Cyber attack on UK Parliament

The Telegraph: Parliament hit by ‘sustained and determined’ cyber attack leaving MPs unable to access their emails remotely

Parliament has been hit by a cyber attack that has left MPs unable to access their emails if not in Westminster.

MPs were alerted to the hack on Friday night and have reported problems getting into their email accounts on Saturday.

The attack comes just days after reports that passwords of ministers were being flogged online after hacking groups managed to gain access.

An email sent by parliamentary authorities to those impacted by the incident described the attack as “determined”.

The email stated: “Earlier this morning we discovered unusual activity and evidence of an attempted cyber-attack on our computer network.

“Closer investigation by our team confirmed that hackers were carrying out a sustained and determined attack on all parliamentary user accounts in an attempt to identify weak passwords.

“These attempts specifically were trying to gain access to our emails.

“We have been working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre to identify the method of the attack and have made changes to prevent the attackers gaining access, however our investigation continues.”

The war online continues.

So far there is no sign that New Zealand has been targeted. Maybe the rest of the world doesn’t care about what happens in our election, but there’s nearly three months to go until the election.

Rape culture protest

 

After the Wellington College issue erupted last week when boys were exposed making claims or expressing false bravado about it being a thing to have sex with drunk girls, a protest was organised to be held outside the boys’ school.

That reaction was misguided, targeting a single school and singling out one incident would have likely inflamed the situation rather than help it.

A more reasonable and sensible protest was organised and it was held today outside Parliament.

RNZ: Hundreds join protest against rape culture in NZ

Hundreds of people have gathered outside Parliament to protest against rape culture and call for better sex and consent education in secondary schools.

Not a huge turnout but a good number to make a strong statement.

Poor weather in the capital did not keep people at bay, with men and women of all ages – including at least 100 secondary school students – turning out.

On the lawn outside Parliament, Wellington High School student Norma McLean told the crowd she did not want to live in fear any longer.

“Today we send an important message to New Zealand that we will not put up with rape culture any longer… the buck stops here. I want my future to be equal to any man’s.”

Another speaker said: “It is important we teach the rights a woman has over her own body.”

Good on them for speaking up. This could be a turning point in teen attitudes towards sex, making it loud and clear that crappy and disrespectful and abusive behaviour and sexual predation and assault is not the norm and is not acceptable.

Organisers were forced to move the location of the protest, which was originally to be held outside Wellington College, when they were threatened with violence.

Much better to have the protest in a neutral location and having it at Parliament attracted attention from politicians.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women Paula Bennett said the government had heard the calls to make sure consent was included in the curriculum for sex education, which was compulsory in Year 10.

“I think it is incredibly powerful that such a big group has turned out. I want to praise [those] that are speaking out and calling out behaviour that is not acceptable at any level,” she said.

Good to see the Minister for Women take part and take note.

eight_col_image-1

A member of the group, Mia Faiumu, told RNZ’s Michael Cropp she hoped people would take away the message that joking about rape was not okay.

“It’s very harmful to people, to victims, and we hope that people take away that this isn’t an issue that should be normalised at all.

“We are calling for compulsory education within our schools on consent and we hope that is something that leads to wider discussion.”

Ms Faiumu said the protesters had received support from a number of MPs, and she hoped Ms Bennett’s promise their voices were being heard and changes were being made was true.

MPs from other parties also supported the protest.

 

Considering a minority government

A minority government hasn’t been tried under MMP, but perhaps it is time to seriously consider the option.

If the other parties call Winston Peters bluff, take him at his words on his bottom lines, it is unlikely either National or Labour+Greens will be able to form a majority coalition Government.

MMP was designed to provide a more representative Parliament, which it has. But this could be taken further and give us a more representative governing arrangement. This could be done with a minority government.

Here is a feasible outcome of seats from this year’s election:

  • National 56
  • Labour 28
  • Greens 16
  • NZ First 16
  • Maori Party 2
  • ACT 1
  • UF 1

This puts Labour+Greens+NZ First > National, and Greens+NZ First > Labour, and NZ First=Greens so there is no clear majority in any situation. If the result is approximately along these lines similar uncertainties will exist.

National with twice the MPs of Labour could form the Government, perhaps with the small parties in formal confidence and supply arrangements, but they would still have to rely on either of Labour, Greens or NZ First to pass any legislation. This means successful bills would have a clear majority rather than a bare majority as happens often now.

For Government to be truly representative ministerial positions could be given to opposition party MPs. The best of each party could then participate in running the country.

Some suggestions for portfolios:

  • Andrew Little: Minister of Labour – he has a good background for this and it would allow him to focus on his party’s roots.
  • Grant Robertson: Minister of Foreign Affairs -David Farrar has recommended him for this role, perhaps he has done polls on it.
  • David Parker: Minister of Economic Development, Associate Minister of Finance
  • Jacinda Ardern: Minister of Women’s Affairs, Minister of Communications – she has an affinity with women’s magazines and I couldn’t think of what else she could do.
  • Metiria Turei:  Minister of Social Welfare – giving her experience with the reality of fixing all of our social problems within a budget.
  • James Shaw: Minister of the Environment – something most people expect the Greens to be experts in.
  • Winston Peters – Minister of Workplace Safety, Minister of Mines.
  • Ron Mark: Minister of Defence – it would be good for him to work on the opposite of attack).
  • Te Ururoa Flavell: Minister of Māori Development, Minister of Whanau Ora – makes since for the Māori Party.
  • David Seymour: Minister of Education – time he stepped up to a real challenge beyond his Partnership Schools agenda.
  • Peter Dunne: Associate Minister of Health, Associate Minister of Justice, Associate Minister of Corrections -it would be interesting to see what changes he could make in drug law reform without being hobbled by National.

Being the largest by far National would be the dominant party but would have to work with the whole of Parliament to get things done.

On confidence and supply, with all parties contributing to Government they should be responsible for ensuring it doesn’t fall over.

Those on the right and the left who want radical reforms may complain about a representative arrangement like this, but if they want ideological lurches they need to build sufficient support in Parliament to achieve this.

They won’t do this by sitting on the sidelines complaining, they need to do what everyone else does, build a big enough party with enough MPs to achieve what they want.

A minority government as suggested is unlikely to be a radical reform government, but that’s not out of the ordinary under two decades of MMP anyway.

Incremental change with clear majority support in Parliament is the most sensible way of operating a government – and I believe it is what most voters prefer and want.

Minority government may seem in itself a bit radical but I think it is something well worth trying. It’s really just a step further than what we have now, and a logical step under MMP.

Political awards

I’m not going to dish out political award – like that vast majority of New Zealanders I have no idea how our MP’s actually work beneath the vanity veneer of PR and the fog of media wars.

Journalists have been somewhat distracted this month with actual political news to deal with but some have managed to review the year.

Tracy Watkins and Vernon Small: Didn’t see that coming: A year of political bombshells

It was the year no-one saw coming. A year when everything we thought we knew about politics was tipped on its head. Brexit. Donald Trump.

No one sees what’s coming, but Brexit and Trump certainly went against most predictions.

Brexit means major changes for the UK and for Europe.

Trump looks like meaning major changes for the US and potentially for the world.

John Key quitting. So much for a quiet year between elections.  There wasn’t a Beehive staffer or Press Gallery journo who wasn’t wilting in the final week before Christmas.

While Key’s resignation excited the local pundits in what is usually a wind down period it is not anywhere near being in the same league.

So far the only changes are a few tweaks to Government under a Prime Minister who was already a major influence, and a few tweaks to ministerial responsibilities that most people won’t notice.

It perhaps opens up next year’s election a bit, but despite Labour’s glee it may not end up making much difference in what was already regarded as an uncertain election. Everyone is still predicting Winston will be ‘king maker’ – and even that’s no change from the last couple of elections.

Watkins and Small name Key as Politician of the Year – for resigning?

Apart from that it was a fairly uneventful and unremarkable year for Key. Most notable was his lack of success in changing the flag and despite getting the TPP over the line it now looks to be dead in the US  water. I wouldn’t say that Key had an award winning year.

They dish out a number of corny awards, but there is one that looks to be a deserved mention:

Backbencher of the year. National MP Mark Mitchell. He chaired the Foreign Affairs and Trade select committee through the divisive Trans Pacific Partnership legislation and helped turned hearings from being fractious to respectful, and even good-natured. On top of that he seems to have earned a reputation as an all-round nice guy, even from his political opponents, and got his reward with a ministerial promotion.

Most of the public probably haven’t heard of Mark Mitchell let alone are aware of his quiet achievements in Parliament.

There are 121 MPs in Parliament most of whom (if not all) are working hard and doing their best. Voters get to see little of this – all we usually see is a few attention seekers granted coverage by media who tend to accentuate the absurd and exaggerate a few issues and events.

If I was to do any award it would be not singling out a single person, it would be for the quiet achievers in Parliament who make a difference without being noticed by most of the people most of the time.

These MPs are the unsung backbone of our democracy.

The year in the House

Parliament had it’s last sitting day yesterday. Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee put out a summary of the year (at least a summary of the more productive things done).


Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee says this afternoon’s adjournment of Parliament brings to an end an extremely busy legislative year.

“Parliament sat for 88 days this year, the same number of days as in 2015, passing 107 bills – 98 Government bills, four Members’ bills, three private bills and two local bills,” Mr Brownlee says.

“Important Government bills passed into law included the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill, the Smoke Free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill, and the Social Security (Extension of Young Persons Services and Remedial Matters) Amendment Bill.

“I was especially pleased that the number of times the House sat under Extended Hours this year increased from six in 2015 to nine in 2016.

“Using Extended Hours to progress non-controversial legislation such as Treaty of Waitangi settlements and some other bills has been a positive development over the last two Parliaments.

“I thank all members of the Business Committee for the constructive way they’ve worked to allow Extended Hours to be used more often.

“Five Treaty settlement bills passed this year and a further six received first reading and were sent to select committee.

“Another notable feature of 2016 was the number of times parties across Parliament worked positively together to ensure the development of special legislation to address extraordinary circumstances.

Most recently this has seen three bills passed unanimously to allow a range of agencies and organisations to respond more quickly than would otherwise have been the case to the November 14 earthquake. This was also the case in March when all parties helped ensure the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill was fit for purpose and received unanimous support at third reading.

“With 88 sitting days in the past year the Opposition has been given ample opportunity to hold the government to account in Parliament.

“There have been 1055 oral questions across 86 Question Times – 1033 to Ministers and 22 to Members.

“As well as oral questions, Ministers received 15,445 written questions and 1204 papers were presented.

“I want to thank all Members for their contributions to a busy and robust year in the House, and wish everyone a happy and safe Christmas break,” Mr Brownlee says.

Parliament will resume on 7 February 2017.

 

Parliamentary services on MP emails

The Speaker gave a response from parliamentary Services regarding filtering of emails after a complaint from Chris Hipkins yesterday.

Parliamentary Service—Email Security Facility

Mr SPEAKER: Honourable members, yesterday Chris Hipkins raised in the House the blocking of an email he wished to send to a journalist. I undertook to look into the matter and come back to the House. The secure, encrypted email system known as SEEMail exists primarily to encrypt emails exchanged between State sector organisations. SEEMail also prevents classified information being inadvertently sent outside of participating organisations. SEEMail has been in use in Parliament since 2007.

Mail filters look for the words “SEEMail”, “restricted”, “sensitive”, or “in-confidence”, which are attached to emails and documents at the choice of the sender. It then applies encryption to the email and attachments before sending them. It does not otherwise scan or store the content of emails. I have been given an absolute assurance that the Parliamentary Service email system does not scan members’ emails other than for spam filtering, viruses, and SEEMail classifications.

SEEMail is primarily used by Ministers and their departments who need secure, encrypted communication, but it currently applies to everyone with a @parliament.govt.nz email address. It blocks any email with a SEEMail security classification being sent to someone without that classification. The concern raised yesterday was that SEEMail’s system could hinder a member from carrying out his or her duties.

Members must be free to send and receive information as they see fit. No other agency should be involved in determining how members deal with the information they hold. That approach is consistent with the findings of the Privileges Committee when it reported on the use of intrusive powers within the parliamentary precinct.

Equally, it is important that members are able to communicate securely, safe from external cyber threats. I have identified five possible solutions to the conflict between information security and the undoubted right of members to freely use information:

(1) a member may remove the SEEMail classification from an email or document they have received. This can then be sent anywhere the member wishes. Although this would have solved Mr Hipkins’ immediate problem, it does not address the wider issue.

(2) Ministers could instruct departments not to apply SEEMail security to information being sent to members who are not Ministers. Official Information Act responses should never be so classified in the first place.

(3) If members are not satisfied with these two solutions, Ministers could be given a separate email domain so that email as SEEMail applied only to them. That would require further discussion.

(4) Parliament could opt out of the system entirely; however, that carries with it considerable cyber-security risk.

A fifth possible solution, which does require further testing, is for SEEMail to be applied only to communications with participating SEEMail organisations, then members’ emails to journalists and the public would be sent freely and without scanning or encryption.

The matter is a fairly complex one and it cannot be resolved today on the floor of the House. It is, however, essential that it is resolved to the satisfaction of members, and that their ability to send and receive information is not in any way hindered. I will distribute this ruling to all members immediately. I intend to discuss it further with the Parliamentary Service Commission at its next meeting, and I would welcome representation from any members who wish to discuss this matter with me.

 

CHRIS HIPKINS (Senior Whip—Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand your desire to discuss this further and we will certainly take you up on that offer. Can I seek some reassurance from you that in the intervening period, while those discussions are taking place, members will not continue to be blocked from sending emails outside the system?

The issue I rose yesterday when discussing the very ruling that you have just made, with a journalist, the email that I was discussing the matter in was blocked from the journalist whom I was discussing it with.

So I was unable to answer any questions about the matter that rose yesterday because the system picked that up and blocked me from doing so. I had to print the email and hand-deliver it, in order for the journalist to be able to receive it. That is unacceptable, and I want some reassurance that in the intervening period that will be stopped.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member would just have a careful look at the ruling, the very first solution I give to him is that he himself can remove the classification. He may need some assistance to be shown how to do it, and that can be provided, but he himself can remove that classification—I am assured—and send it out.

CHRIS HIPKINS (Senior Whip—Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: If it is a further point on this matter, I have said that this is a complex matter. It is not one affecting the order of the House. I will hear from the member, but I would prefer discussion on this to take place away from the floor of the House so that all members can understand it more clearly.

CHRIS HIPKINS: As was explained to me, any email containing the words “SEEMail” and “sensitive” will be blocked, so any discussion of the ruling that you have just made will, therefore, be blocked. We will not be able to do that via email.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I will have an IT person contact the member immediately after question time. [Interruption] Order! This is a serious matter. My understanding is that while it is blocked, unless the member makes an adjustment to his computer setting and takes the blockage out—[Interruption]—by removing the word “SEEMail”, then he can send it to the journalist of his choice.

See Hipkins overreacts to email blocking

‘Govt cowardly on euthanasia’

Not just the Government – some opposition MPs and parties could be seen as unwilling to address an important issue for many people too.

A lead item on Stuff:

‘Govt cowardly on euthanasia’

John Key supports euthanasia but he won’t make it a Government bill – is it time for a rethink?

The actual article headline is less provocative:

Lecretia Seales lives on in a health inquiry into euthanasia that kicks off this week

A petition was handed to MPs at Parliament, which sparked an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia.

Wellington was home for Matt Vickers for a long time – it’s also where his love and memories of his late wife Lecretia Seales live on.

Seales died from in June last year after a long battle with cancer that ran hand-in-hand with a courageous fight to win the right to choose to end her own life. Hours before she took her last breath she learned her legal battle had failed.

On Wednesday Vickers will be the first of 1800 people to speak to a parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia, instigated by a petition in the name of former Labour MP Maryan Street and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

The petition, which garnered 8795 signatures and cross-party support, came in the wake of Seales death.

It demanded the committee examine public opinion on the introduction of legislation “which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable”.

More than 21,000 submissions later – the most ever received by any select committee – Vickers will pull up a seat at 8am in front of a panel of MPs to explain Lecretia’s story.

“Lecretia was very strong in wanting a choice, that wasn’t a weakness of character. She wanted to be able to exercise her strength by having a choice,” he said.

The submission process is an opportunity for the country to “honestly and unashamedly talk about the end of our lives without fear”.

The problem is that generally MPs and parties don’t want to be associated with discussing euthanasia despite strong public support for change.

And the chair of the Parliamentary committee has caused some concern.

While in Wellington Vickers will also launch his book, Lecretia’s Choice, and already one member of the select committee intends to read it – chair and National MP Simon O’Connor.

The Tamaki MP is Catholic and spent almost a decade studying for the priesthood with the Society of Mary before deciding he couldn’t be a politico and a cleric.

Vickers, much like Street and Seymour, is concerned about O’Connor chairing the committee – all three question how someone publicly opposed to euthanasia can chair an inquiry into it.

But some MPs from different parties are promoting the discussion.

National MP Chris Bishop stood alongside Seymour, Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway and Green MP Kevin Hague when Parliament received Street’s petition in June.

Bishop supports the inquiry and Seymour’s bill and says while O’Connor chairs the committee, “he’s not doing the whole inquiry – he’s only one person”.

Seymour says O’Connor should apologise before oral submissions kick off on Wednesday for “soliciting submissions from a certain point of view which happens to coincide with his own beliefs”.

“If you look at the way Simon’s behaved you’ve got to be pretty concerned … it’s really quite shameful given you get paid an extra $20,000 to be a chair.”

“He’s got every incentive, he’s an ambitious guy like most people in Parliament, and if he wants to be a minister one day then he has to actually play a straight bat and be seen to play a straight bat.”

Seymour versus National:

Even Prime Minister John Key supports euthanasia and Seymour’s bill and said the select committee inquiry is proof “it’s quite possible without a bill being in Parliament to have a good and open discussion about the issue”.

The Government has no intention of picking up Seymour’s bill but Key says “at some point it’s bound to be drawn”.

According to Seymour, every Government is reluctant to pick up controversial issues and this National government isn’t alone – homosexual law reform, abortion law and marriage equality also came out of members’ bills.

“All governments have been cowardly on controversial issues, not just this one.”

And some opposition parties. ‘Not a priority’ is a cop out.

He also blames several senior Ministers in Cabinet being strongly opposed to euthanasia for blocking it.

He wants a public conversation that does some myth-busting.

I hope the committee listens well and does this inquiry justice.

I strongly believe that with adequate legal protections freedom of choice for individuals who are dying should be paramount – and certainly choices about our own lives should not be illegal.

 

Intelligence and Security legislation

The Government is introducing a bill to Parliament this week as a result of the review done by Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy.

I think this is potentially a good move, as long as they get the right balance between improved security, improved transparency, and protection of privacy for the vast majority of New Zealanders who are not a threat.


Intelligence and Security legislation introduced

Prime Minister John Key today introduced a bill to update the legislative framework and improve the transparency of New Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies.

The New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill 2016 is the Government’s response to the first independent review of intelligence and security presented to Parliament in March 2016 by Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy.

“At the heart of this Bill is the protection of New Zealanders,” says Mr Key. “We have an obligation to ensure New Zealanders are safe at home and abroad.

“Therefore it is vital our agencies operate under legislation which enables them to be effective in an increasingly complex security environment, where we are confronted by growing numbers of cyber threats and the rise of terrorist groups such as ISIL.

Mr Key says the Government has accepted the majority of recommendations put forward in Sir Michael and Dame Patsy’s independent review.

“The bill is the most significant reform of the agencies’ legislation in our country’s history,” says Mr Key.

“It clearly sets out the agencies’ powers, builds on the robust oversight for the agencies we introduced in 2013 and establishes a new warranting regime.

“At the same time, it protects the privacy and human rights of New Zealanders.”

Key aspects of the legislation include:

  • Creating a single Act to cover the agencies, replacing the four separate acts which currently exist.
  • Introducing a new warranting framework for intelligence collection, including a ‘triple lock’ protection for any warrant involving a New Zealander.
  • Enabling more effective cooperation between the NZSIS and GCSB.
  • Improving the oversight of NZSIS and GCSB by strengthening the role of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and expanding parliamentary oversight.
  • Bringing the NZSIS and GCSB further into the core public service, increasing accountability and transparency.

“As I have said before, we are keen to get broad political support for this legislation,” says Mr Key.

“The Government takes its national security obligations very seriously. New Zealanders can be assured we are taking careful and responsible steps to protect their safety and security.”

The Bill has been introduced today. The first reading will be on Thursday.

For more information visit https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/ins

A United States parliament?

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US Parliamentary Pie:

USParliamentPie

Labour mis-using taxpayer money?

First a word of caution. This apparent bust comes from the Taxpayers’ Union, who say they are funded and run independently but those involved in running it have close links to National.

They have put out a media release today claiming that Labour appear to be running the campaign for Labour mayoral candidate in Wellington out of their Parliamentary offices. Non-parliamentary activities and electioneering are forbidden uses of parliamentary funded resources.

The Taxpayer’s Union say they have been leaked this email:

LabourStafferMayoraltyEmail

That suggests that “we” from the Labour’s Party Whips office have produced a campaign video for “our Labour candidate for the Wellington Mayoralty”. It is a least a bad look, and it may breach Parliaments rules.

Labour were warned about misuse of Parliamentary resources earlier this year. The Taxpayers’ Union was also involved there. From Speaker’s Warning To Labour Over Parliamentary Funds:

Some weeks ago Labour sent an email in the name of Paul Chalmers, the Project Manager at Labour House, to Labour’s Auckland supporters detailing how Andrew Little had opened a Auckland office that will be “the centre of the Labour and progressive movement in Auckland and the place to co-ordinate the local government and General Election campaigns.”

The email also called on “like-minded partners” to share office space and other facility resources.

It appears that Andrew Little and his MPs are pooling together taxpayer resources to open a campaign office in central Auckland for the Party and Phil Goff’s campaign for the Auckland mayoralty. Use of taxpayer resources in this way is clearly against the rules.

The Speaker has confirmed that the Parliamentary Service will be monitoring Mr Little’s spending and has written to him setting out the rules for taxpayer funded out-of-Parliament offices.

The letter from the Speaker to Labour begins:

Speaker2Labour1

And concludes:

Speaker2Labour2

That is a very clear warning to Andrew Little. Labour should be well aware of these rules anyway.

MPs campaigning for local body office while paid for by taxpayers is suspect, although it has both potential benefits and disadvantages.

Not surprisingly David Farrar has also posted on this, fairly carefully, at Kiwiblog: Lester’s campaign being run from Parliament?  Farrar is heavily involved with the Taxpayers’ Union.

But regardless of the source this does look quite dodgy from Labour, especially after already being warned by the Speaker.

Given there past actions I presume the Taxpayers’ Union will advise the Speaker about this, but don’t expect significant repercussions – that’s why parties keep flouting Parliamentary rules, because they think they can keep getting away with it.

But this is not just flouting Parliamentary rules. It is flouting democracy, giving some candidates an unfair advantage over others.

Now I don’t know if this refers to the same Lester campaign video:

Wellington mayoral candidates get creative and cringeworthy with online campaign videos

Wellington’s mayoral candidates have taken to social media, releasing online campaign videos to sell their message to voters.

Labour candidate and current deputy mayor Justin Lester takes an active approach attending various community events and has citizens endorse him. Robinson says Justin ticks nearly every box with his video.

“He shows that he is embedded in communities, in a variety of communities and people trust him and people endorse him. While people are talking about him he’s actively engaged in a whole variety of environments.

“You can’t fault this video I would have to say in my 17 years of campaign video watching this is the best campaign video any NZ candidate has ever produced.”

Claire Robinson believes anybody running in an election should follow the lead of Wellington’s candidates and campaigns will continue to evolve with technology.

I don’t know what Robinson would think if Parliamentary resources were used to make the video.