New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Amendment Bill — First Reading

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I rise on behalf of the ACT Party to speak on the first reading of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Amendment Bill, which makes five main changes to update and clarify existing legislation to take into account advances in technology.

The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act was passed more than 40 years ago, and I think it is safe to say that at that time Parliament would not have been able to consider the way in which technological advances would affect the role of our security services. As such, the Act does not recognise the electronic and digital methods that the SIS uses in its investigations today or the methods used by those whom the SIS investigates. No longer are those being investigated exclusively tracked and followed by agents. Although such methods are undoubtedly still utilised, the vast majority of surveillance is now done by remote and electronic means.

Current legislation should reflect current practice, and bringing this law into the 21st century is long overdue. The bill will do that by making it clear that the warrant framework set out in the Act includes electronic tracking. The bill updates the means by which the subject of the surveillance can be monitored. Sadly, for those of us who are old spy movie buffs, the days of secret agents breaking into a home and attaching a bugging device to a landline phone are probably long over.

The bill will update and expand the scope of the Act to include 21st century technology such as mobile phones and other digital communication devices. With the expansion of computers in our everyday lives, the ability for individuals or organisations to misuse such technology to aid their lawbreaking has risen dramatically. The bill will provide an explicit focus on those using new technologies, and clarifies that computer-based surveillance is a permitted activity for the intelligence services by ensuring a clearer exemption from that aspect of the Crimes Act. The security service requires and deserves clear direction in order to remove any uncertainty over the legality of its actions.

This bill will enable the SIS to work more effectively within the New Zealand Police and other enforcement agencies. It will modernise the current Act and the activities of the SIS to bring them into line with our overseas partners and with technological advances over the last four decades. It will provide our security services with a clear and modern mandate to keep our country and our people safe. I commend the bill to the House.