Rare praise

March 6th, 2012 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

The second reading of the Search and Surveillance Bill saw some rare praise from a Labour MP:

CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) : I want to begin my remarks today by acknowledging the new Minister of Justice, the Hon Judith Collins, and wishing her well in her justice portfolio. I also want to recognise the consultative approach that she has adopted early on in her stewardship of the portfolio, and I think it is appropriate to acknowledge also that she has a herculean task ahead of her in trying to rationalise the workload that she has inherited. …

It is clear that this is a much better bill. There are significant modifications to the proposed surveillance device regime, better regulation of the more intrusive forms of surveillance that were originally proposed, a reduction in the warrantless surveillance period, better rules over the retention of data, stronger reporting requirements for surveillance device warrants, and better controls over examination and production orders. So it is absolutely the case that Parliament did what it is expected to do via the select committee process on this measure. It did look at the detail. The parties worked together and they did produce a better bill.

David Parker praises the select committee for its role:

Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) : For a start, can I repeat the thanks that have been expressed by my colleague Charles Chauvel for the way in which the National Party conducted itself at the Justice and Electoral Committee. The committee was chaired by Chester Borrows. The Search and Surveillance Bill is one of the most complex and difficult pieces of legislation that I have considered in any select committee since I have been in Parliament. It is one in which the select committee took very seriously the proper balance between the protection of civil liberties and the necessary powers to be afforded to State agencies to investigate criminal conduct.

Chauvel says:

The Minister and I met yesterday. She wrote to me today, and I accept her good-faith attempt to try to resolve these problems, and in passing I should say that, in respect of at least two other measures I can think of, I appreciate the approach she has already shown in this portfolio. She is willing to stand back and take a look at whether a measure is really necessary and whether or not it really commands stakeholder support, and if it does not she is willing to give it another look, and that is something that ought to be said for the record.

Labour asked for the SOP to be made available 48 hours before it is considered. The Minister released it yesterday and it will not be debated until Wednesday or Thursday, which is good.

The Minister also released a detailed Q+A on the bill and SOP, which I recommend as a useful backgrounder. One or two media initally took the SOP to be giving authorities new powers over revealing sources, but as far as I can ascertain (and based on a Twitter conversation with Graeme Edgeler), it actually provides greater protection to the media by having any documents seized held by the Court, not the Police or other agency.

I’m not sure if this means Labour will now support the bill. But regardless I thought it worth highlighting that Parliament isn’t just about question time, and mindless opposition. On important issues, parties do sometimes work together in good faith – and they improve the law, even if at the end of the day they still agree to disagree on some issues.

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6 Responses to “Rare praise”

  1. tvb (3,937 comments) says:

    This is a good start for the Minister. Justice matters should have widespread support in the Parliament and the Labour Party in this area takes a fairly realistic view of things.. They seem to have got the message that crime affects their supporters more than anyone else’s.

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  2. Graeme Edgeler (3,216 comments) says:

    One or two media initally took the SOP to be giving authorities new powers over revealing sources, but as far as I can ascertain (and based on a Twitter conversation with Graeme Edgeler), it actually provides greater protection to the media by having any documents seized held by the Court, not the Police or other agency.

    I should clarify. (this is why I took some time to join Twitter – I need 1400 words, not 140 characters)

    1. The section is about surveillance, not search warrants.
    2. The move does not create new powers, when contrasted with the bill as it came out of select committee.
    3. The legal privilege journalists have in protecting sources is unchanged.
    4. The change, may, however, been seen as giving journalists fewer rights, technically, but they appear sensible, and will probably result in there being greater rights in practice (than would have been the case under the unchanged bill).
    5. I’m not really in a position to contrast the changes with the pre-bill law as it currently stands (to do the degree of certainty I like to provide on the occasions when I try to do that), despite twitter requests that I should :-)

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  3. Scott Chris (5,675 comments) says:

    Blimey, an outbreak of sanity!!

    Good on Charles Chauvel, David Parker and Judith Collins.

    Hope it’s contagious.

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  4. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,664 comments) says:

    The cynic in me wonders whether these Labour guys think Iti and Co are going to be convicted and are positioning themselves to be on the ‘right side’ of public opinion.

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  5. Pete George (21,796 comments) says:

    Excellent. It would be good to see more of the positive business end of parliament and less of the peripheral nonsense.

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  6. jaba (2,068 comments) says:

    wHALE had a link to a Labour site where they asked for opinions .. well I have plenty. I did the survey is a manner that was a little harsh on the individuals I named, which will cause my opinions to be ignored, but a couple of issues I mentioned was the nasty politics they are pursuing and the oppose everything attitude .. will be interesting which way they go

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