Anti-fossil fuel protestors off the Raglan coast

Maritime Crimes Bill – balancing security and free speech

Parliament is currently considering the Maritime Crimes Amendment Bill, which would bring New Zealand up to date with current international rules about maritime security. The debate around the Bill reflects two valid issues: legitimate counter-terrorism measures and the right to peaceful maritime protest against undesirable activities.

The Green Party hasn’t yet decided whether to support this Bill at its second and third reading.

Anti-fossil fuel protestors off the Raglan coast
Anti-fossil fuel protestors off the Raglan coast

The intention of the Bill is to address maritime terrorism. We support that intention. Our Green Party Charter principle of non-violence commits us to work for peace, including an absence of terrorism around the world and clean and peaceful seas.

The Bill will enable New Zealand to ratify both the Rome convention and protocol, signed in 2007, introducing new offences related to maritime terrorism, illicit trafficking of weapons of mass destruction by ship (including biological and nuclear weapons), transportation of alleged terrorists by ship, intentionally causing death in connection with those offences, and maritime boarding.

But we’ve also heard concerns that the Bill could stifle New Zealand’s proud tradition of protest on the water. That’s because some things that are legitimate protest tactics might fall under the very broad definition of terrorism.

These concerns aren’t surprising, given the Government’s recent moves to give the GCSB more powers and blur the important dissections between the SIS and the GCSB. That, I said, “declares its purpose to be the protection of New Zealand as a free, open and democratic society; and then proceeds systematically to erode New Zealanders’ rights to privacy in the name of national security.”

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We’re proud of New Zealand’s maritime protest history and we wouldn’t want to see people unfairly stopped from protesting at sea. We were at the forefront of speaking out against the 2013 “Anadarko Amendment” changes to the Crown Minerals Act that attacked the right to protest at sea.

One way around this issue may be to include in the Maritime Crimes Amendment Bill something similar to the clause in the Terrorism Suppression Act, clearly stating that legitimate peaceful protest is not a problem. The Terrorism Suppression Act is very clear that “protest, advocacy, dissent” and strikes, lockouts, and other industrial action are not terrorism. Maybe the Maritime Crimes Amendment Bill should be equally as clear.

Ultimately, we need to find a balance between security and counter-terrorism issues on one hand, and the right to civil disobedience on the other.

 

Humpback whale breaching Raoul_KBDOC
Humpback whale breaching Raoul_KBDOC