The number of New Zealanders planning to serve as foreign fighters in countries like Syria is “far more” than one or two, Prime Minister John Key says. …
He is also planning a major speech once Parliament resumes that looks set to challenge Kiwi perceptions that New Zealand is far removed from terrorist threats.
The speech signals Key’s intention to front-foot security and intelligence issues more aggressively after much of National’s second term was beset by controversy surrounding the GCSB.
Key warned that New Zealand was in a far from benign environment, using the rise of Kiwis seeking to join groups like the Islamic State (Isis) as an example.
“I hope to be able to spell out the risks around foreign fighters. There is no question the Security Intelligence legislation needs reforming.
“If I was to spell out to New Zealanders the exact number of people looking to leave and be foreign fighters, it would be larger than I think New Zealanders would expect that number to be.
“The number currently fighting overseas . . . is relatively small but it’s certainly far more than one or two.”
That is concerning. Even if they go over there with good motivations (to free Syria from Assad), there is a significant risk they get radicalised as they are fighting alongside extremists.
He singled out the rise of foreign fighters as a particular issue for the Government to deal with, likely through legislative change. He would seek cross-party support. “If we cancel a passport for someone who is looking to go overseas as a foreign fighter . . . in other jurisdictions they [are cancelled] for a much longer period of time . . . we think there are some glaring deficiencies there.”
The Greens will knee jerk oppose any change I can almost guarantee. It will be interesting what Labour does. I suspect the primary process will force all the leadership contenders to reject out of hand any possibility of bipartisan support for a law change. But Labour then runs the risk of being on the wrong side of public opinion, as the average New Zealander has little time for those who go off to fight alongside ISIS.
The Herald reported:
Mr Key also wanted to reform SIS legislation. However, he said he would prefer to do that on a bipartisan basis with Labour under its new leader.
If he could not secure Labour’s support, “then there’s a very strong chance that I won’t progress changes in that area”.
It is best to have bipartisan support in this area. So if the Labour leadership contest means Labour won’t support any changes, then they probably won’t proceed – which will be interesting if the lack of a new law leads to problems.
Key confirmed, meanwhile, that New Zealand was expecting a request to join the international effort against Isis.
Deploying the Special Air Service was likely to be among the options considered by New Zealand “but we’ll just need to assess that”.
I hope we don’t do it. The risk of mission creep is too high. We should make some contribution to the international effort, as 60 other countries are doing. But it should not be troops on the ground.
Tags: John Key, national security