Ombudsman – withholding Banks’ full statement to Police “was not justified”

The Ombusdman has recommended that a reacted version of John Banks’ statement to police is given to NZ Herald and Labour – after the current court proceedings have concluded.

In relation to requests by NZ Herald (David Fisher) and Labour (Kate Challis) for a copy of the statement provided by the Hon John Banks to the Police in the course of their investigation into alleged irregularities in respect of electoral funding donations the Ombudsman has ruled:

I have formed the opinion that in September and October 2012 the Police had good reason to refuse parts of the statement under those provisions but that the decision to withhold the statement in full was not justified.

He has recommended “that the Police release a redacted statement to the requesters once the related court proceedings against Mr Banks have concluded.”

So that won’t have any immediate effect, it will have to wait until the current court proceedings are complete.

Ombudsman’s role:

As an Ombudsman, I am authorised to investigate and review, on complaint, any decision by which a Minister or agency subject to the OIA refuses to make official information available when requested. My role in undertaking an investigation is to form an independent opinion as to whether the request was properly refused.

Summary

David Fisher of The New Zealand Herald and Kate Challis of the Office of the Labour Leader requested a copy of the statement provided by the Hon John Banks to the Police in the course of their investigation into alleged irregularities in respect of electoral funding donations.

The allegations pertained to the 2010 Auckland Super City Mayoral election in which Mr Banks was a candidate for the mayoralty. The statement was withheld pursuant to sections 9(2)(a) and 9(2)(ba) of the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA). I have formed the opinion that in September and October
2012 the Police had good reason to refuse parts of the statement under those provisions but that the decision to withhold the statement in full was not justified. 

Ombudsman’s opinion and recommendation

49. For the reasons set out above, I have formed the opinion that in September and October 2012 the Police had good reason to withhold parts of Mr Banks’ statement under sections 9(2)(a) and 9(2)(ba)(ii) of the OIA, but the decision to withhold the statement in full was not justified.

50. I recommend that the Police release a redacted statement to the requesters once the related court proceedings against Mr Banks have concluded. I have stipulated that the release be delayed because although I consider the OIA did not provide good reason to withhold the majority of the statement at the time the Police made its decision on the requests, in light of subsequent events, disclosure at the present time would be likely to prejudice Mr Banks’ right to a fair trial (section 6(c) of the OIA). Accordingly, a recommendation to disclose before the conclusion of the pending court proceedings would be c ontrary to one of the purposes of the OIA which is “to protect official information to the extent consistent with the public interest …” (section 4(c) of the OIA).

Full report (PDF).

John Banks on poverty, unconditional love and education

In Parliament’s first day for the year John Key made his Prime Minister’s Statement followed by party leaders launching their parliamentary year.

The best was from John Banks, who, in response to a read speech by Hone Harawira targeting inequality and poverty, gave an impassioned and often very personal view on how he thinks we need to deal with poverty.

I don’t know what Banks may have prepared to speak on, but he responded strongly and passionately to Harawira. It was eloquent and obviously heartfelt.

I know a lot about child poverty.

I know what it is like to live in a house with no power and no running water; having a bath once a week in a 44-gallon drum cut in half; sleeping on straw covered with sacks; going to bed every night hungry; piddling the bed every night, psychologically disturbed; being thrashed every morning for piddling the bed every night; going to school every day in an ex-army uniform with no shoes; spending all day, every day, out of the classroom stealing other kids’ lunches; going home to bread and milk, at best, at night, cooked over an open fire with sugar on top; if I am very lucky, taking Weet-bix covered in dripping to school each day; and living in a very dark hole.

That is child poverty.

If I thought that the policies of the previous speaker from the Tai Tokerau would work against that—and they do exist; they do exist—I would go to the other side of the House and support him. I would be the first to line up to support him.

Why would I not be the first to line up to support Hone Harawira if he had the answers to this country’s deep, deep vein of underprivilege, desperation, desolation, and despair that so many of our kids live under? If I thought that his policies were the answer, I would line up with him and I would say so.

But let me give him one ticket out of child poverty that he might like to think about. That one ticket is twofold: living in a home with unconditional love—and I never knew about that—and a world-class education. I did get that.

If every one of his people lived in a home with unconditional love and access to a world-class education, then in a generation we would get rid of the deep vein of social deprivation and child poverty in this country.

That is the ticket. That is the only ticket—not welfare, not big Governments, not more borrowing, and not more handouts.

It is instilling in people that having children is a God-given right but an awesome responsibility, that love goes a long, long way, and that a world-class education is a ticket to the future for so many of these people whom the previous speaker talked about and represents to the best of his ability in this House.

Banks’ answer:

The answer is giving everybody the opportunity of the dignity of work, and you can have a job only if you are educated. And you can get educated only if you go to school. And you can go to school only if you come from a home that loves you.

And the corollary to that is a dark place, and I know about living in dark places.

So if we want to deal with the fundamental issues of about 20 percent of this country’s young people coming from dysfunctional homes and families, we have to deal with the causes, not with the political side effects for the purposes of getting a few votes.

For context here is (edited) Harawira’s closing:

At the beginning of this new year, Mana stands resolute in our determination to find ways to eradicate poverty—particularly child poverty—wherever and however it may exist.

We will do all we can to ensure that this issue is the issue by which political parties are measured by voters in 2014.

Mana wants a new deal for Aotearoa—one based on everyone playing their part and everyone paying their way, not just families and big business as well—and an economy where everyone can live in dignity and respect, and where jobs are secure, hard work is rewarded, and people can earn enough to give their families a decent standard of living.

Mana is calling for homes for every Kiwi family—the building of 10,000 homes a year, especially for those on low incomes, until every child in every family is housed in a clean and warm home.

Mana wants jobs for all, and Government-created community work on an index minimum wage for everyone else who is able to work in hospitals, schools, old people’s homes, marae, sports clubs, local parks, and the like, giving people the opportunity to rebuild their confidence and develop basic work skills, while helping to revitalise their communities.

Mana also calls for taxing the rich to free the poor, introducing a Hone Heke tax on all financial transactions, adding billions to the national budget and enabling Government to launch positive jobs programmes, feed the kids, provide a well-resourced and positive educational environment at all levels, reduce taxes for low income earners, and abolish GST on food and essential services.

Mana’s position is clear. This is not a time for tinkering. This is a time to be bold, to chart a new path, and to establish a new deal, where a life of dignity and respect is a birth right afforded to everyone. We call on all of the parties to rise to the challenge rather than surrender to the squabbling.

Mana is closely associated with socialist movements in New Zealand, with a strong emphasis on taxing more (“the rich”) and transferring wealth, with the state heavily involved in job creation and spending. And spending.

I have never seen any attempt by Mana to cost their policy proposals.

Interestingly while Harawira frequently mentioned Mana (his party) Banks didn’t once refer to the Act Party. It was very personal for him.

Hone Harawira video:

John Banks video:

Full speeches (draft Hansard):

15:48:59~HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana)

HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana): Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker.

Seeing as the Prime Minister may have missed the fact that while he was up in Hawaii playing golf and his MPs were sizing up more investment properties to buy for the biggest untaxed capital gains they could get, most Kiwi families were actually going backwards.

Since Parliament last sat, housing has become even less affordable, more families have fallen behind in their rent, more families have been evicted, more families have shifted to caravan parks, the price of food and just about everything else has continued to rise, more jobs have become more precarious and more have become poorly paid, more food parcels have been given out at food banks, more families have had their electricity cut off because they cannot pay the bill, more children are in hospital with poverty related illnesses and diseases, and more children are regularly going hungry.

Big bank economists tell us we are about to benefit from a rock star economy in 2014 but that is rubbish. Everywhere in the world, the benefit of the economic recovery is going to the richest 1 percent while the 99 percent either stagnate or go backwards, and New Zealand is no exception.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer under a system where people strive to get as rich as they can and the winner is the person who has the most money when they die. How crazy is that? How does that make sense when kids go hungry because families have to pay the rent, the electricity, the petrol for the car, doctors’ bills, and medical bills before they can even afford to buy food for the kids?

But does this Government care? Not for one second. Take loan sharks, for example. Six years ago this Government said it wanted to deal to loan sharks for preying on poor families.

Well, what did it do? Nothing. Instead it bailed out the banks, wealthy investors, and companies like South Canterbury Finance, which got a $1.7 billion taxpayer windfall, which in one single gift to the rich was more than the entire 22 years of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, where iwi ended up with less than 3 percent of what was stolen from them.

Meanwhile, the victims of loan sharks are told they have to pay up to 500 plus percent interest rates so that a small loan to pay a power bill rapidly becomes a crippling debt to the loan sharks, with no bailouts for the poor.

Housing is the same. Everyone knows housing is becoming less affordable. Mortgages are through the roof, and as interest rates go up—it was in the paper this morning—so do rents. But this Government has no plans to create more affordable housing for low-income families who need them the most.

In Glen Innes and elsewhere, the Government is actually pushing people off the waiting list, then telling everybody that State houses are no longer needed, and then bulldozing those homes so private developers can build mansions for the rich. In education, the Government is also missing the mark.

Instead of ensuring that every child can learn by adopting a comprehensive food in schools programme, as recommended by its own experts, it is focusing on a failed charter schools model from overseas and drop-in principals.

We have all heard the drivel about how poverty has nothing to do with educational underachievement, but that is a refrain delivered only by those commentators who choose not to hear the advice and Governments who choose to ignore the inequality that is at the heart of increased social problems in low-income communities.

As for those jobs, Mr Key, are you happy that unemployment helps to keep wages down and to keep workers worrying that they might lose their jobs? Is it your plan that 260,000 workers cannot get a job or cannot get enough hours at work to pay for a decent chance in life for themselves and their families?

Is it your plan that this Government has no policy at all to create meaningful employment, except to leave the fate of the worker in the hands of the free market? Instead all we get is policy after policy, bill after bill, to take even more from low-income workers—employment rights, social support, tax dollars, and all of that—to feed oil and mining giants, property developers, foreign bankers, casino bosses, private consultants, and the like.

Families are struggling—Māori families, Pasifika families, and increasingly more Pākehā families—after decades of the deepest cuts this country has ever experienced. These cuts come from policies that have deliberately driven hundreds of thousands of families into poverty, policies that have led us to a direction that has been disastrous for all Kiwi families outside of the comfortable middle class and ruling elite, and a direction that has brought us to a critical crossroad in our lives.

There is growing inequality, homelessness, and unemployment, and a growing population of working poor who cannot even make ends meet.

At the end of the last year, the world mourned the loss of Nelson Mandela and celebrated his momentous life, but Mandela was not just an anti-apartheid campaigner. He was also a fighter for the poor who once said: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Mandela considered poverty to be one of the great evils of the world and believed there could be no freedom where poverty persists.

At the beginning of this new year, Mana stands resolute in our determination to find ways to eradicate poverty—particularly child poverty—wherever and however it may exist. We will do all we can to ensure that this issue is the issue by which political parties are measured by voters in 2014.

Mana wants a new deal for Aotearoa—one based on everyone playing their part and everyone paying their way, not just families and big business as well—and an economy where everyone can live in dignity and respect, and where jobs are secure, hard work is rewarded, and people can earn enough to give their families a decent standard of living.

Mana is calling for homes for every Kiwi family—the building of 10,000 homes a year, especially for those on low incomes, until every child in every family is housed in a clean and warm home. This will create thousands of jobs in design, architecture, carpentry, cabinet making, painting, roofing, electrical work, plumbing, drainlaying, landscaping, roading, community infrastructure, and all the related jobs that come with a strong and vibrant housing sector.

Mana will encourage immigrants to build new homes rather than buy existing ones to increase the jobs in the housing sector and to keep the current housing stock for kiwis and introduce a serious capital gains tax to force those with too many investment properties to sell back into the housing market, drive down the prices, and free up homes for those who can afford to buy but cannot find anything in the overheated market place.

Mana wants jobs for all, and Government-created community work on an index minimum wage for everyone else who is able to work in hospitals, schools, old people’s homes, marae, sports clubs, local parks, and the like, giving people the opportunity to rebuild their confidence and develop basic work skills, while helping to revitalise their communities.

Mana wants financing and mentoring for small business, because if you back small business owners, they commit to a future in this country, rather than leave, and their success encourages their families to do the same.

Mana also calls for taxing the rich to free the poor, introducing a Hone Heke tax on all financial transactions, adding billions to the national budget and enabling Government to launch positive jobs programmes, feed the kids, provide a well-resourced and positive educational environment at all levels, reduce taxes for low income earners, and abolish GST on food and essential services.

Of course, Mana also supports taking back the power. In today’s world, access to a consistent and affordable supply of electricity is a staple part of life for all New Zealanders. It was never envisioned that it be owned. Mana supports reclaiming all electricity assets for the benefit of all citizens of Aotearoa.

Mana’s position is clear. This is not a time for tinkering. This is a time to be bold, to chart a new path, and to establish a new deal, where a life of dignity and respect is a birth right afforded to everyone. We call on all of the parties to rise to the challenge rather than surrender to the squabbling. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora tātou katoa.

DEBATE ON PRIME MINISTER’S STATEMENT

15:58:44~Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT)

Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. The seeds of my political philosophy lie in my background. I am not sure how much the previous member knows about child poverty.

I know a lot about child poverty. I know what it is like to live in a house with no power and no running water; having a bath once a week in a 44-gallon drum cut in half; sleeping on straw covered with sacks; going to bed every night hungry; piddling the bed every night, psychologically disturbed; being thrashed every morning for piddling the bed every night; going to school every day in an ex-army uniform with no shoes; spending all day, every day, out of the classroom stealing other kids’ lunches; going home to bread and milk, at best, at night, cooked over an open fire with sugar on top; if I am very lucky, taking Weet-bix covered in dripping to school each day; and living in a very dark hole.

That is child poverty.

If I thought that the policies of the previous speaker from the Tai Tokerau would work against that—and they do exist; they do exist—I would go to the other side of the House and support him. I would be the first to line up to support him.

Why would I not be the first to line up to support Hone Harawira if he had the answers to this country’s deep, deep vein of underprivilege, desperation, desolation, and despair that so many of our kids live under? If I thought that his policies were the answer, I would line up with him and I would say so.

But let me give him one ticket out of child poverty that he might like to think about. That one ticket is twofold: living in a home with unconditional love—and I never knew about that—and a world-class education. I did get that.

If every one of his people lived in a home with unconditional love and access to a world-class education, then in a generation we would get rid of the deep vein of social deprivation and child poverty in this country.

That is the ticket. That is the only ticket—not welfare, not big Governments, not more borrowing, and not more handouts. It is instilling in people that having children is a God-given right but an awesome responsibility, that love goes a long, long way, and that a world-class education is a ticket to the future for so many of these people whom the previous speaker talked about and represents to the best of his ability in this House. But he is misguided.

In a couple of weeks we are going to open the first charter school—they call it—in Northland. I do not mind whether they call it a charter school or whether they call them partnership schools, but this is what I can tell you.

The first partnership school in Whangarei will open in 2 weeks’ time. For the last 4 years it has taken 40 Māori boys and girls from the poorest, poorest families in the whole of the Tai Tokerau. It has boarded them in Whangarei and it has given them an opportunity to go to the best State schools in Whangarei, mostly Whangarei Boys High School, and after school they are tutored.

They get in that collective home unconditional love every day of the week and tutoring every night of the week.

They feel a sense of purpose and direction, and those young people sit National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 1 with a 100 percent pass rate, I say to the Minister of Finance, a 100 percent pass rate in that partnership school in Whangarei for the last 4 years, a 100 percent pass rate in NCEA level 1 in Whangarei with Māori boys who come from places that the previous speaker represents and knows nothing about and has a doctrine he peddles in this House that is bankrupt—more borrowing, more welfare, less responsibility. He does it because he thinks there are votes in it.

There are no votes in representing people who have no hope, and that member will not get up on his hind legs and say to this House: “I’m going to support the partnership school that has served my mokopuna in Tai Tokerau for so, so long.”

That member and the Labour Party have promised to close down that school, which gets a 100 percent—100 percent—pass rate in NCEA level 1. That is the ticket out of deprivation.

That is the only way, the one-way street, the only way out of poverty in this country. It will take a generation, but this is what this Government is working on. It stands for bringing those people up. It is like high tides raising all boats. Lift the standards at the bottom and the high tide will rise and raise more boats—all boats.

We have tried throwing money. We have tried borrowing money. We have tried big welfare. And what we do know is that any Government big enough to give you everything you want is a Government big enough to take from the hard workers everything they have.

So if we want to deal with the deep vein of social deprivation—and I do because I know what it is like, and it is a dark place, a very dark place—then we have to deal with the fundamentals of human behaviour: taking responsibility for your family, giving them unconditional love regardless of your status and your wealth, taking advantage of a world-class education that is there for you at the school down the street, and encouraging young people to do that.

It will be a generation but it will lift them out. If we want to empty the jails, we have got to educate the young people. If we want to get the health lists down, we have got to teach young people what it is like to be in charge of yourself and take responsibility for your own actions. Then we will make progress.

But borrowing from the savings of offshore people to hand out to others in a country and mounting up the debt to the next generation is not the way we deal with poverty in this country.

Of course I support sandwiches and food in schools—by God I would have loved some sandwiches and some food in school—but that is not the answer.

The answer is getting the fundamentals of the New Zealand economy so that we are internationally competitive.

I pay tribute to Bill English, whom I have worked with closely these last 2 years, who has done a remarkable job of turning this economy round. I give praise to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the National Party caucus—my coalition partners—for taking tough decisions, but the answer to child poverty, I say to the parliamentary Opposition, is not about taking others’ money and throwing it at a problem, because we have tried that and it has failed.

The answer is education.

The answer is giving everybody the opportunity of the dignity of work, and you can have a job only if you are educated. And you can get educated only if you go to school. And you can go to school only if you come from a home that loves you. And the corollary to that is a dark place, and I know about living in dark places.

So if we want to deal with the fundamental issues of about 20 percent of this country’s young people coming from dysfunctional homes and families, we have to deal with the causes, not with the political side effects for the purposes of getting a few votes.

 

 

Can Hide save Act?

Now it’s official that John Banks won’t stand again next year Act can be open about seeking someone capable of winning Epsom and rebuilding Act in Parliament.

Inevitably Rodney Hide is one of the first to be touted. He has recent experience in both Epsom and Parliament and would be the person most likely to succeed. If he is willing. Backed by a background John Boscawen he would give Act supporters real hope – and he would also give John Key hope that there was a realistic chance of retaining a right wing partner.

NZ Herald: Rodney Hide’s fans keen for a comeback after Banks’ departure

Former Act leader Rodney Hide is being courted by supporters in the party to make a comeback in Epsom to replace outgoing leader John Banks, the Herald understands.

Several sources told the Herald Mr Hide had been approached recently and urged to consider a return to Act and to national politics.

One insider said Mr Hide would be nominated by Epsom party members whether he liked it or not. Mr Hide did not return calls yesterday.

It would be extremely difficult for a political novice to lead a party, campaign in and win an electorate, and establish themselves in Parliament. Banks succeeded in Epsom but after a decade’s absence and no colleagues to work with he found it very hard in Parliament. It didn’t help that he was not a yellow blooded Actoid.

Rodney Hide is certainly Act’s best hope for survival. If he can’t be persuaded to return to national politics Act will find it very difficult to keep a toe in Parliament’s door. They might find someone else with enough profile and ability to pull off Epsom but that’s only the first step to recovery.

Interestingly on Firstline this morning John Boscawen was asked if he would have another go and he avoided the question, talking around it.

“I made the decision prior to the last election not to seek re-election in 2011, and that wasn’t a decision that I regretted.”

Hide backed by Boscawen would have immediate respect and a decent chance of success.

Brown roundup

The Len Brown story continues to get a lot of coverage as the clusterfuck continues, it’s hard to see anyone involved coming out of this with reputation’s intact. And to accentuate the Auckland falls from grace ex-mayor and now Act MP John Banks adds to the super city malaise.

NZ Herald leads this morning with a ‘revelation’ of what is unsurprising.

Palino met with Brown’s lover

John Palino met Len Brown’s former mistress for a late-night discussion in a Mission Bay car park the night after the mayoral election and just two days before the affair was made public.

Bevan Chuang claims Mr Palino’s camp raised the possibility that Mr Brown could be shamed into resigning the mayoralty.

When news of the scandal broke on Tuesday, Mr Palino denied any knowledge of the affair. But he met Ms Chuang on Sunday, October 13 – the day after the election.

Also unsurprising:

Last night, Mr Palino’s campaign manager, John Slater, confirmed a meeting had taken place, but said it was just a “general chit-chat”.

It would have been unusual if Palino had not been had some involvement and Slater (senior) did not know something about what was going on.

Herald opinion writers wade in as well.

John Armstrong:

Brown’s mea culpa absolutely woeful

For his part, Brown is surely now ensconced in Last Chance Saloon and just one step removed from being forced to resign.

Should one further Brown-instigated or approved favour to former paramour Bevan Chuang, which has an Auckland Council connection, emerge from the woodwork then he has to go.

Brian Edwards:

That mayor culpa had better be all, Len

Len Brown is in something more than a bit of trouble, and I’d give him the same advice Mike gave to me.

Faced with this immediate crisis, however, the Auckland mayor’s only option was to be straightforward, tell the truth and admit the error of his ways.

It seems to me that’s more or less what he’s done. But the “more or less” may be the sticking point.

In a crisis like this, involving personal morality, “more or less the truth” wasn’t enough; it had to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Further revelations will pile pressure upon pressure for Brown. He may cling to his coveted mayoralty but diminishing credibility will make it very difficult to do a decent job.

Fran O’Sullivan:

Two men with their backs against wall

Brown’s instinct is to hunker down and try to ride out the media storm.

He is being helped by the drip-feed of revelations about the role his former lover’s buddies in the Palino camp played in his outing.

These revelations have made Brown a figure of fun. But there is also a sinister element to them. Particularly the pressure which Bevan Chuang claims was put on her by Palino’s PR man (one of her other lovers) to try and get her to entrap Brown in making “dirty talk” on the phone.

There should be a proper wide-ranging council inquiry into whether Brown abused rules by creating favours for Chuang.

Not simply an inquiry put in place by the chief executive.

Once the inquiry reports, Brown should stand down and call for another election where voters can either accept him or reject him in the knowledge they have all facts on the table.

Tracy Watkins (Stuff):

Brown-Chuang affair has MPs wary

Like a nuclear mushroom cloud, the toxic fallout from the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang affair is enveloping everyone within its radius.

No-one will come out of this kiss-and-tell well – not the mayor, his former mistress, those who broke the story on the Whale Oil blog or the mayoral rival who has now also been damaged by the actions of an over-ambitious supporter.

Blogs continue very active comments. There will no doubt be more on Whale Oil today (access can be patchy).

Also with ongoing discussions:

Public Address: Hard News: Everybody’s Machiavelli

Kiwiblog: Nasty Rudman

The Standard:

Whale Oil responds including major but vague allegations and a promise of more to come – Rapid Fire Q+A on Len Brown story

Rob Hosking at NBR: Len Brown and the value proposition theory of political scandal

Key fails to understand Ministers’ complaints

John Key is reported to be “puzzled” by concerns expressed by ministers about their phone calls and emails being trawled by the Henry inquiry.  Radio New Zealand report:

The Prime Minister is puzzled about why any of his ministers feel the need to complain about the way their information was handled by the Henry inquiry.

A number of ministers expressed disquiet over the way some of their information was handled.But Mr Key questioned why any minister would be worried, because being trusted not to leak to the media is the least he expects from his executive.

Having an inquiry that complies with the law and parliamentary conventions, and that doesn’t make accusations that leads to a minister resigning despite presenting no evidence is the least his Ministers should expect from Key.

Key has previously said that no Ministers complained to him about the terms of the inquiry when they became known.

What Key fails to understand is that when he announced the terms of the inquiry no Ministers (except possibly one) would have suspected that it would involve their own communications being examined. And they wouldn’t have suspected a witch-hunt.

Unlike Key some Ministers are aghast at the way the inquiry seemed to make a conclusion of guilt based on very questionable reasoning, and then pursue evidence without having any regard for the legality of the data gathering  or whether it complied with Parliamentary rules and conventions.

ODT reports Leak inquiry ‘chilling’ – Collins.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says it was “chilling” to discover that the David Henry inquiry into the GCSB report leak had treated the privacy of ministers’ and staff information in a “contemptuous way”.

Police Minister Anne Tolley told Mr Henry she was surprised that Mr Henry did not seek the advice of Speaker David Carter to clarify rules about parliamentary privilege.

“With 20-20 hindsight that might have been a wise thing to do,” Mr Henry said but he had assumed that Parliamentary Service, which reported to the Speaker, knew the rules.

Act leader John Banks suggested during his line of questioning that the Henry inquiry had “trampled on the rights and freedoms of Members of Parliament and the fourth estate in a very cavalier manner.”

Worse than trampling on the rights of Ministers in a cavalier and contemptuous way, many are aghast that the inquiry would smear a journalist and the leader of a party with innuendo, and would effectively make very obvious accusations against a minister without having any evidence to back up it’s case.

Stuff with Collins slams ‘contemptuous’ attitude over emails:

Gerry Brownlee said it appeared Mr Dunne had been denied natural justice, by relying on his privilege as an MP but facing a report which criticised him.

The Henry inquiry seemed to decide guilt early in their inquiry based on nothing of substance, and then set about trying to obtain evidence that backed up their guess while ignoring any other possibility.

It’s easy to see why Ministers would have major concerns in retrospect.

It is Key’s apparent blindness to this that is puzzling.

John Banks’ amendment – principles underpinning GCSB functions

An amendment initiated by John Banks adds human rights requirements plus democratic and political oversight to the GCSB Bill.

8CA Principles underpinning performance of Bureau’s functions

(1) In performing its functions under this Act, the Bureau acts—

(a) in accordance with New Zealand law and all human rights standards recognised by New Zealand law, except to the extent that they are, in relation to national security, modified by an enactment:
(b) in the discharge of its operational functions, independently and impartially:
(c) with integrity and professionalism:
(d) in a manner that facilitates effective democratic oversight.

(3) The Director must take all reasonable steps to ensure that—

(a) the activities of the Bureau are limited to those that are relevant to the discharge of its functions:
(b) the Bureau is kept free from any influence or consideration that is not relevant to its functions:
(c) the Bureau does not take any action for the purpose of furthering or harming the interests of any political party in New Zealand.

(4) The Director must consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition for the purpose of keeping him or her informed about matters relating to the Bureau’s functions under sections 8A to 8C..

3 (c) and 4 provide for limits to the GCSB being used politically and provides for consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

Three Key points on GCSB bill

In Ball in Key’s court to get GCSB bill passed Audrey Young suggests there are three things in particular that John Key needs to address to make the GCSB Amendment Bill palatable to other parties and the public.

The strong concerns by bodies such as the Privacy Commissioner, the Human Rights Commission and the Law Society… have unsettled the public too and it is in Key’s own interests to give them some reassurance.

There are three things he could do in the coming week that would make the bill more acceptable than it is now, to the public and other parties.

Key has shown a willingness to listen to and accommodate concerns put forward by Peter Dunne and John Banks, and has given a NZ First suggestion a nod of approval. He has also opened the door to discussions with Labour but so far they have not put them selves forward.

First, he could write two reviews into the bill, one to begin in 18 months, straight after the next election, and one every five years after that, as the Australians do.

There is some justification for pushing this bill through to legitimise what Key and others claim was the intent of the GCSB legislation anyway, giving the SIS and Police access to GCSB spy capabilities. Promised reviews would go a long way to assuring the public that spy powers will be carefully considered on an ongoing basis.

Secondly, he should go back to the Kitteridge report for a lead on how to beef up oversight. The report has high praise for the Australian model of oversight as a crucial means of maintaining public trust.

The oversight improvements proposed by Key are minor by comparison – the appointment of a deputy and a panel of two people to be used as a sounding board by the Inspector-General.

If it’s too late to beef up oversight even further, then it should be cited as a major part of the promised review.

Adequate oversight, independent of politicians and the GCSB is essential. The public will be far more comfortable for spying decisions to be made in secret if they know there are robust checks and balances.

Thirdly Key, as Prime Minister and the minister responsible for the GCSB, needs to make a clear statement on metadata (information about communications).

Specifically, he needs to say what the GCSB has done in the past and what constraints it will operate under in the future. He should admit that the agency has previously, on many occasions, collected metadata on New Zealanders unlawfully – believing it was doing so lawfully.

He should reassure New Zealanders, if he can do so truthfully, that there has been no mass collection of metadata passed on to intelligence partners overseas and there won’t be in the future.

He should assure the public that any collection of metadata of New Zealanders in the future, like other communications, will have to be by warrant.

It’s essential that we know what data could be collected, why end when it might be collected, what might happen to it and where it might end up being stored.

Once data is collected and delivered to other countries it is out of our control.

The GCSB was never meant to spy on New Zealanders – that point should be reinforced and made clear in the amendment bill. It is a stretch allowing the GCSB to act as a spy agent for local security and law enforcement.

But a bottom line should be that the GCSB does not spy on New Zealanders as an agent of other countries.

 

Shearer, stand up on the GCSB bill!

David Shearer, stand up and do something! The GCSB Amendment Bill deserves, demands your input, your leadership. The people and the country deserve it.

The bill is currently being debated and decided on something that is important for the protection and security of New Zealand. And it is important for the protection of privacy of the citizens of the country.

If any bill deserves the best efforts of all parties to get the best result it is the GCSB Amendment Bill.

Where are Shearer and Labour on this? It seems that they are Missing In Action.

The GCSB usually operates in secret. We have to trust them. And we have to trust a small number of politicians to use and control the GCSB wisely.

It will be much easier to trust them if we can trust the legislation that allows them to do their job but protects the people from having their communications and data misused and abused.

The current version of the bill is seriously flawed, according the Law Society, InternetNZ, the Human Rights Commission and others.

We should be able to have faith in our MPs and their parties to do everything they can to ensure the GCSB bill is properly debated and resolved.

National have acknowledged they will have to modify the bill.

Peter Dunne is negotiating with National and has agreed on one change so far, on provisions for an independent oversight panel, something that was proposed by New Zealand First. Negotiations are continuing – Dunne’s GCSB vote still uncertain.

Peter Dunne says the Government’s consideration of a three-person panel for the Government Communications Security Bureau puts it a step closer to securing his vote, but more concessions will need to be made.

The United Future leader wants the bill to include more protection for individuals’ privacy, recognition of the Bill of Rights Act and more accountability.

John Banks is also talking with National – Banks asks for guiding principles in GCSB bill.

ACT Leader John Banks today confirmed that he has been in discussions with the Prime Minister and officials over the inclusion of a set of guiding principles in the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.

“In addition, ACT has asked that the Office of the Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence is ‘beefed up’. The Inspector General provides independent oversight and acts as a complaints mechanism for New Zealanders.

“I appreciate John Key’s leadership in building a Parliamentary majority for the bill and I will continue to work with the Prime Minister over the coming weeks to ensure the legislation is clear and robust,” Mr Banks said.

Dunne also supports this and Key has said it has merit – Key may make second concession on GCSB bill.

“I actually think that’s quite a good idea,” Mr Key told reporters at Parliament yesterday.

Mr Key said he would ask officials advising the Intelligence and Security Committee to work on that suggestion.

But what is Labour doing? Corin Dann writes – Can Labour and National compromise on GCSB?

Now it is a given that John Key will make changes to this bill in the hope of securing support from Mr. Dunne and New Zealand First.

However, the more pressing questions are: will John Key go the extra mile to entice Labour to support the bill? And will Labour play ball?

Labour in the eyes of centre ground voters will be in danger of looking like it is playing petty politics with national security.

So what are Labour playing at?

In General Debate in Parliament last week Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson gave an eloquent but negative speech that lambasted National on GCSB issues. And Robertson described Peter Dunne, as “completely lost his way, totally discredited”.

Dunne is heavily involved in GCSB bill negotiations and is a key player. What is Robertson doing other than rubbishing others who are doing the important work? Making ironic speeches that achieve nothing.

And what is Labour leader David Shearer doing? Sitting around waiting for a phone call apparently. While Key reaches out over GCSB bill…

…Labour leader David Shearer had a message for Mr Key last night: if he is serious about negotiating on the GCSB bill “it would be a good idea to pick up the phone”.

Mr Shearer was annoyed that Mr Key has started talking publicly about areas of possible compromise on the bill without talking to him first.

Oh my god! If Shearer gets more annoyed is Key more likely to give him a call? That’s as likely as Shearer’s Labour colleagues stopping undermining him.

There is an opportunity and a need for Shearer to stand up and show some leadership, On this bill. Now.

Labour’s position has been to oppose the bill until a review of intelligence agencies is held.

Key has offered a compromise that is actually better for the long term – a regular five yearly review. But the first has been suggested for 2015. And so far Shearer is unwilling to change his stance.

For fucks sake Shearer, you have been Labour leader for 19 months. Show some actual leadership!

If he sits waiting by the phone the most likely call he will get is advising him of a successful coup against him.

If Shearer can’t step up now and take a lead role in resolving the deficiencies in the GCSB bill, if he can’t step up and work hard for protection of the country and protection of the privacy of the citizens, then he might as well find somewhere else to sit, other than Parliament.

Stand up now Shearer! Or you might as well bugger off.

Kim Dotcom to confront John Key tomorrow

The Intelligence Security Committee will start hearing submissions on the GCSB Amendment Bill today. The first submission will be from the Law Society, whose written submission was critical of the proposed law – Law Society “stinging attack” on GCSB bill.

Tomorrow Kim Dotcom is scheduled to make his submission – summary and link for his written submission here Dotcom/van der Kolk GCSB Amendment submission.

John Key has advised that he will be chairing the committee, and John Banks will also be sitting on the committee, which has raised interest in the confrontation.

@MutchJessica

I asked how John Key felt about chairing a committee when @KimDotcom submits and he said he is “more than happy to do so”.

And Dotcom is promising a confrontation. He has been talking it up on Twitter over the last week. Here are his tweets from yesterday.

@KimDotcom 

Dear Kiwis, #FightForPrivacy & STOP the GCSB / TICS spying laws! Say NO to US spy tech in New Zealand.

Important Questions to John Key about spying in New Zealand. Stop the #GCSB bill. Stop the N(Z)SA.
http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/open-letter-john-key-right-know-ck-142221

Kim Dotcom Case threatens New Zealand Government.
http://dnews.co.nz/node/2

I’m in Parliament July 3 telling the Security & Intelligence committee why the new GCSB bill is wrong. I bet Key & Banks won’t show :-)

If you want to witness John Key and the #GCSB getting exposed join me in Parliament this Wednesday. It’s a public hearing!!!

Prime Minister John Key confirmed he is chairing the committee to which I’m presenting my opposition to the new GCSB bill on July 3. It’s ON

John Key vs Encryption Key
This Wednesday, July 3
A public hearing in Parliament
Please come. You’ll love it

So Dotcom is talking up expectations of what he can achieve. Will it just be more of the same (strong opposition to the bill) – or has he been keeping something up his sleeve?

Dotcom knows how to drive up media interest, and they have already been giving a lot of coverage to the buildup.

There will be interesting tensions with Dotcom facing Key and Banks and with maximum media.

We will have ample opportunity to see what Dotcom delivers tomorrow.

 

 

Banks calls Dunne “puppy-hater” on Psychoactive Substances Bill

John Banks clashed with Peter Dunne during the second reading of the Psychoactive Substances Bill yesterday, interjecting frequently. During Dunne’s speech Banks called him a puppy hater.

Hon John Banks: Will it happen, yes or no? Will animal testing—

Hon PETER DUNNE: Can I say again to the member it was never the intention. How many words does he need to explain it? I am not going—

Hon John Banks: No, you won’t, you puppy-hater.

Hon PETER DUNNE: That is absolute, ridiculous nonsense. If the member for Epsom wants to go out there and oppose this legislation, he can answer to his communities, he can answer to the parents and to all of the people affected by it, and he will be the one who will be reviled as the person out of step with public opinion.

At some stage Dunne tweeted “John banks idiot”.

Banks’ criticism of Dunne may be misdirected. Associate Health Minister Todd McClay:

Mr Dunne asked that committee for advice on non-animal tests, clearly articulating his strong preference for a regime that excluded animal testing. The committee’s advice was that some animal testing would be necessary at first to ensure that the risk of products was accurately assessed.

And Green MP Kevin Hague:

The fact is that the previous Associate Minister of Health encouraged people to make submissions about animal testing. The committee did receive advice from the Clerk that amendments that absolutely ruled out animal testing per say would be out of scope. We received no advice that those submissions were out of scope. So the chair was wrong to rule those submissions out of scope. The National majority was wrong to not hear those submissions.

The bill is seen as world leading and ground breaking and has near unanimous support. Banks is the sole opponent.

Banks interjected through Dunne’s speech. First he corrected Dunne saying “looks like enjoying the unanimous support of this House”:

Hon PETER DUNNE: I am delighted to speak on the second reading of the Psychoactive Substances Bill ….. I am very pleased with the work that the Health Committee has done in terms of its consideration of the legislation and the bill that has emerged and looks like enjoying the unanimous support of this House.

Hon John Banks: No, no, no.

Hon PETER DUNNE: I am sorry. I should have known better perhaps than to presume that the ACT Party would be in line with public opinion.

Banks gave more detail about his opposition in his speech:

Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT): I rise to oppose the Psychoactive Substances Bill , and I will oppose it at every turn until it ends up on the statute book with the numbers, except for myself, in this House.

This bill is well-intentioned—there is no doubt about that—and it is aimed at ensuring that psychoactive substances sold in New Zealand are as safe as possible. I want to pay my respects to the new Associate Minister of Health, Todd McClay, for his noble intentions with this bill, which he inherited from the ex-Associate Minister .

However, I simply cannot support it. I find it totally unacceptable that this bill fails to rule out—rule out—testing these recreational drugs on innocent animals. Protecting animals is ingrained in my soul.

I think that most New Zealanders will be outraged at the idea that chemicals people use just for fun can be, and likely will be, tested on harmless animals. Animals will be put to extreme pain, animals will suffer, and animals will die.

Dunne had previously explained “one of the great red herrings of this debate, the animal testing issue”.

Hon PETER DUNNE: Let me deal with one of the great red herrings of this debate, the animal testing issue. There was never any intention ever to embark upon a programme of animal testing associated with these products—never ever any intent. What happened was simply this—what happened—

Hon John Banks: There was going to be.

Hon PETER DUNNE: If the member would just give me the courtesy of some silence, I will explain to him what actually happened.

Dunne provided an explanation until Banks started a series of interjections:

That was why I worked with the Health Committee through the expert advisory committee to make sure that the instances where animal testing might be even a possibility were minimised and reduced. But I say to the House it was never the intention—

Hon John Banks: Is there any animal testing? Is there any animal testing?

Hon PETER DUNNE: Mr Banks, if you ask a question, it is customary to let the person answer it before you come back with the next one.

Hon John Banks: Is there any animal testing?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I am just in the process of explaining to the jabbering preacher to my left the answer to his question. It was never the intention to embark upon an animal-testing regime as part of this legislation.

Hon John Banks: Will there be animal testing?

Hon PETER DUNNE: Can I explain again. This is becoming like a routine. It was never the intention to embark upon any form of animal testing. The expert advisory committee has given very clear advice to the select committee. The reality is that a lot of the stuff—and I am still getting emails today in Cyrillic script, in various different languages, from around the world from people saying “Don’t test psychoactive substances on dogs.” That was never the intention.

Hon John Banks: Will it happen?

Hon PETER DUNNE: It was never going to happen. The member says: “Will it happen?”. Can I say it was never going to happen.

Hon John Banks: Will it happen?

Hon PETER DUNNE: Dear me. You can only go so far in terms of legislating—

Hon John Banks: Will it happen, yes or no? Will animal testing—

Hon PETER DUNNE: Can I say again to the member it was never the intention. How many words does he need to explain it? I am not going—

Hon John Banks: No, you won’t, you puppy-hater.

Hon PETER DUNNE: That is absolute, ridiculous nonsense. If the member for Epsom wants to go out there and oppose this legislation, he can answer to his communities, he can answer to the parents and to all of the people affected by it, and he will be the one who will be reviled as the person out of step with public opinion.

I say to the ACT Party that if it wants to show any form of relevance, it will grow up, it will respect the conscience of New Zealanders on this issue, and it will support this legislation. He is welcome to be on a limb; it will be a very lonely place, I assure him.

Banks later devoted his speech to the animal testing issue. He concluded:

I want to thank Mojo Mathers for her work on this bill and her Supplementary Order Paper, which I will be supporting. I am sure other parties will support it as well.

But I say to her and the Green Party, if your amendment fails at the Committee stage to get the numbers, you should vote against this bill anyway. The Green Party has an excellent set of credentials around animal rights and animal welfare and I applaud you today for those.

We are sacrificing animals at the alter of recreational drug use. It is a disgrace to this country. It should not happen. It does not need to happen. We could stop it. It could be world-leading education. I repeat these words: as the most powerful creatures on this earth, humans have a responsibility to protect all animals from senseless, worthless, and shameless cruelty at all times and in all places, and I am starting with this legislation here today in this Parliament.

This will be addressed later in the debate when another Green MP Mojo Mathers speaks.

The other issue that I address in the minority report, and that has to be addressed, I believe, by this House—and my colleague Mojo Mathers will speak more about this—is the animal testing issue.

We must adopt Mojo Mathers’ Supplementary Order Paper in the Committee stage, in order to have that world-best practice—that model for the rest of the world. Thank you.

Animal testing is an emotive issue. There’s more to come on it.

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