Pacific leaders unfazed by spy allegations
There's been a measured reaction so far to allegations that the New Zealand government is carrying out mass surveillance on its Pacific neighbours.
There has been a muted reaction so far to allegations the New Zealand government is carrying out mass surveillance on its Pacific neighbours.
The claims that every phone call and email is being intercepted, have been rejected by the New Zealand Prime Minister.
But John Key says the Government does gather information from other countries.
Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:
The investigative journalist Nicky Hager is accusing the New Zealand Government of spying on its Pacific neighbours on an unprecedented level and giving the information to the United States. Mr Hager says the Government Communications Security Bureau - the GCSB - intercepts communications from countries such as Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Samoa, and even nations as small as Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati. He says the scale of the surveillance is growing.
HAGER NICKY: During the last few year in the period of the current government, they've gone from some selected targetting of the South Pacific states and other targets to a new stage where they just hoover up everything. They take every single phone call, every email and they go straight off into national security agency databases.
The Tonga prime minister Akilisi Pohiva says it would be disappointing if the allegations are true because it would feel like New Zealand had breached the trust between the two countries. But he also says if the New Zealand government has good reason to believe that it is important to share such information with other countries, it's their prerogative. Still, he plans on raising the issue.
AKILISI POHIVA: I hope to call a meeting with the New Zealand High Commissioner here in Tonga to discuss what actually happened. If I have a chance to visit New Zealand in the near future I'll definitely raise it as it is a serious matter.
An expert in Pacific politics says the revelations will have a big impact on New Zealand's relationship with the Pacific.
Steven Ratuva, who's the director of Pacific Studies at Canterbury University, says the news will come as a shock to New Zealand's Pacific neighbours.
STEVEN RATUVA: It's going to provoke a reaction from the region, particularly in a time when New Zealand is trying to re-engage with the region, trying to consolidate its relationship with small island states, particularly with Fiji. And this might just inflame a few more negative vibes as it were in terms of its relationship with its neighbours.
Attempts to get comment from Fiji have so far been unsuccessful. The Prime Minister of Samoa says he doesn't know why a country would waste its resources intercepting every phone call and email from a small Pacific island. Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi says it seems far-fetched and he's not overly concerned.
TUILAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI: My immediate priority is jobs for our people, food for our people, that's it. And these things that you talk about are things that are important to security issues. We are all friends, we are all brothers and we love one another.
A security analyst says New Zealand could also run into diplomatic problems with France as the information seems to show that some of the spying is in French territories. The French Polynesia government says it does not want to comment on the allegations. Nicky Hager, whose information is based on revelations by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, says more details will be revealed over the coming days.
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