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Andrew Dickens: We are a nation being spied on

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 19 December 2018, 1:04p.m.
An entire government department, MBIE, has been found to have abandoned impartiality and become politicised. Photo / Getty Images

I’m surprised that more people aren’t up in arms after a report yesterday found an investigation firm have been spying on New Zealanders and invading their privacy on the behest of State agencies.

Security company Thompson and Clark has been barred from doing any more work for the government after the investigation by the State Services Commission found it used an unlicensed private investigator and produced electronic recordings of closed meetings without the consent or knowledge of attendees.

To me the report is eye opening.

Two brothers who claimed they were physically, sexually and psychologically abused in state care were seeking legal redress and damages from the Government. But rather than taking responsibility the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and Crown Law hired private investigators to dig up dirt on witnesses.

An entire government department, MBIE, has been found to have abandoned impartiality and become politicised.

The report reveals Thompson and Clark also invaded the privacy of political parties like the Greens and Mana and various iwi groups around the country. And it had a peer into Greenpeace. The report says it was concerned that Thompson and Clark investigated so called “issue motivated groups” under the excuse that they raised security concerns. But then they stepped over the mark into information mining.

And most disturbingly they invaded closed meetings of Christchurch earthquake victims to mine information for Southern Response, the government's insurance agency. This had led to the immediate resignation of the agency’s chairman Ross Butler.

Now while we can call it spying it’s at the lower end of the scale but not in the eyes of some. 

Kim Dotcom was all over Twitter last night saying that New Zealanders pride themselves on being the least corrupt nation on earth but that’s a delusion. Of course he reckons the rot goes deep. After all the GCSB was found to have illegally spied on him. And on the face of it state agencies hiring private investigators to spy on New Zealand citizens going about their lawful business just sounds awful.

My concern is how it demonstrates the deep polarity that exists in our society these days. The contest of ideas has grown so vicious that if we not for something we’re against it. And we’ll do anything to defeat our so called enemies and in doing so we lose all perspective.

We saw it in Jami Lee Ross’s leaks of banal information. The rise of political strategists like Simon Lusk and the co-operation of bloggers to spread dirt. The whisper campaign against Clarke Gayford that caused the police to issue an extraordinary statement refuting the rumours. The way this morning when Russell Norman raised his concerns at being spied on most texts just waved them away because they just don’t like what Greenpeace stands for.

It seems to me that some New Zealanders fervour in their own beliefs have caused them to lose their soul. So step back, take a chill pill and stand up for yourself, but do it honestly and openly.

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