The New Zealand Law Society says legislation to support safety and security for world leaders and others attending APEC 2021 events needs additional safeguards and public scrutiny of the powers to be given to the armed forces and APEC security staff.
The Law Society has presented its submission on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC 2021) Bill to Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee. It has recommended that the role of the armed forces, APEC security staff and foreign protection officers in the APEC 2021 security operation be carefully considered.
“The bill grants significant coercive powers to members of the armed forces and APEC security staff, and departs from the usual constitutional restriction against using the armed forces to support Police law enforcement”, Law Society spokesperson Chris Griggs told the committee.
“If Parliament considers these provisions are necessary for New Zealand to provide adequate security for APEC 2021, the Law Society recommends that appropriate checks and balances are added to the bill, to enable proper public scrutiny of the use of these powers”, Mr Griggs said.
The Law Society has also recommended that public attention is drawn to the fact that as a result of the bill, it will be lawful for foreign protection officers to be admitted to New Zealand with “prohibited firearms” such as semi-automatic weapons of the type banned after the Christchurch mosque attacks in March 2019.
“This may be necessary from a security perspective and it will essentially put foreign protection officers on the same footing as the Police and armed forces, but should be made clear to the public through the committee’s report, consistent with Parliament’s role in a free and democratic society that respects the rule of law”, Mr Griggs said.
The Law Society has recommended that other aspects of the bill also be given further consideration. One question is whether the bill should include a requirement to take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in relation to the ‘security area’ restrictions to be placed on marae. Another is whether the bill strikes the right balance between the legitimate requirements of the APEC 2021 security operation and the rights of ordinary citizens, in preventing compensation from being available to people whose rights have been infringed.
“If a person exercising powers under the bill has acted unreasonably and not in good faith, the injured party should be entitled to compensation and the bill should be amended to provide for this,” Mr Griggs said.