Why you should care about GCSB bill

Last updated 14:18 29/07/2013
Protesters in Christchurch march against the GSCB spying bill.
John Kirk-Anderson
Protesters in Christchurch march against the GCSB spying bill.

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New Zealanders are about to face a new low as John Key's cabinet rushes through an amendment that would allow the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) to spy on New Zealanders.

This is risky territory for the Government of a country that enjoys relative freedom and peace. The Government will be able to spy on everyday Kiwis and this is a threat to our democracy and our way of life.

What is the most terrifying part about this is that New Zealanders as a whole seem to be apathetic to the whole amendment. That is a direct reflection of New Zealanders. Our indifference is downright outrageous.

That for a country that was passionately up in arms in the 1980s during the Springbok tour but would now rather stay home and play on their iPad is baffling.

A people who have prided themselves on their defiant environmental stance, and have become famous for their sacrosanct nuclear-free policy. The country's inclusion of indigenous culture early on, while bumpy, allows the unity of indigenous and European cultures like none other in the world. New Zealand is a country that is seen as forward thinking, progressive, and liberal.

It seems Kiwis would rather watch The Kardashians than care about domestic policy. This isn't really their fault, but the Government is using this to your advantage. It's such a great time to rush this through while everyone's fawning over the future king.

The old argument, "If you have nothing to hide, why does it matter?" You absolutely have a lot to hide. They will know what websites you visit and what kind of porn you like. Want to be categorised as sexually deviant? They will know you called a mental illness helpline, or suicide helpline.

Talk a lot on the phone? Innocent banter with your friends over the phone that could get you in a lot of trouble at an airport? They would take that seriously. Or when you talk to your mum about your cash business and dodging Inland Revenue, they're recording it, and they'll take you to court.

Do you do a lot of activism work? Protesting? You're already a hot target. A big company with a lot of money could easily bribe the Government to get the goods on you. Calling your family in Pakistan? Your intimate conversations are being recorded.

Investigative journalist? You shouldn't be talking on the phone to your hot sources, but the cameras on the streets will know the cafe in Wellington where you've met to talk about business which could lead to many journalists being forced to testify in court.

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This is already happening in Australia and the US. Why is this important to the regular citizen? It is important for the media to constantly scrutinise the Government in order to keep a level of transparency. It is important because it's a basic function of a democratic society. It's the reason why you enjoy a high degree of civil liberty in New Zealand. Your right to know public information goes without saying, and is at risk when journalists have to give up their sources.

You think the Government doesn't really care about your racist or not so racist views on Māori culture. All that politically incorrect nonsense you hear at work, at the pub, at the marae? Surely the Government doesn't care. Think again, it's all being recorded and they will be there ready if you do something wrong.

Think the next government can just pull the plug on these guys? This is not an election bargain, this will not be an issue. Voting for the Greens will get you nowhere with this. Remember Barack Obama wanted to close Guantanamo Bay before he got in? Remember how people wanted change in America? Well he got in. Guantanamo Bay is still open. Drone warfare has increased under his administration and it's killed thousands. No accountability there, and most experts think it's probably illegal anyway.

If something like this is to pass in Parliament, there isn't a lot you can do it about it later on. The Government will unleash these broad powers the GCSB will have when you least expect it and you probably won't know about it. Allowing your own Government to spy on you will enable all sorts, you are giving them tools to oppress when they feel the need to. You probably haven't heard much about Kiwis being oppressed. You all think that only happens in Iran, or Egypt. You think that happens in North Korea, not New Zealand.

Wrong. Giving the GCSB these broad, far reaching powers will allow them the tools to oppress. 

This is important. It is not something you should be standing on the fence about, shrugging your shoulders because you don't think it will really affect you. It will affect you. As citizens of a free country, it is not just your right to vote and protest against these things, it is an obligation to ensure your government is transparent, gives a fair go to all kiwis, and not allow them to pass legislation that is essentially a breach of our Bill of Rights, our democracy and our civil liberties.

George Orwell has been warning us for years about surveillance societies, police states, autocratic governments, and everyone still thinks "It will never happen."

It's happening now, and it's your duty and obligation to do something about it.

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