The Search and Surveillance Bill is making its way though the bowels of the government law making process. This is a terrible law, described by the Human Rights Commissioner as “disproportionately invasive” and “chilling“:
Sweeping powers to spy, bug conversations and hack into private computers could be given to a web of state agencies as diverse as Inland Revenue and the Meat Board
The Human Rights Commission yesterday warned Parliament of the “chilling” implications of a proposed law that would see the intrusive powers usually only available to the police extended to all agencies with enforcement responsibilities. …
Video surveillance, watching private activity on private property, installing tracking devices, detaining people during a search, power to stop vehicles without a warrant for a search, warrantless seizure of “items in plain view”, power to hack into computers remotely, power to detain anyone at scene of search.
WHO WILL GET THEM:
Every agency with enforcement responsibilities, such as: Inland Revenue, Meat Board, local councils, Overseas Investment Office, Accident Compensation Corporation, Environment Risk Management Authority, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Pork Industry Board.
You got that citizens? Inland Revenue can bug your house. The Pork Board can hack your computer (watch out Rocky!). Combined with the recent passing of the DNA samples bill we are clearly moving to a surveillance state. I find it immensely discouraging that Labour not only introduced both these bills while in government*, but they also voted in favour of the DNA bill (despite being fully aware that it breaches the Bill of Rights, and despite National voting down Labour’s proposed amendment). What is up with that Labour? Trevor at Red Alert said that they would post an explanation – still waiting…
What I find just as chilling as the Surveillance Bill itself is the media response, which has been – strangely muted. When the same word – “chilling” – was used by the Electoral Commission to describe the EFA it was the star exhibit in The Herald’s cynical “Democracy Under Attack” politicking (by my rough count between 50 and 200 quotes in The Herald). Now that the Human Rights Commission describes the current surveillance legislation as “chilling” I count exactly one quote. (DPF at Kiwiblog shows exactly the same pattern of course, flogging the EFA quote to death, one mention of the current chilling development.)
Where is the “Democracy Under Attack” campaign this time? Where is the “Free Speech Coalition” and its “public rallies”? Where is DPF’s billboard campaign? Was all that just faux “outrage” and politicking perhaps? Or do attacks on privacy, democracy and free speech simply not count if they are made by a National government?
[* Update: According to the Otago Daily Times Labour's original Surveillance Bill was withdrawn and National introduced this new one extending powers to a much wider range of agencies.]