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A U-turn by former minister Peter Dunne gives the Government a single- vote majority to pass controversial spying laws.
Mr Dunne said yesterday that he was prepared to support legislation through its remaining stages at Parliament after Prime Minister John Key agreed to some changes.
He voted for the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill at its first reading in May. It will allow the foreign intelligence agency to spy on New Zealanders on behalf of the police, Security Intelligence Service and Defence Force. Mr Dunne later pulled support, asserting the surveillance of Kiwis should be done only by the SIS.
Yesterday, he flip-flopped again, saying he was prepared to back the bill after seven changes. These include built-in reviews and more oversight.
Mr Key said the amendments were "significant and sensible". He also has the support of ACT leader John Banks, but wants a larger majority. Other changes to the bill, agreed to by Parliament's intelligence and security committee yesterday, would see information such as medical records excluded from the warrant process, Mr Key said.
He insisted information collected by the GCSB would not be misused. "There is no wholesale collection of meta-data, on some sort of fishing expedition, that's currently undertaken by GCSB nor will there be in the future," he said.
The number of cases in which the GCSB would spy on Kiwis would be "very small - probably 10 to a dozen a year at most".
Labour and the Greens are opposed to the legislation without an independent inquiry into the security services.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman dismissed the concessions as a cosmetic stitch-up.
The "law is dangerous and deeply flawed", he said. "There is nothing in John Key and Peter Dunne's deal that limits the ability of the state to intrude into the private lives of ordinary New Zealanders."
He criticised Mr Dunne for backing the legislation after fighting to keep his own emails private, in the wake of accusations he leaked a confidential report on the GCSB to Fairfax Media.
Labour leader David Shearer said the "political jack-up" would not be enough to restore public confidence in the spy agencies in the wake of unlawful activity and revelations about a mass US surveillance programme.
"The changes announced today do not go nearly far enough," he said.
Mr Dunne defended his U-turn, saying the changes "go a long way towards improving the legislation, the accountability of the GCSB and the transparency of its operations, as well as updating and modernising the definitions of private communications to meet today's circumstances".
He said he first raised concerns about the bill with Mr Key's office before the first reading. Mr Key said he became aware of those issues "post him being a minister".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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