Rare praise

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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