant time and effort it took to assist me on this project.

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References

TVNZ News:  ‘It’s in the public interest’ – Bill English calls for release of coalition document

Radio NZ:  New govt has ‘no follow through’ – National

NZ Herald: John Key, mass surveillance and what really happened when Edward Snowden accused him of spying

Radio NZ:  Spy agencies come under scrutiny

Fairfax media: Killed girl’s parents demand NZ Government inquiry

Radio NZ:  Transport Minister tries to block official information request

Radio NZ:  Ombudsman urges ministers to follow OIA rules

NZ Herald:  NZ slips out of top 10 for freedom in the media

Fairfax media:  Press freedoms stifled by cynical use of Official Information Act – Report

Fairfax media: Labour finally retakes power after Winston Peters gives Jacinda Ardern his support

Radio NZ: Bill English faces first caucus since defeat (alt. link)

Twitter: Jame Tame – 28 November

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Additional

NZ Herald: OIA tension raises questions over minister’s request for information

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Key and Mass Surveillance – Was this the reason for the Golriz distraction?

TDB:  Now we know Key lied about mass surveillance – let’s remind everyone what our msm said at the time

Previous related blogposts

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

“Fool me once”

Judith Collins owes an explanation to voters

National whines about Cullen’s appointment – they should know about cronyism

National’s $11.7 billion hole is right where they left it

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 December 2017.

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= fs =

The Rise and Rise of Daddy State: MSD blackmails NGOs for private data

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Nanny State takes a Shower

What do showers have to do with this issue?

Wait and see.

Spying, Spooks, and Silly Journos

Nearly five years ago, the highly controversial Search and Surveillance Act 2012 was passed by National. As reported at the time;

The Search and Surveillance Act, which was passed through Parliament in March, extends production and examination orders to the police and legalises some forms of surveillance.

It will let more government agencies carry out surveillance operations, allows judges to determine whether journalists can protect their sources, and changes the right to silence.

[…]

Police could complete some forms of surveillance and searches without warrants, but [Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm] Burgess said the situations were pretty common sense.

Yes, indeed. Police surveillance and seizure powers were being massively extended. But according to the Police Commissioner, citizens could rely on the Police using “pretty common sense” to use them.

Then-Justice Minister, Judith Collins offered this excuse for the extension of police powers;

The new Search and Surveillance Act 2012 brings “order, certainty, clarity and consistency” to messy, unclear and outdated search and surveillance laws.

(Interestingly, the fact that Collins felt the need to use irony-quotation-marks, in her Beehive statement, to enclose the phrase order, certainty, clarity and consistency is revealing.)

This is the same Judith Collins who, in 2009, passed personal phone numbers of a civil servant to far-right blogger, Cameron “Whaleoil” Slater.

A year later,  the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill  was being hotly debated throughout the country.

Essentially, the Bill (since passed into law), would allow the GCSB to spy on New Zealand citizens which up to then had been the sole province of the NZ SIS.

National’s  ‘spinned message’ – constantly parroted by Dear  Leader Key – was;

In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.  It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known

[…]

The advice we have recently received from the Solicitor-General is that there are difficulties interpreting the legislation and there is a risk some longstanding practices of providing assistance to other agencies would not be found to be lawful.

[…]

It is absolutely critical the GCSB has a clear legal framework to operate within.”

In fact, the law was clear with it’s wording and intent and Section 14 of the Act (since altered to reflect the Amendment) stated with crystal clarity;

14Interceptions not to target domestic communications
  • Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Some journalists were too lazy to fact-check Key’s lies;

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Journalists who failed to realise that Key was being disingenuous, and simply parroted the government’s official spin, did immense damage to public understanding of the issues involved.

Others, like Audrey Young and Tracy Watkins were sufficiently experienced and knowledgeable to recognise a government ‘stitch-up’ when they saw it;

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“ The GCSB Act 2003 expressly forbids it from spying on the communications of New Zealanders.  But, by a series of snakes and ladders through the stated functions and objectives of the act, it convinced itself it was allowed to help the SIS and police spy on New Zealanders.” – Audrey Young, 26 June 2013

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“ The GCSB’s interpretation of the law was so loose it managed to spy on 88 New Zealanders even though the law specifically stated it was not allowed to do so.” – Tracy Watkins, 3 August 2013

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National ignored strong public opinion wary of extending the GCSB’s surveillance powers. The Bill became law on 26 August 2013.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act was followed by the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act (TICS), made law on 11 November 2013.

The TICS law made it mandatory for all electronic communications companies (telcos) to comply with spy  agencies demands to  intercept and decrypt phone calls, txt-messages, and emails.

The excuse for this piece of intrusive legislation from Communications Minister, Amy Adams;

“ The fundamental reason that I have sought to introduce this bill is to safeguard New Zealand public safety and security. ”

The Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act was, in turn, followed by the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (split into several Bills after it’s Second Reading in Parliament on  9 December 2014).

This Bill, covering  three existing laws, allowed the  SIS  to conduct surveillance on terrorist suspects without requiring a judicial a warrant for up to 24 hours; to conduct secret video surveillance on private property; gave SIS access to Customs Department data in relation to suspected terrorism, and allowed the  Minister of Internal Affairs increased  powers to arbitrarily suspend or  cancel a passport.

The Labour Party were so opposed to this law change  that they voted for it. (NZ First, the Maori Party, and the Greens,  to their credit, voted against it.)

Then Dear Leader  Key used the usual “defending Kiwis against terrorist” bogeyman to justify the State’s growing surveillance powers;

“ The threats faced by New Zealand have grown and it is important that we have the ability to respond to that. The Government has a responsibility to protect New Zealanders at home and abroad…”

Simultaneously in 2014, the IRD signed an agreement to share data with the Police;

Taxpayer information is required to administer New Zealand’s tax system effectively. This information can be supplied by taxpayers, or it can be collected by Inland Revenue during an audit.

Broadly, the government’s current legislative position is that this information is not shared with other government departments on the basis that it is ‘tax secret’.

However, there are instances where sharing taxpayer information relating to serious crime could bring offenders to justice, support the goals of other government departments, and offer the State broad efficiencies.

Up until that point, the IRD expected everyone who earned money – whether from legal or illegal mean – to pay tax. This meant that, for example, sex workers prior to 2003 would be expected to pay tax on their earnings regardless of the fact it was an illegal activity.

The tax department didn’t care where or how the money was earned – they just wanted their “fare share”.

After 2014, the IRD abandoned that policy, and data-sharing with Police was implemented. It means that taxing other illegal activities such as the production and sale of cannabis, is no longer feasible. This has unintentional consequences – such as the hoarding of cash; use of firearms to protect that cash; and violence.

This is part of an on-going wider process of government departments sharing private information with each other.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act, Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act, and Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill all follow on from previous extensions of State power, notably  the  Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

This poorly thought-out law was Labour’s contribution to George Bush’s ill-conceived “War on Terror”.

Throughout National’s three terms in office, it has extended Police powers; widened the scope for the GCSB and SIS to spy on New Zealanders; and created a vast data-sharing network amongst it’s bureaucracy.

MSD, NGOs, and Demands for Data

To date, New Zealanders have been mostly apathetic as the government build up it’s ability to spy and store personal information on us. Most of the government’s “targets” have been so-called “terrorists”, immigrants, criminals, student-debt defaulters, and those on welfare benefits or living in state houses.

Most of Middle New Zealand find it difficult to identify with these elements of our society.

Recently, however, Radio NZ has been running a series of stories and interviews on a disturbing development regarding state aquisition of personal information.

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On 2 March, on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon programme, Kathryn Ryan interviewed Brenda Pilott, the chairperson  of ComVoices (an umbrella organisation for NGOs).

At issue was the disturbing revelation that the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), presumably under direction from National ministers,  was forcing NGOs to collect and pass  private information about their clients back to the Ministry,  in return for on-going funding. This proviso was to be written into new contracts set to take effect in July this year after negotiations had concluded after Easter.

>Kathryn Ryan interviews Brenda Pilott – 2 March<

Accordingly to Comvoices, NGOs were expected  to pass on;

  • names of clients
  • birth dates
  • ethnicity
  • other personal details such as dependent children’s names

NGOs that refused to share this information with MSD would forego funding. The result would be predictable;

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According to Brenda Pilot, the Ministry’s excuse to demand this data was;

“ They want to be able to find out what services are effective. And that this will provide information over time that will  allow sensible decisions to be made about government funding and where to apply that funding.”

Ms Pilot voiced concerns that private, identifiable  information would be used for tracking individuals who used NGO services. She said that vulnerable people needing to use services such as counselling, Women’s Refuge, Rape Crisis, etc, would be reluctant to engage those organisations and would “walk away”. Ms Pilot was concerned that passing personal, identifiable data to MSD would force NGOs to violate Privacy Laws.

Ms Pilot said that the Privacy Commissioner was also concerned at MSD’s intentions to obtain such data, and was investigating. She said the Commissioner would most likely report on the issue by the end of this month.

On 3 March, Radio NZ reported; grave concerns held by at least one NGO, Women’s Refuge;

Women’s Refuge chief executive Ang Jury said agencies would have to abide by the contract change if they wanted to keep their funding.

“If agencies choose not to share this information they won’t be contracting with the ministry. That’s pretty much where it sits.”

Dr Jury said it was not an ideal situation for the refuge but they were not in a position to say no.

“This is not something that we would happily go out and say, ‘yes, this is exactly what we want to do’.

“If it is going to happen, our job now is to make sure we get the sort of safeguards built around that information that we need to keep our women and children safe,” she said.

At least one privacy lawyer doubted the legality of MSD’s demands;

Privacy lawyer Kathryn Dalziel said the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) looked to be on shaky ground.

“This is a potential breach of privacy because they don’t appear to have identified, anywhere, the purposes for which they are collecting that information.

“There doesn’t seem to be any transparency around it … I also don’t think it’s fair,” she said.

“Principle 2 of the Privacy Act says that if you want to collect information from third party, you have to have a good reason.

“You also have to have … lawful and reasonable purposes for collecting that information in the first place. Now, none of that has been done.”

However, what really raised fears was Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive, Murray Edridge’s responses to Kathryn Ryan’s  questions. His answers not only failed to reassure, but raised serious concerns as to MSD’s intentions regarding the storage and end-use of personalised, identifiable data.

>Ministry responds to privacy concerns – 3 March<

Edridge parroted the usual monetarist rhetoric of  “the New Zealand public demands that government spend it’s money well”.

When Ms Ryan  put it to Edridge that MSD was attempting to track NGO service-users, he denied it;

“ No we’re not tracking them. What we’re doing is we’re saying to providers, look, for us to understand the effectiveness of services, to understand where the resources are best invested, where we will decide between priorities in terms of investment we need to understand who the people are and what value they get from the services. For some time we’d had concern that investment’s been made in social services where they’re not the most effective mechanism for the people that require them, and this is part of the mechanism by which we understand the clientele better and we understand how we can serve them better and invest in services that are going to support them.”

When Ms Ryan put it to Edridge that anonymised data would work just as well, Edridge kept referring back to needing to know “who these people are“.

Moments later, Edridge contradicted himself by admitting “we know who the clients are, we know all about them“. If that wasn’t creepy enough, Ms Ryan then asked Edridge why MSD demanded further information about NGO service-users. She asked why MSD needed to know who was approaching  (for example) Women’s Refuge for assistance..

Edridge’s response was further contradictory and throughout the twelve minute interview he could provide no satisfactory answer why MSD was requiring personalised data from NGOs. At one point he attempted to cloud the issue by stating that MSD required “demographic information”.

Ms Ryan dismissed that claim by remind Edridge that MSD was seeking names, addresses, ethnicities, children’s names and that was not simply “demographic information”.

When Ms Ryan suggested that NGO service-users might not want their details passed on to MSD or other ministeries, Edridge could only respond,

“ Well, we need to know where to get the money in the right place.”

Four days later, Rape Crisis draw a line in the sand and announced it would  flat out decline to sign contracts with MSD  in return for  passing private information about service-users in exchange for on-going funding.

>Rape Crisis reject “data-for-funding” contracts – 7 March<

By 16 March, pressure on MSD and Minister Tolley was such that the ministry caved, and was forced to step back from demanding personalised data from some NGOs dealing with sexual violence.

>Temporary reprieve over ‘private data for funding’ contracts – 16 March<

The “reprieve”, however, was only temporary, and would last for only one year until MSD “works out how to securely collect and store their clients’ private data”. It also did not apply to all NGOs.

The Creep of Big Brother and the Daddy State

Up till this point, data-collection has centered on those who come in contact with the Justice system; WINZ beneficiaries; and Housing NZ tenants. These are generally New Zealanders who are usually the most deprived and vulnerable socially and financially, and rely on State assistance to survive.

A person seeking help from WINZ and Housing NZ is forced to supply both ministeries their private data. To refuse means no help. Next stop; the street;

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A citizen in contact with the Justice system has even less option to refuse to provide private data.

MSD’s demand for personalised data from NGO service-users marks a new stage in National’s slow advancement in building a data-base on every person in the country.

NGO service users may not necessarily be unemployed beneficiaries or live in state houses or have broken the law in some way – but their details will still be required to be collected and supplied to the Ministry of Social Development.

The ministry has assumed the de facto role of collecting and storing data on New Zealanders who – up till this point – may never have come into contact with any governmental organisation such as Housing NZ, WINZ, or Police.

The implications of this are staggering.

The net to scoop up data on as many citizens as possible, has just widened considerably.

If you think you – the reader – may never need the services of Women’s Refuge or Rape Crisis, consider for a moment that there are thousands  of NGOs operating in this country and hundreds that are funded by the State.

Victim Support is just one state-funded NGO;

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So if you’ve just become a victim of a crime; Victim Support enters your life;  the State now has your personal data on file;

  • Client: Name, address, gender, date of birth, primary ethnicity, Iwi.
  • Dependents: Name, date of birth, relationship to client.
  • Service Level: Information Programme/service name, start date and end date.”

Middle-class New Zealanders who may never have had cause to have personal data collected on them may soon be on file with various ministeries.  With data-sharing, personal information from MSD can end up throughout other ministeries. Or on the desks of ministers;

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Never mind “Nanny State” – this is the muscular arm of Daddy State flexing it’s strength to reach out to grab more and more of our private information.

And it won’t end with this.

Not until we say “Enough is enough. No more“.

Back to Showers

Remember this?

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In the lead-up to the 2008 general election, National attacked the then-Labour Government for  “Nanny Statism”.

Following on from a disastrous drought in 2007 that cost the country’s economy  over $2.8 billion (in 2008/09 dollars), the then-Labour government sought out ways and means to  conserve water. The alternative was the possibility of further water-shortages or costly storage and irrigation systems. Labour opted for conservation. This included measures to save water in residential areas.

It could be  suggested that water-saving shower heads and energy-efficient light-bulbs are the least of our concerns.  National has surpassed anything that Labour envisaged, as this government  reaches further and further into our private lives.

If there is one thing that history has taught us – governments that spy on their own people do not trust their people, and are fearful of them.

National must be very frightened of us.

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References

NZ Legislation: Search and Surveillance Act 2012

NZ Herald: New police search and surveillance law in force

Beehive: Search and Surveillance Bill becomes law

Radio NZ: Collins defends giving details to blogger

NZ Legislation: Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

Beehive: John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

Legislation.govt.nz:  Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003

NZ Herald:  Spying on NZ: More power to watch us

Dominion Post:  Spy bungles start to entangle PM

Fairfax media: Kiwis do care, prime minister

Parliament: Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Bill

Parliament: Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill

Fairfax: Spying bill passes into law

Parliament: Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill — Third Reading

Parliament: Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill

NZ Herald: Foreign fighters bill passes 94 – 27

Fairfax media: Labour backs anti-terror laws, despite attacking it

IRD: Information sharing with New Zealand Police

IRD: Cross-government Information-sharing to Identify, Stop or Disrupt Serious Crime

MacNicol & Co: Tax News – IRD to share information with police

NZ Legislation: Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

Wikipedia: Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

Radio NZ: Government demands private data from NGOs

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: Relationships Aotearoa to close; funding models and issues in spotlight

Radio NZ: Govt on shaky ground over data-for-funding contracts, lawyers say

Radio NZ: Rape Crisis reject “data-for-funding” contracts

Radio NZ: Temporary reprieve over ‘private data for funding’ contracts

Comvoices: HomePage

Victim Support: Where does your funding come from?

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: MSD to require individual client level data from community agencies

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Dominion Post: Minister defends releasing private details

Fairfax media: Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

Scoop: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state

NIWA: 2007 – much drier than average in many places

Beehive: Drought costs NZ $2.8 billion

Additional

Fairfax media: UN privacy expert slams government stance on privacy and ‘big data’

Other Blogs

The Standard: Social investment meets the surveillance state

Previous related blogposts

OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

Audrey Young, Two Bains, old cars, and… cocoa?!?!

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

An Open Message to the GCSB, SIS, NSA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland

One Dunedinite’s response to the passing of the GCSB Bill

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

Campbell Live on the GCSB – latest revelations – TV3 – 20 May 2014

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 March 2017.

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= fs =

Coming soon: A terror alert near you!

19 March 2016 7 comments

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threat-level - nz (1)

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Setting the Stage for to Dis-information, Deception, and Distraction

Right about now, National is in very, very, VERY deep trouble.

Dairy-farmers, with associated down-stream support businesses, are facing severe economic hardship as Fonterra reduces the pay-out from $4.15 per kgMS to $3.90 per kgMS.

Dairy farmers’ debt has reached unsustainable levels;

About 10 per cent of the most indebted dairy properties owe a combined $11 to $12 billion, about 30 per cent of total dairy debt.

[…]

About 20 per cent of the most indebted farms hold  45 to 50 percent of the total debt – $15b-$38b.

The value of farms and sale numbers is falling (thereby placing many farmers into a negative gearing situation). As Rural Value’s national manager, David Paterson, said on Radio NZ;

“Unless there’s some bright light on the horizon I think there’ll be a continuation of slow sales and we’ll continue to see a reduction of farm values particularly on the dairy farm sector.”

On 18 March, Bill English admitted that real national disposable income-per-capita fell 0.4% for the year;

“You’ve got a big drop in national income, because dairy prices are down.  At the same time you’ve had surprisingly high migration numbers. So it’s not surprising that when you work the figures you get a drop in national disposable income.”

Not for the first time in his political career, English boasted that low wages were keeping a lid on inflation;

“The labour market turned out to be quite a bit more flexible than we were expecting.”

The Reserve Bank – recognising that a major economic “correction*” is looming on the horizon – has lowered the OCR from 2.50% to 2.25%. The RBNZ’s 10 March media release paints a gloomy economic picture for the foreseeable future;

The outlook for global growth has deteriorated since the December Monetary Policy Statement, due to weaker growth in China and other emerging markets, and slower growth in Europe. This is despite extraordinary monetary accommodation, and further declines in interest rates in several countries. Financial market volatility has increased, reflected in higher credit spreads. Commodity prices remain low.

Domestically, the dairy sector faces difficult challenges, but domestic growth is expected to be supported by strong inward migration, tourism, a pipeline of construction activity and accommodative monetary policy.

[…]There are many risks to the outlook. Internationally, these are to the downside and relate to the prospects for global growth, particularly around China, and the outlook for global financial markets. The main domestic risks relate to weakness in the dairy sector, the decline in inflation expectations, the possibility of continued high net immigration, and pressures in the housing market.

Retail banks, however, seem reluctant to participate in any plan to stimulate economic activity. The 25-point fall in the OCR has yet to be passed on to bank customers.

If the economy enters recession, expect inward migration to reduce, adding to a slowdown in domestic growth and rise in unemployment.

Setting the Mood

In November last year, our esteemed Dear Leader announced – almost casually – that New Zealand could be targeted by terrorists;

“I think every country in the world is potentially vulnerable, we’re probably less vulnerable than others.  We have in this instance the advantage of distance, we’re a long way away, [but] i just couldn’t say to you we’re completely immune.”

And;

“There’s no question about what their motivations are and that’s the tragedy of the Isis story is that you get some very dysfunctional people, for want of a better term, who want to associate themselves with Isis.”

However, on 8 December last year, an entirely ‘new dimension’ was added to the ISIS bogeyman with this dramatic revelation from  SIS director, Rebecca Kitteridge;

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SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge

“Something that has changed over the last year is the issue of New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria, which is something we haven’t seen previously or been aware of.” – Rebecca Kitteridge, 8 December 2015

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The media, rather unsurprisingly, went nuts on the story;

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NZ women going to IS areas on rise - SIS

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As Tracey Watkins and Tommy Livingstone reported for Fairfax Media;

In evidence to the committee, Kitteridge said the past 12 months had seen a significant increase in the global terrorism threat.

“When I started as director of security in May 2014 the so-called Islamic State was barely talked about in New Zealand. Now a day rarely goes by without news of some act of violent extremism associated with IS.”

The threat to New Zealand’s domestic security posed by foreign terrorist fighters and other extremists was real and continued to develop.

“The number of New Zealanders fighting alongside or supporting IS remains small but has increased.”

That included the rise in the number of New Zealand women travelling to Syria and Iraq.

In the same story, Watkins and Livingstone wrote;

Kitteridge said after the committee hearing the numbers leaving from New Zealand were small but significant – but declined to give further details.

As events were to transpire three months later, the suggestion that women were “leaving from New Zealand” was to be proved  a false assertion.

Yet, during those three months, SIS director, Rebecca Kitteridge, maintained silence on the issue and she did nothing to correct the (mistaken) belief that New Zealand women were departing from New Zealand.

This prompted the usual feeding-frenzy and rantings from the ill-informed rabid-right who vent their ignorance on right-wing fora such as Kiwiblog;

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kiwiblog comments - longknives - Jack5

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Kiwiblog editor and National Party apparatchik, David Farrar, did nothing to bring reason to the discussion. Indeed, a few voices of sanity on the blog had their moderate views dismissed and voted down;

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kiwiblog comments - andrei

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Protestations

Following Kitteridge’s comments, lone voices of calm and sanity were barely reported and given much less prominence;

Hazim Arafeh, a spokesperson for he Islamic community, said he was surprised to hear women from New Zealand may have left the country to join ISIS. 

“We are not aware of New Zealand Muslim woman going over to Syria to get married. If it is happening, we still don’t know if it is a genuine case, or are they joining ISIS,” he said.

Islamic Women’s Council issued their own rejection of Kitteridge’s comments;

The national Islamic Women’s Council is not aware of any New Zealand jihadi brides heading to war torn regions to join the fight with Isis.

Council president Anjum Rahman told Paul Henry that although it was happening overseas there was no indication the same thing was happening here.

Ms Rahman said she listened carefully to Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge yesterday and she didn’t mention the women leaving were jihadi brides travelling to Syria to marry and support fighters.

“All she said was the number had been growing and because it was a war torn area that was a concern,” she said.

“We don’t know the ethnicity of these women, we don’t actually know the religious background of these woman, whether they just converted before they went, whether they converted at all, and we definitely don’t know what they’re doing while they’re over there.”

Asked if the council had information on women travelling overseas to marry and support Isis Ms Rahman said: “No. We don’t have any knowledge or indication of that happening.”

Three days later, The Wireless illustrated the  predictably dire results of the demonisation of muslim women;

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the wireless - I'm not a jihadi bride

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Hela Rahman, a 25-year-old who has been a NZ citizen for more than 20 years, says these comments aren’t backed by evidence and are causing more harm than good.

A few weeks ago, she returned from a trip visiting her family in Iraq. When she arrived at Auckland Airport she says she was instantly made to feel like she’d done something wrong.

“I was going through with my E-passport and it was automatically declined. I had to go over to the counter.”  

The Border Control officer asked Rahman why she’d been in Iraq. 

“I told her I was there to see my family. She just looked at me with an awkward uncomfortable expression. She didn’t say anything and just drew a red line through my arrival card.”

Rahman continued to the customers area where the officer, after taking a look at her card, told her to go down the far side. 

“Everyone else was being let through, even my parents. I was the only one in that lane.”

She was told to unlock her bags and was put into a holding room for a “long time” while the staff talked about her behind double-sided glass.

“The thing is, they make you feel so uncomfortable that you start questioning yourself. You start wondering if you have done something wrong,” she said.

She was asked a series of questions about why she’d gone to Iraq, what she had done there, and who had bought the flights for her.

Although Rahman had travelled to the Middle East with her mum and dad, she was the only one who was pulled aside for questioning.

“I thought my parents would be questioned too, but they weren’t. I wanted to ask ‘why me’ but I couldn’t. The opportunity never came up. I was just feeling so uncomfortable.”

Rahman spent the next few weeks confused about what had happened. Her Iraqi friends reassured her that it was just standard airport security Muslims have to face now.

That incident took place here, in good old relaxed, laid-back, give-people-a-fair-go, New Zealand.

All that was missing was requiring muslim’s to wear a red crescent stitched to their clothes to identify them in public – a practice very popular with a certain fascist regime and occupied nations,  in the the 1930s and 1940s…

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badges of suppression

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The Truth Will Out

On 16 March, of this year, the truth of the matter was revealed when Radio NZ – bless them – lodged an Official Information Act request and discovered;

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radio nz - kitteridge - SIS - NZ's 'jihadi brides' left from Australia

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“Something that has changed over the last year is the issue of New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria, which is something we haven’t seen previously or been aware of,” she told MPs.

Rebecca Kitteridge, Director of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

Rebecca Kitteridge, Director of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

In response to an Official Information Act request, SIS, the domestic spy agency, said the women concerned “did not leave New Zealand.

“They were New Zealand citizens domiciled in Australia and they left from there.”

In response to charges of misleading the media and public, the Minister in Charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Chris Finlayson, denied that National and the SIS had  wilfully deceived the country;

“If you go back to the statements that were made there were no implications or ‘winks and nods’ that they were not resident in New Zealand.”

Consider Kitteridge’s statement on 8 December 2015;

“Something that has changed over the last year is the issue of New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria, which is something we haven’t seen previously or been aware of.”

Where else would “New Zealand women” travel from – except New Zealand – unless specifically stated otherwise?

Remember that Kitteridge owned the problem by stating, “which is something we haven’t seen previously or been aware of”. She made no reference to receiving the information from any Australian intelligence organisation.

A day after Radio NZ breaking the story, Minister in Charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Chris Finlayson still refused to issue an apology for National’s and the SIS’s deception;

Chris Finlayson, the Minister in charge of the SIS, told reporters today where the women left from was irrelevant.

“I would have thought the critical issue is were they New Zealand citizens, whether the left from Kingsford Smith airport or Auckland Airport is by-the-by.”

Mr Finlayson said he was due to meet with about 100 members of the Muslim community tomorrow night, and had regular discussions with that community during the process of the intelligence and security review.

“And I’m very happy to proffer an apology on behalf of Metiria Turei who started all this nonsense. I think her performance is lamentable… You just don’t go round handing out apologies willy-nilly.”

The Radio NZ report stated that “the SIS said it had no comment“.

The SIS’s mission was completed; the public was spooked. National’s planned deception had succeeded  – nothing further need be said by the spy agency.

It is also worth noting a noticeable lack of follow-up coverage on Kiwiblog by David Farrar on this issue. Perhaps the discovery that Key and Kitteridge had mis-led the New Zealand public and smeared the Muslim community in the process was not as worthy of a comment as Kitteridge’s innacurate initial comments, three months earlier?

A Happy Confluence of Purpose?

On 8 December, Audrey Young wrote in the NZ Herald;

Meanwhile, Mr Key questioned whether that a proposal he has previously rejected – attaching the Cortex cyber security programme to the Southern Cross internet cable linking New Zealand to Australia and the United States – should be revisited to give wider cyber protection to New Zealand companies.

He made the suggestion while questioning the acting director of the Government Communications Security Bureau, Una Jagose, who gave a detailed speech recently about Cortex as part of a new policy of openness in the bureau.

Mr Key said he had canned the original proposal because of the potential anxiety of it being seen as mass surveillance but he asked if an argument could be made, with enough public debate for it happen to protect smaller companies.

At present, the GCSB uses Cortex to mount cyber defence on Government agencies and strategically important private companies – and only with their permission.

Ms Jagose said the “hard ground work” by the GCSB needed to be done to be more open about the GCSB’s cyber defence work.

She acknowledged the possible anxiety over “mass surveillance.”

It could safely be argued that  stories of “jihadi brides” would scare the bejeezus out of the public, in the process softening opinion to welcome extending the powers of the SIS and GCSB.

If so, this would be a cynical ploy by National and our spy agencies to manipulate public opinion to accept the unpalatable; a massive increase in state surveillance and mass-gathering of data on all New Zealanders.

They just never counted on anyone actually asking a fairly simple question; where did those so-called “jihadi brides” migrate from?

Implausible Deniability

During last year’s  Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee meeting on 8 December, where Rebecca Kitteridge uttered her now (in)famous references to “New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria“, Key made reference to “Jihadi Brides“.

Yet, on TV3’s The Nation, Key tried to evade responsibility for using the term “Jihadi brides” on 8 December;

Lisa Owen: All right. One other issue this week has been the so-called ‘jihadi brides’. Muslim leaders that we spoke to said that they were victimised and confused as a result of your comments around jihadi brides. Do you owe them an apology?

John Key: I don’t think so, and the reason for that is, I think, if you just look at the sequence of events, the first thing is that- I’m not distancing myself, but I didn’t raise the issue. The SIS directed it, and I wasn’t-

Lisa Owen: No, you used the phrase ‘jihadi brides’, Prime Minister. I’ve looked at the transcript. It was you that used that phrase, not Rebecca Kitteridge.

John Key: I didn’t coin that phrase. That phrase is used all around the world.

Lisa Owen: But you were the first one to use it.

John Key: Not around the world, I’m not. It’s a common term.

Was our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, aware that none of the so-called “Jihadi Brides” had actually departed from New Zealand, and were actually residing in Australia at the time?

Yes, according to Gerry Brownlee’s own admission in Parliament, on 17 March;

Metiria Turei (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Was he advised, prior to 8 December 2015, that the so called “jihadi brides” he referred to during the Intelligence and Security Committee meeting were all resident in Australia and did not leave from New Zealand?

Hon Gerry Brownlee (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Metiria Turei: So the Prime Minister can confirm that he knew that none of those women had left for Syria or Iraq from New Zealand?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes, and the member needs to be aware that as New Zealand citizens it does not matter where they left from. If they pose a security risk to New Zealand on their return, then that is something we are concerned about.

This time Key cannot feign memory loss; erroneous advice;  misinterpretation, or a mistake. According to one of his own senior ministers – Key knew the facts.

For reasons of his own, he chose not to disclose that information.

Key’s Lie By His Own Words

On 17 March, Key refuted any willful attempt to mislead the public by inference that so-called “Jihadi brides” had left New Zealand. As reported on Radio NZ;

Today he denied any attempt to create a misleading impression that the 12 or so women referred to by Ms Kitteridge left from New Zealand, rather than from Australia.

We didn’t say that, it was the Director [General] that made the statement, and what she said was there were jihadi brides.

“The fact that where they leave from is irrelevant, if they’re New Zealanders, they’re New Zealanders, they may return to New Zealand and so we have to deal with those issues.

And remember the Minister in Charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Chris Finlayson, who categorically denied that National and the SIS had deliberately created a deception;

“If you go back to the statements that were made there were no implications or ‘winks and nods’ that they were not resident in New Zealand.”

Yet, that is precisely what Key said on 10 December last year, as this video clearly shows;

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Kiwi jihadi brides a reality - PM - yahoo news

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John Key: “And it’s just a reality that there are women that we know that left New Zealand, ah, and we suspect that they have gone and got married and we know that this concept of Jihadi Brides is not, it’s not my term, it’s an international term, and you pick up the World’s Section of the newspapers today, a couple of newspapers, and see them reporting on that, hundreds and hundreds of women from around the world, ah, going off and, and potentially marrying these guys before they undertake Jihadist activity.”

Reporter: “Do you think it’s strange that, that, um, that New Zealand muslims don’t… aren’t aware of any of their women going over and, and, marrying men in places like Syria?”

John Key: “Yeah, well, I mean they don’t know everybody in the community, um, and you know, they obviously have a, you know, be [unintelligible word] as anyone can on these things, but we can just tell you by what we see. Y’know, people travel out of our country, and people who turn up, through other reporting, and otherwise, in Syria or Iraq.”

Key was as crystal-clear as his garbled-style of speech permits him to be. He cannot claim he was mis-represented in the media: he stated categorically that “there are women that we know that left New Zealandpeople travel out of our country“.

At the same time, according to Minister Brownlee, Key was perfectly aware that  “jihadi brides” he referred to during the Intelligence and Security Committee meeting were all resident in Australia and did not leave from New Zealand”.

This was no “mistake” on the part of the media. Brownlee and Key stand convicted of their duplicity, by their own words.

Coming soon: A terror alert near you!

This is now the second (that we are aware of) mis-use of our spy agencies for National’s own political agenda.

Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, found that in 2011, then-Labour leader, Phil Goff, had been mis-led by  then-SIS director, Warren Tucker, at a briefing meeting.  Inaccurate information had also been provided by the SIS to right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater that was used to damage Phil Goff’s reputation.

As the Herald reported in November 2014;

Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn said this morning the inquiry found the NZSIS released “incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information in response to Mr Slater’s request, and provided some of the same incorrect information to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s office”.

Ms Gwyn said she found no evidence of political partisanship by the NZSIS but did find that the NZSIS “failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality”.

Ms Gwyn said the having released misleading information both to Prime Minister John Key’s office and then to Mr Slater, Dr Tucker “had a responsibility to take positive steps to correct the interpretation”.

“He failed to do so.”

On that basis, Ms Gwyn said Mr Goff was owed an apology.

Ms Gwyn said information about a briefing Mr Goff received from Dr Tucker about suspected Israeli agents in Christchurch following the quakes was “not an accurate description of what happened at that meeting”.

According to revelations in Nicky Hager’s exposé, “Dirty Politics“, the smearing of Phil Goff was orchestrated from the Beehive’s Ninth Floor, by Jason Ede – a National Party “black ops” apparatchik.

The SIS was party to this covert plan to smear Phil Goff  and undermine his election chances in 2011.

Unsurprisingly, Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei, condemned both the SIS and our esteemed Dear Leader for willfully  deceiving the public;

“They were using information for political purposes, and that political purpose was to encourage New Zealanders to accept greater surviellance by spy agencies.

The SIS has proven time and time again they can’t be trusted with the powers that they have. They don’t follow the law that they’re required to, and John Key is using spy agencies to pursue a political agenda.”

It is now a matter of time before another dramatic “terror alert” is issued by this government, to further frighten and manipulate the country into submitting to National’s agenda to increase powers for our spy agencies.

The “terror alerts” will most likely come to nothing; no arrests will be made; no details of any thwarted “terror plot” will ever be released to the public – but the ultimate goal of fomenting fear will be achieved.

A frightened populace is a compliant populace.

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Postscript1

“Correction” = polite euphemism for shit-about-to-hit-the-fan.

Postscript2

Did the SIS/GCSB ever keep track of New Zealand women travelling to Northern Ireland, during “The Troubles”, who may have met and married men from that province?

Were they ever referred to as “IRA Brides”?

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References

Fonterra: Fonterra revises 2015/16 forecast milk price

Fairfax media: Small farmer group holds nearly $12 billion of dairy debt

Radio NZ: Dairy farm values set to keep falling

Radio NZ: Incomes dropping despite GDP growth, English admits

Fairfax media: Low wages ‘advantage’ for NZ – English

Reserve Bank: Official Cash Rate reduced to 2.25 percent

NZ Herald: Banks keep their slice of OCR cut

Fairfax media: Distance, spy network means NZ less vulnerable to attack – John Key

Fairfax media: John Key ‘scaremongering’ with details of security threats: Andrew Little

Radio NZ: NZ women going to IS areas on rise – SIS

Fairfax media: Kiwi Jihadi brides on the rise

TVNZ:  ‘The worse the attack the more excited they are’ – Kiwi women leave to be jihadi brides

NZ Herald: Q&A – Why do women want to be jihadi brides?

Otago Daily Times: ‘Jihadi bride’ fears over Kiwi women

NZ Herald: Rise in Kiwi women heading to Iraq, Syria

Kiwiblog: Kiwi jihadi brides

NZ Herald: Islamic Women’s Council – It’s news to us

The Wireless: ‘I’m not a jihadi bride’

Radio NZ:  NZ’s ‘jihadi brides’ left from Australia

Radio NZ: No apology from govt over ‘jihadi brides’ claims

NZ Herald: Rise in Kiwi women heading to Iraq, Syria

TV3: The Nation – Interview with John Key

Radio NZ: No apology from govt over ‘jihadi brides’ claims

Parliament Today: Questions & Answers – March 17 – Intelligence and Security Committee – Advice

Yahoo News: Kiwi jihadi brides a reality – PM

NZ Herald: Dirty Politics – John Key won’t apologise to Goff

NewstalkZB: Kiwi women heading off to join ISIS, Key insists

Additional

“I’ve Got Nothing to Hide” and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy (hat-tip: Nitrium)

Other blogs

Kiwipolitico: Threat Distortion as Fear Manipulation

No Right Turn: Caught fearmongering

The Daily Blog: Key wasn’t just scare mongering with Jihadi Brides – he used it to distract from Tim Groser GCSB spying

The Dim Post: The struggle

The Standard: The Jihadi Brides lie

The Standard: Nats refuse to apologise for targeting Muslim community

Previous related blogposts

Audrey Young, Two Bains, old cars, and… cocoa?!?!

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

An Open Message to the GCSB, SIS, NSA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland

One Dunedinite’s response to the passing of the GCSB Bill

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

Campbell Live on the GCSB – latest revelations – TV3 – 20 May 2014

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

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headless-chickens

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 March 2016.

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Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

18 March 2016 6 comments

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TB5

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When a spokesperson for the government tries to employ scare-tactics to persuade the public that increasing surveillance powers for various arms of the State – in this case the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – is warranted, then suspicions arise.

In the week following the release of the first review of intelligence organisations in New Zealand, Michael Cullen  offered no less than three scare-tactics, that on the face of it, should send children and the naive running into the arms of spymasters at the SIS and GCSB.

On 10 March, Kathryn Ryan interviewed Michael Cullen on Radio NZ’s ‘Nine to Noon‘ show. Cullen was  one of the reviewers of our spy agencies.  In reply to questioning why the GCSB needed increased powers, he said;

@ 10.04

“…Suppose, let’s take an example, you know that a Chinese agent is arriving on a plane at an airport, for whatever reason you also know that they’re only going to be here for a short time but you’ve no idea what it is they’re going to be up to, and you can’t find a judicial commissioner, you know you’re only half an hour out from a landing kind of thing…”

@ 10.34

“…In extreme circumstances where you can’t find the Attorney General, or the the Minister deputed [sic] by the Prime Minister [to] act on the Attorney General’s behalf, or the judicial commissioner, then the Director can issue a warrant, but that’s in the case of immediate threat to life or the fact that if it doesn’t happen quickly then the opportunity to gather that intelligence will have passed…”

Aside from a “Yellow Peril” hint to Cullen’s reference to “a Chinese agent”, one has to ask why he is suggesting that the imminent arrival of such a person would strike fear into the heart of our government and it’s agencies.

Did the announcement that we are at war with China miss the 6PM news bulletin on both TV1 and TV3?

If  such a mythical “Chinese agent” is a “threat” to our security and well-being, then a simple phone call to New Zealand Customs should be sufficient to  detain the person and return him/her home on the next available flight.  NZ Customs already has this power, as Mario Quintela learned to his misfortune last February;

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Portuguese tourist gifted free flight to NZ after immigration debacle

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Not only was Mr Quintela detained after disembarking his flight; he was held for ten hours, and promptly deported thereafter. (As the story reports, Customs then had to pay for Mr Quintela‘s flight back to New Zealand.)

So why the “imminent arrival” of a foreign agent should send the GCSB or other state agency into a tizzy is unclear. Our Customs department already ‘has our backs’ on such matters.

Cullen then painted a frightening picture where “in extreme circumstances where you can’t find the Attorney General, or the the Minister deputed  by the Prime Minister [to] act on the Attorney General’s behalf or the judicial commissioner”.

Really? In the 21st century, with mobile phones, smartphones, email, faxes, landlines – Cullen is deeply concerned “where you can’t find the Attorney General, or the the Minister deputed [sic] by the Prime Minister [to] act on the Attorney General’s behalf, or the judicial commissioner“?!

If such an unlikely scenario ever eventuated, my concern would not be for the GCSB unable to have a warrant-to-surveil signed   – but where the hell our Attorney General, or the the Minister deputed [sic] by the Prime Minister [to] act on the Attorney General’s behalf, or the judicial  commissioner” were, that they could not be easily located.

Perhaps the most disingenuous,  anxiety-laden scenario from Cullen was his implausible Lost At Sea fantasy.  On Radio NZ’s Focus on Politics, Cullen maintained that expanding the GCSB’s surveillance powers was a “safety” issue;

@ 2.30

“Let us suppose a New Zealander is in imminent danger, in terms of their life overseas. Maybe lost at sea or some other example. Under this legislation as the GCSB feels it has to interpret it, the GCSB’s capacity to trace an individual’s cellphone and to say exactly where it is, cannot be used.

We have no way of finding out where that person is, using that capacity, in order to take immediate and urgent action, in whatever way, to try to protect the safety of that New Zealander.”

I call total bollocks on Cullen’s example.

Aside from the fact that most yachties and other vessels now use modern emergency locator beacons, if a New Zealander is in “imminent danger”, a bunch of spooks sitting in Pipitea House, Thorndon, listening in on conversations and reading emails and txt-messages are hardly likely to be in a position to facilitate rescue operations to assist a person “ lost at sea “.

Checking Google, using the search parameters “spy agency locates lost person at sea” did not yield a single example of a spy agency finding anyone in such dire straits.

The GCSB is a spy agency. International Rescue, it is not.

If by some bizarre chance the GCSB did pick up an SOS call, or locator beacon, no person in their right mind would object if the information was passed on to rescue services. By definition,  SOS calls cannot be considered “private communications” since they are broadcast far and wide to anyone capable of picking up the transmissions.

Cullen is fear-mongering.

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In the report,  Intelligence and Security in a Free Society Report of the First Independent Review of Intelligence and Security in New Zealand, under a section headed “Key Issues Identified“, the authors write;

7. It quickly became apparent to us that there were a number of deficiencies in the Agencies’ current legislative frameworks. The legislation establishing the Agencies is not comprehensive, is inconsistent between the two agencies, can be difficult to interpret and has not kept pace with the changing technological environment. This has led to some significant problems.

8. First, lack of clarity in the legislation means the Agencies and their oversight bodies are at times uncertain about what the law does and does not permit, which makes it difficult to ensure compliance. Critical reviews in the past have led the Agencies, particularly the GCSB, to take a very conservative approach to interpreting their legislation. While we understand the reason for this, and it is certainly preferable to a disregard for the law, this overly cautious approach does mean that the GCSB is not as effective or as efficient as it could be. The legislation needs to set out clearly what the Agencies can do, in what circumstances and subject to what protections for individuals.

It appears that Cullen and his co-author, Dame Patsy Reddy, are repeating the very same justifications that Key and other National ministers spouted in 2013, when they implemented an expansion of GCSB’s powers to legalise Bureau surveillance of New Zealanders.

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Michael Cullen and Report co-author Patsy Reddy

Michael Cullen and Report co-author Patsy Reddy (Radio NZ)

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On  9 April 2013, our esteemed Dear Leader claimed that the GCSB – as it stood at the time – was not “fit for purpose”;

In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.  It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known

[…]

The advice we have recently received from the Solicitor-General is that there are difficulties interpreting the legislation and there is a risk some longstanding practices of providing assistance to other agencies would not be found to be lawful.

[…]

It is absolutely critical the GCSB has a clear legal framework to operate within.”

Now it appears that Cullen and Reddy are parroting the same rationale for advancing the “need” to expand the Bureau’s surveillance powers.

This appears to be the stock-standard meme that will be trotted out every time the government pushes for further extensions to State surveillance powers.

Council for Civil Liberties, chairperson, Thomas Beagle, was correct when he pointed out the obvious “mission creep” of stealthily increasing State surveillance in this country;

“I think it’s part of a shift towards an overall surveillance society and I think it’s part of a wider shift towards a government which is not of the people but a government which is actually working on the people.”

Cullen and Reddy have played their part in this latest chapter of an on-going process.

What next in two, five, or ten years’ time?

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References

Parliament: Intelligence and Security in a Free Society Report of the First Independent Review of Intelligence and Security in New Zealand

Radio NZ: Nine To Noon – Spy law shake-up, heightened protection or erosion of privacy? (alt. link)

TVNZ News: Portuguese tourist gifted free flight to NZ after immigration debacle

Radio NZ: Focus on Politics – 11 March 2016  (alt. link)

Beehive: PM releases report into GCSB compliance

Radio NZ: Spy review aims to clarify powers

Additional

Radio NZ: Canada stops sharing Five Eyes data

The Guardian: Canada spy agency stops sharing intelligence with international partners

Other Blogs

Dim Post: Security and intelligence legislation: then and now

No Right Turn: As predicted

No Right Turn: The problem with the intelligence review

The Standard: New report on GCSB spying powers

Previous related blogposts

Audrey Young, Two Bains, old cars, and… cocoa?!?!

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

An Open Message to the GCSB, SIS, NSA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland

One Dunedinite’s response to the passing of the GCSB Bill

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

Campbell Live on the GCSB – latest revelations – TV3 – 20 May 2014

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

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No more anarchy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 March 2016.

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