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Spy bill passes first reading

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/08/2016

The bill that brings the security agencies under a single Act and gives the GCSB a mandate to spy on New Zealanders has passed its first reading in parliament by 106 votes to 15.

The government unveiled the bill on Monday, saying New Zealand's national security had to be protected against increasing levels of cyber crime and international terrorism.

Under its provisions the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau will have a common warrant system protected by a "triple lock" authorisation process.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, who is responsible for the agencies, told parliament during the first reading debate on Thursday that New Zealanders would only be targeted on grounds of national security.

"At present, New Zealanders can be targeted for wider economic well-being and on international grounds - those two will disappear," he said.

"This is a more robust safeguard."

Labour is supporting the bill, although it has some concerns, and party leader Andrew Little said the definition of national security was vital.

The bill doesn't carry a final definition, which will be decided by a cross-party committee.

"We do need to understand exactly what it means, that's fundamental and we have to get it right," he said.

The bill is the government's response to an independent review of the security services, and the Greens don't support it.

"We see no sufficient case laid out in the review to justify the expansion of the powers that are in the bill," said spokesperson for global affairs Kennedy Graham.

United Future leader Peter Dunne also opposes the bill because he considers wider intrusive powers are unnecessary and unjustified.

National, Labour, NZ First, the Maori Party and ACT supported the bill.

The Greens and United Future opposed it.

It has been sent to the foreign affairs and trade select committee for scrutiny and public submissions.

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