Template Guide for Public Submissions (click image for more info on making submissions) >>>>>>
Parliament met under urgency two days ago to consider making changes to our national secruity legislation and the result is the Bill will now go before the Foreign Affairs select committee.
The Committee has invited public submissions on the Bill, but they are due by 5pm today. This is an insanely small window of opportunity, so tight that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to imply that the Government doesn’t want to hear from you. So let’s make sure they do!
It’s easy to think that you need to be an expert in the intricacies of surveillance law in order to make an effective submission. But that’s not the case. The committee will have experts advising them, and what they need from us is a clear expression of our views and opinions as members of the New Zealand public.
By writing a submission, you are providing the committee with your own insights, observations, and opinions. They want to know any changes that you think should be made to the draft legislation and your reasons for those changes. The most important thing to emphasise is that you can keep it very simple, simply state your position on the proposed legislative changes and why.
What are the proposed changes? As you may remember, this legislation would extend the period the Government can cancel a passport for from 12 months to three years and allow the SIS to carry out greater surveillance than it does now, including in special cases without a warrant for up to 48 hours. The full text of the proposed bill is available online, here.
What are some factors to consider? As you consider your position on these changes, you might like to bear in mind these questions: Is this a proportionate reaction to the threat? What is the actual threat? Are we intruding unnecessarily into the lives of ordinary New Zealanders? Will allowing these changes to pass under urgency make it harder to recover the rights, freedoms and protections affected by this Bill?
Yesterday, Otago University Professor of Political Science Robert Patman said, “If you dumb down the vibrancy of our democracy [by pushing through laws under urgency] in order to deal with a threat which is distant from NZ and in the process end up doing the things that the terrorists want us to do [then we are just as bad as them]. These people are dedicated to destroying our way of life, we mustn’t do that for them.”
The Committee likes it if you refer to the relevant clause of the Bill before setting out your concerns or suggestions, so I’ve made a very quick summary for you of which clause of the Bill relates to each of the changes outlined above:
- Clause 4: Extending the period for which the government can cancel a passport: (with details set out in the schedule)
- Clause 7: Allowing the SIS greater access to databases for the purpose of surveillance
- Clause 9: Allowing the SIS to carry out greater surveillance than it does now.
- Clause 9: Allowing surveillance without a warrant for up to 48 hours in certain cases.
A sunset clause on the changes: both clause 7 and 9 provide that the changes contained within them will be repealed on 1 April 2018. This is a sunset clause and responds to the concern that changes of this nature, if responding to a specific threat, should not be permanent. It’s probably worth commenting on if you think it should be shorter, longer or otherwise.
Obviously the timeline is insanely tight, which makes the process almost farcical. But by making an online submission, you’ll be sending the message that we are not going to sit in silence while they make a mockery of our democratic processes.
Please get in touch if you have questions about this, it’s too important to let this go by without comment.