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Thursday, August 22, 2013

New Zealand passes domestic spy bill

Prime Minister John Kee

Last night after a passionate debate, New Zealand passed a bill that allows the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) to spy on its citizens.  But it only just scraped in - 61 votes to 59.  The bill gives the government legal access to electronic communications including mobile phone calls.

Last year the GCSB illegally spied on New Zealand resident and Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom.  Armed police raided his Auckland mansion as part of a US-led investigation into online piracy.

Dotcom was accused of costing the entertainment industry $500 million through pirated content uploaded to his file-sharing site which had 150 million users.  Dotcom denied the charges and fought an attempt to extradite him to the US. 

Kim Dotcom is furious with the new bill and said "This will be the birth of a surveillance state in New Zealand."

Kim Dotcom

The Prime Minister said he was sorry that so much misinformation had "alarmed and agitated" some citizens. "But my regret would be nothing compared to the threat if this legislation was not passed and New Zealanders were harmed because of a gap that currently exists in our security arrangements." 

In April this year, New Zealand made same sex marriage legal. Parliament spontaneously broke into song and people in the public gallery clapped and cheered  when the bill was passed  77 votes to 44. Australia is still reluctant to commit.