Labour, Green MPs block holding Curran to account

The Government that promised more openness and transparency has taken another step backwards, with Labour and Green MPs on the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee voting against asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear before it to clarify unanswered questions about her meeting with ex-RNZ employee Carol Hirschfeld and her communications with RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

NZH: National members blocked from getting Clare Curran to appear before committee over meeting with RNZ Carol Hirschfeld

National was blocked from asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear at a select committee to clear up unanswered questions around her communications with former RNZ executive Carol Hirschfeld, a report says.

The Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee released its report
today on a briefing in which the committee was inadvertently misled by RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson about a meeting between Curran and Hirschfeld last December.

A minority report by the five National Party members of the select committee said questions remained unanswered regarding the appropriateness of communications initiated by Curran, with Hirschfeld and Griffin.

Curran’s behaviour was potentially in breach of parliamentary standing orders covering “intimidating, preventing, or hindering a witness from giving evidence, or giving evidence in full, to the House or a committee”, the National members said.

The National members also sought to invite Curran to the committee to give her the opportunity to clear up the unanswered questions.

“Regretfully, this resolution was not supported by other members of the committee, once again leaving the matter unresolved.”

The National members of the committee – chairman Jonathan Young, Andrew Falloon, Paul Goldsmith, Melissa Lee and Parmjeet Parmar – said they felt Parliament itself had been impugned by the inadvertent misleading of the committee by RNZ and actions of the minister.

The MPs who blocked holding Curran to account:

  • Paul Eagle (Labour, Rongotai)
  • Tamati Coffey (Labour, Waiariki)
  • Michael Wood (Labour, Mt Roskill)
  • Deborah Russell (Labour, New Lynn)
  • Gareth Hughes (Greens, list)

Coffey had a surprise win against Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell in last year’s election.

Eagle, Wood and Russell scored fairly safe Labour electorates – Wood got into Parliament in a by-election in 2016 after Phil Goff resigned, while Eagle and Russell are first term MPs. Russell was rated as a good prospect as an MP, but she is putting party before principles here.

Hughes keeps a low profile in Parliament these days – Greens are also supposed to be strong supporters of open and transparent government and of holding the government to account (going by James Shaw’s comments in handing Parliamentary questions over to National) but joining the blocking of holding Curran to account suggests big talk, walk away from responsibilities.

Tn the whole scheme of things this isn’t a big deal, but it leaves a cloud over Curran’s ambitions to significantly boost RNZ, and she is likely to be reminded of this embarrassment whenever she tries to do anything on open government.

The final commitment in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information.

Labour and Greens have weakened democracy through their weasel blocking in the committee.

Newsroom: When ‘open government’ becomes a joke

Curran isn’t just the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media but the Minster of Government Digital Services and Associate Minister for ACC and Open Government (via a State Services portfolio).

Open Government now becomes something of a joke under Curran at a time when we need it to be the very opposite.

What’s important now is RNZ and the many other initiatives Curran is involved with don’t keep on paying the price for her mistake. Curran’s copybook may well be blotted but she presides over portfolios that are far too important for us to allow that stain to spread.

That was on 2 April. Labour and Green MPs on the committee have spread the stain further.

Most of the public won’t know or care about this festering, but it remains hovering over Curran, and it is a confirmation that Labour and the Greens are in Government more for themselves than for integrity.

What is the real oil and gas agenda?

There were many mixed messages around the announcement last week that no more offshore oil and gas exploration permits would be issued (while the current Governbment remains in power at least).

Gavin Shaw (editor of Energy News) writes of a possible agenda in A symbolic beheading of the oil and gas industry:

“We’ve stopped the rigs,” Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said to his supporters.

I’m left to conclude that last week’s performance was less about climate change and more a choreographed demonstration of the anti-oil and gas agenda within parts of the Government.

Why remains a mystery, but at least we now know where Green Party Co-leader James Shaw really stands on the issue. Symbolic heads on pikes are more important than actual policy, apparently.

When Shaw spoke last week of moving to a “fossil fuel-free future” by 2050 I suspect he really believed just that.

No one in the world is predicting the end of hydrocarbon use – not the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change nor the International Energy Agency. We will use less for transport, but we will continue to need coal for making steel and oil and gas for all those handy products we use in our computers, aircraft, buses, trains, solar panels and wind turbines.

The IEA continues to call for increased exploration and production investment to meet rising transport demand and to displace coal currently used for power generation and making chemicals and fabrics.

With the global population forecast to increase by a third by 2050, the agency is concerned that supplies of all lower-emitting options are not increasing fast enough.

But Shaw and the Labour Cabinet don’t seem to care. Nor do they understand the role New Zealand – already an oil and methanol exporter – could play supplying those lower emitting products.

Worse than that, the Government appears actively determined that there should be no expansion of the industry here.

Why else would you ban onshore exploration except in Taranaki? Surely we should be looking for gas and geothermal resources on the South Island so that coal-dependent industry there has lower-emission options alongside wood and electrification?

Achieving real emission reductions is going to be complex. It will likely require industry- and regionally-specific interventions, some of which may be counter-intuitive.

Incoherent policy rambling, grandstanding and cherry-picked anecdotes won’t cut it.

So is the Government going to work with the oil and gas industry to utilise its skills to help reduce emissions?

Not yet apparently.

Were it actually focused on emissions reduction it might have allocated a bit more than the $150,000 it allocated for new energy initiatives among the $19.7 million it doled out in Taranaki earlier this month.

That’s a minor handout, and when compared to others:

  • $13.34m – Taranaki Crossing Experience.
  • $5m – Taranaki Cathedral restoration and upgrades.
  • $400,000  – SH43 business case.
  • $250,000 – hill country tree planting business guide.
  • $210,000 – Tapuae Roa support
  • $175,000  – regional ‘future food’ opportunities.
  • $100,000  – new energy development centre business case
  • $100,000 –  Māori enterprise and education (focus on science, technology, engineering, arts/design, mathematics, innovation, and digital).
  • $100,000  – ‘innovation precincts’ feasibility study.
  • $50,000  – H2 Taranaki.
  • $50,000 – Taranaki Future Foods Accelerator business case

That was announced the week before the oil and gas permit announcement. Not a lot of alternate energy funding there.

If the Government has an agenda to transition the country off fossil fuels then they need to treat alternatives seriously.

Greens hail ‘biggest victory yet’

Gareth Hughes:

I had to pinch myself because I almost can’t believe we did it!

Today our government has announced the historic decision to end all new fossil fuel exploration in our oceans.

Ending deep sea oil and gas exploration has long been a key goal of the Green Party and today, in Government, we’ve delivered it.

Without question it is our biggest victory yet.We’ve stopped the rigs.

Without doubt this is a big win for the Greens, but I don’;t think it stops the rigs, it just stops possible future rigs that don’t already have permits.

This nuclear free momentof ending the environmentally dangerous and planet threatening search for new oil and gas in our pristine waters has come about because of you and generations of New Zealanders calling for a clean energy future.

This campaign started decades ago. As a teenager I took part in a blockade of Mobil Oil calling for the end to oil exploration. And in 2011 I joined thousands of others on the beach at Tauranga to help clean up in the wake of the Rena oil disaster. Like so many Green members and supporters the campaign to stop oil exploration has been core to why I’m involved in politics.

And we really should all take pride in today’s historic win.

The Green Party has thrown everything (bar the kitchen sink) at achieving this goal. We worked with artists and painted giant murals, marched in the streets, tendered for the oil blocks to protect our oceans from the oil companies and I even donned a wetsuit to launch a policy underwater following the Rena oil spill. We uncovered scandals in Taranaki like the spreading of fracking waste on farm land and the National Government’s plans to drill for oil in the endangered Maui dolphin sanctuary.

For decades Greens have shone a spotlight on the perils of oil drilling and its threat to our very existence. And today we have won.

Our beaches, our whales, our Maui’s dolphins are safer from the danger of a Deep Water Horizon type catastrophe because of the decision our Government has made today.

Some people will not be happy about this decision. The oil companies are sure to protest loudly and have deep pockets and loud voice to drown out the call of the environment.  At the same time as this, the Government has started transition planning and support for the works.  So we need your help to get the positive message about protecting our climate out to as many people as possible.

RNZ funding questions

Radio New Zealand (and other media) have justifiably been praised for their coverage of the earthquakes this week. In times of disaster most trivia gets sidelined as media rises to the occasion (except for a few diversions on cows and paua).

RNZ is state funded and the Government purse strings have been tightened over the past few years. Their funding in relation to their earthquake coverage came up in Parliament yesterday.

Garth Hughes took the opportunity to push for more money for RNZ – at a time when Government funding of things like rescuing Kaikorai from devastation and isolation and fixing a few roads and railway lines may be a tad more important.

Bill English responded by saying that RNZ had used the money it does receive wisely, and demonstrating the ability to use the money it receives well does not on it’s own justify giving them more money.

MediaSupport for Media and Radio New Zealand Funding

9. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Will she join with me to acknowledge the work of all media in New Zealand, which is so important in times of natural disaster and crisis; if so, will she consider increasing our public broadcaster Radio New Zealand’s funding in Budget 2017?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting: Yes, I do agree with the member. The media has done an excellent job of the vital task of keeping the public informed about what they should do at a time of stress. In terms of Radio New Zealand’s (RNZ’s) funding—and, of course, Radio New Zealand, uniquely among media organisations, has a guarantee of revenue for future years, something that many media organisations would regard with envy. However, any bids will be considered in due course as part of the usual Budget process.

Gareth Hughes: How long does the Minister think our only public broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, can continue to provide the high standard of broadcasting we have seen in the past few days, when its funding has not been increased for 8 years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, clearly up until now it has done a very good job. I have not seen any noticeable deterioration, in fact, I have seen some improvements in the broadcasting of Radio New Zealand on the guaranteed funding that it has, which, as I said, makes it unique among media organisations, a number of which are fighting simply to stay alive.

Gareth Hughes: Given the Minister’s comments around the ability to lodge a Budget bid, is the Minister concerned Radio New Zealand did not put in a funding bid in the last Budget round, with the chairman describing it as: “pointless beating your head against a brick wall of reality.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I was not disappointed at all. I know for public organisations it can be a sort of automatic reflex that they bid for more money just because they had some last year and think can do more good next year. In the case of RNZ though, over a number of years it has changed with the times. I am particularly complimentary of its website development. It sees itself now less as an owner of a broadcasting system and more as a content provider. I am sure that the wider media sees benefit in broadcasting content of the quality of RNZ’s.

Gareth Hughes: Given the excellent work that Radio New Zealand has done in the last few days despite a real-term funding cut of $4 million since this Government came to office, would the Minister encourage Radio New Zealand to put in a Budget bid for the next funding round?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, not on that basis. I mean, we do not give a public organisation more money just because it has demonstrated its ability to use the money it has. If there is a greater need for the long-term sustainability of the organisation then I am sure the board and executive of Radio New Zealand will see merit in putting up a bid. Equally, we also try not to give money to organisations where their services habitually fail, because that would also be rewarding organisations, rather than just applying money to obvious need.

 

Greens on the budget

Green response to the budget:

James Shaw: Budget catches National not caring

The Government’s visionless budget has failed to deliver the big solutions to the housing crisis and climate change New Zealanders want and instead is plastering over the cracks, says the Green Party.

“This do nothing budget will leave a legacy of more poisoned rivers, more extinct wildlife, and a nation divided into those who own a home already, and those left further behind,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

James Shaw: Green Party Co-leader James Shaw’s 2016 Budget Speech: Time to change the Government

E te Māngai o te Whare, tēnā koe.

Mr Speaker, greetings to you.

Ki a koutou, huri noa i te Whare, ngā mihi o te wā ki a koutou katoa.

To all of you across the House, greetings.

Mr Speaker, when New Zealanders needed homes, the Government has given us toilets.

The extent of this Government’s vision for New Zealand is a few more toilets for tourists, and presumably the rising numbers of Kiwi families who are living in cars.

 

Catherine Delahunty: Shock school funding freeze means parents pay more

Parents up and down the country will have to pay more for their child’s education, following the National Government’s surprise budget move to freeze funding for schools’ operational grants, the Green Party said today.

“It is shocking that National is freezing funding for schools. Education should be at the top of any Government’s agenda,” said Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.  

“After the class sizes back-down a few years ago, it is surprising to see the Government again attacking school funding and our kids’ education.

Gareth Hughes: Budget comment: Government cuts Warm-Up programme that saves lives and cuts power bills

National has cut home insulation funding to its lowest ever level in Budget 2016, which will leave thousands of people shivering in their houses again this winter, the Green Party said today

Budget 2016 allocates just $12 million this year for the Warm Up New Zealand programme this year and $4.5 million for the Healthy Homes programme, compared to $23.9 million for Home Insulation last year.

“Over 2,000 families will miss out on getting a warmer, dryer, healthier home under this Budget,” Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said.*

Notably there is no press release to date from the green spokesperson for finance Julie Anne Genter but she commented via Twitter:

@JulieAnneGenter

The Milli Vanilli #Budget2016. Pretends to do something for housing affordability, climate, rivers, jobs. In reality, does nothing. #nzpol

Gareth Hughes calls democracy into question

Green MP Gareth Hughes has called our democractic process into question because his flag choice got one tenth of the votes of the favoured designs.

Hughes was a stong promoter of the Red Peak design, being instrumental in having it added belatedly to the ballot. It got about one tenth of the votes of the two Lockwood silver fern/southern cross designs.

Now he wants the public to vote to keep the current flag.

NZ Herald reports: Green Party MP Gareth Hughes not giving up on Red Peak.

Hughes believed the Red Peak design will continue to grow in popularity and it is still a viable option to become the new national flag of New Zealand.

Does that mean he will campaign for the olf flag in the referendum, in the hope that in twenty years Red Peak will be still around and will replace it?

“Half of the people did not bother to vote in the referendum, anyway, which means the whole existing process has to be called into question,” he said. “Red Peak still has a strong future.”

Hughes calls into question a referendum where one and a half million people voted?

1,127,191 people voted for a Lockwood silver fern/southern cross design.

A similar number – 1,131,501 – voted for National in the last general election. Does Hughes call into question whether National should be in Government?

In comparison 119,672 voted for Red Peak.

Hughes seems to be calling into question democratic votes that don’t match his preference, no matter how small a minority it is.

Kevin Hague favourite for Green leadership

It’s not surprising to see it reported that Kevin Hague is the frontrunner in the Green co-leadership race, ahead of James Shaw. I would have been surprised if either of the other two, Gareth Hughes and Vernon Tava, were seriously contesting.

Radio NZ reports Two-horse race for Green Party leadership.

With two weeks till the votes are counted, initial reports put experienced MP Kevin Hague out in front alongside the party’s newest MP James Shaw.

Mr Hague, Mr Shaw and fellow MP Gareth Hughes, as well as Green Party member Vernon Tava, are standing to be the Greens’ male co-leader following the resignation of Russel Norman.

This is probably a bit soon for Shaw, having only just become an MP last year. Tava was always going to be an outsider from outside Parliament.

I think either Hague or Shaw would be a good bet for the Greens.

Mr Hughes said it showed the strength in the Green Party that all four could potentially lead the party.

Anyone could potentially lead the party. Some would be better than others.

I’ll be cheeky and quote alongside that:

Metiria Turei is the sole nomination to be re-elected as female co-leader.

Does that show a weakness on the female side of the Green Party? Maybe, maybe not, incumbents often go unchallenged.

It could be difficult for the new male co-leader not to be overshadowed by Turei. Hague is probably the one who could match and balance her best.

So Hague is my favourite to get the nod, but the Greens sometimes have funny ways of thinking.

Green leadership contenders

There’s been no more nominations for the male co-leader position vacated by Russel Norman so there will four contenders:

  • Kevin Hague
  • Gareth Hughes
  • James Shaw
  • Vernon Tava

I think the leading contenders will be Hague – experienced and reliable – versus a contrasting new hope for the future, James Shaw.

My pick is the safer option, Hague. Shaw’s time will come – he had initially said he wouldn’t stand this time due to only being an MP for a few months but changed his mind.

Tava has some interesting ideas but with no chance of being an MP for the next two and a half years, and has said he doesn’t know if he will stand for the Green list in 2017, so I don’t think he has much chance.

Hughes may appeal to some Greens with his ‘do what members choose’ approach but his reliance on ‘hey Clint; guidance must count against him, ultimately people like leaders who are prepared to lead.

There’s been just one nomination for the female co-leader position. Metiria Turei has tweeted:

Whew! Reckon my chances are pretty good…

But she points out there’s still a vote:

Yep.  We have a no confidance option for delegates who dont want to vote for me (or any candidate)

I don’t know if the vote is made public but I’d expect Greens to avoid controversy over Turei being elected without a solid endorsement.

The voting will be done at the Green AGM on 30 May so that’s another 6 weeks in leadership limbo with Norman phasing out.

And Turei has had a low profile over the last month, maybe contemplating her own future, maybe not wanting to dominate the leadership as Norman fades away.

Vance fans Hughes’ leadership chances

Kevin Hague is a clear favourite in the Green leadership contest (in May, nominations don’t close until mid April). James Shaw is a newbie MP who will interest some, but may struggle to get support from party faithful.

Vernon Tova is prepared top argue outside the Green square – this may appeal to the wider voter base Greens desperately want but is unlikely to win him Green backing.

Gareth Hughes is as party faithful as you can get. He knows how to pander to the Green-wow crowd.

All four current leadership contenders were in a panel interview on The Nationa.

And Hughes has a Fairfax journalist fan, Andrea Vance. She praised his chances on The Nation panel in the weekend, although inadvertently highlighted a significant anomaly.

You’ve got Kevin and James who are considered the front runners. I was actually very impressed by Gareth Hughes because, as you say he lacked gravitas, but he actually has probably the best message to win over new voters.

I thought Hughes would appeal more to the party faithful than new voters, being one of the party faithful himself. But Vance echoed Hughes’ introduction.

Hughes: I want to be part of the most progressive government this country has seen in generations.

That doesn’t sound like winning over middle New Zealand voters.

Hughes: The Greens under my helm would be larger. My mission is to excite and inspire, to reach out and represent a new generation of voters. We’d be making sure we’re seeing action on climate change. What I want to see is a bigger, more powerful, more influential Green Party, because the issues we work on, they’re more important than ever.

Do you have the gravitas, the credibility to be a co-leader?

Hughes: This is my opportunity over the next two months to stand up and show the members of my party what I know I have inside, which is I know who I am, I know what I stand for, I know where I want to go. This is my opportunity, and the members have a fantastic choice. I’m standing as someone who’s been a campaigner for 15 years. I’ve got the experience, I’ve got the wins under my belt, and I want to lead our party to a bigger Green Party.

He may have a job to convince that he can lead.

We’re something new, we’re something different, and we’re something better.

I’m a Green because I support our new, different, independent party.

And he has to think up some convincing slogans. He repeated the ‘new’ theme – Greens have been around since last century.

Hughes showed a number of times how entrenched in Green procedure he is.

I stand by our party’s decision.

I’m stuck on the green.

I support what the members want. They make the decision, not the leader.

Our members look at what’s the level of agreement…

Well, I support what my party’s policy is.

Well, Lisa, in my party the leader and the caucus do not decide the policy. It’s our members.

Give me your opinion.

Hughes: I would have a discussion with our members…

Bit of philosophical discussion, but I think what voters and our members want to see from us is pragmatic solutions.

Greens have an admirable system of party wide decision making. But most people look to politicians to lead, and especially to leaders to lead, not just follow the crowd.

The Hughes approach will please many Green members, but it is unlikely to enthuse more voters. But Vance wasn’t enthused by Hughes’ lack of knowledge.

Now, coming to you, Gareth, what about the rate of inflation?

Hughes: It’s less than 2 percent.

Would you like another crack at that?

Hughes: Well, it’s around 2 percent recently.

0.8 percent.

Vance:

I mean it’s basic 101, you do your prep if you’re going on the telly to give your first national pitch.

An MP knowing the current inflation rate should require any prep, it’s something they should know.

You know you’ve gotta know what the inflation rate is, that was just appalling.

And on party renewal:

I think that also Green members have gotta look for someone who’s gonna be a little bit ruthless in terms of cleaning out the Greens. There’s definitely, in the way National has,  and Labour might well start to. There needs to be renewal  in the Green party for them to move forward.

It’s hard to see Hughes being ruthless. He seems very committed to discussions and listening to party members. The party members have a lot of say on the green list, and therefore on renewal. There was little sign of this in their last election list.

But despite these obvious drawbacks to his leadership ambitions Vance closed with more praise of Hughes.

I think that Gareth Hughes, and perhaps it didn’t come through quite as well today…

As well as what?

…but I think he has got quite an appealing message to middle New Zealand. He’s talking about people in the suburbs, he’s talking about people with young families that are you know sort of struggling day to day.

You know he’s pitching to that. He’s not talking about macro economics and sustainability, he’s actually talking about back pocket issues. And I think that would actually have a lot of appeal.

It’s just that Gareth sort of needs to work on his image a little bit I think.

So she twice singled out Hughes above the others for praise, despite several shortcomings. I’m not sure how well in tune with middle new Zealand Vance is.

I’m fairly sure Hughes will appeal more to Green Party faithful far more than wider voters.

And even they may prefer someone with some sign of leadership.

Hughes can’t always ‘Hey party/Clint’ at a leadership level.

Green leadership contenders on spying

The Nation had a panel discussion with the four Green male co-leader contenders (note that there could, nominations don’t close for another month).

They were asked about the GCSB and spying.

Vernon Tava: “extremely carefully circumscribed”, “far, far stronger oversight”, “treated very, very carefully”, “extremely tight rein”.

James Shaw: “rules around it have to be very clear”, “ transparent oversight”. He seems to contradict himself with “I think the thing that we’ve had in the last few years that people have become increasingly worried about is this idea that everyone is being spied on” but “I think there’s sort of an expectation in our society that that’s OK”.

Gareth Hughes: “I support NZ having domestic intelligence abilities with appropriate oversight and transparency, but we should not be spying on other countries”, “I think we should have a GCSB with appropriate oversight, and I think they should be supporting our companies to prepare themselves against cyber-attack intrusions”.

Kevin Hague: “I definitely would bail out of Five Eyes, and I would shut down the GCSB. I think, uh, that isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for surveillance, provided that there is a reasonable cause and that is independently verified. Um, and I think Gareth’s right that it could be the police that actually carries out that function.”

No GCSB, no foreign surveillance or intelligence seems to be a very naive position to have. It’s not likely to happen with both National and Labour seeing the need for the GCSB.

Greens complained that they don’t have a member on the Security and Intelligence Committee but if they oppose the GCSB and any foreign surveillance or intelligence gathering perhaps their exclusion shouldn’t be surprising.

3 News Transcript:

Is there a place for spying in our society? Vernon?

Tava: It needs to be extremely carefully circumscribed. There are people— you know, we’re seeing with the 1080 threat. You know, we’re seeing there are people who want to do malevolent things. But we need far, far stronger oversight and far less politically oriented oversight than we’re seeing now. It needs to be treated very, very carefully.

So it’s OK to spy as long as you keep a tight rein on it?

Tava: Extremely tight rein.

James?

Shaw: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think the rules around it have to be very clear. There has to be transparent oversight. People need to understand what we’re doing. I think the thing that we’ve had in the last few years that people have become increasingly worried about is this idea that everyone is being spied on. You know, countries have spied on each other from time immemorial. Uh, for, you know, trade deals. Uh, you know, wars. All that kind of thing. I think there’s sort of an expectation in our society that that’s OK. I don’t think that there’s an expectation that it is okay to spy on everybody.

So, Gareth, is it OK to spy on people?

Hughes: I support the police having intelligence-gathering, uh, abilities with appropriate oversight. When it comes to the Five Eyes network, you know, I’m a dad. I teach my kids to do what’s right. Spying on our friends and allies. Spying on our major trading partner, that’s not right.

So leave Five Eyes and shut down the GCSB?

Hughes: I believe NZ should get out of the Five Eyes network. I don’t believe it’s in our economic interest. I don’t believe it is the right thing to do. I support NZ having domestic intelligence abilities with appropriate oversight and transparency, but we should not be spying on other countries.

But you name-checked the police, then. You said it’s OK for the police. What about the GCSB? Yes or no?

Hughes: I think we should have a GCSB with appropriate oversight, and I think they should be supporting our companies to prepare themselves against cyber-attack intrusions.

So, Kevin, bail out of Five Eyes as Gareth says?

Hague: Yeah, I definitely would bail out of Five Eyes, and I would shut down the GCSB. I think, uh, that isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for surveillance, provided that there is a reasonable cause and that is independently verified. Um, and I think Gareth’s right that it could be the police that actually carries out that function.

But are you aware what damage that would do to us to bail out of that agreement?

Hague: I don’t see any damage. What are you thinking of?

Economic damage with our trading partners.

Hague: Yeah, I don’t believe it would result.

Hughes: How do you think our major trading partner, China, feels about us gathering their data? How do you think our allies and friends in the Pacific feel about it? Now, two decades ago, NZ stood up for an independent foreign policy. What we see now is we’re part of this—

Well, in the Pacific, a lot of the island nations have said they are not bothered by it. They accept it.

Hughes: And, to be frank, they’re in a different power situation vis-a-vis NZ. I don’t think they want, seriously, us to be surveilling and scooping up all of their communications.