Editorial: Weapon of ‘mass distraction’

I’m not alone in wondering when debates around our national security and the powers of the state relative to the rights and freedoms of individuals got to be so bizarre in this country.
Our prime minister’s recent claims that hackers are targeting this country for information to help create weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) was derided in most media and labelled “weapon of mass distraction” by Labour leader David Shearer.
John Key made the claims in an attempt to justify making it legal for the GCSB to spy on New Zealand citizens and residents in their own homes.
The WMD argument doesn’t have good history; it was most famously – and erroneously – used by the warmongering George Bush government to invade Iraq.
“There have been covert attempts to acquire New Zealand science and technology for programmes relating to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems,” said Key. “I can’t detail the success or otherwise of those incursions.’’
Spending precious and limited government time and resources on such wild goose chases seems irresponsible to me. Rather than for spying on one’s own, I’d like to see today’s smart technology deliver real returns for our economy.
There was lot of talk at last month’s inaugural MindStorm conference (see article page 8 and photos page 14) about Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) and connecting innovators around the country. But as any internet guru will tell you, the secret to success in the online world is traffic. And while it’s great that we’ll have very efficient network to talk to ourselves within New Zealand, what about our connection to the outside world? Our big issue in the online space is that we’re sucking vast amounts of data into the country and sending relatively little out. We’ve got no large scale online businesses based here.
And if we do manage to build business of scale the pipeline is monopoly controlled – and the same monopoly interests have the go ahead to build new trans-Tasman pipeline; instead of an alternative independently owned trans-Pacific cable that could make us well-positioned and competitive transit point for global traffic from west to east.
MindStorm underlined the light-speed growth of online and mobile business applications and functionality; that they – the internet and mobile – are ubiquitous and simply the place where we all now play and work. They are inseparable from most business activity. It’s just pity that there weren’t more CEOs and CFOs in the room. I look forward to next year’s event. I suspect it will grow exponentially as did Webstock, the annual Wellington event for geeks and techies.

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