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Spy bill passed by parliament

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/03/2017 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

File. © Thomas Jackson/Getty Images File. Parliament has passed the bill that rewrites the laws around the security agencies and gives the GCSB a mandate, under strict warrant conditions, to spy on New Zealanders.

The GCSB and the SIS are now under one Act, which replaces the previous four separate Acts.

The bill was drafted in response to the review of both agencies by Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy, and implements most of their recommendations.

The SIS has always been able to put citizens and residents under surveillance but the GCSB, which has more sophisticated eavesdropping equipment, was previously restricted to gathering foreign intelligence except when it was checking out cyber crime.

The reviewers considered stronger surveillance powers were needed as New Zealand faced increasingly complex security threats including terrorism, violent extremism and espionage.

Under the bill, oversight of the security agencies has been strengthened and warrants will be issued under "triple lock" safeguards.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, the minister in charge of the SIS and the GCSB, told parliament during the third reading debate on Tuesday that the bill represented the most significant reform of security laws in New Zealand's history.

Labour's David Parker said New Zealand now had the strongest security oversight laws in the world and he supported the bill unconditionally.

The bill was passed into law by 106 votes to 14.

The Greens opposed it.

"We don't accept that a discernible but modest increase in the threat assessment levels... warrants a sledgehammer that is encased in a velvet glove," said Kennedy Graham.

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