18 Sep 2014

Potential partners criticise backtrack

11:56 am on 18 September 2014

Some of National's potential coalition partners say party leader John Key has handled the allegations of mass spying on New Zealanders poorly.

John Key in Auckland on Wednesday.

John Key. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Mr Key has denied the claims, but yesterday said New Zealanders may be subject to mass surveillance by foreign agencies.

He said he can rule out the GCSB conducting mass surveillance of New Zealanders but this country does not control what other agencies and other people collect.

"Like any country, the NSA (National Security Agency) is bound by the laws of the United States of America. Just like the UK they'll be bound by their laws," he said. "I'm not responsible for that, I can't control that and I can't influence that."

However Mr Key said he doubted the NSA was spying on New Zealand because the countries are friends.

Colin Craig.

Colin Craig. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig said it was small comfort to New Zealanders that it might be someone else looking at their private information.

"The Prime Minister could have been clearer from day one. He certainly could have been more transparent on the issue. And I think it would have been helpful if he had been," he said.

Mr Craig said if he was in a position to negotiate with National after the election this issue would be raised.

"We will certainly be having it as part of the discussions that we have with National. And we will be looking to clarify for the public who has what information and that it has the appropriate safeguards in place.

"And if there are not, let's put in place legislation that ensures we do have the safeguards there."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters opposed the amendment to the GCSB bill last year because he thought it was too wide-reaching.

100914. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Winston Peters talking about police numbers at Hutt Gables Retirement Village.

NZ First Leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

He said John Key's denials of mass spying were always bound to fail, but would not be drawn specifically on whether he would raise the issue if he was in coalition talks with National next week.

"I've already raised it with him the moment I heard these denials from a long way back. I just didn't believe that they were true and I said so."

"It was as long ago as the 10th of April 2013, because anyone who has been high in government would just know the denials are most unwise."

United Future leader Peter Dunne said if the NSA was spying on New Zealander the issue needed to be thoroughly debated.

"This is all new, fresh and dramatic information. It seems to be changing on an almost daily basis."

"I think New Zealanders deserve to know whether we are being subject to surveillance, mass or otherwise, by countries we might assume are friends to us."

Mr Dunne said releasing the NSA documents during an election campaign was unfair on Mr Key and they should have come out at a time when they could be more rationally assessed.

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