Spy­ing, pry­ing, eaves­drop­ping – on you?

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

Memo Si­mon Power: Tell us it isn’t so. Ex­plain, as Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, that there’s been a to­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing.

Make it ab­so­lutely clear that New Zealan­ders are still safe from bu­reau­cratic in­tru­sion, spy­ing, eaves­drop­ping and pry­ing in their own homes.

All we need is for you to say that con­cerned solic­i­tors were off beam when they went pub­lic.

They wrote in a wor­ry­ing and ap­par­ently jus­ti­fied way about what they see – for good rea­son – as in­tru­sive, un­just and frankly danger­ous moves over peo­ple’s rights and pri­vate lives.

The two crit­ics, Si­mon Peart and Richard May from in­flu­en­tial Chap­man Tripp, were highly crit­i­cal of the Search and Sur­veil­lance Bill ap­par­ently now be­fore Par­lia­ment. Among their warn­ings: “If you thought se­cret cam­eras in the ceil­ing, tracking de­vices un­der the car and bugs in the phones were the pre­serve of drug barons, you’re reck­on­ing without this bill.”

Without any of that tra­di­tional “if your hon­our pleases” court-style chat, they spelt out their very real con­cerns. It’s fright­en­ing stuff. The bill in­cludes a long list – too long for them to in­clude, Richard May later told me – of de­part­ments and al­ready pow­er­ful state en­ti­ties like the Com­merce Com­mis­sion, the Re­serve Bank and the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Forestry to be given new and ex­tended grunt in this pre­vi­ously unan­nounced move.

The bill spec­i­fies those au­thor­i­ties which could reach into pri­vate homes and per­sonal lives in a big way.

As the crit­ics spell it out, now most reg­u­la­tory in­ves­ti­ga­tors are lim­ited to mak­ing you pro­duce doc­u­ments or in­for­ma­tion, forc­ing peo­ple to an­swer ques­tions and, in ex­treme cases, phys­i­cal searches of prop­erty.

What the bill al­lows – per­haps “en­cour­ages” would be a bet­ter word – is real cloak and dag­ger, CIA and SIS­type covert sur­veil­lance, in­clud­ing putting in se­cret record­ing gear to in­ter­cept calls or con­ver­sa­tions, tracking de­vices to check staff move­ments and where­abouts, and cam­eras.

Those or­gan­i­sa­tions on the long list will be able to covertly break in to in­stall hid­den spy de­vices.

As th­ese crit­ics see it, noth­ing will stop this sort of in­tru­sion into homes of em­ploy­ees. Like your place. All that was enough to worry me and for Al­lan Moun­tain of Tau­ranga to reach for his smok­ing key­board in­stan­ta­neously and vent his gen­uine and ob­vi­ous anger in a let­ter to me.

He in­cluded some an­gry com­par­isons with the wall­to­me­dia – and par­tic­u­larly TV – cover on the pass­ing of a cer­tain Mr Michael Jack­son without any up­roar about this piece of wor­ry­ing law:

“Tell me if I’m wrong, but from my read­ing this is even more dra­co­nian than the sur­veil­lance regime in US with the Home­land Se­cu­rity Act.

“And there’s hardly been a mur­mur of protest.

“No doubt, like many such creep­ing ini­tia­tives – law­mak­ing that di­min­ish our free­doms and in­vest ab­so­lute power in the hands of the gov­ern­ment – this will pass some­time soon and there’ll be hardly any men­tion of it any­where.

“Most of the pop­u­la­tion will not even know of its ex­is­tence.

“I hate to say it, guys, but Ki­wis are far more eas­ily led into serf­dom than our dumbed-down coun­ter­parts in the US – so what does that say about us?

“Even more dis­turb­ing is the fact that in the last few years the reg­u­la­tory bodies in New Zealand com­merce have not both­ered to use the am­ple leg­isla­tive teeth at their dis­posal.

“In­stead, have sat on their hands while scum lit­er­ally stole mil­lions off hard-work­ing, not very clever in­vestors.

“They were aided and abet­ted by fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers who took heaps in com­mis­sions from both sides and – apart from some crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings hav­ing been brought against them too late, in­sti­gated well af­ter the horse had bolted – the per­pe­tra­tors will get to keep their ill-got­ten gains in trusts.

“I pre­dict if any con­vic­tions are se­cured that they will get hit across the back of the hand with a wet bus ticket.

“And I be­lieve that in some cases the bills for de­fen­dants will be on the tax­pay­ers’ ac­count through le­gal aid since, for in­stance, (name deleted be­cause of pend­ing court action) has de­clared per­sonal bank­ruptcy and so I un­der­stand qual­i­fies for le­gal aid.

“This new leg­is­la­tion has noth­ing to do with keep­ing New Zealand busi­ness peo­ple hon­est.

“It is all about to­tal con­trol and sweep­ing sur­veil­lance for far more sin­is­ter fu­ture de­signs.

“We are liv­ing in New Zealala­land.”

You see, Si­mon, there are peo­ple out here who ur­gently need you to ex­plain what and why and quickly. I am one of them.

An­swers please. • Does the new bill re­ally give th­ese pow­ers – and why? • Does it let in­ves­ti­ga­tors get a war­rant and ac­cess to your let­ters to and from your lawyers? • If they do crash into offi or slyly get into homes can they re­ally seize any pa­pers “in plain sight”? • And what about those war­rants? Now, war­rants come from judges and the like. This bill talks about a new breed of of­fi­cial au­tho­rised to give war­rants an okay. Who will th­ese pow­er­ful peo­ple be and who will they an­swer to? • Is it true that in­ves­ti­ga­tors will be able to co­erce your com­puter link provider to get into and copy from your sys­tem without you know­ing about it? • Come on, Mr Power, do you agree with the crit­ics that “home should be out of bounds – it is hard to jus­tify covert sur­veil­lance of homes and fam­ily in the con­text of com­mer­cial or in­dus­try reg­u­la­tion”, as Si­mon Peart and Richard May say? • If all th­ese ma­jor changes are in­tended, what’s the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion?

And where are the nor­mally hard-work­ing civil lib­er­tar­i­ans who carry ban­ners so of­ten in what they iden­tify as dan­gers to demo­cratic rule and long-es­tab­lished civil rights of or­di­nary, law-abid­ing cit­i­zens?

No one wants pro­tec­tion for thiev­ing cor­po­rate rat­bags like those who have cost so many their life sav­ings and se­cu­rity.

But why put in­no­cent peo­ple’s present and fu­ture rights at risk be­cause of dis­hon­esty and be­trayal of trust by the guilty?

Is this per­haps well-in­ten­tioned but legally haz­ardous over-kill?

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