18 Sep 2014

Cunliffe, Key dismiss security proposal

4:14 pm on 18 September 2014

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe and National Party leader John Key have dismissed the Green Party's idea to overhaul the country's spy agencies.

Labour leader David Cunliffe in Radio New Zealand's Auckland studio today.

Labour leader David Cunliffe in Radio New Zealand's Auckland studio today. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The Greens want an independent organisation to be set up to run cyber security rather than the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), and for the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) to be merged with police.

Mr Cunliffe said Labour was supporting a full review of the security agencies to make sure the right balance was being struck between protection and freedom.

However, he would not entertain the Greens' spy suggestions.

"It sounds like a recipe for duplication and bureaucracy. I think having the right controls around the GCSB and the right laws governing the use of New Zealanders' information is what's critically required."

Mr Key said he did not see any merit in the proposal to separate the GCSB from its role in cyber-protection. He said the GCSB had the necessary tools for the job.

"The GCSB has technical capability and that's why it's used actually to assist the SIS and the police and defence. It's the same capability that they're using for cyber-protection."

Green Party co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman speak to media after the party's election closing event.

Green Party co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman speak to media after the party's election closing event. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The Green Party wants a complete overhaul of the Government's role in protection against cyber threats following claims from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that the GCSB is involved in mass surveillance of New Zealanders.

Mr Key has said the agency does not conduct mass surveillance of New Zealanders but that he cannot control what information Five Eyes network partners harvest.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the GCSB was involved in hacking and surveillance and should not also have the job of protecting New Zealanders' against online threats. That should be the role of a standalone agency which could help businesses and individuals, he said.

"If they've got a problem with cyber security - and it's a very real issue - then they can go to an agency that has clean hands, that isn't involved in hacking itself."

Dr Norman said the SIS should be merged with police and operate at arm's length from politicians.

He said there was no longer a need for a standalone domestic spy agency reporting to the Prime Minister.

"It should be at arm's length, as part of the normal process, the way the police do the operational stuff and we separate out that kind of operational activity from the minister of the day, the Prime Minister."