Drop GCSB bill, Dunne urged

Peter Dunne
Peter Dunne

Peter Dunne should withdraw his support for the prime minister's controversial GCSB Bill in the wake of the widening spy scandal, Labour leader David Shearer says.

On Friday, the Government was forced to reveal unprecedented new privacy breaches in the spy scandal, showing the full contents of email exchanges between former minister Peter Dunne and Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance were sent to the Henry inquiry without permission, along with Vance's phone logs.

Dunne's vote is vital in ensuring John Key's GCSB Bill becomes law, but yesterday Shearer said Dunne should pull his support in light of the explosive email revelations.

"I find it extraordinary that he would still support the bill given the Government has actually gone behind his back and tried to access his emails.

"What this issue demonstrates is that with all of the responsibility for oversight [of the GCSB] resting with John Key, it gives us no confidence that he will be somebody to trust to run the GCSB.

"If Peter Dunne can't see that, I would be very surprised."

But Dunne is sticking to his guns, yesterday saying the two issues were unrelated and he will vote for the bill.

"Saying that the GCSB Bill should not be passed because of this is like saying that because some people jaywalk, we shouldn't build more motorways."

The saga has dogged the Government all year. It began when Key ordered the so-called Henry inquiry into the leaking to Vance of the damning Kitteridge report on the workings of the GCSB.

Commissioned in the wake of the Kim Dotcom saga, the report found 88 cases in which the agency might have spied unlawfully on New Zealanders.

The inquiry fingered Dunne as the likely leaker, and he resigned as revenue minister rather than hand over emails between himself and Vance.

On Friday, it was revealed that the inquiry had accessed the pair's emails and Vance's phone logs, without permission.

It had earlier also accessed Vance's swipe card records to track her movements around Parliament the day before her story was published.

Key's GCSB Bill, which will make it easier for our intelligence services to spy on New Zealanders, looked unlikely to pass until Dunne gave it his support in return for amendments he says will tighten oversight. But the bill remains unpopular, with protest marches held across the country.

Dunne said while he felt let down by the Henry inquiry's invasion of his privacy, he said any such surveillance by the GCSB would be "subject to a warrant and need sign-off".

"The irony in this case is that investigations by the Henry inquiry had no such approval process. The issue about protection of private information, freedom of movement, the standards that apply to an inquiry that had no formal investigative power . . . that is a very serious issue indeed. That's why we need the Parliamentary Privileges Committee inquiry, to ensure this never happens again."

Dunne said he had been in touch with Vance since the news emerged.

"I have had some contact with her and seen some of the things she has said.

"I fully understand how she might be feeling, I don't have dissimilar feelings myself. The level of intrusion I think has been quite inappropriate in both cases."

Shearer said the public should have "huge disquiet" about the developments, and called on Key to take responsibility for the repeated breaches.

"He should stand up and say ‘I screwed up, this should never have happened'."

Dunne is taking legal advice over the breaches, and may lay a complaint with the privacy commissioner. Fairfax has already done that over Vance's treatment.

Sunday Star Times