McLay has learnt the correct answer

In Question Time in Tuesday Todd McLay, speaking for the Minsiter of Trade, four times avoided answering a reopeated question from Russel orman on the TPP. See  Todd McClay: arrogant stonewalling.

He was prepared for a repeat of Norman’s line of questioning yesterday and had answers ready.

7. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Green) to the Minister of Trade : Will the New Zealand Parliament be able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement if the Government signs the TPPA; and is it Parliament or Cabinet that ratifies the TPPA?

Hon TODD McCLAY (Acting Minister of Trade): I welcome the question from the member. The Cabinet Manual and the Standing Orders set out the procedure for Parliament’s examination of international treaties, and, as with all international treaties, Parliament is not able to amend parts of a treaty. However, Parliament has significant involvement prior to ratification of an agreement. Although it is the executive that ratifies treaties, Parliament has an important role to play in the treaty examination process. The executive will only ratify a free-trade agreement after Parliament’s completion of treaty examinations.

Dr Russel Norman : So would a correct summary of the Minister’s answer be that the New Zealand Parliament is not able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement once the Government has signed it, and that it is Cabinet, not Parliament, that ratifies the treaty?

Hon TODD McCLAY : As with my first answer, the rules around this, in so far as the Cabinet Manual and the Standing Orders are concerned, are clear. But it is correct to say that no one single country can amend an agreement unilaterally and therefore not one of the 12 countries can amend the agreement, should agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership be reached. This is the same with agreements that we sign up to under the World Trade Organization and the UN. It is also important, I think, to note that for New Zealand the reason this is something that is in place is so that any hard-fought gains that we receive through that negotiation cannot be changed following agreement.

Dr Russel Norman : Does it strike him as a particularly democratic process when the elected members of the House of Representatives have no ability to influence the negotiation because it is done in secret, elected MPs cannot modify the agreement once it has been signed in secret by the Government, and nor does Parliament have any decisive say over whether New Zealand ratifies the agreement?

Hon TODD McCLAY : It strikes me that this is the same procedure that has been followed for a number of agreements that have gone through this Parliament—indeed, it is the same procedure that took place in the China free-trade agreement, the Hong Kong agreement, and, most recently, the Korean agreement. But I would say, as has been publicly stated, that if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is agreed, we are likely to see a different procedure in the way that it is followed through in this Parliament than was the case with China. It will be close to the Korean agreement, where the agreement was available prior to signing. Certainly, the parliamentary process must be finished before ratification will take place.

Dr Russel Norman : Has he seen the statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s lead negotiator on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which said that all explanatory material from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, such as briefings to Ministers, would be kept secret for 4 years after the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement comes into force; and will not keeping that material secret make it very difficult for ordinary New Zealanders to get their heads around the detail of the treaty, which is the size of a book and is written in—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Hon Todd McClay—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon TODD McCLAY : The procedure that will be followed here is that the agreement will be available for the honourable member, others in this Parliament, and the public to see prior to signature. We will need to follow the same procedure that has been in place in this Parliament for all other agreements through the treaty examination procedures before ratification takes place. Our Minister of Trade is negotiating the very best deal possible for New Zealand. The Government has said that it will sign up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement only if it is in the best interests of New Zealand. I think the public will have plenty of time to go over the very detailed text of this agreement before that member gets to cast further doubt upon it.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was specifically about the explanatory material—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, I listened very carefully to the question. It was not specific enough; in fact, there were at least two questions in the question. I cannot help the member if he does not ask a concise question to get the answer that might be more satisfactory to him.

Even Danyl Mclauchlan sees the problem with Norman’s approach.

Danyl Mclauchlan ‏@danylmc

If Parliament could modify a trade agreement wouldn’t all the signatories do that and trade agreements be completely pointless?

Yes. The Green approach to trade deals – have all negotiating positions publicised, then when reaching an agreement putting the treaty back to the New Zealand Parliament to discuss, then the Greens can discuss it internally, then Greens can organise protest marches and petitions against it, then if Parliament agrees to ratify the agreement Greens can organise a ‘Citizen’ initiated referendum and insist that if the public are against the treaty we should withdraw, then the Greens still only get about 11% in the next election.

Graeme Edgeler ‏@GraemeEdgeler
It’s why the US negotiators needed fast track authority :-)

Rob Hosking ‏@robhosking
@danylmc Yeah. This is godawfully silly stuff. Student Union politics of the worst kind.

Norman is showing the lack of experience Greens have of being in Government – it’s fine to have democratic ideals, but the reality of running a country means that the Green way isn’t necessarily the best way, nor a way that would work.

Norman must know that the Green way would make it virtualy impossible to reach any meaningful trade agreements.

Good to see that McLay learnt from his poor responses the previous day.

Todd McClay: arrogant stonewalling

Question Time is an important part of our democratioc and parliamentary process. There is a requiremet for Ministers to answer questions put to them by the Opposition.

The Opposition often complain about inadequate answers or avoiding answering. Yesterday Todd McClay, speaking on behalf of the Minister of Trade, avoided answering when Russle Norman asked the same question four times.

The initial question:

25.08.15 – Question 9 – Dr Russel Norman to the Minister of Trade

Which stakeholder groups have been briefed as to the draft content of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement since the completion of the last round of negotiations in July; and which groups have been briefed as to the process going forward for the agreement?

After another question:

Dr Russel Norman : Will Parliament be able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement after the Government has signed it?

Hon TODD McCLAY : The member needs to be careful not to get ahead of himself. There is still a negotiation under way, and the Government has been clear that we will sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement only if it is for the overall good of New Zealand and the New Zealand economy. What I can confirm is that should we be successful in negotiating a high-quality agreement that is good for New Zealand, it will follow the same parliamentary process as other similar agreements.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a very simple—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I can anticipate the point of order. I am going to invite the member to ask that question again.

Dr Russel Norman : Thank you. Will Parliament be able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement after the Government has signed the agreement?

Hon TODD McCLAY : The member needs to be careful not to get ahead of himself. There is no agreement under the Trans-Pacific Partnership yet. Should there be an agreement it would have to be in the overall best interests of New Zealand for the Government to sign it, and the process will be the same as every other trade agreement that is put before Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER : I will allow the member an additional supplementary question.

Dr Russel Norman : Will Parliament be able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement after the Government signs it?

Hon TODD McCLAY : The process that will be followed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, should it be successfully negotiated and concluded, will include a national-interest assessment, followed by enacting legislation. That is the normal process that we follow in this House with all agreements, including the New Zealand – Korea free-trade agreement, the New Zealand – China free-trade agreement, and all other agreements that have been negotiated successfully in the interests of New Zealand.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very simple question. The Minister is not answering a very simple question.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! It is a very simple question that has now been repeated twice. I see little point in repeating the question a third time, but the member certainly has an additional supplementary question, if he wants to use it.

Dr Russel Norman : Will Parliament be able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement after the Government signs it—yes or no?

Hon TODD McCLAY : I refer the member to my previous answer. This agreement, should it be concluded, will follow all other agreements that have come through this House. The agreement will go before the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, which will be able to put a report back to Parliament.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your clarification and direction. What can the Opposition do when a Minister simply refuses to answer a question?

Mr SPEAKER : The Minister did not refuse; he gave an answer that did not answer the question—I agree with that. There is nothing I can do. It is the responsibility of the Minister to answer questions in this House. I judge whether the question has been answered. On either occasion, I did not think it had been satisfactorily addressed, so I gave the member additional questions to use. It will be now for the public and this House to judge the quality of the answer that has been given by the Minister.

McClay spoke, but effectively refused to answer the question four times.

I judge the quality of the answers as very poor. Avoiding answering the question once was poor form. Four times is disgraceful. It looks like arrogant Government stonewalling.

I’m not judging the merits of Norman’s question, just the abysmal quality of ther responses.

From Speaker’s rullings:

Accountability to the House

4 Ministers have a responsibility to the House, and through the House to the country, to account for the public offices they hold. Question time is an important element of this accountability. Ministers should therefore take questions seriously and endeavour to give informative replies to the questions that they are asked.

5 Questions are an important means by which Ministers are accountable to the House. For a Minister to respond in an irrelevant manner is to act contrary to the spirit of the question process. It is incumbent on Ministers to treat questions in a manner that is consistent with their constitutional responsibilities.

I think McClay failed in his responsibilities.

McClay is MP for Rotorua, and is:

  • Minister of Revenue
  • Minister of State Owned Enterprises
  • Associate Minister of Trade
  • Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs

Flag Referendums Bill passed

The New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill passed it’s third reading in Parliament yesterday. Radio NZ reports:

Parliament passes law to change flag

Legislation clearing the way for referenda on changing the nation’s flag has passed its third and final reading in Parliament.

The bill was passed by 63 votes to 59 with the support of National, United Future, ACT and the Maori Party.

The first part of the referendum is expected to be held later this year, when voters will pick their favourite of four proposed flag designs.

As we know the process to seek and select alternate flag designs is well under way, with the top forty designs now chosen.

I find it odd that the legislation enabling this has only just passed. There has already been considerable effort and expenditure.

It was interesting to watch the twelve speeches in Parliament on this Bill.

Government speakers promoted the process, but more notably Opposition speakers spoke against the flag change process but didn’t look convinced by their own arguments, especially Trevor Mallard, Grant Robertson and Russel Norman.

Bill English (National):

This Bill will give New Zealanders the opportunity for the first time ever to vote on the flag that represents them and their country.

Trevor Mallard (Labour):

I’m an old fashioned Parliamentarian and I think the role of the Prime Minister is to stand up in this Parliament and to state his views.I waited through the first reading of this legislation. I waited through the second reading of this legislation. I waited through the committee stages for John Key to get on his feet and to give his views.

He went on to complain about the lack of Key’s contribution to the debate – but kept calling it Key’s ‘vanity project’. There’s not only a contradiction on that, there’s also a huge contradiction in Mallard’s and Labour’s pro-change but anti this change stance.

And Andrew Little did not appear to speak on Labour’s contradictory stance.

Alfred Ngaro (National):

It’s disappointing to see that a member…to see that he’s come to a point where he knows and he’s agreed, in fact at select committee he agrees with the changing of the flag. He told us that. It’s in Hansard.

He said that changing the flag is the right thing to do, yet today in this house, to the open public of New Zealand he’s only opposing it out of spite.

Grant Robertson (Labour):

I’m one of the members of the Labour party who thinks that there is a place for a new flag for New Zealand.

But I’m equally a member of the New Zealand public who’s angry with John Key for turning a process…I, along with a lot of other New Zealanders am angry with John Key that a discussion about this, a discussion about out national identity, has become a vanity project for him, and there’s absolutely no doubt that that’s what’s happened.

Ironically as Mr Mallard says, the vanity doesn’t extend to coming to parliament to actually talk about the flag change.

They are trying to argue two opposites at the same time, Unconvincingly.

Labour are intent on trying to depict it as a John key vanity project – but Robertson did not look or sound angry. His argument sounded contrived and insincere.

Russel Norman:

This Bill is of course a classic form over substance Bill. So the form of course is actual pattern on the flag…so it’s really about some people saying they want to change the pattern.

But a flag, the reason why the pattern matters is that it actually refers to a deeper substance, and the deeper substance that it refers to is the constitutional arrangements of the country, ah that’s the thing that really matters.

Norman gave a subdued fairly passionless speech. He wanted to change much more than the flag – he wants to change the constitution along with it.

However the Greens have also campaigned against the flag change as not the right time to put any resources into changing anything while there are ‘more pressing matters’. To be consistent they would not want constitutional changes to be addressed until there are zero hungry children and zero damp houses in New Zealand. That’s never.

Marama Fox (Maori Party):

I think this is an important discussion, and it’s important because I absolutely agree with a lot of the objections about why we’re doing this, but actually I absolutely agree that I’d like to see a change in the flag, and I’d like to see a change in the flag because I’d like to see something that does symbolise our duality of nationhood.

Should we be spending this amount of money on doing it? I’d like to think not.

Should we have put a constitutional change first before we put a flag change in? Absolutely agree with that.

Constitutional change would be much more complex, would take much longer and would be much more expensive than the flag change process.

The Maori Party voted for the Bill.

Links to the all the speeches:

New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 1 Bill English
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 2 Trevor Mallard
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 3 Alfred Ngaro
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 4 Grant Robertson
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 5 Jacqui Dean
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 6 Kennedy Graham
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 8 Jono Naylor
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 9 Russel Norman
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 10 Marama Fox
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 11 Chris Bishop
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 12 Jenny Salesa
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 13 Nanaia Mahuta
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 14 Joanne Hayes, Lindsay Tisch, Tim Macindoe

Final Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations

Final negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership are currently under way in Hawaii.

There’s a lot of politicking going on but it’s all based on very limited information – as is normal for trade negotiations they are being done ‘secretly’.

We have to wait until there’s an official announcement about what has been negotiated before we know whether the pros might outweigh the cons for New Zealand or not.

Russel Norman and the Greens were complaining yesterday, in Question Time in Parliament and on Twitter:

The Govt has told other countries our negotiation position on , so why keep it secret from NZers?

If they need to ask that they should be asking themselves if they are ready to be a part of Government. Negotiations frequently need to be un-publicised.

I suspect the Greens don’t publicise all the negotiations they have within their party. That’s normal too.

Greens may need to experience the reality of being a part of Government to understand how things work. Transparency is a good ideal to aspire to, but can sometimes be counter-productive, especially in international negotiations.

Once we find out what is in the final agreement we will be able to judge whether it will be good for New Zealand overall or not.

Until then the guessing and scaremongering and naivety will continue. And I guess Norman will continue to pander to his base as he cannot contribute to the negotiations in Hawaii.

Greens reshuffle spokesperson roles

The Green party has announced a reshuffle of spokesperson roles following the election of James Shaw as new co-leader.

Shaw has taken on Climate Change, with Metiria Turei continuing her focus on Inequality.

Most notable is the promotion of Julie Anne Genter to the Finance role, taking over from Russel Norman. Genter has been one of the Greens’ most capable and prominent spokespeople in her previous role on Transport (which she retains).

Interestingly Genter is still only ranked ninth in the Green pecking order, having dropped a place from last year’s list after the promotion of Shaw.

New portfolio line-up for the Green Party

New portfolios
MP Portfolio
Metiria Turei Inequality

Building and Housing (inc. Social Housing, HNZ)

Maori Affairs

James Shaw Climate Change

Economic Development

Russel Norman Trade

Justice (electoral)

National Intelligence and Security (inc. NZSIS, GCSB)

Kevin Hague Health (inc. ACC, Sport & Recreation)

Conservation

Rainbow Issues

Eugenie Sage Environment

Primary Industries

Land Information

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

Earthquake Commission

Gareth Hughes Energy and Resources

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment

Science and Innovation

ICT

Broadcasting

Wellington Issues

Catherine Delahunty Education (inc. Novopay)

Water

Human Rights

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Kennedy Graham Foreign Affairs (inc. Defence, Disarmament, Customs)

Veterans Affairs

Senior Citizens

Julie Anne Genter Finance (inc. Revenue, SOEs)

Transport

Youth

Mojo Mathers Commerce and Consumer Affairs (inc. Regulatory Reform)

Disability Issues

Animal Welfare

Jan Logie Social Development (inc. Women, Community and Voluntary Sector)

State Services

Local Government (inc. Civil Defence)

Rainbow Issues

Dave Clendon Tourism

Small Business

Criminal Justice (inc. Courts, Corrections, Police)

Musterer

Denise Roche Workplace Relations and Safety

Waste

Immigration, Pacific Peoples, Ethnic Affairs

Internal Affairs (inc. Statistics, Arts Culture & Heritage, Ministerial Services, Racing, Gambling)

Auckland Issues

Steffan Browning Organics

GE

Biosecurity

Pesticides

Food Safety

Speaker condemns Simon Bridges’ ‘level of arrogance’

In Question Time in Parliament today the Speaker gave Minister of Transport Simon Bridges leeway after being advised his response to an initial question by Green MP Julie Anne Genter would be lengthy.

12. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport : What percentage of the National Land Transport Programme announced yesterday will be spent on new rail infrastructure?

Mr SPEAKER : Before I call the Hon Simon Bridges, I have been advised that this answer may be longer than normal.

Part the pay through the reply the Speaker gave Bridges further opportunity to detail his response despite protestations of Genter.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I would be grateful is the member would show some courtesy to the Minister and to the House. I announced at the start of the question that it would be a longer answer than normal. As I am listening to the answer, it maybe is a reason why a percentage will not be given. If the member would only listen to the answer before raising a point of order, I think we would all be far more grateful. Would the honourable Minister wish to continue with his answer.

The lengthy answer resumed.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : In regards to the 2015-18 National Land Transport Plan, we are investing over $2 billion in public transport regarding rail, some $380 million going on passenger rail subsidies, $40 million on park-and-ride infrastructure, and $172.6 million towards other rail infrastructure—about 1.5 percent. Of course, in Budget 2015 there is a further $210 million for KiwiRail and another $190 million signalled for thereafter. The member should stop being tricky, should stop cherry-picking the statistics—

Bridges was stopped by the Speaker there. The questions and answers continued. Afterwards, following Labour MP Damien O’Connor being ordered to leave the House, Russel Norman raised a point of order.

Russel Norman : This is to do with the answer given by the Minister to question twelve. I would ask you to look at the record of the Hansard, because the question on notice written down was a very simple straight question and in the answer the Minister attacked the Member asking the question, accusing her of being tricky and various other things.

I think that is completely unreasonable, and i would think, I would ask you to intervene when a Minister does those kinds of personal attacks on a very straight question, and actually hold the Minister to account.

Mr SPEAKER :That is a very fair point of order that’s been raised, the Minister’s office advised my office just prior to Question Time it would be a longer answer than normal. I think the Minister genuinely attempted to answer the question.

His last comment was, ah, to accuse the Member of being tricky, that was a very unnecessary and in fact inflammatory remark. As soon as it occurred I brought that answer to a conclusion.

But answers like that from any Minister show a level of arrogance that does not show them in good light in this House.

In some ways this seems like a minor infraction and a minor point but the snarky dig from Bridges was totally uncalled for after he had been given leeway to give a lengthy answer.

Being condemned as arrogant by the Speaker (who happens to be from the same party) is a justified reprimand for Bridges.

Ministers should be above this sort of petty arrogance.

Shaw a good bet for the Green future

It’s hard on Kevin Hague to miss out on the Green co-leadership. He’s a good guy who works hard with anyone to progress worthwhile policies and issues. But the Greens have gone for an alternative that’s a better bet for their future.

James Shaw was chosen as the new male co-leader, a Parliamentary novice against Hague’s experience. He was suggested as a leader of the future before getting into Parliament eight months ago.

When Russel Norman announced he was stepping down  Shaw initially said he wouldn’t be in the contest to replace Norman, but then he changed his mind. He must have sounded out support, or supporters encouraged him, and put himself forward.

I think Shaw is a good bet for the Greens. He is more likely than most to work well across the political spectrum and more likely than moist to attract a wide range of voters. He has solid Green credentials but also has solid business experience.

His biggest handicap was his lack of Parliamentary and leadership experience, but that’s not a big issue here as he is co-leader and is not in sole charge. He will have Metiria Turei’s experience alongside him, and Norman has promised to help him learn the leadership ropes.

I think it’s possible, even likely, that Shaw will quickly become more attractive to potential voters than Turei, who is fairly left of left and doesn’t appeal much to people outside the faithful Green flock.

Shaw is as good bet for the Green future.

Has Metiria lost the Green mojo?

Metiria Turei seems to have been quiet lately, which is odd considering Russel Norman is stepping down as Green co-leader.

The Greens may still have Mojo Mathers but have they lost their mojo?

TureiLostMojoTurei has been dabbling away on Facebook over the past couple of weeks, but it’s hardly high profile stuff, unless dogs are the new Green issue:

22 March – Rupert, a jack russel foxy cross is missing from Bethunes Gully, NEV, Dunedin. Please keep a look out if you are up that way.

24 March – Rupert is home, thank you everyone who shared the notice. Mx

25 March – Love it, another dog found and in the paper. The ODT totally rules!

26 March – Dog question. I want to teach my dog to do some dance moves. He will spin around with a treat incentive so we have got a twirl underway. But any other advice on teaching dog boogie?

2 April – Missing dog from Musselburgh.

Other than that she has posted about limes, roses, economic inequality, granny squares, the TPPA and a missing woman. And Winston Peters:

Waatea News: Greens keen to work with Peters

Greens co–leader Metiria Turei is looking forward to working with new Northland MP Winston Peters on issues they agree on.

“We know Winston will do what is in Winston’s best interest and sometimes it means working with us and sometimes not. Frankly I can live that. I understand better now how he operates and I don’t think there are any serious problems between New Zealand First and the Greens,”

Overshadowed by the Winston show, trying to pick up some crumbs from it.

Metiria Turei says Winston Peters’ Northland win should have shown national what happens when it stops listening to people.

Greens didn’t stand a candidate in Northland.

Apart from her dog duties what has Turei been up to? She has had a low profile in Parliament. Her last speech was :

Her last question in question time was:

That was Tuesday two weeks ago. Since then the Green questions have been:

So Turei had one question on the first sitting day of the last two weeks and none since, while Norman has asked three questions, the Greens twelve in total. Parliament is now in recess for three weeks.

A resurgent Winston Peters is a real threat to Green aspirations. With Norman deciding to step down and put more emphasis on his family life (understandably) the Greens need to fill a leadership vacuum, especially if Turei has lost enthusiasm and commitment as well.

She didn’t seem very enthusiastic here:

Bill English closed that question session with:

Why the Greens support that poverty inducing policy is beyond me.

How demoralising was that barb? Does Turei represent the lost mojo of theGreens?

Norman versus Key, collection versus surveillance

At Question Time in Parliament today Russel Norman quizzed John Key on the differences between mass collection and mass surveillance.

It adds a bit to the ongoing dispute but not much. Key is adamant again that the GCSB is not involved in mass surveillance of New Zealanders as governed by the law. But Key refuses to explain what mass collection might mean.

.

3. Prime Minister—GCSB Surveillance

[Sitting date: 10 March 2015. Volume:703;Page:3. Text is subject to correction.]

3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does the Prime Minister still stand by his answer that he will resign if the GCSB has conducted mass surveillance of New Zealanders; if so, what is his definition of mass surveillance?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and there is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). To me, mass surveillance would involve surveillance of an entire population or a substantial part of that.

Dr Russel Norman : With regard to his answer that it would involve a significant proportion of the population, is he aware that there have been 1.6 million visits by New Zealanders to the Pacific from 2009 to the current day, whose private communications have been intercepted by the GCSB, and does this not meet the definition that he just gave of mass surveillance?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the member is making assumptions he should not actually make.

Dr Russel Norman : Is mass surveillance different from mass collection; if so, how?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Mass collection is not a term used in the Government Communications Security Bureau Act. It would mean different things to different people. But I think people understand what mass surveillance would mean. Mass surveillance is if you surveil an entire population. That does not happen. It is against the law. The Act makes it quite clear, and in fact it spells out clearly under what circumstances the GCSB can collect information about New Zealanders. It is largely set out in sections 14 and 15B of the Act.

Dr Russel Norman : Which one of the Prime Minister’s statements is correct—his statement this morning: “I don’t even know what you mean by mass collection. I’ve got no clue. It’s not a term I’ve ever seen, nor a term I’ve ever used.”, or his statement in September 2014, when he said: “There is no mass collection—not of New Zealanders.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The point I was making is that mass collection is not a term used by the GCSB. It is not a term that I use. That was in relation to a particular issue about Speargun, but it is not a term that the GCSB uses.

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Andrew Little : Will he be straight with New Zealanders—if they travel to the Pacific Islands, will their electronic communications be captured by the GCSB and sent to the National Security Agency, or not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not going to go through the operational details of the way that the GCSB operates, except to say that it operates within the law. The law is extremely clear about under what circumstances the collection of data about a New Zealander could occur. That is in sections 14 and 15B. But I will make this exact point. There is absolutely no—zero—change in the way things happen under this Government from what happened under Helen Clark’s. So if you want to ask these questions, I will give you her number in New York and you can give her a ring as well.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! There is just too much interchange between both front benches.

Dr Russel Norman : Is the Prime Minister aware of the statements by Sir Bruce Ferguson that mass collection and mass surveillance are basically the same things, when Sir Bruce stated on the radio: “it’s the whole method of surveillance these days. It’s … mass collection,”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not responsible for the comments that Bruce Ferguson makes. I think the member is actually misrepresenting him. But I go back to the single point. Mass surveillance is not occurring against New Zealanders; it never has. It does not matter how many times the member says it; it is simply not true. The law is very clear about what can occur when it comes to New Zealanders, and the law is subject to oversight by the inspector-general. The inspector-general actually makes their findings public, in terms of what they do, and there are no examples that have been brought to my attention where the GCSB has acted in breach of the law, with the exception of the Kim Dotcom situation. It does not matter how many times Nicky Hager, the anti-American view, and the Green Party want to tell New Zealanders that they are being surveilled en masse, they simply are not.

Dr Russel Norman : Has it not been brought to his attention that the GCSB is engaged in full-scale collection of all the data coming out of Pacific Island nations and that many hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have visited, or have lived in, those Pacific Island nations during the period that all that data was collected?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : One of the problems when a member wants to rely on stolen information is that they get a very, very warped sense of reality. I would have thought, given that the member was part of the Intelligence and Security Committee for 3 years, he would have a basic understanding of the way the GCSB works. The GCSB has to establish a warrant; a warrant has to have a particular reason. The Government Communications Security Bureau Act makes it completely clear that information cannot be gathered against New Zealanders with possible exceptions that are spelt out in sections 14 and 15B of the Act. The inspector-general has total responsibility, complete opportunity, and insight to review not only the warrants but the actions of the GCSB. Just because someone goes on a holiday somewhere means absolutely nothing, and it will not matter how many times the member says that, he is simply not right. I make the point to the members opposite that nothing has changed under this Government from the previous Government. If they have got complaints or they do not like things, I will give them Helen Clark’s mobile number and they can give her a call.

Dr Russel Norman : If mass collection and mass surveillance are two different things, as the Prime Minister has been claiming, what has changed since the Prime Minister admitted on Campbell Live in August 2013 that, under the law, to go and look at someone’s email is the same as collecting their email?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, the law has changed, actually, in that time. But—[Interruption] Well, the law has changed. Mass surveillance of New Zealanders does not happen. There are only—

Hon Member : The story’s slipping.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, the story is exactly the same as when Helen Clark was Prime Minister. I hate to tell you the bad news. The question has always been posed by members in the Green Party that mass surveillance of New Zealanders occurs. It does not.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is with regard to the answer. It was a pretty specific question and I do not believe the Prime Minister has addressed it. I was using one of his own quotes.

Mr SPEAKER : Part of the question asked what had changed, and the Prime Minister said that, well, for one thing the law has changed. The question was definitely addressed. [Interruption] Order! It is very difficult for me to hear the answers with the constant barrage that is coming from my left-hand side. If it continues, I will have to ask someone to leave the Chamber.

Norman right abour Middle East risks, wrong about solutions

There’s no doubting Russel Norman’s passion about what he believes in and stands against, and there’s no doubting that he means well. But his response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq prompted some pertinent comments here.

Alan Wilkinson points out that Norman was right and wrong:

The US has already weaned itself off Arab oil. Russel opposes fracking and drilling that would do the same for us and others. The UN is deeply corrupt and speaks only to elites. Nothing in the Middle East will change until the ordinary people want it and that can only happen by working on the ground with them.

Russel is right about the risks and wrong about the opportunities and solutions.

Goldie pointed out an idealitstic disconnect from reality.

So the Greens answer to Daesh is “What they want from us is support for humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction”

The world is confronting an apocalyptic death cult, and the Green answer is humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction?

And Missy pointed out a major flaw in his humanitarian approach:

So, Russel is against sending Soldiers into the Middle East and into danger, even though this is what they train for and joined up for, but he is willing to send in civilian humanitarian and medical workers with no protection.

Has he even been watching the news, humanitarian workers are one of the main targets of ISIS, and as ISIS has no respect for borders the aid workers would be more at risk than the soldiers.

What would his response be if one of those aid workers was captured and beheaded?

In Norman’s conluding paragraphs he said:

No one is suggesting we should turn a blind eye to ISIL. The question is: will sending our troops there help? And the answer is clear: it will not. It will just become part of the recruitment drive for ISIL, and it will put New Zealand lives at risk.

It is also clear that there is not a shred of evidence that the military training will make a difference.

It’s fair to ask whether New Zealand’s contribution will help. But the answer is not clear. There cannot be any evidence for something that has not yet taken place.

We must also ask if there is another way we can alleviate the suffering and misery of people in Iraq and the wider Middle East. What they want from us is support for humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction—a large-scale, international diplomatic effort to stop the flow of arms and cash to ISIL.

As Missy pointed out it’s very difficult to provide humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction in an existing war zone. And it’s been starkly demonstrated that aid workers are at grave risk from ISIL, as are journalists.

RusselNormanIraq

The ISIL situation in the Middle East is quite different to 2003. They have made it clear they are intent on barbaric provocation, and peace promoting do-gooders are a primary target for their depravity because they have been  unprotected.

New Zealand holds a seat on the United Nations Security Council. That is an opportunity to make a difference and to use our diplomatic weight to try to find a solution not only to the ISIL crisis but the broader crisis across the Middle East.

This is another contradiction from the Norman speech. The UN is proven to be at least as ineffective as prior military engagement so why expect them to suddenly perform diplomatic, political and religious miracles when they have proven  ineffective to date?

If we want to find lasting peace in the Middle East, we need to be a voice of justice. We need to be a voice for human rights and democracy.

This means we have to have the courage of our convictions, to tell the head of the club, the great nation of the United States of America, that it is time to wean ourselves off cheap oil and it is time to support genuine peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East.

That’s boilerplate idealism. It’s all very well supporting genuine peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East, I’m sure most of Palriament and New Zealand would support that.

But waving a Green wand won’t magic ISIL out of existence.

Would Russel be prepared to go and speak peace abnd human rights with ISIL? They aren’t likely to be converted by a well meaning but very naive Parliamentary speech in New Zealand.

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