Friday 16 August 2013

Kiwis Do Care About The GCSB

Inadequate Defence: Campbell Live's Rebecca Wright interviews Justice Minister, Judith Collins, on the GCSB Amendment Bill. Like so many of her colleagues, the Minister was unable to offer a cogent and/or accurate defence of her Government's legislation.
SOMETHING’S VERY WRONG when senior Cabinet Ministers cannot defend their own Government’s legislation. The spectacle of multiple National Party politicians struggling to justify the GCSB Amendment Bill to Campbell Live’s Rebecca Wright was more than a little disconcerting. Stuttering and stammering, none of them were able to draw together the rudiments of a convincing defence. Indeed, their uniformly uninspiring replies suggest a Cabinet characterised not so much by its intellectual acuity, as by its mental and moral vacuity.
Not that they care. From the Prime Minister to the lowliest back-bencher, the National Government appears to be driven by disdainful contempt, bordering on outright hatred, for practically every evidence-based and logically argued case submitted in opposition to its policies.
This has been especially evident in relation to the GCSB Amendment Bill.
In spite of the fact that he possesses no legal qualifications, the Prime Minister felt perfectly free to dismiss the New Zealand Law Society’s submission on the Bill to the Intelligence and Security Committee. The Society, he claimed, had simply misunderstood the legislation.
Unfortunately, Mr Key (unlike most reasonable people) did not feel obliged to demonstrate exactly how the Law Society got it all so badly wrong. The Prime Minister declaring its argument deficient was apparently all that was required for the submission to be set aside. Taking their cue from Mr Key’s response, the Prime Minister’s colleagues continue to treat the Law Society’s comprehensive deconstruction and condemnation of the Bill as if it were a C-minus undergraduate essay.
The same dismissive attitude is manifest in the Government’s response to the criticisms of Sir Geoffrey Palmer. In spite of the critic being a former Law Professor, Attorney-General, Law Commissioner and Prime Minister of New Zealand; and ignoring the fact that he, like Mr Key, at one time held ministerial responsibility for the country’s security services, Sir Geoffrey’s objections to the GCSB Amendment Bill are, apparently, as muddled and mistaken as the Law Society’s.
All the more puzzling, then, why the same National Party cabinet ministers and back-benchers who’ve been so quick to allege that all those who characterise the GCSB amending legislation as a vast, unwarranted and potentially dangerous expansion of the State’s ability to pry into the private affairs of its citizens have got it wrong, become so utterly incoherent and/or obfuscatory when asked to set us right.
And how reassuring it has been (at least to those of us who still believe in the virtues of democracy) to hear coherent arguments, both for and against the GCSB Amendment Bill, coming from the mouths of ordinary New Zealand citizens. Whether it be the young Maori man in Kaitaia’s main street, who had been following the issue closely on the Internet, and who was eloquent in his condemnation of the Government’s expansion of the security services’ powers. Or, the Four Square store proprietor who was pleased to know that the Government “had his back” when it came to the threat of international terrorism.
These responses, captured by the irrepressible John Campbell and his team, as part of a week-long, televised, opinion-gathering road-trip from Cape Reinga to the Bluff, are also rather puzzling. Because, according to the Prime Minister (and just about his entire caucus) nobody out there cares about the GCSB – or its amending legislation.
What they do care about, says the Prime Minister (and, again, the National caucus nods its collective head) is the recreational Snapper catch-limit. (As if Kiwis can only be concerned about one issue at a time!)
But as Campbell Live (demonstrating with considerable √©lan just how vital a free media is to the processes of democratic government) has shown us, emphatically and indisputably, the Prime Minister’s claim is untrue.
From Northland to Southland, ordinary Kiwis have been paying close attention to their Government’s plans to expand the GCSB’s powers. Most are uneasy. Some are frightened. Practically all of them do care – a lot – and, unlike Mr Key’s Cabinet, are perfectly capable of telling us why.
John Key vs John Campbell: Game, Set and Match to the Prime Minister. (And, unlike his interlocutor, he did it all without notes!)
POSTSCRIPT: Goaded into action by the power of Campbell Live’s reporting, the Prime Minister agreed to a live interview with John Campbell on Wednesday night. The latter gentleman discovered to his cost that while National’s Cabinet may have struggled to defend the GCSB Amendment Bill, the Prime Minister was made of considerably sterner stuff. Even opponents of the legislation, watching the exchange, agreed that it was Game, Set and Match to the Prime Minister.
This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 16 August 2013.


Hagar said...

I saw one interviewee complain about all the security cameras around town. The GCSB bill has nothing to do with security cameras! But did the interviewer correct him? No!

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Chris

I have no doubt that faced with the same security challenges that the 'global war on terror' represents to all Western nations, Labour would be enacting similar legislation to National today if they were in office.

Besides, are you the same Chris Trotter that posted a recent comment on Stephen Franks blog that stated:

"“In short, the Right treats humanity like cattle and individual human-beings like princes, while the Left loves humanity with a passion but treats individuals like shit. Somewhere there must be an algorithm that delivers the best of both worlds.
I’m still looking.”

For my part, while neither left or right are perfect, I'd choose being treated like a Prince over being treated like shit anytime.

Anonymous said...

The lack of any substantive justification for this GCSB and the related Telecoms Interception Bill and the indifferent abuse of parliamentary urgency betray the ulterior motivation. The proposed legislation simply cannot be justified with regard to threats to national security, and attempts to do so (“al Qaeda”) are patently farcical (the cynical exploitation of Terrorism as amorphous viscerally-fear-based political rationale must surely present as absurd in light of the mid-east wars of aggression of the Bush era; first as tragedy, then as farce).

The intent is to afford the “security” apparatus an explicit economic function. In incorporating “economic well-being” as an ostensible element of national security the ruling elite annul any remnant of politico-economic contention at the level of applied ideology and accede to a jurisdictional pragmatics of globalist corporate oligarchy. In conjunction with the TPPA, intellectual property will be expropriated and distributed exclusively through techno-capitalist mechanisms - a play to maintain economic domination in an anarchic technological world.

Any information gathering is to be largely in service of the attempt to map and manage culture as a commodity which may maintain Western standards of living (or, at least, class structures) for some duration, in spite of the West’s increasing failure in a global capitalist system.

The repressive political use of surveillance information is but incidental to this, and—as we know in light of Dotcom and the Kitteridge report—true spying already happens illegally regardless.

The surveillance apparatus will always be manipulated by its “security” operators, as the proposed purpose intends; the executive will resort to its further abuse when in difficulty (Vance/Dunne); and an eventual erosion of distinction will result in technocratic authoritarian capitalism.

The Merrill Lynch Mob (the Key Government) is merely indifferent to civil rights and utterly servile to its transnational economic masters in passing this legislative abomination. They do not want to collate individuals’ private data to dominate them in a directly political sense, though this will be the eventual outcome of this legislation; five years from now John Key will be resentfully known as the former Minister in Charge of Fishing Expeditions.

Jan said...

A good post, Chris.
I have been greatly disillusioned in the commentary coming from the media who insist on characterising the Campbell Live interview as some kind of a heavyweight boxing title fight.
I note that you also have done the same at the end of your piece. Can you please reassure me that nothing in the content (rather than the presentation) of what John Key said during the interview has changed your opinion of the merit of the bill.

Thank you.

Davo Stevens said...


Pray tell me the difference between the Gnats and the Labs? Of course they would enact the same legislation, just give it a different name.

NZ suffers from the same malaise that pervades all western nations. i.e. there is no effective opposition to the Friedmanites. So forget that old "Right" "Left" dichotomy, it doesn't exist today. Nor does a real democracy which depends on two things; unbiased media, and at least two parties who are diametrically opposite in policies.

A very good piece of information is in this clip.

It explains what and how we have got to where we are now politically.

Anonymous said...

"“In short, the Right treats humanity like cattle and individual human-beings like princes, while the Left loves humanity with a passion but treats individuals like shit. Somewhere there must be an algorithm that delivers the best of both worlds.
I’m still looking.”

Or as I tell my son 'The right -individually they're charming, but collectively they hate your guts' :-).

Hagar said...

So two comments over a 24 hour period show how concerned people are

Fern said...

@Hagar, 10.01am. My understanding of the interviewee's comment was that he was sick of being snooped on, by whatever means.
I agree with Chris that the 'ordinary' people were impressive. They all had worthwhile comments to make, whether for or against the Bill, which didn't surprise me because I have long thought that the 'ordinary' people are this country's greatest asset. The politicians don't seem to realise that.

Chris Trotter said...

Rest easy, Jan, John Key didn't convince me of anything other than he has completely mastered the politics of the spectacle - the mad media charade by which we identify the big dogs of our sad little political barnyard.

It shouldn't be necessary, but, sadly, it is.

And at the moment there's no bigger big dog than Massa Key.

Victor said...

I don't actually think that Key did all that well. It's just that Campbell was below his normal excellent par that night.

He blundered about, swinging a claymore of righteous indignation, allowing Key to sidestep and swish around deftly but inaccurately with a rather puny rapier.

Both have put on better performances before and will, no doubt, do so again.

Anonymous said...

I must confess I haven't watched TV news since the 1980s. But I think you're all missing the point about the interview with Key. It's not whether he won or lost, but that he finally fronted. How many times have National party ministers fronted on national TV in the last few years. We regularly get refusals to front on national radio, I doubt it's much different on television.

Davo Stevens said...

Like Anon @9.16am nor have I watched the infomercials often referred to as "News" on TV. I didn't watch the Campbell Live interview so I can't directly comment of the performance of either John or John.

This insidious GCSB is another step toward a Fascist state and it needs to be stopped. Will it?

Anonymous said...

that's right, who cares who won the TV debate, the bill is wrong and Key is arrogant in slamming it through, while gagging kiwis, and dismissing their views. Same old. He is a dangerous PM, and all the media do is lick his boots.

Anonymous said...

it is not about who won a farcical TV debate, but the rights and wrongs of it all. Key is wrong, he refuses to listen to the voters, he just shows so much belligerence, yet the media still treat him like .a prince. Blind or what

too much power in one pair of hands.

Richard Christie said...

Key wasn't impressive on CL.

He put string of blanket assertions, the subject matter of which was all over the place, mostly unintelligible references to clauses that are (and remain) unfamiliar and unfathomable to probably 99% of the audience.

Add to that Key made snide and blatantly untrue remarks about his own reluctance to front to the public and properly justify the Bill. Equally snide comment on Campbell Live's endeavour to (gasp)- actually research and report - on the subject.

You could be excused for thinking you were witnessing a twelve year old in a suit and tie performing in a playground brag-fest.

Only the truly stupid viewer could be reassured by Key's glib reassurances.

Victor said...

There's a lot of what I can only describe as elitist comment on this thread of the "who cares, it's only television" variety.

Well you should care because television and the ability to perform thereon play pivotal roles in deciding the direction of the country.

To my mind, Key performed merely adequately.... but the word is out that he performed superbly.

This perception will have an impact on everything of significance in New Zealand politics for the next few months and perhaps the next few years.

I'd add "think on't" but those who don't watch TV news probably don't watch Coro Street either. So the reference might be wasted.

Robert Miles said...

Generally speaking we should assume that we live in a surveillance state, that for the last 30 years any interesting comment by a journalist, politician or informed writer on defence, security or any matter of political concern to the NZ or US Govt would likely be recorded and possibly analysed if it was made by phone, email or publication. The issue is how much can such a comment be held to be actionable and new GCSB appears to give the police more scope to press charges on their own judgement or the advice of politicians to give the matter more study and weight.
In terms of the argument you can protect yourself by encypering effectively, that might be true on some personal and financial matters but in terms of international security its a waste of time thinking you can encyper against the power of the five eyes, NSA, or the equivalent Russian or Chinese agencies. Doubtlessly they could also study you visually in real time, from satellites that will sometimes pass ahead. Even thirty years ago both the Soviets and Americans immediately launched satellite's to observe the Falklands war in real time as each engagement unfolded, so they could immediately brief and move the British and Argies around to their advantage.
Julian Assange first mistake was to belive he could encyper to protect himself against the yanks. He believed the wall was two levels deep but it was actually already six. In reality significant terrorist and military actors and politicians will cease to make significant and detailed communications by electronic means as Helen Clark realised at least 30 years ago and echelon will simply be a back up system forcing significant actors to use other more physical methods of communication.

Anonymous said...

I also watched John Campbell's interview with the prime minister regarding the GCSB bill. If blocking the ears and soldiering on through a set speech is "game set and match" then the pm had it. However, it was NOT an interview - the pm did not answer questions - and he sounded more like an Alice in Wonderland cypher who mistakes bluster for substance. NZers are a funny people - thinking was ever hard work and money was always the mark by which some thing/person is judged.

Gerrit said...

What is of equal interest is the silence from our loyal opposition in regards repealing this bill.

They make noises about amendments btu nothing about those amendments or even if the legislation would be totally "gone by lunchtime" after October 2014.

So while the plebs make a song and dance routine out of the contentious bill, the opposition leaders are smugly wringing their hands waiting their turn to spy on the malcontents.

Not much leadership from the Greens or Labour.

paul scott said...

Its true most people don't care , as able to point to point out by numbers of submissions