Govt to overhaul intelligence and security law

Prime Minister and Minister for National Security and Intelligence John Key (Simon Wong / Newshub.)
Prime Minister and Minister for National Security and Intelligence John Key (Simon Wong / Newshub.)

John Key's Government has pressed the go button on a merger of New Zealand's four spy laws into one single piece of legislation.

The New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill has just been introduced to Parliament, and will have its first reading on Thursday.

It will make the current Security Intelligence Service Act, Government Communications Security Bureau Act, Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act and the Intelligence and Security Committee Act obsolete.

It won't however, see a formal merger of the SIS and GCSB organisations, which will still remain separate.

Once of the biggest changes is that the GCSB will be allowed to spy on New Zealanders, something that's previously been illegal and only the responsibility of the SIS.

The new law will see the creation of a new Commissioner of Intelligence Warrants, who will assess all applications by the SIS and GCSB to spy on a New Zealander.

Mr Key says the role is part of a new "triple lock" framework preventing spies from illegal prying. It means both the Commissioner and the Attorney General must sign off on any surveillance of a New Zealander, with the Inspector-General given the right to review it.

There's also a boost in the number of MPs allowed on Parliament's secretive Intelligence and Security Committee, from the current three members, to seven.

A review by Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir Michael Cullen, released in March, made 107 recommendations to the current legislative framework, with a merger topping the list.

Sir Michael said having four different laws was inefficient, ineffective, and left officials uncertain about what the law even allowed.

"The law in this case is a sort of double-humped ass; if I can invent a new animal, because it's actually impossible to understand," he said when unveiling his report.