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A Dunne Drama: Let’s focus on the important bit – the policy

By   /  June 8, 2013  /  14 Comments

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It is a travesty that the implications of the Report itself and the new legislation being rammed through around the GCSB’s new powers to cover up retrospective illegality is not receiving more attention.

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peter_dunne_51a5547d03Peter Dunne’s resignation following the David Henry report that indicates he leaked the Kitteridge Report into the GCSB came as a shock to many yesterday. Much of the commentary on this has focused on Dunne’s personality, with some commentators such as Jane Clifton and Whaleoil implying that his decision to leak was due to a midlife crisis where he was swept away by a crush on a press gallery journalist. If this is true, he would hardly be the first or the last politician to attempt to use their post to hit on journalists and staff (the majority of such incidents remaining the chatter of  the press gallery).  Dunne himself said that he could not quite explain what came over him, or why he has only released half of the letters to Henry.

Dunne’s performance this week certainly demonstrated little of the nous that has allowed him to survive as a “common sense” army of one for an extraordinarily long time in Parliament, attaching himself as an accouterment to whatever coalition party happens to be in fashion. His demotion does place additional pressure on a weakened National, whose slim majority is already being eroded by John Banks’ continuing amnesia regarding receiving envelopes of money and taking scenic helicopter rides with world famous pirates.  Winston Peters’ sixth political sense for drama is out in force, ensuring that the lead up to the next election is likely to be a tad more entertaining than usual.

Yet what is lost in this drive towards the personalization of politics and news cycles is the politics itself. Despite his ability to caricature himself with his Renaissance wave and planking stunts, Dunne occasionally bites the hand that feeds, as in his decision as Minister of Revenue to pursue high income tax evasion cases and his withdrawal of support for Charter Schools  (citing his ethical concerns around employing unregistered teachers). While I suspect his desire to remain at the table in this instance (assuming that he was indeed the leak) overrides his ethical concerns around the GCSB Report, it is a travesty that the implications of the Report itself and the new legislation being rammed through around the GCSB’s new powers to cover up retrospective illegality is not receiving more attention.

I for one was shocked to pick up The Weekend Herald two weeks ago and see that the Government was beta testing ThinThread technology for metadata surveillance on the New Zealand population in 2000-2001.  There is a reason why the GCSB is dedicated to foreign threats and the SIS is dedicated to New Zealand surveillance, and it is to prevent this kind of mission creep towards the surveillance of ordinary New Zealand citizens.

The leaking of the Kitteridge Report to Vance allowed for some intelligent journalism around these fundamental issues of our rights as citizens.  The Kitteridge Report showed some important failings in the GCSB that require further oversight – disorganization, concern around legality and the illegal spying on 89 New Zealand citizens – all of which has somehow been put through the public relations spinometer as benefiting New Zealanders and power that the GCSB should already have.  The national conversation that should be about our civil liberties keeps getting subsumed by the personalities in the equation and paranoia over potential terror attacks.

I don’t really care about speculation over whether Dunne has done a Clinton. It’s not like he was instagramming his penis like US Senator Anthony Weiner – from all accounts it seems like a couple of tweets and some emails. The more important issue is the legislation, and the potential impact Dunne’s demotion will have on the coalition government. I don’t have to agree with every single statement that comes out of a politician’s mouth to support them on issues of confluence. It seems extraordinary to me that Norman on behalf of the Greens is calling for the police to investigate – it would be better to let Peters lead that line of attack, given that he has continually complained about the level of secrecy around the Security Committee. At the end of the day, it is not about a soap opera, it is about our rights as citizens.  And this needs to be the focus of the opposition, not continuing the blood bath for political points.

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About the author

Phoebe Fletcher

Blogger and Academic

14 Comments

  1. Countryboy says:

    Yes . I’m freaked out by the GCSB thing too . I think the changes to it may herald a new era for NZ . When rich refugees arrive in droves from an embattled mess of their own making . It’s my view , we’ll see a whole new New Zealand within ten or so years . Perhaps sooner .
    I lost faith in the monarchy to protect us when the queen went to thatchers funeral . Now , I don’t have much faith at all in anything . Other than pretty women and kittens .
    Don’t do debt kids . Make do , pay cash while you can , learn how to grow things and become a Fixer . You know ? Old school . Organic . Analogue .
    And remember . ” Never do business with a religious son-of-a-bitch . But if you do , get it in writing . You can never trust someone with God on their side to tell them how to fuck you on the deal . ”
    ‘ Words of advice to young people . William Burroughs . ‘
    Have you seen Terry Pratchetts ‘ Going Postal ‘ ?
    The only safe way to communicate is by good old , organic old , analogue letters . Hand written , hand carried letters .
    God bless the postie .
    And remember ; Spooks may have a psychological advantage but they don’t have the numbers so show no fear !

  2. Excellent analysis, Phoebe.

    It’s a dark irony that the morphing of New Zealand society occurred not with a Far Right government overthrowing our democratic institutions, as in CK Stead’s “Sleeping Dogs/Smith’s Dream” – but because the public and especially the media wasn’t paying attention.

    As Countryboy wrote above – wouldn’t it be the joke of the century if the only secure way to communicate was by old fashioned letter (hand addressed so computers can’t readily pick up names and addresses)…

    Good lord, am I becoming paranoid?

  3. On a more practical point. It might devolve to the Green and Mana Parties to lead a counter-revolution against our growing Surveillance Society.

    There are the naive and deluded who insist that giving police and our spooks greater surveillance powers is ok because, after all, if you having nothing to fear or hide…

    In which case, there are two questions surrounding such a proposition,

    1. When did we decide that the State has an automatic right to intrude into our Private Lives and we have to prove that we deserve privacy?

    2. Anyone who suggests that “if you having nothing to fear or hide” could be asked – So you won’t mind if we begin with you to install cameras and microphones in your homes?

    It’s an irony that the growth of surveillance power is happening under a right wing government. The right wing – those happy little chappies who demand Less Government in our lives.

    But seem so happy to give more powers for Police and spys.

    Of course, they’re happy. It’s happening under a government they support. That nice Mr Key would never spy on them – only on those “nasty commies in Labour and the Greens”.

    It’ll be delightful to see their reaction when a Left Wing government takes power and starts delving into the lives and actions of right wing subversives like Slater, Farrar, Lusk, et al.

    Their screams will be heard up and down the country…

    Let’em scream.

    They let it happen.

    • Tim says:

      “1. When did we decide that the State has an automatic right to intrude into our Private Lives and we have to prove that we deserve privacy?”

      We didn’t! The ‘autocrats’ took it upon themselves to decide that for us.

      That Phoebe F is one smart lady, and whilst I agree with what she says, I also find it amusing that the politicians we have that profess to stand on principle, seem to be those most ready to break it.

      We’ve now gone Dunne running around screaming “mummy, mummy – people are being mean to me” ( a la ‘ this has been one of the nastiest moments in my [moi, my, me, me, my] career.
      Message to Peter/pierre – nastier still the politics and legislation YOU have supported that have reduced democratic process (by whatever measure you wish to choose).
      Dimunition of access to courts
      Suspension of legally elected councils
      Centralisation of power
      ……
      …..
      No no no Petey. Forget the sympathy trip – it ain’t gonna sail

  4. Have to agree with you on this one Phoebe, someone needed to say it. Love him or hate him Peter Dunne may well turn out to be the champion of civil liberty for allegedly releasing this information about the wrong doings of spy agencies in NZ. The National Governments scramble to push through laws to cover it up needs to be the next focus of the next media frenzy…but hold on there’s no juicy,sordid story in this so it will probably go under the radar for the majority of NZers!

    • Pasupial says:

      I thumbsed-up you all (that just sounds wrong!), but am not in total agreement with anyone (except with the PF article itself).

      @ Maree Conaglen
      “…allegedly releasing this information about the wrong doings of spy agencies in NZ.” But at the same time pledging to vote for the GCSB expanded powers – is there not a contradiction there? I, for one, do not regard Dunne as anything like a “champion of civil liberty”.

      @ Frank Macskasy
      The only constant is change; which is why revolutions are called that. The “…morphing of New Zealand society occurr[ing]… with a Far Right government overthrowing our democratic institutions, as in CK Stead’s “Sleeping Dogs/Smith’s Dream”” can still happen. For example:
      If a coalition of parties received enough votes to form a government which was pledged to cancel laws that serve the security interests of our allies, and the Governer-General illegally refused to sign such legislation; who would the Army follow? Former; Chief of Defense Force, &; Director of GCSB, General Jerry Mateparae, or a civilan hodgepodge of parties led by; an ex-UN aid worker, an Australian, and a Maori Radical?

      @countryboy
      I critiqued the other two, so I might as well do you as well.
      1/ It’s a bit late to tell people with student loans, children, and mortgages not to get into debt.
      2/ Are you typing your comment on your analogue Babbage engine?

  5. Phil says:

    Here’s some random words for their little machine – just random words you know…
    President, bomb, kill, innocent, terrorism, free, Bradley, public, Manning, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, shoot, bombs, bombs, Muslim, terrorism, God,
    revenge, police state, kill, bomb, bomb, bullets, war, shooting, john key, world, war, 3, resistance, Syria, Bush, banks, Israel,
    hippies, punks, drugs, bombs, bombs, bullets, Muslims, dicks, bums, foo foos, kittens, catholic priests, Iceland, the 1980s, drugs, bombs and of course guns, bombs, terror, terror, terror, 911, inside, job and I nearly forgot anarchy.
    (for the record this is not a secret code either)
    While I am laughing – are they too?

    I may have just ‘accidentally’ wasted 2 minutes of their day while they look at my random words –
    imagine if everyone wrote 10 emails like this every day it would mess with the little machine for sure.

    I might even make my random words my email signature or embed it in the meta data of pictures of flowers or maggots.
    It could be the new trend – secret service baiting!

    Why cant they just go and grow some corn (not GM either)

  6. goblyn295 says:

    Why can’t the GCSB or the SIS just read Dunnes emails and get it over with. If he was a gang member outside the law they would be all over it by now. He happens to be a gang member making the law so he should be under extra scrutiny i would have thought.

  7. fambo says:

    Re Russel Norman’s comments – while I’m inclined to believe sometimes it is better to stay out of the fray and in this instance for the Green’s to take a back seat, as I listened to the comments from representatives of different parties on National Radio news on Saturday I thought in a situation like this, it is impossible for any serious political party to say that it doesn’t have any particular viewpoint on the matter in hand. They have no choice but to take a position. Norman’s was reasonably neutral in calling for a police investigation.

    My own feeling is that Dunne is holding something back for reasons only known to him. I’m not convinced he leaked the documents but rather, feels it is better to neither confirm or deny, rather than reveal information that is significant for other reasons.

  8. Jacquelye Taylor says:

    Oh Pheobe thank goodness.. great piece by the way..

    I almost had an all too past decades N.O.W moment or two, considering what exactly Andrea Vance and Peter Dunne may or may not have teamed up on beyond the GCSB leak..
    Then I remembered I am not back in the London of the early 80s or after thank G.
    I have never bought the Truth and never will while a certain person edits it.
    Then again I thought, this is a different NZ of late, where every breech of legislation, resident or citizen privacy protection erosion is ‘arguably legal?’ or arguably about to be made so retrospectively.
    As long as some old duffer who is told to say so, says so. And then everyone cites security as another why we wont say sod all!
    Oxymoronic surely if you can argue that the P.M or ‘someone in current authority’ made a phone-call, attended meetings he can’t remember, or other bothersome details he isnt ‘comfortable’ with?
    Where is the massive outrage that from the top down, rather than adhere to the UNWRITTEN rules in the Cabinet manual that they must ACTUALLY MAKE A RECORD FIRST, OF CALLS,MEETINGS etc, that are crucial to democratic accountabilty and transparency that they are then meant to KEEP & STORE.
    As with other countries this of course would then link beautifully back to our NZ version of the 2005 PUBLIC RECORDS ACT
    ( Section17).. Pretty clear!
    Local & central government must CREATE not just MAINTAIN and keep RECORDS.
    Since they apparently very often DON’T! ( How very convenient?)
    Since they purely rely on ‘memories’ in previous governments too, but this CURRENT National one in particular, is it surprising they can just plead brainfades.
    Can you name companies or Corporations ( who haven’t been so clever covering it up they aren’t known) who would be allowed to operate like this in the West?

    Seriously! You really couldnt make this stuff up could you? And most people here don’t even realise.. ( Hat-tip to Penny Bright btw .. She has been saying this for years!)

    One chapter further than you Pheobe….

    So here we are in 2013. In ‘arguably’ perceived transparent, accountable, uncorrupted and totally independent ‘policywise’ of that nasty nuclear US Administration paranoia NZ.. An ally that that if we aren’t ‘with them’ we must be ‘against them’!
    Yet even if we aren’t against them, we have suddenly recently adopted a sleepy We have no right NOT to expect domestic agencies & Five Eyes ‘agencies’ to rummage about in our in-boxes and retain every word we have uttered out loud or online.
    Of course this *just in case* anyone here can be loosely linked to someone who wants to hurl a bus at a politician ( Seriously?) or call for the impeachment, imprisonment or at the very least resignation of criminals who are redefining ‘legality’ arguably by the week…

    As a person who for years, has vocally but non threateningly marched, advocated and raised more than a silent objection to all of the wars since WWII.
    A person who draws a line at helicopter gunships annihilating unarmed people in Iraq and then going back to shoot up their rescuers..
    As one who has continually been openly horrified at the doublespeak justifications for those odd (doublespeak)yet many (oldspeak) drones, being dropped on families asleep in their homes, at wedding parties or on Red Crescent or UN refuges from places like Gaza, Afghanistan,to others like Pakistan & Yemen where they are NOT EVEN ‘at war’.

    As a woman incredulous that controllers, proxy troops or contractors executing & maiming civilians, because their prozac stopped working, orthey have done one too many tours or got the ‘wrong co-ordinates’ or are just ‘evening scores’ are presented by the media as ‘victims’ and let off by their military judiciary while the familes or peers of those they slaughtered collectively are thrown less dollars than a drone, and often not even named let alone mourned as we are told to when someone similary insanely ‘evens the score by blowing up innocents, in the West.
    Since I long ago anticipated I already have little flag by my name despite having ‘nothing to fear!’ according to those who tell me we need to be allied with these people..
    Colluders by silence with states who regularly engage in all of the above and routinely spy on their own but SHHHHHHHhh dont feck up an imminent trade deal..
    Here is where I categorically say.. BOLLOX and Yes I am BOVVERED Very BOVVERED by all of this..!

    The drone programme in my recent re-occuring nightmares has been horrendously morphing in the not far off future, to places not unlike the Ureweras,or Waiheke, Northland or wherever similarly minded people to Manning, Assange,Birgitta, Hager Stephenson or friends of mine in the global blogisphere here are also saying.. ENOUGH!

    The Wars on Terror arguments for the encroaching dystopia are wearing ever-thinner !
    The only thing keeping me three steps away from throwing all my technology away here in NZ, is that we still do have the spitting image script worthy muppets like Dunne, Banks, Bennett, Parata, McCully, Sharples etc.
    Given the catalogue of this country’s recent cockups highlighted on the global stage as 100% farce too, by many who will hopefully be making plans to come here and live as the toxicity in their own becomes lifethreatening, I am still optimistic..

    Finally it would appear a few mainstream journalists are finally Fourth Estating as are increasingly all on blogs like this. In turn this is making those who won’t, don’t or are more obviously bought and paid for doublespeak shills or equally the echo-chambers for the neoliberal ogliarchal dogma they churn out to keep working that re found in every country given the ‘ties’!

    Perhaps Andrea Vance will turn out to be Orwell’s Winston?
    Perhaps more will be influenced by Bradbury and Huxley?
    I am by all and more..

    Perhaps I should just shut up now, keep writing my subliminal messages for children in my poetry and take some soma until the knock on the door?
    Yeh/Nah..

    While Winston remains in opposition which is exactly why I voted NZFirst split last election,while Hone becomes a much more honky and media-friendly Mana ascendant,while so many in the Green’s (when not foot ‘n mouth MulKeydooning) doing an excellent job ( as they should it is their JOB) of holding this government’s head over a sharp edge,while many are continually trying to flush the shyte many of the incumbent ministers & minstries are doing into the public eye, with a little help from those of us who also love the Lorax.

    With four or five in Labour genuinely not ‘Neo-Nu-Lab’ & one or two more still hopefully salvageable, I still think there is hope before the next election of showing enough Kiwis from EVERY walk of life & socio-economic status, where this ‘centre right on it’s back, legs open National under Key are willing to take Aotearoa to the path of either American attrition or the total ticking time bomb The disUnited Kingdom is now….

    BUT to change things, .the current political mess must be counter CAPitilised in a massive surge of ;-).
    I see an untenable spectre of this wonderful place I’ve now lived in for 25years and all of us, presented like the proverbial lambs on a spit via the TPP agreement and other agreements that I doubt are in any public record either.
    Sacrificial lambs being skinned and scammed & eventually fought over between the U.S & China. We are being marketed as an asset rich haven but a people politically naive or even worse ambivalent or apathetc.
    A Pacific rim aperitif..
    The revived ‘collaborations’ as in the 5 nation ‘ military exercises’ conducted last weekend on our soil, and presented so innoculously, should be the massive ((Alarm bell)) some need to hear!
    Considering what they openly admitted they were training for, there may not be a damn thing any or all being identified, classified as ‘oldspeakers’, and along with the already *unlawfully* spied on group? ( Way more than 84 via the US we can now be pretty sure) will be able to do.

    As some have suggested? Should New Zealanders be revolting (sic) Egyptian or do they go the more passive Icelandic route?
    Either way, she needs a very different outcome than either of them have accomplished. Despite all that bloodshed or regular civilly screw you deaf with pots and pans they have more of the same.. ‘arguably not different’.
    Personally,I don’t want to be a prisoner in this paradise or in an orange jumpsuit elsewhere…
    A quick end would be preferable to what I’ve imagined in one of my works in progress, A f(r)instead of dodging drones and deal with the netdrops & bugs in the machines I useictional) collection of thoughts and events in prose and rhyme. It is no more intended as a predictor than 1984, Brave New World Kafka’s prisoner or Bradbury’s 541.
    Can we do something? I really just want to help make other people’s Happy Ever After’s come true by connecting them with others who do, much rather be doing that than waiting for a potential knock on door or continually debugging technology..
    Sorry for length.. Seemed necessary to be pretty specific today somehow. Pheobe inspired a ghostwriter. Jax. .

  9. Jacquelye Taylor says:

    Re above..
    Sorry for spelling errors and oops punctuation.. Little person was helping and pressed ‘post’ before I had edited..
    Teaching them to care young and to read the right material is important..;-)

  10. marc says:

    Yes, I can only agree with Phoebe on her analysis and conclusions. We do all get caught up in the media hypes that lead to distraction from more serious and important matters of substance, like the law change to enable GCSB to spy on New Zealand citizens and residents on behalf of SIS and I believe also the police.

    Some more checks and balances are of course needed, but given the fact that New Zealand is such a small country and has governments and a Parliament where too many scratch each other’s back for favours and perks, I have a distrust in what is about to come, despite of more “oversight” over what the GCSB is doing.

    Civil liberties are in danger, and as if we needed a reminder, the publication by the Guardian about the NSA in the US running a “Prism” surveillance system, looking at social media like Facebook, Google and more, should ring alarm bells.

    New Zealand is part of the Echelon spy network, linking this country to spy agencies of the US, Australia and UK, so it is clear, that those overseas agencies will expect the New Zealand GCSB and SIS to do what they are doing themselves.

    The conduct of the mainstream media, being totally pre-occupied with trivialities, side-shows and personalities involved in scandals, leaks and whatsoever, is shocking. But I am no longer surprised. I am less surprised after having looked on Twitter last night, and scanned back over tweet entries from and to Andrea Vance. It was mentioned on TV One that the had exchanged tweets and mails with Dunne.

    Looking at what she tweets about, and what other senior media persons in New Zealand (and internationally) communicate about, that is a revelation. These journalists are indeed themselves as rather shallow as the articles and reports they write. It is all about the headline stuff and gossip we get presented, what they are occupied with. That means they have settled to be superficial, sensation hungry and not interested in detail, in investigative journalism, in analysis and presenting substance.

    It must be the fact that they work in a corporate dominated, commercial environment, under time pressures and in competition for hitting breaking news items, that they have become like this.

    Thank goodness that there are some more intelligent and thorough, as well as dedicated writers like the one of this piece around, who share the important stories with us free of charge on TDB.

    By the way, the search on Twitter went back only to 17 April, so the more revealing tweets with Dunne around 08 or 09 April seem no longer accessible. Strange that!?

  11. zanemvula says:

    Agree entirely, the GCSB issue is a horrifying affront on democracy and justice alike. Yet the media happily parrot on the line about the legislation having been unclear (it was pretty clear to me), which Joe and Jane Public will happily pick up and think no further on the matter.

    The bit that concerns me with all this state spying here and in the US is the possibility of corporates getting involved. At least state agencies have a residual conscience, at least sometimes, or can be subjected to some form of sanction from the voters. What happens when some cosy relationship between a big corp (say, Monsanto) and the government leads to a bit of mission creep, and the war on terror becomes the war on those that oppose us? What oversight do the corp’s have?

    That might be a bigger issue in the US than here, but it’s a global world, you never know…

  12. Robert M says:

    I’ve always assumed that the much higher intelligence in the Australian parliament of both parties, is because most of the leading members of each party got drunk with the press gallery each night, the leading ALP union women and lawyers were good looking cougars and if you screwed, boozed, swore and worse like Bob Hawke till you were 50 were a hero. I mean its ludicrous, Winston Peters the greatest geriatric alley cat in NZ political history, writes of Dunne as nothing like an old fun, when just like his brother he’s stuffed up first time off the leash. Of course their would have others. It was Obvious Helen Clark’s power was as the Washington DC black progandist say, her encyclopedia mental file on the talents drugs, sex and booze tastes. Like any good defence expert.
    The Real point is that the Parliamentary defence commitee shouldn’t and cant recieve any real intelligence ( the sort of lower second rate red meat the CIA Bushes and W>Coast aristocracy- threw the Church committe in 1975). Defence and Intelligence services are not democratic they have a strict hierarcy for control and release and the aim is to support very directly the military defence of the west. Therefore even the Kiwi executive can only have limited access and any supervision should be only in the hand of PM and four other high ranking Cabinet members who haven’t been vetoed. The Kitteridge report should never have been released as clearly Kitteridge and Fletcher probably don’t have the required level of defence contact. Someone of the calibre of Martin Dunne needed to control and edit the writing if you want to remain a member of the Western club at the min credible level. Which we absolutely must assume just might not.

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