The new Parliamentary Intelligence and Oversight Committee has been announced, and it has the potential to be a milestone for intelligence oversight in NZ. Tariana Turia and Rodney Hide were appointed by John Key (who chairs the committee), and Russell Norman was chosen by Phil Goff (who also serves on the committee). Turia and Norman lead parties that have had their members spied on by the SIS or Police, and Hide has opposed on libertarian grounds the expansion of security based constraints on civil liberties (he opposed passing of the Terrorism Suppression Act, among other things). Thus three out of the five new members have been critical of the intelligence services, which is in stark contrast to previous members during the Fifth Labour government. Although the possibility of their being coopted cannot be discounted, there is an equal if not greater possibility that their appointment signals a shared belief by Mr. Key and Mr. Goff that the time has come for a review of the way intelligence operations are conducted in NZ.
Interestingly while Goff nominated Norman, John Key had to approve the nomination in advance. So there does appear to a deliberate decision to do things differently to under Helen.
Lets hope so. There are already signs that moves in that direction are afoot–Mr. Key’s request of the SIS Inspector General to report to him on the domestic spying programme and SIS Director-General Warren Tucker’s apparent commitment to more transparency being two examples.
It is almost unprecedented to have the PM intervene on behalf of a political opponent of his, and order a review of the SIS’s actions in relation to that person. The outcome of the inquiry will be interesting.