New Zealand's GCSB Bill or the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill will be passed into law despite the objections of the Opposition.
In 2012, the GCSB was under scrutiny for illegally conducting surveillance on Internet mogul Kim Dotcom. Further investigation revealed that the agency had also violated the law by spying on New Zealanders.
Prime Minister John Key said the GCSB was a necessary piece of legislation to clarify the law. Regardless of political opposition which culminated into a protest rally in Auckland, the GCSB bill is likely to be approved as a law.
John Key has accused critics of the GCSB bill and New Zealand media for spreading "lies" but his attempt to reassure the public about the benefits of the bill seem to cause more confusion. The prime minister said it was "totally incorrect" to say that the government, through the GCSB, will be able to collectively spy on Kiwis.
New Zealand belongs to the "Five Eyes" spying alliance which includes Australia, U.S., Canada and Great Britain. In recent months, the world was stunned with the mass surveillance of the United States' National Security Agency with Edward Snowden as whistleblower. The controversy has sparked worldwide reactions among the country's allies.
It was suspected that the U.S. was using the GCSB and other intelligence agencies around the world to gather private data and trawl global communications. The timing of the new spying law may be coincidence but nevertheless, the GCSB bill has raised concerns and opposition.
The New Zealand government has refused to confirm if the GCSB has access to PRISM, a surveillance system in the U.S. that taps data collected by Internet giants like Microsoft and Google. The government and Prime Minister John Key said the passage of the GCSB bill into law will allow agency to use its expertise and technology in spying on New Zealanders for police or military use.
Surveillance of New Zealanders in most circumstances is only legal when done with a warrant. It must be signed by the prime minister and commissioner of security of warrants. When the GCSB bill is passed, the agency can spy on Kiwis under the guise of preventing cybercrime or assist law enforcement agencies to solve crimes.
Prime Minister John Key walks out of press conference
A viral video of the prime minister in a post-cabinet press conference has triggered reactions in social media. Mr Key was poised to answer questions regarding the passage of the GCSB bill. One journalist practically interrogated the prime minister and specifically pointed out Mr Key's disagreement with expert definitions on metadata and how the GCSB bill will capture it.
Mr Key asked the journalist, "Is this a question? Can I just ask you this question, buddy?" When the reporter told the prime minister he was interrupting his question, the prime minister thanked the media for coming to the press conference and walked off without a glance.
The video has gone viral and has attracted comments from people who said Mr Key "seems like a total douchebag."