While COVID-19 restrictions have slightly loosened, allowing us to reach out and support local businesses allowed to operate during Level 3, I wanted to reach out and let you know my Office teams in Auckland and Wellington are still here to support you all. My Wellington office in Parliament is operating and my Auckland team are available to support you while working from home.
Email my team at [email protected] if you need any advice or support.
I am here to help!
2022 will see the House of Representatives host the 10th New Zealand Youth Parliament and it’s going to be amazing. I am looking for an incredible young leader who can inspire the youth of New Zealand as my representative at this exciting event. The role of Youth Parliament over the years has been vital in creating some of New Zealand’s greatest talent including some of my own Parliamentary Colleagues.
No matter your background, where you live in New Zealand or your culture I am looking for a champion who celebrates our diverse communities and has an amazing passion for the democratic values of our nation. The Youth Parliament is an insightful experience to show your skills as a debater, to raise issues that matter to you, improve your research and scrutiny expertise. Of course, Youth Parliament gives you a small taste of the workload of the Parliamentarians of New Zealand and the role comes with exciting opportunities to engage in a special way with other leaders such as local mayors and councillors to industry representatives and community trailblazers.
I am absolutely passionate about the way that Youth Parliament can invigorate young New Zealanders to get involved in our democracy. Youth Parliament is so important to me I co-led the charge, with my colleague Chris Bishop in the last Parliament, to ensure Parliament TV held live broadcasts of the debates so that kids across our country and their families could celebrate their representatives and hear the important views each Youth MP brings to the Chamber. To see what Youth Parliament is like check out the Speech my last Youth MP made in 2019.
The basic rules and benchmarks for Youth Parliament such as age criteria (between 16-18 only) and other expectations can be found here. The two-day Youth Parliament event will be held on Tuesday 19 July and Wednesday 20 July 2022 at Parliament, during a planned Parliamentary recess. The tenure for all Youth MPs will run from 1 March to 31 August 2022 to avoid clashes with end of year exams and these dates will be finalised for the successful applications later this year when the House sitting calendar is confirmed.
For my Youth MP I am particularly looking for someone who can be based in the Auckland region next year, where my Parliament Community Office is located, who can prove they would be a great representative for the portfolio issues I have Opposition responsibility for in the House. These roles are currently as Spokesperson for Ethnic Communities, the Digital Economy and Communications & Broadcasting and Media and I am also the Co-Chairperson for both the North and Central Asia and South/South East Asia Parliamentary Friendship Groups. These roles see me attend hundreds of events, functions and festivals each year around Auckland and other parts of New Zealand. During the Youth MP tenure I encourage my Youth MP to join me at events as an important way of better understand the community role of a Member of Parliament. If this sounds like you, a close relative or friend let me know and please reach out if you have any questions about Youth Parliament; it’s a really exciting opportunity for me to share my role with the next generation of young leaders.
For those applying please send me your CV, a cover letter, a couple of references who can tell me more about you from the community and an essay or video recording about your vision for the future of New Zealand. You can send this to me at [email protected] or via Freepost, Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Applications are now open and close 11.59pm Friday 12 November. This is so I can engage with applicants and make a final decision before Parliament rises for the summer.
Our democracy is for every ethnicity, every faith based institution, every innovator, every business and every community in New Zealand. It is here to hear your views and to share your vision for the future. I hope you can find the time to think about whether you or someone you know can be the voice of New Zealand youth in our democratic chambers.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Deep concerns have been raised in recent weeks around the long term privacy of mandatory COVID-19 Tracing information. I have written to the Minister and other Parties this week with legislative amendments that would ensure no data collected for COVID-19 and the public health response can be used for any other purpose, hopefully we will see some action soon!
Below is a piece I wrote about this issue in Indian Newslink and other platforms a few days ago:
Our personal movements, our interactions and our lives have been under the microscope for over a year with every pub visit, dental appointment, supermarket shop or catch-up with friends now being required to be recorded for utilisation by the State. As New Zealanders, the majority of us have given the Government the requisite social license for this decision to help fight COVID-19. However, this license is going to be at serious risk if, like in other countries, the Government moves beyond using this data for just the COVID-19 response. Serious and concerning questions arise as to whether this data, a treasure trove of people movements, business information and human interaction, should be accessible by the Government or even the people of New Zealand at large for wider societal use.
From law enforcement support to information regarding the most active store fronts in each community it is clear the COVID-19 contact tracing information, particularly as recorded through the App, could give insights into our country the Government never thought possible. It could help solve crimes and assist in long-term planning for infrastructure and the economy.
And that is a problem.
We, the people of New Zealand have not consented or been consulted on these hypothetical potential uses, and, as I suspect, many New Zealanders would never consent to the long term mass surveillance and tracking of the individual in our liberal democracy.
Here are some other hypotheticals I could see being considered across the wide ranging complexity of Government:
Do we want Police and other law enforcement to be able to use tracing data for the purposes of law enforcement (outside of COVID) and potentially for its use as evidence in Court; if so, what limitations should be applied?
Do we want NZTA and regional public transportation services to have access to aggregate data for the purposes of long term transport policy planning particularly in preparations for Level 3 situations where traffic congestion became a serious issue in many parts of New Zealand with clusters of takeaway and fast-food drive through services?
Should Stats NZ have access to anonymised scan data that it could aggregate and then publicly publish (ie most scanned locations in each region) as a matter of public interest?
Could tracer-stored data be ordered by a Judge as evidence for the purposes of a civil or criminal case (ie proving grounds for divorce or a parent’s suitability in a custody case or proof of a person being in a particular building at a particular time)?
I’m concerned, as are many other politicians, academics and lawyers around New Zealand, regarding the potential for the misuse and exploitation of this information by the Government for it’s own gain and, if you look through the names attached to this open letter, you’ll even see the Government’s favoured media proxies telling them to sort this out now.
I and the National Caucus will not wait for Chris Hipkins to finish dragging his feet months from now to backtrack on his view he won’t intervene. I’m pretty confident even if they put up proposals they won’t be fit for purpose. So, I am drafting a Member’s Bill to tackle this issue head on and hope, albeit with some scepticism, that I can garner the numbers in Parliament or have the luck of the Member’s Ballot draw to get this legislation passed for your data privacy rights and freedoms to be enshrined in the ongoing COVID-19 response.
Despite privacy laws, freedoms and rights being more important than ever in global history the simple reality is we are now sharing far more of our personal information, conversations and movements online and in ways rife for exploitation than could have been conceived when the concepts of free speech and expression were first debated in the ancient Acropolis, Indian Sangha’s and other early attempts at democracy of ages past.
We have to be vigilant and unwavering in the view that our privacy, our data sovereignty and our lives are our own and not something for all and sundry to see unless we specifically sign up to that future. There is no social license for the expansion of COVID-19 contact tracing information to be used by other government purposes any more than we have given it to those people stalking by stealing numbers from sign-in forms for the purpose of sexually harassing other patrons.
Bluntly, the Government misusing our data can be just as scary and humiliating as any cyber stalker.
Once the Bill is in the ballot I will have written to every one of my Parliamentary Colleagues to get them on board; I’m not holding my breath it’ll get adopted as legislation but I hope the Opposition and maybe even a few concerned Government members can unite with a clear message your data and your privacy does matter. I encourage you to also write to your local MP and demand the Government put in place these important data privacy laws.
In the meantime - keep safe everyone and for those in Auckland like me I hope you all finally get to enjoy the long blacks, pizzas, poppadums’ and pies you’ve all been forced to wait for so long. It’s still a long road ahead but we are here for you.
Go on and enjoy the slight liberties available under ‘Threedom’!
Note: If you or someone you know is concerned about their data privacy and need help please contact me.
When Facebook Went Down!
On October 4. Facebook and other affiliated services such as Instagram and WhatsApp crashed for users around the world sparking important conversation about the role social media plays in our lives and the impact the loss of information on our accounts to have. The below Opinion Piece I wrote last was originally published in The Spinoff and also discussed on RNZ's The Panel (from 17m.30s)
Have a read and let me know your thoughts:
Today’s outage should serve as a wake-up call to those who have their lives tied to digital platforms, and prompt us to think harder about regulation of social media giants in 2021, writes National media spokesperson Melissa Lee.
Across New Zealand and the world, something remarkable happened this morning. For the longest single period on record, Facebook’s platforms went down. Gone was the Facebook App. Gone was Messenger. Gone were Instagram and WhatsApp. Even the desktop website was out of action. Pokémon Go and a myriad of other third party affiliated applications were affected by this sudden and dramatic disruption. Advertising streams and boosted posts for business stopped. Community groups were suddenly unable to share vaccination information or foodbank updates. For a moment, many millions of people globally found themselves cut off from friends and family.
Facebook has grown into a primary means for many people to communicate and share their ideas – whether those views are right or wrong. Indeed, many consider Facebook and similar platforms like YouTube to be our new global forums, public squares for debate and free speech, with all the complex and controversial implications that raises, pitting private company policies against local national laws and international rights. Facebook and its platforms are now integral parts of the shared international documentation of human history with its posts, videos and photo albums replacing the great leather bound or wood block collections of earlier centuries. And whether they like or not they are charged with the responsibility of keeping that information, those records of human interaction and achievement safe.
The full implications of today’s outage remain unknown, but, it is amazing to think how much of our lives would be permanently lost to time were Facebook to dissolve overnight and its servers go dark. It would be like the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, but with the added feeling of a family home burning down. In some cases, perhaps even something approaching the death of a close friend. How many of us have backed up our Facebook data? The data contained in your Facebook profile has for so many people become the new family archive, the chronicle of life; it is a place where, regardless of your privacy settings, future genealogists, let alone archaeologists, will learn quite a lot about your impact on the world.
Today’s event, I hope, is a quick wake-up call to those who have their lives tied to digital platforms. It is also a newsflash for those who no longer seek out information across a range of local and international media sources but instead settle for a one paragraph summary and head for the comments section. For me, this morning’s outage, was a chance, albeit brief, to focus on returning phone calls at a more reasonable time of day instead of focusing on the stream of urgent constituency messages on my media accounts. The ongoing impact of Covid-19 and the difficulty many in New Zealand have faced navigating the information they need to do business or keep themselves safe at level three remains.
The digital revolution has now impacted, shaped and expanded our lives, our opportunities to learn about the world and our communities. But while it has given us the tools to send messages in milliseconds to friends around the world, it has also led to a diminishment in our interactions with neighbours. As we become more expressive in a digital world many decamp from their earth-bound lives and the balance between physical reality and the ethereal cyber communities we inhabit is constantly under threat.
In the Age of Sail before global travel became a normal activity people used to hold “live wakes” for their family members deciding to travel to distant foreign shores because of the near certainty they would never return home due to the possibility of death en route and the massive cost of communications and travel. Indeed, with the more recent advent of memorialised Facebook pages, instead of visiting the gravesite of a loved one we may now share a memory of them each year of their passing. A digital rose emoji to replace the peony bought at the local florist.
The impact of the potential loss of such important digital information brings us to important questions around the regulation of the great digital and technological platforms. This is an incredibly tough and complex issue that many countries have battled over in the last decade. We’ve seen the regulatory conflict reach our friends over the Tasman that ended in an uncertain truce between Facebook and Australia over its news services. Around the world there are countless lawsuits, proposed legislative initiatives and regulatory fights, some authoritarian and some encouraging of greater online freedoms. They encompass not just how these entities should be regulated but who should be in charge, the person, the organisation, the nation or the world.
I am a strong believer in a multilateral approach to the regulation of larger technology companies, particularly in relation to taxation, given the return impact that regulations could have on similar innovative companies based in New Zealand. We should anticipate that our best and brightest businesses that achieve global success pay their fair share offshore as well. I am waiting with interest to see the outcomes of the final rounds of the OECD negotiations which will have an important role in defining regulation of the sector.
Having had many discussions with the digital powerhouses of the world during my time as National’s digital and communications spokesperson I know they want to be constructive – because, of course, if they aren’t seen as reasonable and doing their utmost to be good global citizens, even where they falter, people will stop using their platforms in favour of the next innovative digital giant. You can see their thinking also in the many public submissions to recent content regulation discussions that have taken place in New Zealand around censorship and the way forward to tackling extremism online. I encourage you to take a moment to read their views.
While online harm on social media is completely unacceptable I do believe we need to remember how much these companies are already proactively tackling the issue and how much we ourselves need to also play our part to tell them when something is not right. Report tools can be found here, here and here for the largest companies and of course the BSA and other New Zealand regulators also have a role to play for more local matters that we can directly control as a part of our national sovereignty. If you are concerned about your family’s online use check out DIA and Netsafe’s tools to keep them safer on the internet.
The changing and constantly evolving way we inhabit our digital world raises countless questions of trust, privacy, rights to our own data and the future impact of how existing information about ourselves could influence or interfere with the lives of the next generation; at no other point in the history of the world has so much information about the individual been accessible and that is only going to keep growing without serious adult conversations about personal digital sovereignty in a social media world.
For now, with Facebook returned to action, our chat feeds fill once more, and we learn what damage has been done beyond the immediate stock market response, in the form of an $8.5 billion plunge, it is important to take stock, double check your passwords, ensure you have backups of those important moments in your life and, above all, stay positive that there will always be a way forward on the digital frontier.
Each sitting week I sit down with a fellow Member of the National Party Caucus to discuss the stories of the day and what's been going on in the House in my Conversation Vlog series.
We cover everything from Free Speech to Immigration, COVID-19 and the Budget so make sure to tune in!
While COVID-19 prevents me and many MPs from being in Parliament right now you can listen to past episodes through the link below!
Office contact details & COVID-19 Support
My Office phone number is 09 520 0538 - if you dial the old one it will re-route either to this one or my Wellington Office.
The new Postal Address for the Auckland Office is PO Box 74271 Greenlane Auckland 1546.
As usual you can always send postage free any information to my Wellington Office in Parliament at: Office of Melissa Lee MP, Freepost, Parliament Buildings, Private Bag 18888, Wellington 6160.
Please note: When New Zealand remains at COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 & 4 my Auckland office is unable to open or collect mail from my Auckland PO Box. There will be delays to my Wellington office receiving hard copy correspondence due to postal timeframes but correspondence sent there now can be received again; if you have an urgent query please email or phone for immediate support.
My email address [email protected] r regularly monitored by me and my team working remotely during lockdown.
Below is a helpful list of contact numbers to help you during the Delta COVID-19 outbreak.
National List MP based in Auckland
Authorised by Melissa Lee Parliament Buildings, Wellington
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