“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” – say those who attempt to justify the increasing surveillance power of State’s, multi-nationals, and internet “webcorps” like Facebook and Google.
I find that usually these people fall into three categories;
- the incredibly naive, who believe that their government loves them. Because Big Brother loves you.
- the incredibly fearful, who see terrorists under their beds, in the closet, out on the street behind a tree…
- the incredibly partisan – who identify so closely with their Party-of-choice, that that will give it wholehearted trust whilst in office. But will then condemn an opposition Party’s use of State surveillance power once they win government.
The SIS was formed in 1956 – during the height of the Cold War. It was a perilous time in our history, when two super power blocs faced off against each other. Armed with colossal numbers of atomic weaponry, Planet Earth stood on the brink of thermonuclear annihilation. Cockroaches bided their time to inherit.
Twentyone years later, the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) was created in 1977 at the behest of then Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon. Super power rivalry and a volatile mix of Middle East tensions created an environment where intelligence-gathering became as vital as actual military (if not more so).
Prime Ministers of the day promised, hand on heart, that each organisation would be carefully controlled and their activities monitored.
A year earlier, the police Wanganui Computer centre had opened, holding information for the New Zealand Police, Land Transport Safety Authority and the justice department,
‘Big Brother is watching’? The New Zealand government’s establishment of the country’s first centralised electronic database through the Wanganui Computer Act raised questions about the state’s ability to gather information on its citizens.
[…]Critics were unconvinced. Civil libertarians likened it to something from George Orwell’s 1984 and mounted numerous protests against the system. The ultimate protest occurred in November 1982, when 22-year-old anarchist Neil Roberts was apparently blown up by his own gelignite bomb as he tried to breach security at the computer centre.
Acknowledgement: NZ On-Line History – Wanganui Computer legislation passed
By 1989, the Cold War was coming to an end and the “runner up” in the rivalry between superpowers- the Soviet Bloc – fell apart. The Berlin Wall came down. The Iron Curtain parted. Eastern European nations jumped on the NATO bandwagon. And the CCCP (USSR) now lives on only in history books and far-flung space probes on the Moon, Mars, Venus, and further out in deep space.
But you wouldn’t think it, as the West – including little old laid-back New Zealand – ratcheted up the power of the State. After the televised terror of 9/11, who could say ‘no’ to more and more surveillance; security; spying; and other governmental powers?
In October 2002, the Clark-led Labour government enacted the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. The Police website referred to this legislation as,
The TSA establishes a legal framework for the suppression of terrorism. In particular, it is the mechanism by which New Zealand gives effect to the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) mandatory resolutions requiring UN member states to take certain steps to suppress terrorism. An important feature of this framework is the Prime Minister’s power under the TSA to designate individuals or groups as terrorist or associated entities. Designation can be on an “interim” (s 20 TSA) or “final” (s 22 TSA) basis.
It should be noted that the definition of who/what is a terrorist entity was left up to individual governments to make,
Secondly, and by contrast, while UNSC Resolution 1373 obliges New Zealand (inter alia) to outlaw the financing of, participation in and recruitment to, terrorist entities, it does not specifically identify those entities. The Resolution effectively leaves it to Member States to identify the entities against which they should act.
Some 21 groups around the world are currently listed as “terrorist” organisations. One of those 21 organisations is the Kurdistan Workers Party/ Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (“PKK”), which is seeking a fully independent Kurdistan covering land in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
The PKK is currently in negotiations with the Turkish government. If it is a “terrorist” organisation, then the Turks are negotiating with terrorists.
Perhaps the best known example of “terrorist-come-statesman” is Nelson Mandela who served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. The ANC was banned in 1960 and Mandela served 27 years in prison.
Once upon a time, Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher dismissed the ANC as a terrorist organisation,
“The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land‘. ” – Margaret Thatcher, 1987
Now the ANC is the legitimate government of South Africa and Nelson Mandela is revered as one of the greatest statesmen the 20th Century has ever produced.
Such is the difficulty with branding a group as “terrorist”. It is a political statement – and that is the problem. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.
The government attempted to employ the Terrorism Suppression Act once, and once only – subsequent to the Urewera Raid on Monday, 15 October 2007. For the first time, something out of C.K. Stead’s “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs” crossed over from fantasy, into harsh reality,
Imagine welcoming a Time Traveler from New Zealand 1971 to 2007 with the above scene. Would s/he think that New Zealand had fallen under the harsh rule of a military-fascist dictatorship? That somewhere in the intervening time-period, a coup d’état had overthrown a democratically-elected government, and we were living under a Chilean-style regime?
However, the confusing nature of the law was such that charges were dropped against most of the 18 arrested. Only four proceeded to trial.
Eventually, none were charged with “terrorism”, the Act iself being described by Solicitor General Collins as “complex and incoherent”, and “almost impossible to apply to domestic circumstances”.
The Act, however, remains in force.
Since then, as if in some bizarre “Space Race” with Labour, the Key-led National Government decided to trump the Terrorism Suppression Act with the Search And Surveillance Act 2012.
As the NZ Herald reported on 1 October, last year,
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.
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – New police search and surveillance law in force
The report went on to state,
Police could complete some forms of surveillance and searches without warrants, but [Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm] Burgess said the situations were pretty common sense.
“Either emergencies, where life might be at risk, or where the destruction of evidence might occur in very serious circumstances,” he said.
“My own interpretation is this is very common sense legislation which provides us reasonable means to carry out our functions.”
He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers.
“He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers“.
Well, Burgess would say that, wouldn’t he?
Does anyone remotely believe that Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess would say the opposite, like this,
“Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess saw the changes as a massive, unwarranted expansion of police powers, which would move New Zealand society further into the realms of a Surveillance Society where State power over-rode the right to privacy.
“We already have sufficient powers to catch burglars, drunk drivers, and drug pushers”, he said.”
Show me a senior police office who would say something like that, and I will show you a Little Green Man from Mars. (He’s living in my basement and the little bugger has drunk most of my bourbon. Not that it has much effect on him…)
Eight months after the Search & Surveillance Bill was enacted, this bombshell hit the news;
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Illegal spying: 85 Kiwis watched
Despite the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 being fairly clear on the issue, the Bureau still had the mistaken belief that they were somehow entitled to spy on New Zealand citizens ands permanent resident.
Either in ignorance, or another of his pathetic lies, John Key maintained this fiction,
“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.”
Acknowledgement: John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance
Despite the fact that the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 is actually quite clear – especially Section 14 which states –
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.
– the myth is perpetuated that the law is “unclear”.
So what does John Key and his National Ministers do? Do they, make the law more explicit that the GCSB “may not authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident”?
Instead National has amended the law – in effect legalising the illegal “88 cases identified as having a question mark over them since 2003” (source) through a new Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.
National is also enacting the new amendment – under Urgency – which will give the GCSB the right to now spy on a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.
Remember – there is no Cold War. That ended 24 years ago.
But you woulldn’t think so.
Instead, Key now makes references to other “threats” to New Zealand,
- “There are people within our country who have links to offshore terrorist groups.” – John Key, 15 April 2013
- “…covert attempts to acquire New Zealand’s science and technology for programmes related to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems.” – John Key, 15 April 2013
- “This shows New Zealand’s public and private organisations are facing increasing risks of cyber intrusion which could compromise their operations and could result in the theft of valuable intellectual property.” – John Key, 7 May 2013
When asked to be specific about these claims, Key replied,
“I cannot tell New Zealanders everything our intelligence agencies are doing, or what the details of their operations are.” (Source)
And as reported, Key was less than forthcoming about other matters relating to the GCSB’s activities,
He refused to say what the support was that the GCSB provided to the Defence Force, police and SIS.
“I’m not going to go into the details of what they do.”
He also refused to say whether information on New Zealanders was passed on to foreign agencies.
Acknowledgement: John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance
But he did admit that not one of those 88 New Zealanders spied on by the GCSB has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing whatsoever.
Not one, as Key admitted,
“ Police have conducted a thorough check of all their systems. Police advise that no arrest, prosecution or any other legal processes have occurred as a result of the information supplied to NZSIS by GCSB .”
If this had happened thirty or fourty years ago, when New Zealanders were seemingly far more conciousness of the threat of growing Orwellian state power, there would have been mass protests in the streets.
New Zealanders seem to have either fallen into a deep trance, or have grown tired in resisting the remorseless advance of the State.
Is this the country that marched, en masse, to prevent a racist rugby team from touring, in 1981?
What happened to us?
On top of becoming a Surveillance State, National is also winding back the rights of workers to negotiate with employers, and the right to strike,
Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour
In a series of tweet-exchanges, National MP, Jamie-Lee Ross explained his purpose of the Bill,
Jamie-Lee Ross is simply repeating the line from National’s spin-doctors. His repetition of “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is garbage of course.
You will most likely keep hearing Ross’s refrain, “restore a balance between employers and employees” more and more as the Bill progresses through the House.
The only “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is for employers to get rid of striking workers and replace them with a more compliant, subservient workforce who will accept lower wages and lesser working conditions.
As CTU President, Helen Kelley explained on The Standard,
1. Notice for strikes.
Currently only those in essential industries must give notice to strike. The new law not only requires notice for all strikes but it also requires that these notices say when the strike will begin and end and there is a requirement for each employee to give notice when a strike will end early. This will prolong strikes and see workers lose wages when they are seeking to return to work. It is intended to create technical grounds for strikes to be ruled illegal.
2. A strike tax
The Bill provides for partial pay deductions for action that falls short of a strike. Firefighters for example, reluctant to take strike action, may take action such as not filling in fire reports, teachers may refuse extra curricula activities or workers may do other creative actions (librarians at universities once refused to process new books rather than shut the library during exam times). The Bill proposes that the employer can unilaterally decide the value of this work and deduct the amount of wages they consider to match this value. Workers can challenge the amount deducted in the Court, but this will take time and the pressure of wage deductions will be used to pressure workers to drop the action. Workers will still be completing their full hours but not getting paid the full amount. The Bill even excludes compliance with the minimum wage for this deduction (it will not matter if the deduction takes the worker below the minimum wage). For state workers that take this limited type of action – the State will benefit – full time work for part time pay – a strike tax.
3. Restrictions on the right to strike
The last change is the most serious one. Currently it is lawful to strike in pursuit of a collective agreement. Sixty days before the expiry of a collective agreement, the union can initiate bargaining and begin negotiations for a renewal. When this happens the expiring collective remains in force for a full year after expiry. This means workers retain coverage and new workers can gain coverage while renewal bargaining takes place.
There is a duty of good faith on the parties to the bargaining to conclude a collective agreement unless their are genuine reasons on reasonable grounds not to. It is not a genuine reason to simply object on ideological grounds to a collective.
40 days following initiation the parties can strike or lock out in order to put pressure on the other party to change their position in the bargaining – an essential element sometimes of getting a settlement. Without it, workers have no ability to shift an intransigent employer to get a reasonable offer – it is a recognised international right, and you have heard the EMA, Peter Dunne and others defend this right. Even Key says he is not too keen.
Acknowledgement: The Standard – Don’t be fooled by the spin regarding strike laws
Bill Newson, national secretary of the EPMU (Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union) summed it up with simple clarity,
“ The latest piece of legislation actually goes further than what applied in the 1990s.
It’s already very difficult, in an era of reasonably high unemployment and very low economic activity, for workers to test their employers for fairer wage outcomes.
It’s an answer to a problem we don’t have. We don’t have a problem with high wages, we don’t have a problem with industrial chaos .”
Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour
This is a direct reaction to the industrial dispute at the Ports of Auckland which faced off Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ) against Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL). It is a dispute which MUNZ pursued (and won!) through legal channels such as the Employment Court, and also won in the Court of Public Opinion.
Meanwhile, the employers, POAL, broke employment laws; negotiated in bad faith; leaked sensitive employee information to a foul-mouthed, deranged right-wing blogger; and spread dis-information to the media and public. It was a nasty, vicious, under-handed battle.
The country saw it for what it was, and understood that the POAL and it’s CEO, Tony Gibson, and Board were directly responsible.
Eventually, on 29 March last year, the Employment Court found in favour of the Maritime Union and forced POAL back to the bargaining table. Make no mistake, this was a major defeat for the Right. A defeat that could not stand – Unions could not be allowed to stand in the way of efforts to make our labourforce more “flexible”.
Having lost the battle in both Courts and with the Public, rightwing politicians and employers are now wanting retribution. But more than that, the Right Wing want the law changed so that workers’ right to strike is severely curtailed. In fact, they want the right to strike to become a thing of the past.
No worker will dare strike if they risk losing their jobs to strike-breakers.
It is no coincidence that Jamie-Lee Ross is the author of this repressive legislation. Because Mr Ross was also involved on the fringes in the ports of Auckland dispute.
Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz – Union biting the hand that feeds
So it seems that Jamie-Lee Ross has evidently been tasked with “reforming” New Zealand’s current labour laws. By “reforming”, I mean to change the law in such a way that a Union could never again challenge – and defeat – an employer.
This is what Mr Ross’s Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill is all about.
I just wish Mr Ross was more upfront with the true intent of his Bill. It’s a strike-breaker. End of story.
And next on the Dark Agenda, curtailment of peoples’ right to protest that might interfere with corporate activity.
I refer, of course, to another National MP – Minister Simon Bridges – who enacted a new law through Parliament – one with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“ (see: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview).
On 3 April, on TVNZ’s Q+A, there was this exchange between Bridges and Jessica Mutch,
JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?
SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.
JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?
SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.
Acknowledgement: TVNZ: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview
Notice that Bridges has dressed up increased suppression of dissent and protest as a “safety” issue. He refers to “ stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous act” and “because of the dangers associated with doing that [protesting]“.
National’s spin doctors have created the meme to be repeated ad nauseum; this is a “safety” issue and not a civil rights issue.
I think most New Zealanders are not taken in by that bit of daft fiction.
It is little wonder that East Coast locals and environmental activists joined together to protest against deep-sea drilling of their coast. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 was a clear warning what the potential was for an environmental catastrophe – one that we are simply unprepared for, as the grounding of the MV Rena showed, eighteen months later.
For Simon Bridges to now threaten future protestors with heavy fines and prison sentences has the hallmarks of a nasty, brutish, authoritarian government that is afraid of it’s own people.
National’s increased surveillance powers could come in very handy for a left wing government. First of all, National’s stooge – Ian Fletcher – will have to be replaced by someone more “sympathetic” to a left-wing government.
Someone with strong left-wing credentials, and who is willing to crack down on right-wing subversive elements in New Zealand.
Subversive right wing groups that threaten the safety of New Zealand citizens – an which can now be more easily surveilled. Groups and individuals such as,
- National Party
- New Zealand Initiative (formerly Business Roundtable)
- Family First
- Karl Du Fresne
- Michael Laws
- Cameron Slater
- David Farrar
- Business NZ
- Crosby Textor
And probably a few others I’ve forgotten to list.
The new US-based company, Palantir, that has set up office in Wellington and is currently seeking an Embedded Analyst with the NZ Government, could be useful to monitor and keep track of these subversives. They have a known track record for anti-social, and undermining economic activities in this country.
National also intends to strengthen data-sharing between government departments such as IRD, WINZ, etc (see: Govt considers new ‘big data’ hub). This will be handy to evaluate possible tax evasion for any of these groups.
Of course, if the GCSB/SIS can’t find anything illegal, we can always scrutinise their internet history. Check out what websites they’ve been visiting. Something, anything, dodgy. Preferably involving illegal sex acts. Then leak it to a friendly left-wing blogger to publish. (see: Port admits leaking worker’s details – union)
Yes, indeed, increasing powers and laws that allow a crack-down on dissent could prove very handy for the “far left” Labour-Green government that John Key warns us is coming.
No doubt the Righties will be screaming blue-murder about infringing their privacy. Their identities and comments will be noted. And added to their files. (see: “The Spies Are Welcome To Mine”: A Fantasy)
There is no more privacy.
The rise of the Police surveillance state…
Crushing Union opposition…
Placing heavy restrictions on protest activity…
These are the hallmarks of a government that is exerting firm control over society and willing to flex it’s “muscle” to have it’s own way. It is a phenomenon that seems to be occurring around the world, with even The Bastion Of Democracy, the USA, now a fully-fledged Surveillance State (but with capitalist trappings).
Through growing surveillance, National is watching those “persons of interest” who are likely to interfere with their agenda. Such people can be environmental activists, intellectuals, unionists, civil rights advocates, left wing bloggers, et al. People who are vigilant on behalf of all New Zealanders – yes, even those on the Right.
Though Ross’s Bill, National will reduce Union power to such a degree that businesses and investors will no longer have to put up with disruption to their incomes and profits. Workers and their representatives will effectively be silenced.
And if anyone disrupts corporate activity such as deep-sea prospecting/drilling, then the State can crack down on protesters with harsh financial penalties and dire threats of imprisonment.
This is a government, my fellow New Zealanders, that is no longer willing to tolerate dissent. Especially if it threatens their agenda.
Recently, at the Green Party conference, Russell Norman likened John Key to Robert Muldoon. Notoriously, Muldoon had little patience with those who crossed him or opposed his views.
Norman got it partly right. Actually, this entire government is Muldoonist in the way it is building up Executive power. Power with which to intimidate opposition. Key is merely the affable, smiling face of that intimidating government. He is the “likeable uncle” behind whom is the full power of the State, and an Executive willing to use it, regardless of consequences or notions of human rights.)
The questions now demanding an answer;
- Are National voters comfortable with the accumulation of power by the State?
- How will National voters view such extraordinary power being wielded by a left-wing government?
- Will an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government commit to reversing these autocratic laws?
There was mass-hysteria when the media got hold of the ridiculous story that Labour was going to “interfere” with shower heads. Charges of “nanny state” flew like wool in a shearing shed (see: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state). Of course it was nothing more than a beat-up by National and it’s friendly media.
But it seemed to have stuck in the public consciousness, and Labour became synonymous with the so-called “Nanny State”.
Never mind Nanny. Big Brother is the one to watch out for. He’ll certainly be watching us.
Oh, how we Baby Boomers – who lived through the 1960s and 70s – have seemingly forgotten our distrust of the State.
= fs =