Red Alert

Archive for the ‘security’ Category

NZ and the disarmament agenda – where are we?

Posted by on December 19th, 2013

The nuclear disarmament agenda has been gathering pace internationally in 2013 but our government has been ignoring, or just missing, every opportunity to do anything to advance it.

We had a great statement on it read at the UNGA recently by our disarmament ambassador, but that was despite Murray McCully, not because of him. She has been withdrawn from Geneva and sent back to Wellington, and the poor sole rep in Geneva is left there defending our interests and trying to advance the agenda without any instructions from government in Wellington.

The humanitarian rationale for non-proliferation and dismantling of nuclear weapons is gaining traction internationally. The impact of even one nuclear bomb being detonated (they are so much more powerful now than in 1945) will have catastrophic implications for the global environment and climate, food production and security, economics and politics, that winding back our collective arsenals and decommissioning nuclear warhead production is the only sensible way forward.

There are more or less 17,270 nuclear weapons in the world right now, of which 4,400 are on high alert, or ready to be used immediately. $1.75 trillion USD is spent annually on military expansion. Just 9 countries spend $100billion USD per annum, that is nearly $300million USD daily, on nuclear weapons. Just imagine what we could do if……

NZ had an opportunity to assist Obama and the US in his ambitious programme for the de-escalation of this threat to humanity, but John Key only saw it as a photo op. What a waste. It’s time he moved over and let someone who actually cares about NZ’s role in the world take over. David Cunliffe will do nicely.

The chilling effect of TICs

Posted by on October 14th, 2013

Update: The second reading of TICs is tomorrow. It seems likely the Govt will try to rush through the committee stages and third reading this week.If so, this is an extraordinary abuse of process, because there is almost no time to consider the impact of the Minister’s SOP and to undertake the debate that needs to be had. One fo the worst things about this Bill is the refusal to have meaningful and respectful discussions with the businesses which will be most affected, or to acknowledge the impact on NZ consumers. Please help to fight this Bill’s passage.

Tell Amy Adams what you think by emailing her at: or You can contact her on twitter @amyadamsMP

Amy Adams tonight released last minute amendments to the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Bill (TICs). The fact that she has introduced an SOP at such a late stage indicates she and her government is concerned that there are serious deficiencies with the Bill as it came back from the select committee.

However, her amendments are not substantive and appear to be window dressing. They reflect the hurried passage of this Bill, the lack of consultation with industry and the likely consequences on the privacy of Kiwi citizens and detrimental impact on NZ tech companies and their ability to innovate.

That she is introducing an SOP at all indicates that the National Govt majority on the committee did not, or would not, consider the implications of the Bill to NZ-based and internally-based tech companies.

In particular;
Amy Adams has now signalled there will be a more rigorous assessment of the costs and benefits, including the impact of the cost on the telecommunications company of requirements under the new law. In the Labour minority report we said: “Labour notes that subsequent submissions to the select committee by several network operators outlined potential significant annual operating costs and the potential capital expenditure costs. The committee did not seek advice on these supplementary submissions and the economic impact was therefore not taken into account. In our view this was negligent and irresponsible.”

The Govt’s majority select ctte refused to take account of the warnings raised by network operators of the impact on their business by this Bill. While she is now obviously acknowledging that there may well be an impact Amy Adams needs to specify exactly what a “more rigorous assessment of costs and benefits” will involve and where the Bill will reflect that.

Labour stands by our conclusion in the Minority Report that:
There are many reasons to oppose this Bill. It is ill-thought out, rushed and the government has refused to take account of core concerns raised by submitters. There has been no case made for the expanded powers of the GCSB and of Ministers.

Below is Labour’s Minority Report following the report back from the select committee. (more…)

Savings Policy-Details

Posted by on October 27th, 2011

For those looking for the details around today’s announcements on savings, here is the link. Also here is a link to Phil Goff’s interview on Close Up tonight, worth a watch too.

Some important elements to note

  • Labour is 100% committed to government superannuation being there for New Zealanders for generations to come. That’s why we are re-starting contributions to the Super Fund which National stopped. These policies are about securing New Zealanders in their retirement now and in the future. We are also guaranteeing that the rate of Super will be set at 66% of the average wage.
  • Making Kiwisaver universal gives more security for people in their retirement, and allows us to accumulate a bigger pool of national savings that can be invested in businesses, jobs and growing the economy.
  • Increasing the age of eligbility incrementally over 12 years from 2020 means that it will be 2033 when the the age is 67. This gives New Zealanders time to prepare for the change and ensures that we can manage our over 65 year old population as it doubles by 2050. Labour is introducing a transition payment for people who can not keep working in their normal job between 65 and 67. (eg manual labour).

Bill English has said that this is a “legitimate debate.” There are definitely different views on this issue. Let’s have the debate. Sadly John Key would not debate Phil Goff tonight. He said last night you can’t hide away when you are Prime Minister. Time to live up those words, and address the issue of how we manage our ageing population that everyone knows we have to deal with.

What Key really thinks about DPS

Posted by on May 9th, 2011

Apparently blokes need more security

Posted by on May 5th, 2011

TVNZ reported this evening that John Key’s jaunts to his holiday home in Hawaii are costing the taxpayer even more than we thought, with the Diplomatic Protection Service picking up an extra $30,000 bill for his summer holiday. The overall budget for the DPS has blown out by more than $800,000 a year.

Now I think it’s good that Kiwi PMs have protection, but does anyone seriously think he needs to take a bunch of security guards with him when he goes on holiday at his exclusive, compounded holiday home in Hawaii? Helen Clark almost never took DPS with her when she was on personal travel overseas. Michael Cullen often refused DPS protection when he was acting PM.

Since John Key became PM there has clearly been a big increase in the number of DPS hanging around with the PM. I somehow doubt that the threats to the PM’s life have massively increased since the blokes have been back in charge.

Of course, it could be that the massive $800k budget blow-out is explained by the NZ Herald article this morning:

Prime Minister John Key has revealed he is not immune from his boot camp mania … his personal guards have set up a personalised boot camp for him … He said his Diplomatic Protection Squad personnel sometimes changed his early morning runs to something more challenging – including carrying full jerry cans “if they’re trying to make things difficult.”

Presumably $800k for Key’s own ‘personal trainers’ aren’t one of the ‘nice to haves’ Key and English say we’re all going to have to live without? But then again, so far it seems it’s everyone else that’s going to have to learn to live with less, not the ministers themselves…

Chopper Key – it wasn’t the flight it was the cover-up

Posted by on May 5th, 2011





My view is that Key is not going to be caught by the use of the helicopter but by the hamfisted attempt on his part and that of Bill English to cover it up.

They knew it looked awful as they were cutting expenditure and attempted to bury it.

Update: for those without broadband, the Hansard is below: (more…)

Flossie le Mar could change lives…..

Posted by on January 10th, 2011

Don’t often do plugs on Red Alert but this is an issue we still haven’t got our heads around. Self defence for women and especially for girls is an important part of a process that is much more than the physical stuff. I first organised courses in the King Country in the early 1980s. There have been spurts of progress since mainly thanks to a very committed and mainly voluntary group of women. I hope this play helps change the mindset to the point where every girl gets to do at least one self defence course.

I write to interest you in supporting the debut staging of my play The Hooligan and the Lady next Wellington Fringe Festival.  The play is about Florence Warren (1890 – 1951) aka Miss Flossie le Mar, the World’s Famous Ju-Jitsu Girl.  This is the true story of the first woman to teach women’s self-defence in New Zealand – on stage. The play is a period reproduction of an original Edwardian star turn celebrating the achievements of one woman and her campaign to save women from brutes and bullies alike and I seek support to realize it.


Wikileaks: the balance between security and civil liberty

Posted by on December 4th, 2010

Wikileaks is an extraordinary event.

It started off as a not for profit media organisation and a website which published leaked information and has now become an evolving situation which throws into sharp relief one of the most important issues of our time.

It’s not about whether you have enough to eat, a roof over your head or a job. But it is about the the balance between the security of a nation and the right to make information available. And the right to publish it. This is the issue:

How will decisions made by private internet and telecommunications companies about what content they will or won’t allow affect the ability of citizens to carry out informed debate on important matters of public concern? What are the private sector’s obligations and responsibilities to prevent the erosion of democracy?

I’m not getting into the rights and wrongs of the content of Wikileaks.  But I would like some discussion on the above.

Consider this published yesterday on CNN’s website by Rebecca MacKinnon.

There isn’t much question that the person who obtained the WikiLeaks cables from a classified U.S. government network broke U.S. law and should expect to face the consequences. The legal rights of a website that publishes material acquired from that person, however, are much more controversial.

There are many prominent Americans — and a great many ordinary Americans — who have made their views clear over the past week that WikiLeaks’ “cablegate” website should not be considered constitutionally protected speech. Others, however, believe equally strongly that now that the material is out, news media and website owners have the right to publish the material.

What is troubling and dangerous is that in the internet age, public discourse increasingly depends on digital spaces created, owned and operated by private companies. The result is that one politician has more power than ever to shut down controversial speech unilaterally with one phone call.

After suffering aggressive cyber attacks last weekend, Assange removed his “cablegate” site from servers in Sweden and purchased a new home for it on Amazon’s web hosting service. On Tuesday, Amazon talked on the phone with the office of Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate’s committee on homeland security.

Shortly thereafter, Amazon booted WikiLeaks.

MacKinnon goes on to say this, which is really the guts of the issue that I want to discuss:

Amazon’s dumping of WikiLeaks at one senator’s request brings into stark relief one of the core problems Americans have grappled with since before our country even existed: Where is the right balance between security, on one hand, and civil liberties, on the other?

..the WikiLeaks Amazon case also highlights a new problem for American democracy — and ultimately for the future of freedom and democracy more globally. A substantial if not critical amount of our political discourse has moved into the digital realm. This realm is largely made up of virtual spaces that are created, owned and operated by the private sector.

You can read the full CNN article here

Rebecca MacKinnon is a Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, co-founder of the international bloggers’ network Global Voices Online and a founding member of the Global Network Initiative. Her book, “Consent of the Networked,” will be published late next year by Basic Books.

Perhaps China needs to chill?

Posted by on June 20th, 2010

Predictably, there are different responses emerging to the Russel Scuffle outside parliament on Friday.

John Key says it’s “disappointing”. Murray McCully on Q & A this morning blamed Russel Norman. Others on the panel said it was “bad manners.”

Phil Goff defended the right of New Zealanders to protest at parliament saying : “We expect people to be respectful to our visitors, but we also retain the right to protest peacefully.”

Dr Jian Yang From Auckland University says Chinese security handled the incident badly and created even more publicity, which distracted from the visit itself.  He said that it was quite a typical reaction from China to protests overseas and there have been similar cases in other places.

The Chinese are saying something different. Here’s the response from a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry who called the incident “a demonstrator’s harassment of a Chinese delegation….” :

“At the invitation of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping paid an official visit to New Zealand starting on June 17. He was warmly welcomed and well received by the government and people of New Zealand. The visit yielded positive results.

When the delegation arrived at the entrance of the parliament building in Wellington Friday noon, it was hostilely harassed by a New Zealand demonstrator within close distance.

The demonstrator’s behaviour posed a threat to the security and dignity of the delegation, and far exceeded the boundaries of the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Such an attempt to spoil the atmosphere of Xi’s visit and damage the Sino-New Zealand relationship is doomed to fail. It also runs against the common wish of both Chinese people and New Zealanders to enhance bilateral friendship, he added.

New Zealand has apologised to the Chinese side for the incident.”

It is not the first time attempts have been made to shut NZ protests against China down. The most famous was in 1999, when protesters were blocked by a bus as the Chinese president arrived at an APEC summit in Christchurch.   And it’s not the first time an MP has used their parliamentary access to protest – I’m thinking here about Shane Ardern on his tractor “Myrtle” driving up parliament’s steps.

I get the argument about bad manners, particularly once you have a look at Norman’s rather pathetic “gimme back my flag” on TV.  Chris Trotter has waded into the argument, saying that while Russel Norman exercised his rights, he wasn’t sure he exercised his responsibility, given the importance of New Zealand’s relationship with China.

However, I’m far from convinced that China always needs to take such huge offence at any protest or difference of opinion it comes across in other countries.

I don’t pretend to understand the cultural differences, but there are different views about issues like Tibet and Taiwan – even among the citizens of those countries themselves. And there is a Falun Dafa group in New Zealand who are always protesting.

So when Chinese delegations visit other countries, perhaps they just need to chill a little?

Filed under: protest, security, trade

JK Rowling speaks from the heart at Harvard

Posted by on May 19th, 2010

I was so heartened by the debate engendered by my post “JK Rowling telling it like it is to the Tories” that I now share the amazing speech she gave to Harvard Students in 2008. It’s about 20 minutes long – enjoy.

To fight, or not

Posted by on April 25th, 2010

In our short history we have seen our fair share of battlefield carnage. Arguably it has helped make us one of the most peace-seeking of nations. The popular support for our nuclear-free policy,  our extensive peace-keeping deployments and the decision to stay out of Iraq reflects strong anti-war sentiment.

And yet throughout our history New Zealanders have always been ready to go to war when called. Modern ANZAC Day services are not anti-war. They respect the sacrifices made by our service men and women.

So what do we think of this paradox?  Historian Glyn Harper addressed it when he gave the 2010 Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture last weekend. It is an annual event hosted by the North Shore Committee of the Labour Party to commemorate Jack Lyon, a Labour MP who held the seat of Waitemata 1935-41.

Lyon personified the paradox. He was a left wing internationalist who believed he had to fight when the cause was right. At the age of 17 Lyon lied about his age so he could fight in WW1. In 1939 he did it again, this time knocking four years off his real age, so he could fight fascism.  He reached the rank of Captain, and died under German fire during the evacuation of Crete.

You can read or listen to Glyn Harper’s excellent lecture. It was a special night. Glyn read out two letters home from New Zealand soldiers in Gallipoli – letters never read in public before.  The event was attended by Sophie Tomlinson, Jack Lyon’s granddaughter. Defence Minister Hon Wayne Mapp was also there and found himself in the middle of some spirited debate about whether our SAS should currently be in Afghanistan.  It was a good warm up for ANZAC Day.  You can read more about last year’s event too.

Reflecting on ANZAC Day #1

Posted by on April 24th, 2010

I will be up early on Sunday, and like many New Zealanders will be at a number of different events marking ANZAC Day.  It is a great day to honour servicemen and women and  remember people who have given their lives in the service of our country.  Waitangi Day is still our national day from my point of view, but it is clear ANZAC Day is providing a sense of belonging, and a time for reflection and remembrance that New Zealanders are looking for.

It was not always so for me.  I can remember as a 16 year old avoiding a school ANZAC service on the grounds that I do not believe in war, and I did not want to glorify it.  I was young and naive.  I also think that at that point (in the mid 80s) the day had not taken on the inclusive and unifying feel it has now.  It was the time of fierce debate over nuclear ships and ANZUS, not to mention the whole prospect of dying in a nuclear war thing.

I worked out over the next period of time that in fact the day was not about glorifying war, but rather remembering sacrifice.   A conversation with a veteran as I was finishing school crystallised it for me.  He asked me to think about my friends from school, say imagine a photo from your school ball with 20 friends in it.  Then imagine within two years there were only four of you left.  That was his experience.

He was not interested in glorifying war (in fact he detested it, and thought New Zealand should avoid it all costs, as I still do).   But he did want to remember his mates.  And I reckon that is worth getting up early for.

Is the Govt tech aware?

Posted by on January 18th, 2010

You’ve probably heard that the German Government has issued a warning to all Germans not to use Internet Explorer after a security flaw had been revealed. The flaw was revealed following the recent hacking of Google.

The issue is running hot, not just on Twitter, and online media, but in the mainstream media too. Last night it made TV3 news. The BBC said:

The warning from the Federal Office for Information Security comes after Microsoft admitted Internet Explorer was the weak link in recent attacks on Google’s systems.

Microsoft rejected the warning, saying that the risk to users was low and that the browsers’ increased security setting would prevent any serious risk.

However, German authorities say that even this would not make Internet Explorer fully safe.

I’ve been a bit busy today, so haven’t managed to post til now. But hello? Is our government aware this is an issue?

As an MP, we have no choice about what browser we get to use in parliament, in our electorate offices and on our laptops.

I understand that most government departments have Internet Explorer as their standard browser and that for many, their employees have no choice about what browser they use.

What does this mean for the security of the New Zealand government’s information and systems?

What about the multitude of other NZers who use Internet Explorer at home or in the workplaces?

Given what’s happened, wouldn’t it be a good idea for the government to say something? Or don’t they know what a browser is?