John Campbell may now be wishing that they hadn't tried so hard. Here's a link to the video of the interview, followed by TV3's overview of it:
Campbell Live has devoted much of this week to the GCSB bill. We're on a nationwide road trip, finding out whether you support or oppose the bill or even if you feel informed.We've asked Prime Minister John Key to appear on a number of occasions to discuss the bill. He's always declined, until tonight."We got 124 submissions on the GCSB bill, and 30,000 on snapper," he says.Mr Key says he spends a lot of time touring the country, but the GCSB bill is not a topic that comes up in his discussions."People do not raise GCSB. I have public meetings, I have question sessions at everything I do. I probably have half a dozen meetings a day with public engaging with people…People don't raise this issue," he tells Campbell Live.The Prime Minister says under the changes, the GCSB will need to obtain a warrant from the Commissioner of High Security Warrants – a retired court judge appointed by Mr Key."[The surveillance of] Kim Dotcom was illegal under the old law, which is why I apologised, and it's illegal under the new law," Mr Key says.Mr Key says some discussion around the bill has been misrepresented, and the organisation will not be able to spy on New Zealanders."The point here is that you're going into a shop, or you're going down the main street of New Zealand, and you are saying, 'Do you want to be spied on?' If you come and ask me that question the answer is no. But you cannot do that under Section Eight," he says.Mr Key says the GCSB stopped surveillance of 88 New Zealanders last year under advice from lawyers."I'm a bit busy running the country…so I don't need to go in there and read out a pro-former second reading speech," he said when asked why he did not show up to the committee stages or second reading of the bill, before accusing Campbell Live of creating stories around the Dotcom saga."You've done so many stories which are absolute nonsense and you know they are, and I've actually answered those in the past," he says.
Mr Key says the original problems with the GCSB stem from a section passed by the Labour Government in 2003.
We didn't see the interview the first time around. But when we checked our Twitter feed around 7.30pm, there were all sorts of comments going on from some very unlikely sources about how John Key had schooled John Campbell, so we made sure that we watched the TV3 plus one channel at 8pm when Campbell Live replayed.
We know that we are biased, but John Key was absolutely masterful last night. Those who dismiss him as a lightweight could not be more wrong. He was factual, he refused to let John Campbell cut him off and/or speak over him, and he answered Campbell's questions at length and with detail.
And he made a very valid point; watch the video from around the 2 minute mark where Key talks about some of the misinformation in the public arena about the GCSB Bill. Key confirms that the Kitteridge Report identified 88 occasions between 2003 and 2012 where the GCSB may have acted unlawfully by providing support to external agencies; on average each year ONE for every HALF-MILLION New Zealanders.
The Left is trying to paint the GCSB Bill as giving the GCSB the power to undertake mass surveillance of New Zealanders. Patently that is fiction, and John Key exposed that fiction last night in a very powerful manner. The fact is that the GCSB's powers will be little different to what they were under Helen Clark, but they will be more clearly defined and less ambiguous, and they will be subject to considerably more scrutiny.
If John Campbell was hoping to ambush the Prime Minister last night, he will be awfully disappointed. We would go as far as to say that last night's interview was as good as any that John Key has given in his five years as Prime Minister.
And the Labour Party must be desperately worried. John Key regularly took on Sir Michael Cullen's rapier-sharp wit when he was Opposition finance spokesman and later Leader of the Opposition. In 2008 he went head-to-head with the formidable Helen Clark, forcing Miss Clark to resort to a jibe about Key shouting his family down. And in 2011 Key was all over the experienced Phil Goff in the televised leaders' debates. How could they even consider putting the gaffe-prone David Shearer up against him?
In 17 minutes last night, John Key went a long way towards answering criticisms of the GCSB legislation. Sure, the extreme activist element will continue to beat this up, but John Key is dead right; far, far more people care about how many snapper they can legally catch than whether the state will spy on them. No amount of beating up of the GCSB issue by John Campbell, David Fisher, Kim Dotcom et al will change that.