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Action Alert - Do you want the SIS in your home? (Update)
Peace Movement AotearoaPO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173, firstname.lastname@example.org
Issued 18 February 1999
Kia ora, just as we were about to send out another alert re the SIS Amendment Bill, this fortuitously arrived from Gatt Watchdog, so that saved us a bit of typing ....
If you need further information on the Bill, please refer to our earlier Action Alert: Do you want the SIS in your home?
URGENT ACTION ALERT! New Zealand government moves to enact represssive intelligence legislation (Please repost widely on other human rights, labour rights and social justice newsgroups and lists here and overseas)
The New Zealand Government is proposing an imminent law change which would extend the powers of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) to break and enter into "any place" in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Bill 1998 is being rushed through Parliament after the December 1998 NZ Court of Appeal ruling which found that NZSIS interception warrants do not confer the right to enter private property. This arose from a civil court action (Choudry v Attorney-General) taken against the NZSIS after two NZSIS agents were caught breaking into the home of GATT Watchdog organiser and anti-APEC activist Aziz Choudry. The break-in took place during an alternative conference on APEC and free trade which Aziz was involved with organising, just prior to the 1996 APEC Trade Ministers Meeting in Christchurch. Neither the NZSIS nor its political masters have explained this bungled SIS operation, hiding instead behind a shroud of "national security". Although a number of NGOs, community groups, and unions have repeatedly called for an independent inquiry into the Choudry break-in, this has been ignored by the government.
Like many other state intelligence agencies, the NZSIS has a highly questionable past. It has targetted a range of movements, organisations and individuals for their political beliefs and affiliations, ranging from the infiltration and surveillance of anti-apartheid activists in the 1970s and 1980s, to anti-Vietnam war organisers and members of numerous left-wing organisations. Since the Cold War has ended, it appears that their new targets include opponents of globalisation and advocates of Maori (indigenous peoples of Aotearoa/New Zealand) sovereignty.
Critics of the bill describe the proposed law change as a "declaration of war against lawful dissent". It would allow the NZSIS to break into homes, buildings or vehicles and its agents to then lawfully install, maintain or remove "things" if they wished. The Association of University Staff (university lecturers' union) has described the authorisation of government spies to break into homes as "legalised theft" Allowing the NZSIS to seize material or plant devices in homes or offices is a threat to academic freedom, it argued.
Dr Rodney Harrison, QC, of the Auckland Council for Civil Liberties, argues that "the proposed power of entry has no proper safeguards surrounding its exercise and will be open to abuse by the SIS with virtual impunity."
Since 1996, the definition of "security" has been extended to include "the making of a contribution to New Zealand's international well-being or economic wellbeing". This is one of the broadest definitions of security in any comparable legislation. It is a charter for abuse, and further opened the way for the NZSIS to surveill, monitor and harass opponents of government policy even if they are only engaged in lawful advocacy, protest or dissent. In particular, opponents of APEC and the neoliberal agenda believe that they will be targetted by the NZSIS for their activities.
The New Zealand government hopes to push through this law change as soon as possible as it is hosting APEC in 1999. From Jakarta to Vancouver, from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, APEC Leaders Summits have become synonymous with repression and a state crackdown on opposition to APEC's agenda. All the signs are that APEC in New Zealand will be no different this year.
It is particularly ironic that the New Zealand government is promoting this legislation even as it plans to use its hosting of APEC to "demonstrate to the international community New Zealand's ability, as a participatory democracy, to accommodate debate and dissent" (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade strategy paper, 24 August 1998)
Public submissions to a Prime Ministerial Committee of Parliamentarians comprised of the Prime Minister and 4 other senior National and Labour Ministers and MPs (all of whom support the law change) have been overwhelmingly opposed to any extension of the powers of the SIS. Both the ruling National Party, and the main Opposition party, Labour, support the law change. Only 13 out of the 120 MPs in New Zealand's Parliament opposed the bill.
The vast majority of 130 public submissions on the bill are opposed to the law change. Yet the government is determined to enact the law. It is expected that the Prime Ministerial committee of senior National and Labour MPs considering the law change will report back to Parliament very shortly. The Prime Minister hopes to pass the bill into law in early March.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Fax or email New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley AND the Leader of the Opposition the Rt Hon Helen Clark and urge them to scrap this repressive piece of legislation and call for a full, independent inquiry into the role and activities of the NZSIS.
Please also send a copy of your letter to your nearest New Zealand Embassy,
High Commission or diplomatic representative, and to GATT Watchdog at:
email@example.com or fax (64) 3 3668035
Dear Mrs Shipley/Ms Clark
We are dismayed to see New Zealand politicians opening the way further for the NZ Security Intelligence Service to surveill, harass, and intimidate dissenters in New Zealand society. The NZSIS Amendment Bill 1998 constitutes a major breach of the rights of freedom of expression and political dissent. There is no justification for an increase in the powers of the NZSIS.
We support a full and independent inquiry into the role and operations of the NZ Security Intelligence Service.
We urge you to reconsider this matter and immediately withdraw this draconian, anti-democratic piece of legislation. New Zealand citizens should be free to express their views without fear of state surveillance, harassment and intimidation.
Yours sincerely, etc