Security tops 'point scoring' - PM

01:36, Jun 25 2013
John Key
'NOT A GAME': Prime Minister John Key on reforms to GCSB laws.

Prime Minister John Key has launched a broadside at his opponents for playing political games over a law change allowing the Government Communications Security Bureau to spy on New Zealanders.

"This legislation is in New Zealand's interests. This isn't play time," Key said today.

The Government may be reliant on NZ First to pass the legislation after UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne expressed strong reservations about allowing the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders.

Labour and National have previously taken a bipartisan approach to security legislation but Key said today Labour had stepped away from that.

"I don't think there's any chance of Labour voting for it. David Shearer isn't running the ship over there. [Labour Deputy] Grant Robertson is. Robertson is playing school yard politics.

''He doesn't have a clue about national security, he doesn't really care about it. He's caring about point scoring and that's all he's doing.


''If David Shearer was serious about becoming the next Prime Minister of New Zealand he would vote for this legislation."

Key has admitted he may not get the legislation through without NZ First, but said today he was confident Peter Dunne would continue to back the legislation after voting for it at the first reading.


Key's claims were "nonsense", with the prime minister trying to cover up his struggles to push the bill through, Shearer said.

"What he's trying to do is to move the attention away from the fact that he can't get enough parties to support his bill. That's quite clearly what's going on here, he can't get his bill across the line," he said.

The issue had become personal for Key, Shearer said.

"He personally has bungled this right from day one, whether it be Dotcom, the illegal spying, the appointment of Ian Fletcher, all of this is around John Key's neck and now he wants to push through a piece of legislation and say it's all okay. Well it's not."

The fact Key would likely have to get Winston Peters' support after ruling out working with New Zealand First in government for the past two elections showed the legislation had little support overall, he said.

The leaders also contradicted each other over any merger of the SIS and GCSB spy agencies.

Key had investigated the option when he first took the portfolio but a total merger was "unlikely", he said.

The government had already merged a lot of the support services.

Shearer, however, claimed the government was heading in that direction and claimed there was a second piece of legislation drawn up regarding this, though he had not seen it personally.

"My indication is that the government is moving towards bringing those two agencies together.

''They have already moved into the same building so it's only natural that that's where the direction will go."

"This bill will enable that to happen much more easily."

Shearer called for an independent inquiry into the bill saying Labour would be "favourable" towards any legislation that came out of it.

He pointed to Australia which had set up two independent inquiries backed by its parliament which made changes to legislation based on those reports.

"This is just about fixing a piece of legislation that is causing the government embarrassment."

He also wanted an inquiry into whether the GCSB was trawling for information then applying for warrants as well as how New Zealand's intelligence was shared overseas.

It was about balancing privacy with security, he said.

There had not been an assessment of the country's intelligence agencies since the 1970s - before cellphones - and it was time for that to happen.

"It's time we had a proper investigation into the way that our intelligence agencies are run and we build the legislation from there."

Any inquiry could be done in as little as three or four months, he said.