Politics is a funny business, and can produce some very strange bedfellows. The Rob Gilchrist spying affair has highlighted a significant lack of oversight regarding police covert activities, and frankly, some very poor judgement.
I have been asked a few times by commenters why I haven’t waded into the scandal. The reason is that I take the issue so seriously that I didn’t want to wade in with my usual tongue in cheek attitude and imperfect information. This could potentially sidetrack the very real and very serious debate about how we deal with the issue.
I am dumbfounded by the National government’s weak response, given the fact that so much of their private information has been made public in the last few years. I would have thought them to be more sensitive to this issue. Having said that, no one has ever produced evidence that National was spied upon rather than just leaky.
However, I am even more dumbfounded by who has lined up behind Keith Locke in his call for action on the part of the authorities. Keith has done a release both here and here, calling for an investigation:
Democracy requires the active participation of the citizenry, and it is very dangerous for our Police force to be targeting the groups most active on peace, environmental protection and animal welfare issues.
We will be approaching the new Police Minister Judith Collins, asking for an inquiry into the covert political operations of the Special Investigation Group. We will also be raising the matter in Parliament.
So is there a solution for the Government? Well, yes, a simple one occurs to me. Why not refer the issue to the Police Complaints Authority. This wipes the issue off the front page, and will ensure that some independent scrutiny is given to the issue. This is ideal for the PCA and is much better than having a formal external inquiry by a QC.
While Garth George says:
It is all very well for Prime Minister John Key and Police Minister Judith Collins to express misgivings about this spying on the public, but Mr Key’s refusal to intervene is inexcusable.
I never thought I’d see the day when I would agree with Green MP Keith Locke, but when he describes the police surveillance as Stasi tactics and covert political operations that undermine democracy, I have no choice.
Because he’s right.
Both of them share Keith’s assertion that democracy and free association are threatened by such activities. I hope the government listens to these calls for action and that a non-partisan approach can be taken. I won’t hold my breath.