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Intelligence and Security Committee


Wednesday 22 March 2006 Hansard source (external site)

CullenHon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) Link to this

I move, That pursuant to section 8 of the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996, this House endorse the following as members of the Intelligence and Security Committee:

Hon Dr Michael Cullen and Rt Hon Winston Peters, nominated by the Prime Minister under section 7(1)(c) of the Act; and

Rodney Hide, nominated by the Leader of the Opposition under section 7(1)(d) of the Act.

This motion creates the Intelligence and Security Committee under the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996. The committee is a parliamentary committee but not a select committee. However, under Government notice of motion No. 2 it acts very like a select committee for a range of purposes, as it mirrors the Standing Orders in relation to the functions of a range of select committees. This process is laid down clearly in statute.

The committee consists of the Prime Minister, who, after consultation, nominates two other members; and the Leader of the Opposition, who, after consultation, nominates one other member of the committee. After consultation the Prime Minister is nominating myself, as Deputy Prime Minister, and the Rt Hon Winston Peters, as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Leader of the Opposition, Dr Brash, is nominating Rodney Hide, the leader of the ACT party. Traditionally this debate is not very long, because obviously it would not be considered appropriate, by and large, and the House has never accepted amendments to the motion that would, in effect, override the processes undertaken respectively by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in that regard.

The committee performs a very useful role. I might say, with my Minister of Finance hat on—rather more than Dover Samuels, I have considerable trouble over which hat I am wearing at various times at the moment—that I find the work the committee does is quite helpful in terms of getting a deeper insight into what the intelligence and security agencies spend their money on. Also, I might say that, with almost no exception I can think of, those appointed to this committee have been aware of the obvious need for discretion around some of the matters that are discussed within the committee. So it is with those very few comments that I have moved Government motion No. 1, on behalf of the Prime Minister.

MappDr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) Link to this

I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on this motion. There will be two debates on this matter today, and I imagine that I will be speaking in both. The first point I want to make is that the Intelligence and Security Committee is one of Parliament’s most powerful committees, so it properly consists of Parliament’s most senior members: those who are party leaders or who hold, as in the case of Dr Cullen, very senior office. Under MMP it is deliberately a multiparty committee, and currently it covers—or will cover—four parties in Parliament. All but one of the members nominated served on the committee in the last Parliament.

I note that Rodney Hide is new to the committee. He is there because he is the leader of the ACT party. He brings 10 years’ experience to the committee. The importance of that is that the committee is the legislature’s oversight guardian of our freedoms. It is the way the legislature checks on the executive, and, because it deals with sensitive issues, it is critical that it have highly experienced members. The committee does not usually act in public or under the glare of television cameras—and, frankly, nor should it. It deals, after all, with sensitive information. But the committee is intended to give a clear signal to the country that executive action by the Government is subject to legislative oversight by the most senior members of Parliament. That alone serves as a check on the abuse of power.

Events since 2001 have put rather more focus on the anti-terrorism laws and the role and powers of the committee. That, no doubt, is why this debate may take a little longer than it might otherwise have done. It is worth noting that the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee deals with the legislation pertaining to terrorism, as opposed to the operational aspects of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and the communications service.

I want to make some points that I may also make in my second speech. The purpose of the anti-terrorism legislation is to ensure a proper balance between protecting the community and preserving individual liberty. That is a very significant challenge in an era of terrorism, because terrorism is not just any crime. The whole act of terrorism is intended to undermine our confidence in our own institutions and freedoms. No other criminal act has that particular intent. That is why terrorism has engaged the democratic nations in the way it has. We have made a clear distinction between the terrorist and what we may call the ordinary criminal, and it is proper to do so because the ordinary criminal does not intend to overthrow our society and our values.

Post-2001 we are no longer talking about what we may call warfare between States. Terrorists operate shadowy networks and are a threat to the whole system of international law and the protection of freedoms, because they want to overthrow them. So contemporary terrorism is much harder to deal with than, say, the attack on the Rainbow Warrior. Once the French agents were caught and tried, the French Government—after a bit of delay—acknowledged its responsibilities, and accepted that it was fully culpable and knew the attack was wrong. Has anyone ever heard a terrorist organisation do that? That is not the modus operandi of such organisations, and that is why terrorism is such a difficult challenge to deal with.

How we as a nation deal with the global challenge of terrorism is a measure of how we value our own liberties and freedoms.I refer the House to a paper by Justice Baragwanath entitled Liberty and Justice in the Face of Terrorist Threats to Society. It superbly illustrates the dilemmas. The paper, I believe, demonstrates why Justice Baragwanath is rightly regarded as one of New Zealand’s most distinguished legal minds. He sets out very clearly how terrorism challenges modern democracies.

For instance, Justice Baragwanath notes that conventional criminal law will not always be enough to deal with the terrorist—that sometimes special powers are necessary. I am sure that the Green Party member will dispute that, but he needs to read that paper and understand why Justice Baragwanath draws that point. The judge makes a clear distinction in his paper from the views of Auckland University lecturer Dr Paul Buchanan, who has taken an absolutist view that the criminal law is always enough. Well, the truth is that it is not. That is why this Parliament very carefully passed, in compliance with United Nations resolutions, the legislation dealing with terrorism.

The judge, in his paper, contrasts the law of New Zealand with that of the United Kingdom. He says that New Zealand has struck a more appropriate balance than the United Kingdom between protecting its freedoms and being able to deal with terrorists. New Zealand has not been a prime target as yet, since 2001, for terrorism. It is not surprising that countries where that has happened, Britain, Australia, and the United States, will strike the balance a little differently from New Zealand. Justice Baragwanath treats that issue solely as a jurist. His concern, of course, is to ensure that the rule of law is observed and that liberty is always protected. That is, after all, one of the fundamental reasons why we have an independent judiciary.

But the executive and the legislature have quite a different role from that of the judiciary. We have to, often under the urgent pressure of events, deal with the overall safety of society. Every member in this House, I believe, is imbued with the ideas of liberty and democracy. It is, after all, one of the foundations of our country. It is one of the reasons why we come to Parliament in the first place. When we are passing legislation, we always have to keep those values uppermost, because they can disappear by neglect.

But I make this point. If we did have a terrorist event and 20 people were killed, for instance, would we reject out of hand the notion that we should be able to detain people for 48 hours who are suspected of involvement in terrorism, even if they could not be immediately charged? Under our current law we cannot do that. But in Britain and in Australia, they can be detained. Why? Those countries face a different threat from New Zealand’s. Are their fundamental values and liberties seriously questioned by that fact? I suggest they are not.

I conclude this debate by saying that the Intelligence and Security Committee and its membership are charged with protecting our liberties. The country looks to those members to have that uppermost in their minds. They are deliberately chosen as senior members of this Parliament. They are there to protect our freedoms but at the same time to defend public safety—to ensure that we are safe. The experience, certainly in my time in the House, is that the committee has always satisfactorily fulfilled that goal, and I am sure it will in the future.

LockeKEITH LOCKE (Green) Link to this

The Green Party will be opposing this motion. Wayne Mapp pointed out the security issues of terrorism, etc., and stressed the importance of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I think it is for that very reason—that it is an important committee—that we should oppose the motion on its membership. It is not like a select committee. It is made up only of nominees of the Labour leader and the National leader. The National Party leader is described in this motion as the Leader of the Opposition. That is not a term that the Greens like. We have criticised it ever since we have been in Parliament. It is a pre-MMP term. There are a number of parties in this House. There is not just one Labour Party and one party, the National Party, heading an Opposition. We all have our different politics, and it is not right to have a committee that gives only the leader of the National Party the authority to offer nominations from parties such as ours or from the Māori Party, whose members are sitting behind me today.

We have a problem here because I would like to replace some of these nominations. The motion itself is to endorse all the nominations. I understand that we cannot just offer an amendment. [Interruption] I might take advice from the National member, but I understand that I cannot just put in an amendment to replace one of the members with another member. But I think there is a case for doing that. I asked written questions of the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service, Helen Clark. She replied a week ago and informed me that in 2005 the committee met on only one occasion, for 43 minutes. I do not think that is good enough, and I will be explaining the situation regarding the whole parliamentary term further in my second speech, which will be on Government notice of motion No. 2. The committee’s record has got worse, year by year, in terms of the amount of time it has met. I think one of the problems, to give the members some benefit of the doubt—and I am not giving them the full benefit—is that they are busy people. The Prime Minister is busy, Don Brash is busy, and the other members on the committee, including Michael Cullen and Winston Peters, who have been renominated, are busy people. I think we should try to change the composition from that which is in this motion.

It is a bit difficult, I think, to take the Prime Minister away from the committee, particularly when she is in charge of the Security Intelligence Service. I think it would also be a bit difficult to take away Don Brash. I would give Rodney Hide a chance, because this is his first time on the committee. He is not responsible for the failings of the committee in the last Parliament. I think Richard Prebble was a member previously. Was he a nominee last time? I am not sure. Rodney Hide certainly was not. But Michael Cullen and Winston Peters were on the committee previously. I think the technique of individual nominations, and hopefully the House will agree with this, would improve the workings of the committee.

Later on, at the end of my speech, I will seek leave for the House to vote separately on those nominations. If that is the case, I will propose that we do not vote Michael Cullen or Winston Peters on to the committee. Clearly they do not have the time or there is something wrong with their involvement with the committee, or it would have met more than once last year. I think it would serve the interests of the House and the interests of the committee if we have on it people with previous ministerial experience who are less busy. I will be proposing that instead of Michael Cullen and Winston Peters we have two former Ministers, namely Marian Hobbs and David Parker. I think it would be a good challenge for David Parker to take up, now that, unfortunately, he has been relieved of his other responsibilities.

If we have a better committee and it has a better composition, it might deal with some of the issues that Wayne Mapp talked about, because clearly it did not in the last Parliament. The committee had to do reviews of the estimates and financial reviews in the 43 minutes that it sat in the whole of last year. I do not think its members would have had time to do much more than make themselves a cup of coffee and do a very quick job on those financial reviews. I do not think they really got into the issues of terrorism, etc., that Wayne Mapp talked about. That is my proposal.

BrownPETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) Link to this

I compliment the Green member who has just resumed his seat. At least he spoke about the composition of the committee, because I did not hear one word from the National Party that referred to it.

For those who might be listening, we are debating a Government motion in the name of the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Helen Clark, whereby we are requested to endorse members nominated to be on the Intelligence and Security Committee. The Prime Minister is automatically on that committee, and as I understand so is the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Don Brash. The three members we are asked to endorse are Dr Michael Cullen, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and Rodney Hide MP. New Zealand First has absolutely no problem at all in supporting the nomination of Dr Michael Cullen nor, indeed, that of the Rt Hon Winston Peters. They are both long-serving MPs, they have both had ministerial experience, and they both know how to address security issues and keep confidences.

But we have some significant concerns with Rodney Hide. I am not a person who likes to make personal attacks, and that is one of the things I deplore about Rodney Hide. Speaking absolutely frankly, I consider that he operates in the political gutter, more often than not. He is prepared to make major personal attacks on individuals without having supporting information. I say that, because I believe he would be the MP who has been asked to withdraw and apologise, or who has been thrown out of the House, the most times. New Zealand First asks whether that is the sort of person we want to represent Parliament on the Intelligence and Security Committee. The answer to that, in the minds of New Zealand First members, is no. I recall that Rodney Hide went to Fiji and supported a pyramid selling scheme. If that had taken off, millions of dollars of people’s savings would have been at risk and could have been lost. I know that several hundreds of thousands of dollars were. That is a concern to members of New Zealand First. We recall that he supported an American who classified himself as a friend of paedophilia. I would not go so far as to say that the American was a paedophile, but many people thought he was. But Rodney Hide came out and supported him, and said he was his friend. We say that Rodney Hide is not the sort of person who should be serving this country on the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. Further, we say that for the National Party to nominate such a person does not really do it credit. If members look at the history of this committee, they will see that some very fine, upright MPs have been nominated in the past, and to pick Rodney Hide as National’s representative—

DonnellyHon Brian Donnelly Link to this

Scraping the bottom of the barrel.

BrownPETER BROWN Link to this

I would like to be a little more kindly than my colleague and say that the National Party could have done a great deal better.

What about the Hon Peter Dunne, who has served Parliament pretty darn well in his time here? He is a very experienced MP. What about a member of the Māori Party?

BrownPETER BROWN Link to this

“Too new” the member says? Whether or not we agree with the Māori Party’s political views, its members have come into this House this term—they were represented briefly in the last term—and have taken a positive attitude towards security and issues of concern. I think that Māori Party members could serve on that committee exceedingly well.

Mr Assistant Speaker, may I ask whether this motion can be split into two so that New Zealand First can vote for the first bullet point that supports the nominations of Dr Cullen and the Rt Hon Winston Peters?

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

I say to the member that New Zealand First can so move, by leave, and I suggest that the member look at Speaker’s ruling 179/2. I suggest that the honourable member Keith Locke also look at that ruling.

LockeKeith Locke Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps it would make it easier if I seek leave now. I indicated that I would seek leave for each nomination to be voted on individually, so that if we voted any nomination down we could put up another nomination.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Can I just respond to that and read to the member Speaker’s ruling 179/2: “As appointments to the Intelligence and Security Committee are made on the nomination of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and are submitted to the House for endorsement only, the House cannot amend the nominations. The motion could be severed so as to allow members to vote on each nomination separately.” So Mr Locke can seek leave to vote on each nomination separately, but he cannot renominate.

LockeKeith Locke Link to this

I seek leave for that to happen.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is.

BrownPETER BROWN Link to this

I have just about come to the end of my contribution. However, if we cannot have a split vote on that, then New Zealand First will vote for the motion. But we give notice now that we will be taking a close interest in Mr Hide’s activities and approach to that committee. Indeed, we will be watching the National Party with close interest, because we believe that it could have picked a person more appropriate to this issue. We do not believe that Mr Hide fills the bill, at all. So we give notice now that we are watching the situation, but we will give Mr Hide the benefit of the doubt at this point in time.

FlavellTE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) Link to this

The Māori Party is pleased to stand today in respect of the motion that refers to the Intelligence and Security Committee. We certainly support the call that has been consistently presented by Mr Keith Locke and the Green Party for a broader debate on the issue of intelligence and security matters.

When I was not yet an MP, the word was that the new anti-terrorism legislation currently going through Parliament could see protestors or activists designated as terrorists. Mr Locke argued publicly that the proposed legislation being pushed through by the Government at that time was a travesty of democracy. His concern was the obscene rush in which the strict new measures were being forced through without public consultation, and it made me think at the time—and I still am considering—about why there was not a broader discussion on how this nation protects itself and who it is protecting itself from. Now that the cold war is over, who is the enemy?

It is a very appropriate time for such a debate to be generated, as the State Services Commission embarks upon its recruitment period for a new Director of Security for the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. From what I understand, there has always been a fascination for that particular place—the so-called “Kingdom of Secrets”—and for what consequences it has in curtailing the freedom and civil rights of citizens. Tangata whenua have consistently put forward concerns that the Security Intelligence Service has bugged decent, law-abiding New Zealanders to find the dirt on individuals.

The Māori Party had a particular involvement with the nature of the checks and protections made upon citizens, in late 2004. At that time, many will remember, a Sunday newspaper reported that intelligence sources had revealed that the Security Intelligence Service had launched a major covert operation investigating the Māori Party—our members, leaders, networks, and associates. The newspaper provided a detailed description of a top-secret programme called Operation Leaf, which was a major Security Intelligence Service programme targeting a variety of Māori organisations and individuals over several years. At that time, one of the former Security Intelligence Service agents interviewed in the article allegedly said that he quit the operation because he was disgusted at the system, which was spying on decent, law-abiding New Zealanders.

As we considered the most appropriate action to take in that matter as a party, the Prime Minister responded with reports that those allegations were “a work of fiction” and “laughable”. The party was in a quandary. Was the Prime Minister speaking in her capacity as the Prime Minister or in her role as the Minister in charge of the Security Intelligence Service—the same Minister who signs all interception warrants? Frankly, we were in no position to judge.

We decided instead to take action on behalf of everyday decent, law-abiding citizens to allay any concerns that they too would run the risk of coming under Security Intelligence Service surveillance if they made the fine decision to join the mighty Māori Party. We therefore called on the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, retired judge Justice Paul Neazor, to initiate an inquiry into the allegations made about the activities of the Security Intelligence Service.

The motions we are discussing today are focused on the special parliamentary committee charged with the oversight of the intelligence agencies. The Intelligence and Security Committee was set up under 1996 legislation to increase the level of oversight and review of the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau. Yet no matter how effective the committee’s members might be—and we know full well that ACT leader, Rodney Hide, will do his utmost to apply rigor and reason to his role in that forum—it is still somewhat hampered in its coverage. I say that because my understanding is that although the committee can examine policies, administration, and spending, it is barred by law from delving into operationally sensitive matters, including any that relate to intelligence collection.

Returning to the time when our party was under the spotlight for security issues, there was unprecedented support across all parties—National, ACT, New Zealand First, United Future, the Greens, and the Māori Party—for some kind of inquiry into the allegations published in the media. As any member of this House will know, achieving a collective voice on any issue on any one day is extremely improbable. That widespread support to uncover who spies on the spies is clearly an issue that we are all keen to explore further.

As I understand it, Dr Brash—himself a member of the cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee that oversees the Security Intelligence Service—stated that he thought the allegations were too serious to ignore, and that only an independent inquiry could clear up the issue. Indeed, he believed that the claims had the potential to put the public confidence in the Security Intelligence Service at risk. Our now Minister of Foreign Affairs said then he thought that the allegations were disquieting and that a ministerial inquiry would work only if the person had the public’s confidence and was independent of the Government. ACT leader, Rodney Hide, said that the only way to deal with such serious allegations was to initiate an independent inquiry by a judicial officer with the powers to ensure that the Security Intelligence Service cooperated.

I will not go on, but I think it is noticeable that such widespread cross-party support is rare, and it reminds us all of the need to stay vigilant. The perception of bias and dirt gathering, accurate or otherwise, by politicians and the public, must be investigated if we are ever to develop trust in our existing systems of freedom and justice. The security and intelligence systems operating in this land must be subject to the scrutiny of public debate and official inquiry. New Zealanders take for granted that our freedom to live in an open democracy is a basic standard of living for our nation. But we also recognise the significance of every country having a right to security and a right to be secure from its neighbours. No country should ever be in a position of being threatened in the way that we have seen with nations around the globe. We have an expression in te reo Māori: “Me te kāhu e topa ana ki te kiore.”—like the hawk swooping down on the rat. By this we consider the taua, the war party, who may attack another without warning. Essentially, it refers to the need to be aware of the unseen enemy. But we also need to be open to exploring this new concept of protection, security, and being threatened. We need to think carefully about how we agree on those we think will be like the kāhu swooping down on us, and on those who are the unseen enemy.

The Māori Party is aware of the double-edged sword that comes with any debate on intelligence and security matters. There is no argument that we must ensure individual liberties and also ensure that people are able to have a voice, whether it be by ministerial letter, submission, appeal to the court, talkback radio, liberation movements, or mass protest. We also agree that there are mechanisms for responding to crimes of terrorism through the criminal law system. We must have the right to have our rangatiratanga protected as we affirm the right to the rangatiratanga of any other people—the right to maintain our and their sense of being.

DunneHon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) Link to this

I have three very brief comments on the actual motion: firstly, United Future will be supporting it; secondly, we have, that notwithstanding, absolutely no confidence whatsoever in the ability of Mr Hide to make a contribution to anything constructive, let alone to the work of this committee; and, thirdly, we note with sadness and disappointment the bad judgment of Dr Brash in nominating him.

Link to this

A party vote was called for on the question,

That the motion be agreed to.

Ayes 109

Noes 10

Motion agreed to.

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