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Written By: - Date published: 9:39 am, November 5th, 2009 - 38 comments
Categories: law and "order", national, Spying - Tags:


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.


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.]


38 comments on “Chilling”

  1. singularian 1

    bowls? [oops – typo fixed – thanks! — r0b]

    National – Eating YOUR democracy since 2008.

    Jeezzz, I make myself laugh sometimes.

  2. What I find just as chilling as the Surveillance Bill itself is the media response, which has been strangely muted

    4th Estate? what a joke. our msm are an absolute disgrace.

    • George D 2.1

      Well, the media are pretty stupid, but when Labour aren’t opposing it you can hardly expect them to think it’s much of an issue.

  3. Deemac 3

    amazingly there was a good discussion on this topic on Back Benches last night. It is good to have all the powers codified in one place rather than scattered about with a variety of powers held by a variety of agencies in a mass of different legislation. Next step however – and the one this administration may not get right – is to make sure the powers are appropriate and that there are proper safeguards about their use.
    We only sound like American survivalists when we get hysterical about govt powers per se – the devil is in the detail.
    Personally I can’t see any big difference between DNA records and fingerprints – both passive and far preferable to actively intrusive methods like CCTV and ID cards.

  4. sean14 4

    The Bill does indeed require much more attention than it is getting, and it’s also good to see The Standard thinks the Human Rights Commissioner is now worth listening to.

  5. lprent 5

    I’m going to have quite a lot to say on this. In fact I think I’ll dedicate a weekend or two to writing some posts on the subject.

    Apart from the draconian powers, the biggest problem with the whole bill is that there is virtually no judicial oversight of when and who issues warrants to do ANY of these actions. For instance the police may issue their own search warrants without having any effective oversight about if what they are doing is legal.

    The existing system of requiring that search warrants are issued by the courts is pretty damn useless. I’ve seen the police make search warrants out of any old crap they find on the internet – usually incorrect. They are passed by court registrars, who often seem to have a rubberstamp mentality.

    However at least the search warrants can be reviewed by the courts before the police are allowed to intrude into peoples activities. If the police don’t get the warrants, then their activities are subject to examination about tainted collection of evidence. This is exactly what has been happening in the Oct 15 ‘terrorism’ raids and is why the case is taking so damn long.

    I get the impression that much of the impetus for this bill is coming from the police because some of the ‘special’ squads are too incompetent or lazy to gather evidence or run a successful case. They’d prefer to be in a position of judge, jury and probably executioner.

    If we need new powers (which is questionable) or consolidation of the existing powers, then I’d prefer to have judges doing it. They are a lot better trained in the social and legal consequences of what rights are trampled for the sake of security. Giving these types of powers without effective redress or oversight to some ill-trained testosterone soaked pinheads from the terrorism squads gives me no confidence at all.

    If this bill passes in anything like its current form, I think I’d join the resistance.

  6. Popular culture such as movie “The Island’ has shown where powers described in the Search and Surviellance Bill may lead. Everyone monitored at all times, or at least anytime desired by the authorities.

    Extensive state snooping achieves two things: it politically disempowers and enforces compliance, and it locks individuals in as end consumers of the capitalist “system’s” products.

    A significant “curtain twitching’ junior stasi element exists in the NZ population already so do not expect much resistance to this Bill as per the photo driver licence debacle when the proles eagerly queued up in the malls to be snapped.

  7. dave 7

    Now that the Human Rights Commission describes the current surveillance legislation as “chilling’ I count exactly one quote

    If you read a little wider, learn how to count, or learn how to use Google, you may find another. The blogs have mentioned it here, and here also..

    • r0b 7.1

      One count on The Herald dave. Democracy Under Attack and all that…

    • burt 7.2

      Oh dave, the use of the word ‘chilling’ is not valid when applied to legislation drafted or passed by Labour. Only National have the ability to stir up rOb and get him worried because as we all know – Labour good !

      • r0b 7.2.1

        It’s a little sad burt that in response to this legislation all you can do is post the same “Labour did it too” nonsense that you post every time. Open your eyes – your right to privacy and due process is being taken away from you. Don’t you care?

  8. Bill 8

    Quick question. Is this really state surveillance? Would we not be more accurate to term it corporate surveillance?

    edit. And since the media is, by and large, corporate, why would they question an augmentation of corporate power?

    • Quoth the Raven 8.1

      This is really state surveillance. Its just hard to tell the difference between state and corporate like the church and state in times past.

  9. burt 9


    You should join the resistance.

    As an aside, would you think it was a good idea if you needed to publish your full name and residential address to protest against a bill like this one ?

    • lprent 9.1

      Yes for whoever is running organization of the relevant campaigns…. But you are being as stupid as ever (BTW how is that website going?)

      The main area of initial resistance is in the select committee, you already have to give those details.

      Most organizations who are likely to resist this change already have public names and people. For that matter they also tend to have pretty transparent accounts unlike say the Sensible Sentencing Trust or Farrar’s anti-EFA body. Both have/had some VERY murky finances. Of course the RoundTable and even the National and ACT parties finances are even murkier and even more suspect.

      Generally we don’t have a lot of money, so people make it up with time and creativity.

      Of course my name and address are public already on internetnz.

      Your point obviously was that the Right have an issue with transparency in protest movements. The Left doesn’t apart from the right’s nutters being somewhat dangerous – see our about.

  10. George D 10

    This is why I hate the New Zealand Labour Party so much. Because we have to spend so much of our time and energy fighting the awful, fucked up shit they throw our way.

    • r0b 10.1

      It’s National sending this “fucked up shit” our way George D. Note also the update to the original post. National have made this bill much broader than the original.

      • George D 10.1.1

        Because a bill this bad can’t be Labour’s?

        No. This bill is Phil Goff’s baby. We have him to thank for this monstrosity. He thought it up. He introduced it. He is supporting it. Just like most of the legislation with massive rights implications that is being sent through Parliament at the moment. And the few bills that aren’t the seed of Labour are being happily voted for by those pricks.

        That’s the other thing that makes me hate Labour even more – they send this shit our way and we have to spend so much effort fighting it (and failing most of the time), and their supporters have the temerity to tell us that Labour cares about human rights. No they fucking don’t.

        • r0b

          Because a bill this bad can’t be Labour’s?

          It might have been – if you read the original post you see I thought that it was. Anyone can write bad legislation, that isn’t a crime. What matters is what you do when the errors are pointed out to you. What matters is what finally gets passed.

          But as it happened, National dumped Labour’s bill, wrote an even worse one, and now seem to be pushing it through despite it’s flaws being pointed out. You can’t blame Phil Goff any more, it’s Simon Power’s baby now – National’s baby. You hate Labour, fine whatever, but don’t let it blind you to what is actually happening.

          • George D

            I can blame Phil Goff, and I will blame Phil Goff.

            Phil Goff is the father of this bastard child of legislation.

          • George D

            Anyone can write bad legislation, that isn’t a crime.

            You’re making excuses again. Writing legislation with severe human rights implications was a common practice for the last Government not an accident. It brushed off human rights concerns, and continues to do so, this week, last week, and I daresay they’ll do it again next week.

            • George D

              You hate Labour, fine whatever, but don’t let it blind you to what is actually happening.

              I have a very real reason for attacking Phil Goff and the New Zealand Labour Party here, rather than the Government. It is true that the Government has control of this bill, intends to pass it, and has the numbers to pass it in some form.

              However, currently the only people in Parliament with a clear voice against it are the Green Party, and they are effectively marginal to this discourse, precisely because they are so regularly the only voices calling for bills to be dropped on the basis of human rights concerns.

              Until Labour actually stands up for human rights, bills like this will receive only a fraction of the scrutiny they deserve. They will pass much more easily. They will contain worse clauses than would otherwise be the case. Labour will be seen to be endorsing them by the media and the public, even if their endorsements are sometimes half-hearted. Quite simply, we need Labour in order to achieve this.

            • r0b

              Well there I agree with you. Labour needs to stand up and oppose this bill.

      • George D 10.1.2

        Yeah, National made it even worse than the original, but that’s not an excuse for anything.

  11. dave 11

    Just like to remind you that National voted against the EFA ( and the Foreshore and seabed legislation) in its first readings Labour voted FOR this ” chilling” bill surveillance bill to go to select committee, “:warmly recommending it to the house”, despite being aware that it breaches the BORA.

    Obviously, as we also saw with the Foreshore and seabed, the BORA means nothing to Labour. because chilling bills and blatantly discriminatory bills are “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic ( Labour) society”.

  12. r0b 12

    ( and the Foreshore and seabed legislation)

    Ahh yes – because they considered it too weak, not too strong. Careful on that high horse there buddy. Labour got it wrong, National much much more so.

  13. dave 13

    Labour got it wrong, National much much more so

    No, Nationals position was wrong, Labour’s much more so. It drafted and passed the legislation. It said it was demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, without a demonstrable justification. It pissed off Maori. It lost Maori seats. It had the responsibility to govern responsibly. Not National.

    • r0b 13.1

      Dave, you lost this argument long ago. National were constantly criticising Labour for giving too much away to Maori. Even Don Brash has apologised for National getting it so wrong on the foreshore and seabed. Didn’t you get the memo? Yes Labour got it wrong. Yes Iwi/Kiwi National were much worse.

      • George D 13.1.1

        Dave, you’re wrong, because Labour did it.

        • dave

          No I`m right because I said Labour did it. “It” refers to Labour. I`m not one to defend Brash, but, r0b, Brash has only apologised for his position on one part of the F&S, not everything IMHO he should have. Clark didn’t apologise – she wouldn’t know how. Isn’t Key a much better PM than Clark, of course he is.

  14. Deemac 14

    Dave sounds as if he needs to lie down in a darkened room for a bit – hysteria isn’t very convincing pal. Your need to hate someone/something whatever the arguments or evidence is not a political problem but a psychological one

  15. dw 15

    One interesting question comes to mind, if this crap legislation breaches the BORA, what happens if someone’s rights are breached in the course of execution of some of the nasty elements in this bill? Does the person on the receiving end have to fight this out in court as a breach of the BORA?

    • dave 15.1

      The same thing that happens when people break laws that should not be made in the first instance: It gets referred to the police. the police then say they are not going to prosecute because it is not in the public interest. No one else prosecutes either unless they are willing to spend loads of money to take out a private prosecution. Never mind the view that it is not in the best interest of the public to pass these laws in the first place…..

      • burt 15.1.1


        I’m not sure that you are right here. I don’t think the Police are actually supposed to be assessing if the law is sensible or not. As an agent of the Crown their role is to enforce the law as passed by the legislature. The legislature is not expected to pass crap law and the Police do not have the role of determining if it is valid or not – that is the role of the courts and judicial reviews if required.

        Of course without a written constitution this is all convention based and as we saw in 2006 rOb’s special friends (apparently heroic for their courageous corruption) bailed themselves out of court because the law was inconvenient for them and enforcing it threatened to impose democratic elections on NZ by restricting the amount of influence unlimited marketing budgets create.

  16. dave 16

    As an agent of the Crown their role is to enforce the law as passed by the legislature.

    Unless parliament or the PM declares otherwise ie the smacking legislation.

    Police do not have the role of determining if it is valid or not that is the role of the courts

    The courts don’t determine whether a law is valid, either.

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