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

Hipkins overreacts to email blocking

What is it with Labour at the moment? Their current strategy seems to be to overreact to things.

Starting yesterday and doubling down Leader Andrew Little poured scorn on an unfavourable  Colmar Brunton poll, so the media pored attention on Labour’s continuing struggles to look credible in the polls.

And today Chris Hipkins went overboard in his criticism when he had an email to a Fairfax journalist blocked.

Stuff: Parliamentary Service defends blocking email between MP and Fairfax journalist

An urgent investigation has being called for by Labour’s Chris Hipkins after an email he was trying to send to a Fairfax journalist was blocked on Monday night.

In an email exchange between Hipkins and Parliamentary Service, which provides administrative and support services to MPs, Labour’s chief whip was told his email was blocked because it had “trigger” words in it.

That’s fairly standard in just about any email system. Some of the blocking can seem stupid but it is easily sorted out. Parliamentary services has a secure email system, as it should.

Parliamentary Service told Hipkins the email he tried to forward was picked up by the secure system because he “sent it to a domain that does not use SEEMail” – in this case, Fairfax.

SEEMail is the agency used by Parliamentary Service for MPs and staff emails.

“SEEMail is an all of government secure messaging system that we subscribe to. SEEMail classified messages can only be sent to-from approved government departments and agencies,” Parliamentary Service wrote.

Parliamentary Service went on to confirm they had blocked the email because the attachment he was trying to send contained the words “SEEMail” and “sensitive”.

Hipkins says this is a “clear breach of parliamentary privilege”.

“That’s outrageous, they have no right to be screening the emails being sent by Members of Parliament. It shouldn’t matter where I got the information from, they’ve got no right to monitor my emails in the first place.”

“I know that National is now cosying up to (Fiji Prime Minister) Frank Bainimarama, but that doesn’t mean they can adopt his dictatorial, anti-democratic methods here in New Zealand,” he said.

That’s outrageous from Hipkins. He probably won’t be welcome in Fiji from now on, but he is blasting the wrong targets.

On further investigation, Labour staff found various other examples in the last few weeks where emails had been blocked – previously they’ve not had any issues.

It should be easily sorted out – if Hipkins goes through the appropriate process instead of grandstanding, offensively.

Parliamentary Services must allow reasonably unrestricted communications between MPs and journalists, and between MPs and constituents.

But the must also provide a secure email system that protects MPs

Perhaps some better communications are in order from Parliamentary Services, and from Hipkins.

The sooner Labour gets a competent chief of staff and some press officers that know what they are doing the better.

The Henry report on phone records

The way the Henry report dealt with phone records is curious. It states that various phone records were obtained, but that private calls were not considered (a major omission of the inquiry).

But the report provided no details of phone evidence – it concentrated solely on email records…

82. l remain of the view that I need to have full access to all eighty-six emails.

Without Mr Dunne’s permission I cannot take the matter any further.

…and strongly implied Dunne’s guilt with no evidence. And didn’t mention phone record evidence. Bizarre.

Back to the phone record part of the investigation.

The Inquiry was also unable – for technical reasons – to retrieve landline call logs made between parliamentary complex extensions.

And

Calls made between parliamentary complex extensions are not logged.

However it is now known that Henry obtained Peter Dunne’s phone records and yesterday it was admitted that landline records of Andrea Vance were given to Henry, who has claimed that they weren’t used. So these statements appears to contradict what is now known.

Last night Henry said this in a statement:

With regard to the media reports of Mr Dunne’s comments today, I believe that Mr Dunne is mistaken, as  I did not request nor was I seeking the phone log records of Ms Vance.

Dunne maintains that

When I met Mr Henry on the 31st of May, he asked for access to my landline records for the period 27 March to 9 April because he wanted to compare those with Andrea Vance’s records.

And

Despite Henry’s denial tonight, I stand 100% by my comments.

Dunne’s claims have been consistent over the past month.

The story about what phone records were asked for by or provided to Henry has changed dramatically. On Friday the Speaker said Henry requested Vance’s phone logs but was refused them, yesterday it had flip flopped to Henry saying he didn’t ask for them but was given them.

Details concerning phone records:

58. 0fficial telephone billing records (land lines and mobiles) relating to the same people were also obtained for the crucial period although inevitably some calls outside that exact period appeared in those billing records. The telephone bills identified the call made, the number called and the duration. Calls made between parliamentary complex extensions are not logged. Building access records were also examined where necessary.

We know that phone data was sought and provided.

59. For completeness I record that I had no access, nor did I seek any access, to private email providers or private telephones.

The possibility that the leaker had contact with Vance outside the parliamentary communication systems is totally ignored.

60. The records obtained were then analysed and contacts of interest identified for further analysis. After extensive checks the only contacts that required further explanation were those with the reporter.

Contacts with the Dominion Post reporter

61 .The analysis identified three people who:
c. had been in contact with the reporter through official telephone or email systems during the period 22 March to 9 April.

76. Mr Dunne has advised me that he has frequent contact with the reporter including communications by telephone, text, email and in person. That contact has continued during the period 27 March to 9 April.

Email and phone contact between Dunne and Vance has never been disputed.

Appendix Three: Processes used in the Inquiry

What records were requested?

For every person of interest to the lnquiry, the records requested consisted of logs showing print, photocopy, scan activity, and logs showing emails sent and received from their work email addresses, outgoing mobile calls from work mobile phones, and landline calls to specific numbers of interest.

What records were received?

7 The Inquiry received nearly every record it requested. There were some exceptions. Logs showing photocopying activity are not captured by DPMC or Ministerial Services; DPl\/IC staff must ‘swipe’ to use a photocopying machine, but photocopying activity is not logged. Ministers’ offices do not ‘swipe‘ to use printing devices, and so no attributable record is made when a document is photocopied.

8. The Inquiry was also unable – for technical reasons – to retrieve landline call logs made between parliamentary complex extensions. We were able to identify calls made from the parliamentary complex to external landlines and mobiles.

Phase two: Analysis and elimination

9. The Inquiry used the records, along with the information gained from interviews, to narrow the list of individuals that we intended to look at in more detail. We identified those individuals who:

c. Had been in contact with the reporter through official telephone or email systems during the period 22 March to 9 April.

Phase three: Follow-up interviews and the collection of more detailed records

12. Subsequent to the analysis and elimination, the Inquiry focussed on three individuals of interest. Additional records were requested in order to build a better picture of individuals’ contacts with the reporter. These records included the content of specific emails, and in some cases building access records. These access records show a person’s entry and exit into the Parliamentary complex, including Bowen House.

The last point says “Additional records were requested” but does not mention phone records. However it is now known that Peter Dunne’s landline and mobile phone records were obtained.

It is now also known that Andrea Vance’s phone records were given to Henry – but after saying they were requested last week Henry now says he didn’t request them, but Dunne believes that Henry implied he did.

In fairness to Henry what appears to have happened is last week Parliamentary Services advised the Speaker Vance’s phone records had been requested but not provided, and after that henry contacted Henry to say he hadn’t requested the records but had received them.

But it would appear to be Parliamentary Services and Dunne versus Henry on this. For now.

And bizarrely, the Henry report did not detail phone records nor claim they proved anything. They could not prove anything at all, they were simply a record of contact, not a record of what was said.

Like the emails that Henry used to condemn Dunne – a record of contact only, no proof of anything.

The report seems to have been shoddy, a travesty of justice – and getting murkier by the revelation.

Journalist’s phone records accessed

Last week it was revealed that the David Henry inquiry asked for Andrea Vance’s phone records – Leak probe sought reporter’s phone log.

In response to questions from Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, Speaker David Carter confirmed yesterday that the Henry inquiry also asked for information relating to internal calls made to and from Vance’s office phone, as well as her building access data.

The phone line is paid for by Fairfax Media, the publisher of The Dominion Post.

Mr Carter said the request was declined but confirmed that Parliamentary Service handed over Vance’s swipe-card access records.

Now it is being reported that Parliamentary Services did hand over Andrea Vance’s phone records.

Phone records given to inquiry

Speaker David Carter has confirmed three months worth of phone records for Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance were handed over to a ministerial inquiry.

Carter today apologised to Vance and Fairfax group executive editor Paul Thompson and acknowledged answers given last week in response to the journalist’s phone record were wrong.

In response to written questions last week, Carter said a request from investigator David Henry for Vance’s phone records had been declined.

It has previously been confirmed that Henry was provided with electronic records tracking Vance’s movements in the Parliamentary complex.

Carter said today he became aware on Friday his answer in response to questions about Vance’s phone records was wrong.

Three months worth of phone records had “inadvertently” been supplied to Henry by Parliamentary Service during the course of his investigations.

The information had been collated by parliamentary contractor Datacom.

Henry immediately returned the records without viewing them and made it clear he had neither sought nor wanted them.

Carter confirmed, however, that Henry had sought phone records detailing which government ministers had phoned Vance.

This is appalling – first that false information was provided by the Speaker last week. Was the Speaker given false information?

And that the information was handed over is disgraceful.

Not surprisngly this has caused alarm amongst journalists.

Henry inquiry sought journalist’s phone records

The David Henry inquiry gets murkier – it requested information relating to internal calls made to and from Andrea Vance’s (Fairfax) office phone.

Leak probe sought reporter’s phone log

A government investigation into the leak of the GCSB report sought access to the phone records of the journalist who broke the story.

Parliamentary Service has previously admitted tracking the movements of Andrea Vance in an apparent bid to match her movements with those of UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne.

In response to questions from Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, Speaker David Carter confirmed yesterday that the Henry inquiry also asked for information relating to internal calls made to and from Vance’s office phone, as well as her building access data.

The phone line is paid for by Fairfax Media, the publisher of The Dominion Post.

Mr Carter said the request was declined but confirmed that Parliamentary Service handed over Vance’s swipe-card access records.

“The information related to a specific period that the inquiry identified. No general access to Andrea Vance’s building access records was granted.”

The Henry inquiry was fixated on a two week period, simply beacause it decided (with no evidence) that that was when the leak occurred and no wider context mattered.

Parliamentary Service has refused to say on whose authority the information was handed over, though the investigation was under the authority of Prime Minister John Key.

A spokeswoman said Mr Key was not aware of the request.

“The prime minister has previously said he, like most New Zealanders, values the role of the fourth estate around Parliament and he does not think it’s appropriate to start looking at their activities.”

Fairfax Media group executive editor Paul Thompson said the request was heavy-handed and highly prejudicial to the work of journalists and the maintenance of their sources.

“The media are meant to operate freely and independently and this attempt to find out who our reporter had been talking to really cuts across our role.”

Fairfax has already raised its concerns with Mr Carter and would speak with him further following the latest revelation, he said.

Serious stuff.

As flawed as they may, be having a free press is an essential part of a decent democracy.

And having public servants exceeding their authority, or Prime Minister’s department authorising excessive access to private information, is a very serious matter.

It’s not just about what happened here, it’s what else might happen if left unchecked.

A spokeswoman said Mr Key was not aware of the request.

“The prime minister has previously said he, like most New Zealanders, values the role of the fourth estate around Parliament and he does not think it’s appropriate to start looking at their activities.”

I hope to see a far stronger response than that from Key when he returns to New Zealand. Including some action.

Govt. departments, Parliamentary Services, DPMC could use GCSB?

The GCSB Amendment Bill could potentially allow the GCSB to be used to spy for any government department, Parliamentary Services, the Clerk of the House and possibly the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

This could be done at the request of “the Minister” – presumably usually the Prime Minister with the agreement of the Governor General.

The current head of the GCSB was headhunted by the Prime Minister who had been childhood friends with his brother.

The Governor General has a military background and has also headed the GCSB.

The head of Parliamentary Services has a Special Investigations and Military background.

And what the GCSB does happens in secret. We are just supposed to trust them all.

Too few people with too many connections are involved. The current PM and department heads may be completely trustworthy, but there is no guarantee of that in the future once legislation is set in place.

From the Bill:

8C Co-operation with other entities to facilitate their functions

(1) This function of the Bureau is to cooperate with, and provide advice and assistance to, the following for the purpose of facilitating the performance of their functions:

(a) the New Zealand Police; and
(b) the New Zealand Defence Force; and
(c) the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service; and
(d) any department (within the meaning of the Public Finance Act (1989) specified for the purposes of this section by the Governor-General by Order in Council made on the recommendation of the Minister)

Bill 109-1 [PDF 484k]

(a), (b) and (c) cover what some thought the previous Act allowed but this was questioned, hence the amendment.

(d) is wideranging – from the Public Finance Act 1989:

department—
(a) means—
(i) a department or instrument of the Government or any branch or division of the Government; or
(ii) the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives; or
(iii) the Parliamentary Service; but

(b) does not include—
(i) a body corporate or other legal entity that has the power to contract; or
(ii) an Office of Parliament

Office of Parliament means the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (and that Commissioner’soffice), the Office of Ombudsmen, and the Auditor-General

Considering allowing any Government department, the Clerk of the House or Parliamentary Services to use the GCSB to spy for them is alarming.

I don’t wish to question the integrity of the people in current positions, but:

  • the General Manager of Parliamentary Services was in the NZ Army for 20 years and was the Manager of the Special Investigations Branch, Royal New Zealand Military Police.
  • the current Governor General  was Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force and for a short time was the Director of the GCSB.

The GCSB is known to have close connections with the New Zealand Defence Force and has often been headed by ex-military staff – except now, the current head was effectively recruited by “the Minister”, Prime Minister Key who he has known since childhood.

There is nothing to raise any doubts about integrity of those involved, but many of the main players have some sort of connections or common backgrounds.

I think it is essential that there is a more independent component in the issuing of warrants to spy.

I seriously question the need to be able to allow Government departments and the Parliamentary Service to use the GCSB for spying.

We know that Parliamentary Services has already overreached in obtaining security data of an MP and a journalist in the Henry inquiry. The Prime Minister has said that his word was enough authorisation for David Henry to use questionable data collection, and Key even admitted it went too far when swipe card data was accessed.

And one thing that isn’t clear here – the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) is not specified, but it is a department that is not specifically excluded. Would it be possible for the DPMC to get the GCSB to spy for it?

If this law amendment is passed it won’t just apply now, it will also give extraordinary potential powers to future Prime Ministers and department heads.

We need much better assurances of checks and balances – set into law.

 

No records kept on Parliamentary spy data access!

A journalist has been told by Parliamentary Services that they don’t keep records of what spy data they have handed out.

But this reveals an alarming coverup or an extremely concerning laxity in record keeping.

It was recently revealed that Parliamentary Services gave security card movement data of MP Peter Dunne and journalist Andrea Vance  to David Henry as a part of his Kitteridge report leak inquiry.

Newstalk ZB political reporter Felix Marwick asked Parliamentary Services if they had ever released security card data involving him.

No record of monitoring Parliament access

The agency responsible for running Parliament says it keeps no records on occasions when it has accessed the way people at Parliament have used their security cards.

The monitoring of the cards became an issue in the Henry Inquiry into the leak of the Kitteridge report.

Then it emerged Parliamentary Services had passed on records relating to Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance’s movements, tracked by her security card, to the Henry Inquiry.

Newstalk ZB has asked if its reporters have had their data accessed in a similar way.

Parliamentary Services says it keeps no database of instances where swipe card data is retrieved following security incidents.

That’s an alarming situation where Parliamentary Services hands out what is in effect spy data on journalists but keeps no record of retrieving the data.

Unless it’s a massive fobbing off. Surely they must keep records of when they hand over security data.

If Parliamentary Services don’t keep records of who requests security data, who requests it, why it is requested, and who is given what data we should be very concerned.

In any case any retrieving of data must be logged and recorded. That surely is a basic necessity.

Who in Parliamentary services is able to access data? And what data? On what authority?

The appearance at the moment is of gross negligence and serious abuse of privacy.

Parliamentary Services spying on journalists

It looks like investigators in a GCSB spy report leak inquiry may have illegally obtained “spy” metadata that show the movement around Parliament of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance, and also Peter Dunne (after his pressured reluctant consent).

Peter Dunne resigned as Minister when he refused to reveal emails between himself and Vance.

The inquiry was demanding emails between Dunne and Vance were handed over, and as a result of Dunne’s refusal David Henry effectively accused Dunne of leaking the Kitteridge report – despite having no evidence (that he has revealed), and despite Henry’s investigation virtually ignoring many other leaking possibilities.

Stuff report Journalist’s movements tracked by leak inquiry

The journalist who was leaked a sensitive report on the nation’s foreign spy network had her movements tracked by a government inquiry.

Peter Dunne said inquiry head David Henry detailed to him the movements of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance in and out of the parliamentary precinct.

The conversation related to Vance’s movements the day before the leaked report was published and appeared to be based on Henry having access to records of when she entered and left the building using her security swipe card.

Henry last night repeatedly refused to answer questions about that claim and said he had no comment.

And Peter Dunne says he was pressured into allowing the release of meta data that tracked his movements.

It’s worth asking again here – were leaks to Winston Peters aimed at putting further pressure on Dunne to reveal information and admit guilt (Dunne still denies he leaked the report)?

Dunne confirmed last night he gave permission for his own records to be accessed but only after coming under significant pressure and because he did not have anything to hide.

And only the tracking of Dunne’s movements was disclosed.

Henry’s published report made no mention of Vance’s movements being tracked and referred only to  Dunne’s movements.

Conformation that metadata was released:

Parliamentary Service confirmed last night it released ”metadata” and other security records to Henry for his inquiry but said only after it was satisfied ”that ministers had agreed to cooperate with the investigation”.

It said it would be expected that all swipe cards were reviewed ”if there is a security incident”.

I don’t know that an inquiry into a historical leak could be classed as a “security incident”.

Fairfax can confirm that Vance did not give her permission to hand over her records to the inquiry.

David Farrar: “Parliamentary Service should not have released @avancenz swipe card details without a warrant. Journalists are not employees.

Constitutional expert Graeme Edgeler: “Parliamentary Service is subject to the Privacy Act so @avancenz can complain under that”.

Group executive editor Paul Thompson said last night it would be worrying if the movements of journalists and MPs were being tracked through a security system that was supposed to protect people working within the building, not be used to watch over them.

Fairfax would be raising the issue with Parliamentary Service.

I think they should raise the issue, it is potentially very serious – a very worrying precedent.

No Right Turn blogs on this in Spying on journalists.

The Prime Minister says it was nothing to do with him. So who authorised it? Because I can’t imagine Parliamentary Services handing out this information without someone telling them to.

Meanwhile, it raises a host of deeply unpleasant questions. Was the Speaker consulted? If not, it seems like a prima facie breach of Parliamentary privilege. Do they spy on other journalists? Their backbenchers? The opposition?

And most importantly, did they get GCSB to track Vance’s movements outside Parliament using her cellphone?

GCSB remember does not regard such spying using metadata as being outlawed by their legislation, and both Kitteridge and their “Inspector-General” basically gave a green light to doing so domesticly. And yet we’ve just had the perfect demonstration of how intrusive and powerful it is, and why it needs to be subject to judicial scrutiny and conduct only with a warrant: because otherwise, we’re letting those in power spy on everything we do.

By spying on a journalist in Parliament, the Key government has once again abused our democracy.

Journalists are not some interlopers in the parliamentary precinct, to be treated like burglars there to steal the family silver. They are a vital part of the democratic process, and their communications with politicians, whether government or opposition, ought to be given the highest degree of protection.

It looks like spying in this country is out of control.There are very important principles of democracy, free press and privacy involved.

The whole issue of spying and security of personal data deserves far more scrutiny than the fast tracked patch up GCSB Amendment Bill that is going through Parliament at the moment.

Green democracy bum about face

The Green Party seems at times to have reverse ideas of practicing democracy.

They seem to view our democracy and parliament as something to server their amibitions and ideals, rather than them serving the ambitions and ideals of their constituents.

They are strong supporters of a List MPs only approach, claiming that the issues they champion apply to the whole country therefore apply to a country wide constituency (although I suspect if they had a realistic chance of winning any electorates they’d change that view).

That’s fair enough, under our MMP they can focus on whatever way they like to participate in parliament.

But I wonder if this approach leads them to reverse democracy, where they think everything revolves around their policies and they can cherry pick a constituency that agrees with them and then try and apply them to everyone.

Shouldn’t a whole country constituency involve representing as many people as possible? Or do the Greens have such strong belief in the their policies that they should apply to everyone?

An overconfidence in lefteousness can appear as an arrogance of ideals as they blind themselves inside their own made bubble. Where they think the people must listen to them rather than them listening to the people.

To me that is democracy bum about face.

This is further illustrated by their approach to parliamentary process, where they think Parliamentary Services are available to them to run campaigns, as indicated by Green Party use (and abuse?) of “support staff” and Greens are using taxpayer funds for CIR petition.

Here they have been seeking employees (taxpayer paid) to run an extension and escalation of their election campaign. A comment from Kiwi in America:

The issue is that the taxpayers are not supposed to be on the hook for the political campaigns of political parties aside from the transparent grants they get for campaign spending. Are you blind to, or just blithefully ignorant of, history?

The whole Labour Party pledge card rort revolved around this issue. Labour used tax payer funds meant for running Labour’s parliamentary offices (received from Parliamentary Services) for campaigning purposes – something forbidden by the Electoral Act.

The Greens are using their Parliamentary Services bulk funding (that taxpayers pay for) to pay the wages of people hired for a specific political campaign purpose – in this case raising signatures for a CIR about the partial SOE share floats. How much more blatantly political can you get?

Greens seem to think resources are available for them to campaign on their issues as they see fit, rather than to represent the people.

They seem to think a Citizen Initiated Referenda is a tool for them to oppose Government policies – I thought it was more intended as a means of citizens to lobby parliament, not for parliamentarians to lobby people to build suport for their opposing campaigns

Greens seem to me to have democracy bum about face.

Green Party use (and abuse?) of “support staff”

Yesterday a Keeping Stock blog pointed out a Green Party job advertisment on Student Job Search:

Petition against asset sales
The Green Party

Job Summary 

Do you hate the proposed asset sales bill? Why not get paid to gather support from the public and show the government that New Zealand doesn’t want it to happen!

Job Description 

Do you hate the proposed asset sales bill? Why not get paid to gather support from the public and show the government that New Zealand doesn’t want it to happen!

A commenter pointed out a similar advertisement on the Green Party website:

Out-of-Parliament support for Green MPs

The Green Party seeks to appoint staff to assist MPs with their work outside Parliament.

The positions will be based in Auckland (6 positions available), Wellington (3), Christchurch (2), Dunedin (1) and Hamilton (1).

Based in our out-of-Parliament offices these roles are predominantly tasked with collecting signatures for a petition calling for a referendum on asset sales. Staff will be required to engage with the public to raise awareness of the petition and gather signatures at a variety of locations (train stations/main streets/sports events, etc.). Data entry duties will also be required.

These roles require excellent interpersonal and organisational skills. Experience is desired in community engagement, cold-calling, direct customer relations, public campaigns and data entry.

The Parliamentary Service appoints on merit and is committed to EEO and good employer principles.

This was also covered on Kiwiblog: Are the Greens using taxpayer funds to get signatures for their petition?

Is this a reasonable use of Out-of-Parliament support staff – to be anti-government political activists?

What are Out-of-Parliament support staff for? From a job description:

Parliamentary Service Job Description

Position: Out-of-Parliament Support Staff to Member of Parliament
Branch: Member Support

1. Purpose of Parliamentary Service
Parliamentary Service provides administrative and support services to members of Parliament. These services include providing members with secretarial and personal assistance; members’ and ex-members’ travel; policy advice; personnel and accounting services to members and other agencies; research and information services; catering services; looking after the buildings and the way they run; and all the administration associated with these things.

2. Purpose of Position
To provide high quality support required by Members of Parliament to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities to Parliament and the public of New Zealand, in an ever changing and complex environment, interacting with a diverse range of people including the public, community and sector groups, and Government agencies.

3. Key Responsibilities/Accountabilities
The following are the key responsibilities of the Out-of-Parliament Support Staff member. The exact mix and the time to be spent on each responsibility will be determined by the member.

  • Managing public / constituent access
  • Management of the member’s out-of-Parliament office
  • Secretarial / Administration
  • Liaison / Representation
  • Research and Information

Does gathering petition signatures for a citizen initiated referendum come within these criteria? Or are the Greens using Parliamentary Services to pay for party activists?