Opportunity for a voter revolution in Mt Albert

With National choosing to stay out of the Mt Albert by-election the voters have effectively been given a free shot – they could make a massive statement if they wanted to.

Jacinda Ardern is expected to win the Labour nomination, and she is expected to comfortably win the by-election in what has been a safe seat for David Shearer since 2009 and previously for Helen Clark, and Warren Freear going way back to 1947 (Freear thwarted Robert Muldoon’s first shot at Parliament in 1954).

With no National versus Labour contest, which would have been futile for National anyway, and nothing significant at stake for parliament, this gives the voters a chance to make a statement of some sort.

Green MP Julie Anne Genter has expressed an interest in standing if Greens decided to run a candidate. Greens got double their overall party vote in 2014 in Mt Albert – 21.68% (8,005 votes).

So it could be a chance for Greens to test their mettle against Labour without the complication of their Memorandum of Understanding as Greens don’t need to help Labour out.

While Greens need Labour to have a chance of getting into government (unless they get really radical and do a deal with National, very unlikely under Turei’s leadership) their best opportunity for increasing their party vote is taking support off Labour.

Despite the MoU Greens understand MMP and know that the higher their vote is relative to Labour the bigger their bargaining power.

Labour on 38% (they wish) and Greens on 11% would have a very different balance of power to Labour on 28% and Greens on 20%. Of course there may need to be other parties involved such as NZ First and the Maori Party.

Other small parties might fancy their chances, like the People’s Party or Gareth Morgan’s TOP, but they are unlikely to excite the voters into making a big statement against the political system.

Mt Albert voters could get even more radical than giving Labour a fright and Greens a boost, and giving National the finger – they could get in behind an independent candidate. That would really put them in the political spotlight.

Of course this would be dependant on a high profile independent candidate standing. Would anyone be up for the challenge? It would be a brilliant way of stirring up the old parties.

No mass surveillance

The First Independent Review of Intelligence and Security in New Zealand  looked at whether mass surveillance was being carried out by the GCSB.

The report  concludes that there is no mass surveillance.

It was clear to us from our discussions with GCSB staff and from the GCSB’s own internal policy documents that these restrictions are interpreted and applied conservatively.

Far from carrying out “mass surveillance” of New Zealanders, the GCSB is unable to intercept New Zealanders’ communications even where it is for their own safety.

For example, the GCSB would be unable to analyse the communications of a New Zealander taken hostage in a foreign country unless it was assisting the NZSIS, NZDF or Police under their legislation.

That’s unlikely to change the minds of security and surveillance critics. Green co-leader Metiria Turei:

The GCSB had already been “quite liberal and loose” with their existing activities, and they should not be given more powers until it was clear they would follow the law.

That’s the opposite of what the report found.

Here are relevant references from the report.

1.11   In New Zealand, there has been considerable debate in the media about whether the GCSB conducts “mass surveillance” of New Zealanders. Having spent some months learning about the Agencies’ operations in detail, we have concluded that this is not the case, for reasons we discuss below.  However, there is a degree of scepticism among the New Zealand public about the Agencies’ activities.

In a survey carried out by the Privacy Commissioner in 2014, 52 percent of respondents were concerned about surveillance by New Zealand government agencies. We received a number of submissions from people who did not see the need for intelligence and security agencies at all and considered there was no justification for the government intruding on individuals’ privacy.

Does the GCSB conduct “mass surveillance”?

3.34  As we discussed in Chapter 1, there has been some debate in the public arena about whether the GCSB conducts “mass surveillance”. In light of this, we considered it important to describe what the GCSB does and does not do. While we cannot go into as much detail as we would have liked given the classified nature of the GCSB’s operational activities, we hope what we can say will inform this debate in a useful way.

3.35  “Mass surveillance” is a term that can be understood in a number of different ways. In this context it is important to distinguish between communications that are collected by GCSB systems – for example, its satellite interception station at Waihopai – and those that are actually selected and examined by an analyst.

3.36  The reality of modern communications is that it is often not possible to identify and copy a specific communication of interest in isolation. If a particular satellite might carry a relevant communication, the GCSB cannot search for that communication before interception occurs. First it needs to intercept a set of communications, most of which will be of no relevance and will be discarded without ever being examined by an analyst. This is the haystack in which the needle must be found.

3.37  Even this “haystack” represents only a tiny proportion of global communications. The GCSB conservatively estimates that there are over 1 billion communications events every day on the commercial satellites that are visible from Waihopai station. These represent approximately 25 percent of commercial satellites that match the Earth’s rotation (although signals cannot always be secured even from those satellites that are visible). We were told the proportion of those 1 billion communications that are actually intercepted equates to roughly one half of a bucket of water out of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

3.38  To find the “needle” (or the communications that are of intelligence value), the GCSB filters intercepted material for relevance using search terms. Only those communications that meet the selection criteria are ever seen by an analyst. The GCSB has internal processes in place toensure analysts justify their use of each search term and record all searches for the purpose of internal audits and review by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

3.39 Given these controls on what information can actually be examined by analysts, in our view the GCSB’s ability to intercept sets of communications does not amount to mass surveillance. That term suggests a kind of active monitoring of the general population that does not occur. It would neither be lawful nor even possible given the GCSB’s resourcing constraints.

3.40 Capacity acts as a check on all signals intelligence agencies, although it is particularly pronounced for the GCSB given its comparatively small size. It is simply not possible to monitor communications (or other data) indiscriminately. Professor Michael Clarke, the (now retired) Director-General of the UK’s Royal United Services Institute who convened the 2015 Independent Surveillance Review, referred to this when giving evidence before the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill:97 The other great safeguard is the sheer physical capacity. One will be astonished at how little [intelligence agencies] can do, because it takes so much human energy to go down one track. The idea that the state somehow has a huge control centre where it is watching what we do is a complete fantasy. The state and GCHQ [the UK’s signal’s intelligence agency] have astonishingly good abilities, but it is as if they can shine a rather narrow beam into many areas of cyberspace and absorb what is revealed in that little, narrow beam. If they shine it there, they cannot shine it elsewhere. The human limitation on how many cases they can look at once is probably the biggest safeguard.

3.41 We also observe that there are currently restrictions on the GCSB’s ability to intercept the private communications of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. These restrictions apply to New Zealanders anywhere in the world, not just those in New Zealand. It was clear to us from our discussions with GCSB staff and from the GCSB’s own internal policy documents that these restrictions are interpreted and applied conservatively. Far from carrying out “mass surveillance” of New Zealanders, the GCSB is unable to intercept New Zealanders’ communications even where it is for their own safety. For example, the GCSB would be unable to analyse the communications of a New Zealander taken hostage in a foreign country unless it was assisting the NZSIS, NZDF or Police under their legislation.

 

 

 

Brendan Horan blasts NZ First

Independent MP Brendan Horan, who was ejected from NZ First by Winston Peters, fought back against his old party in his opening speech in Parliament on Tuesday.

I take this moment to thank New Zealand First, because there is no way I would be able to stand here and speak on democracy, to talk about true, inclusive democracy, if I had not been so undemocratically dumped by the New Zealand First party.

It is a tragedy of our political system that such a party can be captured by one man who did not even stand in an electorate. I can hear the cult screaming now “But we voted for him.” But what of those people who voted for the principles of New Zealand First, which includes an MP’s first duty being to the people of New Zealand and their electorate, or open and accountable Government?

Or the fact that New Zealand First campaigned for a fair go? What of those voters who believed that that party would give people a fair go? Ask Ben Craven, the party’s youngest candidate in 2011. Ask Josh—

Andrew Williams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the Prime Minister’s statement debate. This honourable member is not speaking at all to do with the Prime Minister’s statement.

Mr SPEAKER: This is a very wide-ranging debate and the member is certainly speaking within Standing Orders.

BRENDAN HORAN: Thank you. As I was saying, ask Ben Craven, the party’s youngest candidate in 2011, and ask Josh Van Veen whether they got a fair go when they were sacked on a rumour, with no investigation, no disciplinary hearings, and no chance for them to say what really happened; just sacked. This breaks every labour law in the real world, but not here within the walls of that political party.

So what really happened? Well, like most victims of workplace bullying, neither of them will talk. But people who know the full story will not be silenced. It turns out that they dared to question the integrity of Mr Peters’ director of operations, Apirana Dawson. There was a promising young man who was led to the dark side, taken astray by his leader.

[continuation line: Mr Williams, you must remember]

Mr Williams, you must remember this article here: “MPs trade slurs over blog ratings”. Here is a beautiful picture of the honourable Richard Prosser—he looks young and vital—and also a very good-looking Denis O’Rourke. “MPs trade slurs over blog ratings”. I am talking about the same Apirana Dawson who leaked confidential emails between New Zealand First MPs to his friend working for the Christchurch Press in 2012.

Andrew Williams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely this is not within the Standing Orders to be getting into personal matters relating to individuals and individual Parliamentary Service staff—surely not.

Mr SPEAKER: I am afraid that on this occasion, when we are having the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement, it is a free-ranging debate. The member making these statements needs to do so responsibly. I cannot in any way cease a speech or rule it out of order at this stage.

BRENDAN HORAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. This is the same Apirana Dawson who not only leaked confidential emails between New Zealand First MPs to his friend working for the Christchurch Press in 2012 but also traded expressions with the media using the false name of Bruce Bayliss and also filed Official Information Act requests about an MP using that same false name of Bruce Bayliss.

Would taxpayers approve of their money being used in this way—this dabbling in the dark arts? What happened to the principles of that party? One asks what the New Zealand First MPs are doing for Ben Craven and Josh Van Veen, the two young researchers unceremoniously and unfairly sacked on hearsay, the innocent victims of plots and subterfuges, all overseen by the leader of that party.

What have New Zealand First MPs done about this injustice? How would one describe a New Zealand political party that would unfairly sack its most loyal staffers in favour of keeping its dodgiest? Is this another demonstration of a political party leader’s serious lack of judgment? How can anyone in that party speak on workers’ rights and be taken seriously or believed?

Mr Speaker, look closely, you are witnessing the demise of New Zealand First. The question is whether New Zealand First MPs will have the courage and conviction to take the step that was forced upon me and then broadcast their points of view.

As the Speaker says, Horan has a right to speak.