The Inquiry into the Inquiry into the Inquiry into the Inquiry

How it all came to pass

Once upon a time in a country not far away at all, an obese German multi-millionaire, together with his very attractive wife and their children, a household of manservants, maidservants and security guards, 18 Mercedes Benzes, Cadillacs, Rolls Royces and other fancy carriages, and lots of computers, wide screen TVs and pretty pictures, moved into a palace in the Prime Minister’s electorate. To celebrate his arrival the German spent $600,000 on a big firework show for the city. The Prime Minister did not notice the big bang.

As it happens the German might have been a bit of a naughty boy. Before he came to our country he had been accused of taking lots and lots and lots of movies and TV programmes and music, and naughty videos and computer programmes from people who owned them, and loading them up in a cloud. This was rather naughty,although he wasn’t plotting to blow up the White House. Nevertheless some people in America were very upset and got their super-duper Police force, the FBI, to start an inquiry about the German.

But the FBI needed help to carry out their inquiry in our country, so they asked for help from our country’s Police and super high tech secret spy agency, the GCSB. Lots of people in our country had only learned there was a GCSB a couple of years before, when a little posse led by a man with a very long beard had popped one of their big balloons at Waihopai, a place most people had never heard of .  Anyway the Police and the GCSB were very excited at the chance to help the FBI with such an important inquiry. That didn’t happen every day. The GCSB jumped at the chance to use their super spying and listening gear, which they usually keep hidden under the big balloons at Waihopai. They assisted the Police by listening to all the German’s phone calls, reading all his emails, and seeing where he went in the cloud. They did all this for a month, helping the Police to know when the German would be home so they could pop round to arrest him.

And so it came to pass one day not long after Christmas,a time when the Prime Minister and the Mayor are away on holiday so there isn’t much news on the TV, the Police and the FBI made their move. At 6:45 in the morning seventy six Police and Armed Offenders Squad officers swooped on the palace and arrested the German. They took him away to a big prison run by a multi-billion dollar multi-national corporation,where despite the profits made by the multi-billion dollar multi-national corporation he was given no soap, toothpaste or toilet paper. What’s more the Police seized his eighteen luxury carriages and carried them away on the backs of trucks, along with his computers, his pretty pictures, and lots and lots of money.

This started a lot of arguing in the Courts. The FBI wanted to drag the German back to America, so he could face charges in Court there for loading stuff up in the cloud. The German didn’t want to go. After a few weeks a kind judge let him out of the jail. And Helen, the big boss High Court Judge, said it was illegal for the Police to search the palace with a warrant saying go have a look around and take whatever you fancy, so she let him have all this stuff back. But other arguments in the Courts continue to this very day.

But here is where the story gets really interesting. Someone told the Prime Minister that it was actually illegal for the GCSB to spy on the country’s citizens and permanent residents, which the German was by that time. So the Prime Minister said sorry. But he decided he wanted to know what was really going on at the GCSB, under their big balloons at Waihopai, so he called up a very clever woman named Becs, and told her to go and conduct an inquiry into the inquiry.

Becs went away and actually read the GCSB Act and lo, verily it did say quite clearly that it was illegal for the GCSB to spy on the citizens and residents of the country. She also had a good look round the office and under the big balloons at Waihopai. To her horror, she found out that not only had the GCSB spied on the German illegally, they had also been illegally spying on 85 other citizens of the country. Becs also found that, despite the impressive looking big balloons the GCSB was really a Mickey Mouse outfit. So Becs finished her inquiry into the inquiry and wrote an 85 page report all about it, which she gave to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister was truly shocked that the GCSB had been spying on citizens illegally, so he said unto his closest advisers “Oops! Quick, we had better pass a law in the Parliament to make it legal!” Which he did. But I am jumping ahead of myself again. Being a believer in democracy and open and transparent government, the Prime Minister decided that he should let all the people see what was in Becs’ 85 page report, at a press conference where he could be photographed holding the report and smiling reassuringly. But first he gave it to his closest and most trusted Ministers and advisers to read, while he went on a trip to China where he would have lots of photo opportunities to smile with rich and important Chinese people.

But while the Prime Minister was away treachery was afoot. Somebody leaked a copy of Becs’ 85 page report to a news reporter named Andy. She was chuffed to get it, and she wrote a headline story all about it on the front page of the capital city’s morning newspaper. There was no photograph of the Prime Minister holding the report and smiling reassuringly. There was no photograph of the Prime Minister smiling with the Chinese Premier.

When the Prime Minister got back from China he was not smiling. In fact he was very cross, and desperate to know who had stolen his thunder by leaking the report to Andy. So he called a man named Henry (just plain Henry, not Henry VIII or Henry IX) and commissioned him to conduct an inquiry into the inquiry into the inquiry. He told all his ministers and officials that they had to give Henry whatever he wanted for his inquiry into the inquiry into the inquiry. Henry set about his task with great enthusiasm. Some of the Prime Minister’s manservants were very eager to help Henry. With the benefit of modern technology they were able to give Henry a log of all Andy’s movements through the swipecard electronic doors all around the Parliament for the previous three months. Presumably this included all the times she went to the parliamentary ladies’ loo, which is of course where one goes for a leak. They also gave Henry all Andy’s emails, and he found that in the two weeks prior to her story in the newspaper Andy had exchanged 86 emails with Peter D, who was one of the Prime Minister’s trusted ministers.

But Henry had a problem. Before he could officially read Andy’s and Peter D’s emails, he had to get Peter D’s permission. But despite what the Prime Minister had said about his ministers giving Henry whatever he wanted, Peter D refused. He went on the TV and made a passionate speech about privacy, especially his “strong belief that citizens, be they constituents, members of the public or journalists, ought to be able to communicate with their elected representatives in confidence if they wish.”  Because he would not let Henry have his emails he had to resign as a Minister. When Peter D found out later that the Prime Minister's manservants had given Henry his emails anyway, he was “shocked beyond belief” and “extremely concerned and angry about this gross, unauthorised breach of personal privacy”. Remember those passionate words for later in the story.

Since Peter D wouldn’t let Henry officially read his emails, his inquiry into the inquiry into the inquiry ground to a halt and he could only write a 24 page report. He gave his 24 page report to the Prime Minister, even though it officially told him and the people nothing. Henry’s 24 page report that officially told the Prime Minister nothing cost the country’s taxpayers about $42,000, even though he hadn't paid the Prime Minister's manservants anything for Andy's swipecard logs and emails. However, the Prime Minister has not said anything much about that, even though his party usually does not like spending government money.

However a very important man called the Speaker, who stands up and says "order" while the Members yell insults at each other across the Parliament, was justifiably concerned that the Prime Minister’s manservants had given Andy’s swipecard movements and emails to Henry. So he referred the matter to the Privileges Committee, a group of very important MPs, to conduct an inquiry into the inquiry into the inquiry into the inquiry. This very week the Privileges Committee all sat round a big table and called Henry in so they could ask him lots of hard questions and tell him off. This was a bit harsh, since Henry really had been only trying to do what the Prime Minister wanted and find out who stole his thunder by leaking Becs’ report. Nevertheless, one of the members of the Privileges Committee was a minister named Judy. Judy is probably not one of the Prime Minister’s most trusted ministers because she wants his job. Judy fixed her steely eyes on Henry and said “It was quite a chilling experience to realise that ministers’ and staff’s emails, and their right to privacy, were treated with what I would say was a contemptuous attitude”. Then that very afternoon she voted for the Prime Minister’s bill to make it legal for the GCSB to spy on the citizens of the country.

For indeed, while all these inquiries had been going on, the Prime Minister had introduced his bill to make the GCSB spying on the country’s citizens legal, into the Parliament. Many of the country's people didn’t like the Bill, because like Peter D and Judy they valued their privacy. They were scared about the power the Bill gave to the GCSB, and to the Prime Minister who is in charge of the GCSB. Lots of very respected and clever people who know what they are talking about spoke out against the bill, including the Law Society, the Human Rights Commission, the Privacy Commissioner, a famous constitutional lawyer and the former director of the GCSB. The obese German multi-millionaire spoke out about it too. However, the Prime Minister said that they were all wrong and tried to distract the people by talking about fish.

And so the fateful day of the final vote in Parliament came. Even with the ex-Mayor and Judy and all his other ministers and party members voting for the Bill, the Prime Minister still needed one more vote to pass it into law. So who should he turn to but Peter D. The reader will remember the impassioned speech he made to the TV camera when he wouldn’t let Henry officially read his emails, and the even more impassioned speech he made when he found out Henry had got them anyway. But even though the reader will remember, Peter D had forgotten. And so he gave the Prime Minister the one vote he needed to pass the Bill into law.

And that is how it became legal for the GCSB to spy on the citizens of the country, with warrants just signed by the Prime Minister and the Commissioner of Security Warrants, a nice retired judge chap the Prime Minister calls up when he wants to commission a security warrant. And here is where the story must end, before the GCSB starts reading it.