Action Alerts | PMA's newsletter | What's on | Links | How PMA can help you
Help PMA grow | Petition forms | Site map | PMA main page


Action Alert picture


Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

Issued 11 January 1999

As you may be aware, the 1998 SIS Amendment Bill (which will have its third reading in parliament probably in March) will give the SIS the right to break into homes and offices and remove whatever they want. This right will be retrospective. As the 1996 SIS amendment extended the definition of national security to include 'the international and economic wellbeing of New Zealand', those whose homes / offices may be broken into presumably now include anyone who disagrees with the current government's international or economic policy - a considerable proportion of the populace one imagines !

Jenny Shipley is 'urging groups with an interest in the proposed amendment to make sure they take the opportunity to have a say on the legislation' (press release, 16 Dec 98). While she 'welcomes all feedback and comments on the Bill', alas, she makes no commitment to taking them into account ...

There is still time to oppose the bill, and this alert has been put together so you will have all the information you need to do so. Following the 'what you can do' section, we have reproduced the text of the Democratic Rights Defence Fund's leaflet which provides a succinct summary of the Bill's provisions and the reason the government has introduced it with unseemly haste at this time.

What you can do

1) Sign and collect signatures for the petition which not only calls for the Bill to be rejected by parliament, but also for the tightening of the definition of security in the NZSIS Act, the repeal of the Intelligence and Security Committee Act, and a select committee enquiry into the possibility of abolishing the SIS. The petition has a deadline of 5 FEBRUARY 1999. ... If you would like a paper copy of the petition immediately, then please telephone the Margot Christeller, Green Party (04) 470 6663, or contact PMA.

This petition is available on our website, but the due date for submissions has passed. The petition was presented to Parliament with 7,277 signatures.

2) Make a submission to the Intelligence and Security Committee - write your submission, state on it whether or not you wish to make an oral submission to the committee (at this stage the Prime Minister's office is saying that oral submissions will probably only be heard in Wellington, but if enough of you ask for them elsewhere then perhaps you will get your wish granted !).

Your submission should be sent to Margo Christeller, Intelligence and Security Committee, 5th Floor, Reserve Bank Building, Wellington or fax 04 473 2789 to reach her by 29 JANUARY at the latest. You are to send 25 copies of your submission if possible. If you have any enquiries about making your submission, you can telephone her on 04 471 9638.

3) Lobby your MP : the only MPs who opposed the new legislation were the Alliance and Green MPs, plus Deborah Morris and Neil Kirton. All 106 others voted for it. They need to be told that this is not the will of the people. If you are a member of a party that supports the law change, tell them of your concerns and urge them to take a stand against it.

You can contact your MP via their local electorate office, or write to them at Parliament Buildings, Wellington (no stamp needed). Don't forget to lobby the list MPs too !

4) Write to Jenny Shipley and Helen Clarke as the leaders of the two biggest parties supporting the Bill and tell them you don't support their stand on it.

In Shipley's case, you could mention her glowing speech on 10 Dec, speaking about NZ's 'proud' human rights record on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, when she stated ... "The Declaration is a living document. It has meaning and significance for successive generations".

In the context of this Bill, you may like to remind her of :

Article 12 : No-one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 19 : Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through the media and regardless of frontiers.

In Clarke's case you could perhaps remind her there is an election coming soon ...

5) Send Letters to the Editor to your local and the nationally distributed papers giving your views on this Bill. Contact details for the nationally distributed newspapers are : Christchurch Press , fax (03) 364 8492, Dominion, fax (04) 4740257; Evening Post, fax; (04) 474 0237, Herald , fax (09) 373 6434; Sunday Star Times, fax (09) 309 0258.

From the Democratic Rights Defence Fund

The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) is about to be given extensive new powers. In the last week of its working year, parliament approved the first reading of the SIS Amendment Bill 1998 which gives the SIS the power to break into the home or office of any person or group in New Zealand, place anything there or remove anything from there.

Why is this an issue now?

On 9 December 1998, the Court of Appeal ruled that an SIS interception warrant that authorised the interception of communications did not entitle the SIS to break into private homes. This case arose after the July 1996 SIS break-in to the Christchurch home of prominent Corso and Gatt Watchdog activist, Aziz Choudry, when Aziz was involved in a conference about the human cost of free trade, at the same time as APEC Trade Ministers met in the city.

The proposed new law is retrospective, which amounts to an admission that many other illegal break-ins had been conducted by the SIS. No new legal action may now be taken with respect to these other break-ins. And if any group had all its computers and mailing lists stolen or incriminating evidence planted by the SIS, they would have no legal come-back.

Politicians are rewriting history.

Politicians are claiming that the SIS had long believed that the 1977 SIS Amendment Act gave them the right to break into people's houses. However, there is no mention of this in the 1977 amendment. Despite claims that this was the intention in 1977, not one government member from that time has been quoted to verify this.

The 1977 amendment was widely called "the wire-tapping and mail-opening" Bill. These new SIS powers to intercept communications provoked widespread public outrage and led to submissions to parliament from 186 organisations and 470 individuals. The Labour Opposition said that the legislation was so bad that they would not even propose an amendment to it.

The late Sir Wallace Rowling said that the Bill "should be thrown out, and the government should start from the ground again ... and hear in public the views of interested parties." [Hansard, 4/11/77].

Has the SIS been deliberately breaking the law?

Since the SIS had no reason to believe it could break into people's homes, it is very likely that it has been knowingly breaking the law for many years. The SIS has been asked under the Official Information Act to supply a copy of its earliest-dated legal opinion advising it that it could break in. It is very unlikely that this was earlier than 1996, let alone as far back as 1977.

The accountability provisions introduced in 1996 have been shown to be totally worthless. In the case of the Choudry break-in, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security would not even confirm or deny that the SIS were involved. Furthermore, he made the clear (and legally incorrect) statement that "the actions and procedures which affected the complainants directly or indirectly were lawful, reasonable and justified." In light of the contempt the SIS has shown for the law and the failure of the complaint procedures, the SIS should not be given extra powers but should be made more accountable.

The new law does more than ratify existing SIS procedures, it extends their powers.

It is being claimed that the new law simply gives legal authority to practices and procedures that the SIS has been using for many years and needs if it is to be effective in its work. This is exactly what the government claimed in 1977 when it gave the SIS the power to intercept communications.

In parliament on 18 October 1977, the then Prime Minister, the late Sir Robert Muldoon, accused his predecessor, the late Norman Kirk, of instructing the SIS "to use whatever methods were necessary to

obtain information on the activities of Dr Sutch". Mr Muldoon declared: "It is a fact that the service (the SIS) was not only authorised but also encouraged by the ... former Prime Minister, to use methods which were then illegal. I am not criticising him in this matter of espionage; that is one of the reasons why, in his report, Sir Guy Powles said that there are times when this has to be done, but it should be done under proper legal safeguards. That is what the Bill is all about - doing something that we know was done."

Government MP, Barry Brill, went even further claiming in 1977: "The Bill does not extend the powers of the Prime Minister and the SIS; it restricts the powers. The ground was taken out form under the feet of the Opposition, which had been stomping the country and crying that the Bill would legalise telephone tapping and mail opening... The Bill has been introduced to narrow and restrict the wide powers the service (SIS) and the Prime Minister have at the present time."

SIS is a law unto itself.

It appears that the SIS has long been acting with blatant disregard for the law, with or without the complicity of the Prime Minister of the day. Then, when it gets caught or simply decides that it wants greater powers, it convinces parliament that the powers to which it has already helped itself are essential for it to be effective.

The SIS is not accountable to parliament (only to a handful of people within parliament) and has also been largely untouchable through the courts. It needs to be reined in and only a major public outcry will have any chance of achieving this.

What's changed since 1977?

With the end of the Cold War, there is even less plausible threat to national security now than in 1977. And with developments in surveillance technology, the powers of the SIS have dramatically increased even without a law change.

Furthermore, in 1996 another SIS Amendment Act (also supported by both National and Labour) redefined security in very disturbing ways. As the Sunday Star-Times editorial commented: "The new definition of security - it now includes the 'international wellbeing or economic wellbeing' of New Zealand - is meaningless. It is a charter for abuse. The state religion changes from anticommunism to free trade, but the secret priesthood can still carry on persecuting unbelievers."

Although critics of the 1996 Act were called paranoid, less than two weeks after the law came into effect, the SIS were caught in the home of a prominent opponent of the free-marketeers.

Your Help is Vital

Combined with its new technology and catch-all definition of security, the new powers being proposed for the SIS represent a threat to many more groups than Corso or Gatt Watchdog. It is a significant threat to what remains of democracy in New Zealand.

Do something now ! oppose the bill !

The Democratic Rights Defence Fund needs donations to help with the cost of the court case and to campaign against the Bill. Please send your donation to : Democratic Rights Defence Fund, PO Box 1905, Chch, tel (03) 366 2803, fax (03) 366 8035.

Protest the SIS Amendment
Tuesday, 9 Feb is the NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST THE SIS Amendment Bill , and the day of submissions hearings in Wellington - requests from people opposed to the bill outside of Wellington for oral submissions to be heard in their towns and cities have been refused by the Prime Minister's office.

The 1998 SIS Amendment Bill (which will have its third reading in parliament probably in March) will give the SIS the right to break into homes and offices and remove whatever they want. This right will be retrospective. As the 1996 SIS amendment extended the definition of national security to include 'the international and economic wellbeing of New Zealand', those whose homes / offices may be broken into presumably now include anyone who disagrees with the current government's international or economic policy - a considerable proportion of the populace one imagines !

In Wellington and Auckland the protests will start at sites linked to APEC - if this bill becomes law, it is likely that those protesting the APEC 99 meetings here will become 'legitimate' targets of the SIS.

Otepoti / Dunedin
- leafletting around the city, contact Corso, tel (03) 477 3395,

- meet at 12-15pm in Cathedral Square. For more info, tel (03) 366 2803.

: ~ 11-45am, at the Plaza International, Wakefield St (opposite Michael Fowler centre carpark), temporary home to APEC economies Senior Officials Meeting; ~ 12.30 pm at Parliament, speakers will include Aziz Choudry. For more info tel TUF, tel (04) 384 8963, or PMA.

- 12 noon, outside Cigna House, cnr Queen Street and Mayoral Drive (APEC task force HQ), contact AUWRC, tel (09) 302 2496, fax (09) 377 4804,

Take your own banner along the theme of 'cut the spies down to size'; perhaps leave someone guarding your house to lessen the chance of a break-in while you are at these events !

Link to the main page on the SIS and spies.

Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Action Alerts PMA's newsletter What's on where Peace links Help PMA grow How PMA can help you Petition Forms Site Map