Judith Collins: Labour 'did not support' spy agency changes

News 29/03/2019

National Party MP Judith Collins says Kiwis shouldn't blame the spy agencies for failing to stop the Christchurch terror attack - accusing Labour not cooperating on changes that would have beefed up their powers.

Two weeks ago a gunman shot dead 50 people at two mosques in the city. The suspect, an Australian who is believed to have donated money to a European white nationalist organisation, wasn't on any terror watchlists.

There has been criticism our spy agencies - the domestic-focused SIS and foreign GCSB - has underestimated the threat from the racist far-right, instead putting resources into keeping tabs on Islamic and environmental groups.

An analysis of 10 years of public documents from the two agencies found no specific mention of right-wing nationalism or white supremacists.

Ms Collins told The AM Show on Friday they "most likely were looking at a whole lot of things".

"The thing with spy agencies is that they're spy agencies - they don't generally tell us who it is they're looking at. But I'm sure that the various ministers did have to sign off various warrants, and certainly Andrew Little seems to be busily signing off warrants."

Earlier this week, National leader Simon Bridges suggested National's ditching of a cyber security system known as 'Project Speargun' in 2013 may have been a mistake.

"We were overly cautious, and I think we need to revisit that... Speargun was really about going on the highways and getting the traffic. What we've done is just gone down a few driveways."

But Collins has turned the speargun on Labour.

"Until really the last decade, anything to do with national security tended to be Labour and National working together and supporting each other. Last decade, Labour did not support anything we had to do around those spy agencies."

Labour voted against the 2013 law changes which made it legal for the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders, if it had a warrant from a domestic agency, such as the police or SIS.

But Labour voted for the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill in 2017, which removed that restriction and replaced it with others. The Greens were the only party to vote against it.

"Let's not blame the spy agencies," said Collins. "Let's find out what happened, and if we need to fix that legislation, National will support fixing the legislation... Don't blame the agencies without knowing the facts - and it's very easy to blame them because they can't fight back."

Newshub has contacted Little, minister responsible for the SIS and GCSB, for a response.

Labour MP Kris Faafoi, appearing on The AM Show alongside Collins, said the upcoming royal commission will provide answers.

"If some serious recommendations or some flaws in the system do come up, then the Government will need to act. But we simply don't know that yet. We're just going to have to let the royal commission play out. They can take time."