Bringing forward the review of the Act
The Government is planning to bring forward the independent statutory review of the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 (the Act) as a result of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain report (the Royal Commission report).
The Royal Commission report made four specific recommendations to strengthen New Zealand’s intelligence and security legislation:
- Reviewing all legislation related to the counter-terrorism effort;
- Requiring publication of and public submissions on the National Security and Intelligence Priorities and an annual threatscape report;
- Strengthening the role of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee;
- Adding a reporting requirement for direct access agreements that allow an intelligence and security agency to directly access certain databases.
The Royal Commission also raised a number of issues with the Act, which they recommended were considered within the next statutory review of the Act.
The Act sets out the objectives, functions, powers and oversight arrangements of the intelligence and security agencies (the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau), allowing them to act as necessary to protect New Zealand and New Zealand’s interests, with appropriate limitations and robust oversight.
The Act currently requires a review to start after September 2022, which is five years since the Act came into force.
To start the review earlier, a minor amendment will be made to the Act so that the review can begin as soon as practical after 1 July 2021. This minor amendment is called the Intelligence and Security (Review) Amendment Bill (the Bill).
As the Bill only proposes a minor, technical change to the Act in order to bring the review forward, the Bill is likely to go through a shortened Select Committee process. More information about the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and the Select Committee process can be found on the New Zealand Parliament website.
The review will consider current threats to national security and whether the legislation can be improved to ensure it continues to be clear and effective, as well as considering issues with the Act that were raised by the Royal Commission.
As part of the review there will be the opportunity for the public to express their views on issues related to national security and the matters raised by the Royal Commission about the legislation.
The review will be conducted by two independent reviewers to be appointed by the Prime Minister.
The Ministry of Justice is responsible for supporting the review.