Keith Locke on SIS apology for labelling him a threat

Keith Locke was a Green MP from 1999 to 2011, having been a long time political activist. One of his aims in Parliament was to be a civil liberties watchdog, so it is ironic that he was the target of SIS attention.

Locke has recently revealed that he received an apology from the SIS for calling him a threat.

The Spinoff: Spy chief’s apology to me reveals scandalous truth about the SIS

The revelation in 2009 that Green MP Keith Locke had been spied on since age 11 caused an uproar and prompted an inquiry into SIS surveillance. Now, he writes, the SIS has been forced to apologise for calling him ‘a threat’ in internal documents.

Last April I received a letter from Rebecca Kitteridge, the director of the Security Intelligence Service, apologising for the way I was referred to in internal SIS documents. She wrote that I had been described as a “threat” in speaking notes for a Joint Induction Programme run by the SIS and the Government Communications Security Bureau since 2013.

AN EXTRACT FROM SIS DIRECTOR REBECCA KITTERIDGE’S LETTER TO KEITH LOCKE, DATED 16 APRIL 2018

In the SIS documents I was identified as an “internal” threat because I “wish[ed] to see the NZSIS & GCSB abolished or greatly modified”. The documents labelled this a “syndrome”.

In her apology, Kitteridge said “the talking point suggests wrongly that being a vocal critic of the agencies means you are a ‘threat’ or a ‘syndrome’. In fact, people who criticise the agencies publicly are exercising their right to freedom of expression and protest, which are rights we uphold, and are enshrined in the Intelligence and Security Act 2017.”

I haven’t gone public on this until now, but given the recent news about several other state agencies spying on people, I decided that what happened to me should be in the public domain.

In his December report, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes described the state spying on critics of deep-sea oil drilling, like Greenpeace, “an affront to democracy”. Like Kitteridge in her letter of apology to me, Hughes said that it was “never acceptable for an agency to undertake targeted surveillance of a person just because they are lawfully exercising their democratic rights, including their right to freedom of expression, association and right to protest.”

Most disturbingly, many civil servants in the cases Hughes identified must have known about this illegal, anti-democratic surveillance without blowing a whistle on it.

In my case, many SIS and GCSB officers must have heard me being identified as a “threat” without challenging it. How else could the disparaging reference to me have stayed in the officer training material for ten years. Kitteridge told me the “threat” label was carried over into the Joint Induction Programme speaking note from a “Protective Security Advice presentation (believed to have been developed in about 2008)” and “a historical security aide-memoire (believed to have been developed in 2012).”

To make matters worse, the ten year period when I was deemed to be a “threat” includes the last three years (2008-2011) of my 12 years as an Member of Parliament.

It seemed pretty clear that the SIS had breached to MOU requirements for political neutrality, by treating a sitting MP and his views as a “threat”, so I wrote to the current Speaker, Trevor Mallard, about it. He didn’t think the MOU had “been breached in any way.”

Mallard side-stepped my contention that the SIS had acted in a politically biased manner, but did admit that “certain materials being used by the security agencies contained inappropriate expressions of opinion regarding your conduct, including during a time that you were a member of Parliament.”

He said he met regularly with the SIS Director “and will continue to ensure that she is aware of the need for security agencies to respect the role and independence of Parliament.”

I have to disagree with the Speaker that it was just a matter of the SIS using “inappropriate” language. For a spy agency to describe someone as a “threat” is serious. It identifies them as a target for some form of monitoring or surveillance, and this is what has happened to me over many years.

My file illustrates the main function of the SIS over the years, which hasn’t been to track down criminals (which the Police do quite well) but to spy on political dissenters.

This is a serious issue in what is supposed to be an open democracy.

 

 

Waka jumping bill “abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy”

Former Green MP Keith Locke on the ‘party hopping bill’ – “The idea that individual MPs should be legally restrained in what they say is abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy.on the proposed.

NZ Herald: Party-hopping bill is a restraint on MPs’ freedom of speech

The bill before Parliament to stop party-hopping has been misnamed. The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill should be called the Party Conformity Bill because it threatens MPs with ejection from Parliament if they don’t conform to party dictates.

Winston Peters has ejected MPs from the party in the past, and this is suspected to be because they don’t conform to his dictates. He is often claimed to effectively be the party.

The Bill is before Parliament due to a coalition agreement between NZ First and Labour: “Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill”.

A coalition agreement between two parties without a majority can’t guarantee it will be passed in Parliament. Greens or National will have to also support it.

Personal political integrity will be constrained, except on a few selected “conscience” issues, like the assisted dying legislation, where MPs are free to vote as they want.

The bill contravenes the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech. The idea that individual MPs should be legally restrained in what they say is abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy.

It also runs counter to the spirit of parliamentary privilege, which gives MPs more freedom than the rest of us to say what they want, without the danger of libel suits, when speaking in the chamber.

No other Western democracy has laws to stop party-hopping. In fact West Germany has a constitutional provision that once elected MPs are “representatives of the whole people, not bound by orders and instructions, and subject only to their conscience”.

It is common in the British Parliament to see MPs “crossing the floor” and it can serve a useful function.

Under our proportional system parties rise and fall, often helped by rebels from other parties. In fact, each of the smaller parties which have won seats in our MMP Parliaments have initially been led by rebel MPs from existing parliamentary parties.

Before MMP (and since for electorate MPs) an MP could resign from Parliament, then stand as an independent or under another party in a by-election. This can still happen for electorate MPs, but it can’t be done by list MPs.

MPs in a list only party (currently NZ First and Greens) can only wait until the next general election.

Former Labour MP Richard Prebble was not an MP when he became Act leader but the other rebel MPs setting up new parties were all sitting in Parliament at the time.

  • Jim Anderton left Labour mid-term to set up NewLabour (which later merged into the Alliance).
  • Peter Dunne split from Labour to form Future NZ (which later became United).
  • Tariana Turia went from Labour to the Maori Party.
  • Winston Peters went from National to found NZ First.
  • Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons left the Alliance for the Greens.
  • Hone Harawira exited the Maori Party for Mana.

Splitting from a party to form another has been quite common, and has added substantially to the diversity of Parliament.

Resorting to legislation to get rid of an MP potentially involves the courts, which are not equipped to handle political or process disputes within parliamentary caucuses. It is safer, and more democratic, to leave decisions on the makeup of Parliament to the voters.

Rather than distorting the proportionality of Parliament, new parties set up by the rebels have provided the electorate with more political choice.

Previously, the Green Party and its co-leaders have been strongly opposed, in principle, to party-hopping legislation. As Donald said in the 1999 speech to Parliament, MPs are not “party robots”, “MPs must retain the right to be answerable to their own consciences, and political parties must not be allowed to take away from voters the power to unelect Members of Parliament.”

As a Green MP at the time I made similar points in the debate on that bill.

But the Greens have supported the Bill, initially at least.

Stuff – National: Waka jumping bill ‘an affront to democracy’

The Green Party is breaking its long-standing opposition to waka jumping legislation after getting several concessions from Justice Minister Andrew Little.

The Labour-led Government introduced the Election (Integrity) Amendment Bill to Parliament last week, part of a promise made by Labour to NZ First during coalition negotiations.

Green Party leader James Shaw said Little worked with the party to get the legislation to a point that the Greens were comfortable voting for it and ensuring it goes to select committee.

Shaw said while the Greens have traditionally opposed this sort of legislation, the MMP environment meant proportionality had increased as an “important principle in our Parliament”.

“It wasn’t on our list and of course we have opposed it in the past, but I think with the changes to the bill that have been made we’re preserving the principles of proportionality, which is important.”

Locke thinks that preserving the integrity of the principles of the Green Party is important.

The Greens have switched from strong opposition in the past to support after a few tweaks.

In 1999, speaking against an earlier party-hopping bill, Green co-leader Rod Donald reminded the House that “had this bill existed prior to the last [1999] election, we [Donald and Fitzsimons] would have been removed from this House and denied our opportunity to stay here for the full parliamentary term”.

Fitzsimons and Donald had been elected as Alliance list MPs in 1996 but left the Alliance Party in 1997 along with the rest of the Green Party. If these two MPs had been excluded from Parliament in 1997 it is unlikely the Greens would have reached the 5 per cent threshold for parliamentary representation in the 1999 election, or that Fitzsimons would have won the Coromandel seat.

This is something for the current Green caucus to ponder before continuing to support the current party hopping legislation.

It seems to be a done deal between Shaw and Labour. Did party members get a say?

It’s hard to understand why the Greens didn’t stick to their past principles over this bill.

Is Shaw concerned about unity in his Green caucus? Or did he do Labour a favour, putting his relationship with them ahead of his party and it’s past principles?

 

 

 

 

 

Blog battle – Daily v Transport

There’s been a bit of a battle of blogs, with Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog having a bitter sounding rant against the Auckland orientated Transport Blog.

From BLOG WATCH: Dear Transport Blog – who’s your daddy?

The blue-green millennial sister blog to The Spinoff – Transport Blog – has reared up and attacked dear old Mike Lee again.

Bradbury has previously expressed unhappiness with The Spinoff as well.

Charming.

Likewise on Transport Blog, their push is for the gentrification of public transport so those in the wealthier suburbs can park their Prius and take public transport for the aesthetics of environmentalism.They have zero interest in free public transport so the poor and students can catch public transport because then they would have to sit next to smelly poor people.

You can’t get Blue Greeners out of their Prius if they have to sit next to smelly workers.

Like The Spinoff, it always helps to know who is actually paying the bills here, and Transport Blog seems very much in the thrall of Auckland Transport – they whose corruption knows no bounds – so there was an official information act request a couple of months ago to actually check if Auckland Transport have paid any of the lead bloggers on Transport Blog any money.

Turns out yes…

The Daily Blog is funded in part at least by the Unite Union, by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union and by the Dairy Workers Union

Bradbury then bursts into a bizarre rant.

death-of-public-broadcasting-150x150

When a dedicated and passionate lefty like Mike Lee who has fought for public transport longer than Transport Blog has been alive can be denigrated by Hipster arseholes like The Spinoff who back an ultra right neoliberal hawk like Bill fucking Ralston, you can see the full force of neoliberalisms 30 year hold on our country.

There is currently Mike Lee election advertising running on The Daily Blog.

There has always been this quiet hope with Gen Xers (my generation who are cynical towards all authority) that Millennials would spark a revolution and join us on the front line towards a better society. The Spinoff and Transport Blog lay bare that hope. The first user pays generation wants change, not for the benefit of all,  but for themselves.

Gen Xers will have to continue pushing against Boomer privilege AND Millennial FOMO if we want this City to be liveable for all Aucklanders, not just the hip and swanky.

Former Green MP (1999-2011) Keith Locke and TDB co-author tut tutted in comments:

I’ve never seen Auckland Transport Blog support the “gentrification of public transport”. There are not many gentry on the buses I catch. In general, the Transport Blog provides valuable information on public transport systems and potentials for Auckland, which is why it has a big readership.

It is perfectly ok to criticise a Spinoff writer for preferring Bill Ralston over Mike Lee in the Auckland local body elections, but I would advise against using terms like “arseholes”. Spinoff is doing some useful things, like the Table Talk political discussions it is organising jointly with Laila Harre’s Ika restaurant.

The attack on the Transport Blog came up in comments on that blog. JR posted:

Matt – I just found this posting highlighting some of the transportblog authors have received payments by Auckland Transport. Shocked!

At the end of the day (John Key phrase), it’s just not a good look to be taking money from an organisation you proclaim to be independent from without declaring it publicly. Money talks.

Patrick Reynolds responded:

Jon I can assure you 41k is a very small part of the turnover of my photography business over the past 5 years, and entirely for contracted services. If I really wanted more work from AT I can assure you I would be smarter to keep my mouth shut about their work, and not publish strident options about it under my own name.

Also the idea that I would change my views for such a small sum, (or any sum, actually) is also woefully silly. As is the idea that public organisations in AKL are shopping around to get people to blog in favour of their projects with little bits of money or small jobs.

This really is silly, while we are using the official information act to find out what AT/NZTA are up to with multiple billions of dollars of public money you guys are using it to pursue us!? And getting all excited about minor payments for work done in our day jobs.

Are you sure you are directing your attention in the most productive ways? Are we really the enemy here? And are Bright and Bradbury, with their name calling and silly labels, really the most effective people at improving the city; these people are the benchmark? These are your colleagues now?

And how about your interest in the on-bus advertising business, that’s with AT right? Is that some sort scandal too? It doesn’t bother me; but is no different from this.

Politics, blogs, elections, money, egos. And ratings?

In September 2016 Open Parachute blog rankings the Daily Blog was third with:

  • September 2016  – visits 114,700  Page views 192,098

 

  • September 2015 – visits 182,641  Page views 489,418
  • September 2014 – visits 504,304  Page views 813,779

 

Both Bradbury and The Daily Blog seem to be struggling for relevance – they have been fading, around about since Bradbury cuddled up to sugar daddy Dotcom.

 

Waatea 5th Estate

I got around to watching Waatea 5th Estate for the first time since their first week tonight.

Joining us tonight to discuss…

The Veitch apology
Faulty Housing data
Media Merger kills 4th estate
Cameron Slater
Key’s tantrum

Tax expert, feminist and Labour Party Candidate – Deborah Russell

one of this country’s best newspaper columnists – Rachel Stewart

Former Green Party MP and human rights activist – Keith Locke

And blogger, political commentator and author – Chris Trotter

Some of it was interesting enough.

Russell and Trotter made some good points – not leaning to port so hard they nearly capsize helps.

But Bradbury is terrible, his presentation and voice, and also his fairly extreme bias. His first programmes were tolerable but he is more opinionated and more overbearing and more high pitched. I don’t see him taking over from the 4th estate any time soon.

And the name screetched by Bradbury isn’t great, Waatea is pronounced something like Waah teah.

Politicians behaving badly

Politicians behaving badly seems to be far too common. Selfish, petulant, bad examples. Most people roll their eyes when they think of politicians and behaviour.

In need of some House training

The distasteful spectacle of MPs behaving badly in the House is hardly a new phenomenon, but there have been signs in recent years that standards still plumb low depths.

Outside Parliament, many people find the behaviour off-putting and childish. To be fair, a lot of excellent cross-party work does take place – away from the cameras – in select committees in a mostly constructive and positive working environment.

Retiring Green MPs Sue Kedgley and Keith Locke last week lamented the standards of debate in the House.

It would seem naive to think that two valedictory speeches will change the behaviour of nearly a lifetime…

No, it will take more than that. More attention needs to be given to promoting better parliamentary behaviour.

People outside parliament need to pay more attention and put more pressure on politicians to perform positively.

One of the prime aims of Your NZ is to promote better politics and we will be looking at ways of doing this throughout the next parliamentary term.