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Cabinet discussing new security laws

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/08/2016

The cabinet is discussing a bill that changes the laws around the security services and gives the GCSB powers to spy on New Zealanders.

Prime Minister John Key is expected to make an announcement at his post-cabinet press conference later on Monday, and the bill could soon be introduced to parliament.

Earlier this year a statutory review of the laws covering the Government Communications Security Bureau and the Security Intelligence Service was carried out by Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy.

They released their report in March, saying restrictions that stopped the GCSB spying on New Zealanders should be scrapped, but the change shouldn't be made without putting a high-level warrant process in place.

They also said the two security agencies should be covered by a single Act of parliament.

Under current law the SIS can spy on New Zealanders but the GCSB, which has much more sophisticated eavesdropping equipment, is restricted to gathering foreign intelligence.

Mr Key said on Monday, ahead of the cabinet meeting, that there were good reasons for authorising the GCSB to carry out surveillance on New Zealanders.

"Under the new law they would be able to, under very narrow conditions, but they'd need what's called a triple-lock warrant," he said on TVNZ's Breakfast programme.

"In the end, there are people that want to do some things we need to both understand and, secondly, potentially stop."

Mr Key has previously said he wants cross-party support for the new security laws, particularly from the Labour Party.

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