Prime Minister John Key has put a review of the Security Intelligence Service in 2015 on the table as he seeks to win Labour over to legislation beefing up the powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
Key yesterday outlined changes allowing for greater oversight of the GCSB to get UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne onside, but has made it clear he would like other parties including NZ First, and potentially even Labour, on board.
Labour has demanded an independent inquiry into New Zealand's security and intelligence agencies as a condition of backing any legislation, which is needed after the Government was forced to suspend the GCSB's ability to gather intelligence on behalf of others including the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), police and the Defence Force.
Key reiterated there would be no inquiry before the legislation was passed so that the agency's work could resume.
But he said he would talk to Labour about regular reviews, starting as early as 2015.
The GCSB had been spying on New Zealanders on behalf of other agencies despite legislation that explicitly stated it was not allowed to.
The potentially illegal spying was uncovered in a review following revelations it had spied illegally on internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.
The Government says it should be legal for the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders when it is doing so under warrant from agencies like the SIS.
Meanwhile Labour leader David Shearer gave a convoluted response to questions about his party's stance on the GCSB bill this morning, at first suggesting a review was non-negotiable then appearing to change his mind.
Repeating his party's long-held position, Shearer was adamant Labour would need an independent review of the legislation before it was passed, in order to support it.
"It's not good enough to simply say we'll rush through this law and if it's broken we'll fix it up in three or four years time, I mean that doesn't make any sense," he said.
"What we want to try and do is to make sure that we have good law now off the back of a review."
Was it a bottom line?
"This has always been our position," he said.
Shortly afterwards he said had not seen "any reason or justification" for changing that position but hedged when asked again if this was non-negotiable, saying Labour was open to talks.
"It's not about non-negotiable, I mean there hasn't been any negotiations," he said.
"What I am saying is I'm happy, always happy to listen to talk, but how those negotiations go forward is very much how those discussions pan out.
"But what I'm not going to do is put on bottom lines of wherever I am today because right now there is no negotiation - I haven't had an approach. There is no change that I know of - I haven't been informed of any changes that have happened to GCSB."
When asked whether Key's proposal to have a review in 2015 was enough, he said Key might not be in power then and said there would be a review if there was a Labour government.
Much of the party's concern was around the fact there was still no information as to why the SIS, police and Defence Force needed the GCSB to act on their behalf, he said.
"None of that justification has been given yet we are expanding the role of the GCSB extensively as a result of this bill, and right now I haven't seen any justification [for the expansion of powers]."
There was a "groundswell of support" for a broad and independent enquiry with people concerned about who the information was being shared with.
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