Thursday, August 22, 2013
Critics of GCSB Dealt To, Muldoon Style
A full inquiry was rejected and so was any attempt at a multi-party consensus on how we should manage our internal security. All that mattered was that the Government had the numbers and the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill was passed into law by 61 votes to 59.
Through it all John Key reigned supreme. We were asked to trust him implicitly as he alone was party to all the highly sensitive information that justified the law change. Random snippets and hints of confidential espionage information were shared on radio shows and in answers to journalists' questions but not with the leaders of opposition Parties or their MPs. We heard about Al Qaeda operatives in New Zealand and multiple cyber attacks as justification for the radical changes.
Key also refused to state whether the US provided funding to assist the GCSB operations as it does for the equivalent agency in the UK, claiming mysteriously, "It's not in my interests or the country's interests to answer that question."
The Prime Minister and his Ministers attempted to discredit those who were critical of the bill in a manner that would have made Muldoon proud.
Key described the Human Rights Commission as "tardy" and claimed that their report wasn't very good. He also made a veiled threat about their future funding.
Attorney General Chris Finlayson described the views of respected historian and academic Dame Anne Salmond as "shrill and unprofessional". He also questioned the ability of the presenter of the Law Society's submission, Rodney Harrison QC, to "come to grips with the bill".
Now that many of our most respected and authoritative New Zealanders and institutions have been put in their place and the law has been passed, I guess we can only wait to see what will unfold. I also think that there may be a number of people in the United States Five Eyes office who will be having a quiet (and most probably secretive) celebratory drink.