Waihopai Station in the South Island, a secure communications facility for NZ's spy agencies. (Wikipedia)

The Bulletin: Five Eyes glare at encryption

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Spy agencies want ways around encrypted devices, rift opens in government over refugee quota, and Bridges rules out supporting compulsory te reo.

Internet NZ has issued a warning against a Five Eyes push to force vendors and service providers to give law enforcement more access to encrypted devices and communications. There’s a bit of jargon to unpack there: Five Eyes is the umbrella term for the spy agencies of NZ, Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the USA. They want to be able to get around end to end encryption – basically where data or communications are completely secure all the way through, because they say that form of encryption is used by “child sex offenders, terrorists and organised crime groups.” The group maintains that the governments of all five countries support the right to privacy.

But Internet NZ says end to end encryption is much more widely useful than for those purposes listed above, reports Stuff. They argue that it helps protect data from hackers – not to mention that they oppose the internet becoming more useful as a tool for government surveillance. They also say that the trade off which is being asked for – effectively sacrificing privacy for security – is a false choice, and doesn’t need to be made.

It’s been reported quite heavily overseas too – especially in the tech world. This from ZDNet is one example, where it is reported that a set of Five Eyes statements “represent a toughening-up of the governments’ attitudes to the regulation of online communications.” It’s clearly seen as an intrusion by those who live and breath technology.

The timing is likely entirely coincidental, but interesting for New Zealand as it almost coincides with the visit of Chelsea Manning. While a soldier, she leaked damning information about the US military’s conduct in Iraq (and other matters) to Wikileaks, using encrypted methods. As this Guardian analysis points out, her whistleblowing was subsequently found out not from technological failings, but because someone she talked to turned her in.

And it’s also a question that may be of concern to journalists who use encryption technology as part of their work – especially if they report on international relations, government, or intelligence agencies. There’s a really interesting Mediawatch piece from 2014 that goes into it. One of the takeaways is that most journalists probably aren’t being spied on, but if someone with the technology wanted to, it would be possible to do so.


A rift over the refugee quota has opened up in the government, reports Newshub. Foreign minister Winston Peters has contradicted recent statements from other ministers by saying no commitment had been made to raise the quota to 1500 people. The PM Jacinda Ardern deflected the issue by saying it hadn’t gone through Cabinet yet.

It’s a thorny moment for it all to come up, with Mr Peters making the comments at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru, where asylum seekers that New Zealand has offered to take (but had that offer turned down by Australia) are currently being held. We’ve got an explainer on The Spinoff outlining the current conditions being faced by asylum seekers – they’re not good at all.


National leader Simon Bridges has ruled out ever supporting compulsory te reo Māori in schools, reports Radio Live. He says he supports the revival of the language and welcomes his kids learning more of it than he can speak, but doesn’t want people to be compelled to learn. Incidentally, next week is Māori Language Week.


This from Interest is a couple of days old, but it covers 12 months of data so I think it should hold until today. Migration remains high in relative terms, but has dropped 10% in the last year. That’s largely driven by a 9.3% increase in the number of people leaving long term.

Meanwhile, Treasury says migration is falling faster than expected, and that could be a worry for economic growth, reports Stuff. They’re also warning that falling business confidence could lead to growth forecasts being revised down.


Labour MP Meka Whaitiri won’t be in Parliament this week, with an investigation into her conduct towards a press secretary underway, reports Radio NZ. She’ll be working from her Gisborne electorate office instead. Incidentally, Parliament returns for another four week block, after an eventful two week recess, and Politik reckons this next month could be a wild ride for the government.


Farmers are discussing a plan to game the elections for an environmental lobby group, reports Stuff. Well, perhaps that’s not a fair wording, but it makes for a good pun. Federated Farmers boss Katie Milne says farmers who are also into hunting and fishing should try and win places on Fish and Game’s regional councils. But Fish and Game’s boss Martin Taylor is skeptical, saying it appears to be an attempt to get the organisation to be less critical of farming practices, which have often had an adverse effect on river quality.


This is a really powerful feature from Radio NZ about the heartbreaking experience of being made redundant in New Zealand. They’ve talked to a range of people about the suddenness of the blow when it comes, and how their lives are affected afterwards. For a lucky few, it can be an opportunity, but for many, it leads to a long period of struggle and despair. Incidentally, Radio NZ has just launched a new section of their website, called In Depth, which will feature more good long-form journalism.


From our partners, Vector’s Beth Johnson writes that if you get a cheque in the mail, no, it isn’t a scam. It’s just the Loss Rental Rebate system in action.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Victoria University expert Chris Marshall writes that restorative justice might be the best approach to solving the Simon Bridges expenses leak fiasco. James Mustapic dredges up some repressed memories of the TV ads that shaped his childhood. And a new episode of On The Rag is out, taking on the TERF wars.


Another week, another fascinating interactive feature from StuffThis one is about a Waitangi Tribunal claim over disproportionate and harsh outcomes for Māori in the Justice system. The statistics about Māori incarceration rates and sentencing outcomes are plain to see, but this feature is much more concerned with the human stories at the heart of those stats. Here’s an excerpt:

Think about it: if he’d really intended to assault the guy, or kill him, would he have called an ambulance, gone with the police and spoken to them without a lawyer, and be, as that one officer noted, “willing to assist as much as possible”? And Morrison is a solid guy, weighing 120 kg at the time – if he’d wanted to assault the man, he could have done some serious damage. Apart from the damage caused by his head hitting the ground, the only injury on the man was a 1cm cut to his lip.

A month after the man died, Morrison was charged with manslaughter. In a statement, police said Morrison’s ethnicity was not a factor in him being charged.

On the formal charge sheet, police misspelled his middle name as “Aprehana”.

It seems a small thing, but it also seems telling. Put it this way: they didn’t misspell “Timothy”.


My obsession with this England-India cricket test series continues, with the news that it has claimed the retirement of English opener Alastair Cook. ESPN Cricinfo reports that the decision has come after a horribly lean patch for the former captain, and despite England winning the series, Cook has played little part. He will however always be remembered for leading the way as England restored balance to the cricketing world, by repeatedly thrashing Australia in Ashes series.


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