I write for The Daily Blog because I believe that it is a small way for me to contribute in having a robust democracy in Aotearoa, even if it is only with my regular four readers (thanks Mum!).
Debate lies at the heart of this belief. As citizens, we should revel in a dialogue between ourselves framing the kind of society we want to live in with openness and transparency being a bedrock of that dialogue.
Given a disappointing mainstream media in New Zealand, blogs such as TDB form an even more important role. The internet provides an amazing forum for us to contribute to debate and present a progressive view. Yes, there are other perspectives on other blogs well represented. That is great and the whole point of having the conversation, even if I vehemently disagree with some of the opinions expressed.
Suing for defamation doesn’t help, and in my honest opinion [DELETED BY TDB’S SUPER EXPENSIVE LAWYERS]…
Anyway, I digress…at a fundamental level right across the political spectrum this conversation includes questioning and holding our representatives to account. Our politicians, despite the views of those in power who self perceive as our rulers, are in fact our representatives. The Prime Minister’s dismissive approach to the referendum on asset sales is but one illustration of this Government’s self-perception of running a fiefdom, not a participatory democracy.
So, I have tried to make accountability a central tenet of my posts. A couple of months ago I wrote that an inquiry into the operation of our clandestine security services was still worth it. This week in approaching my TDB post I had intended to write again about GCSB & Co. I was concerned that this was getting off the radar. That I needed to ensure this was still part of the conversation.
But, thankfully, the GCSB put themselves back in the conversation! They screwed up! Nice work.
The Prime Minister’s childhood buddy, Ian Fletcher, has had to apologise for filing a botched Annual Report. They got the numbers wrong.
Let me get this straight: this entity which seemingly operates with no transparent oversight, stuff up the only thing that they have to do transparently? Oh dear.
It doesn’t engender much confidence in our security services, does it? This only provides further evidence – not that any more was needed – that an inquiry is still worth it.
This is fundamental. We need to have a conversation about how our state conducts surveillance on our behalf. We are absolutely entitled to have this conversation. Just because this involves “national security” does not mean the conversation is taken away from us by our patronising leaders. It is up to us, as a society, to have that conversation and then reach an appropriate balance.
When we did try to begin such a conversation the energy from the population was amazing – public town hall meetings live streamed by The Daily Blog were an indicator of the public’s readiness to engage in this discussion. But, it was shut down quick smart by this Government smashing to bits that bedrock of openness and transparency.
An inquiry provides us the best chance to have the conversation. We need to look at international examples and decide what works best for our society. What is that appropriate balance between ensuring our national security and upholding privacy along with the freedoms of thought, conscience and expression?
I firmly believe that we can lead the world in having this conversation. After our review, we should become the example that others seek to emulate.
Globally, I am trying to follow the discussion. Last week I was pleased to see that Glenn Greenwald (formerly of The Guardian and the leading journalist working with whistleblower Edward Snowden) has now launched his media project along with Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill. I highly recommend you follow The Intercept – although a broader context than NZ, the relevance to our conversation remains.
As more and more of our lives move online, new surveillance techniques will be developed. This will not be organic, but will be deliberate and targeted. Both Orwellian and Machiavellian. But, do not expect our Government to reign itself in on this, especially with pressure from our international partners. Ultimately, it is our society, and we need to demand a conversation – that is how democracy is supposed to work. Don’t let this one slide.
An inquiry is still worth it.