Flushing out the subversives: the NZ Defence Force and Jon Stephenson

by Toby Manhire / 29 July, 2013
This makes it easy: all the subversives in the New Zealand media are identifying themselves.
Jon Stephenson gestures subversively.

A report in the Sunday Star Times by Nicky Hager reveals that the NZ Defence Force has used its American allies to snoop on the phone records of journalist Jon Stephenson.

It also brings news of a remarkable New Zealand Defence Force security manual, which lists "certain investigative journalists" (as opposed, one can only assume, to the vague ones) as one of three subversive elements, alongside foreign intelligence services and organisations with extreme ideologies.

While the revelations are a temporary inconvenience for the NZDF and a government that is eager to push through, under urgency and with the biddable vote of Peter "willing seller" (or was that "willing buyer", I'm not sure which is which) Dunne, they are also kind of useful for whoever is responsible for keeping the list of subversives up to date.

Subversive: Jon Stephenson. As if that wasn't obvious already, there's a film about him in the NZ Film Festival in which he probes the role of NZ in Afghanistan. Also why no "h" in his first name? Subversive.

Subversive: Nicky Hager. High up the list. Here he is again.


Subversive: Former Defence chief Sir Bruce Ferguson.

Subversives: Rick Neville of the Newspaper Publishers' Association, defence analyst Dr Paul Buchanan, lawyer Rodney Harrison.

Subversive: Andrew Geddis. Lawyer-academic-blogger Geddis is clearly a subversive. Why else would he write with such anger and lucidity at Pundit, this:

May I just say as a loyal and patriotic New Zealand citizen, whom it is your job to protect and in whose name you operate, that this is NOT AT ALL ACCEPTABLE.


Subversive: Novelist-biologist-blogger Danyl Mclauchlan, who subversively joins dots between the revelations and the GCSB legislation.

Subversive: Russell Brown, who says at Public Address:

I’m angry about it. Did this stop at tracking phone calls? I had occasional emails from Jon in Kabul last year, usually just drawing my attention to stories he’d filed. I am in the “tree” too?

Subversive: Gordon Campbell, plainly. He subversively writes at Scoop:

A Defence Force that treats the normal querying of the status quo by the Fourth Estate as being essentially treasonous in nature, has gone off the reservation, and is out of control. Give it the power to do so, and such an organisation will readily use the surveillance powers in the GCSB Bill to substantiate its persecution complex.

It does not stop there. Even more troubling are those who are so subversive that they have said nothing on the subject. Doesn't get much more subversive than that. What do they - what do you, for that matter - have to hide?

Update, 2.10pm: Noted subversive Bryce Edwards has his own collection of comments from subversives, some of whom I missed above, here.

And defence minister Jonathan Coleman has issued a statement, which includes this: "My view is that the reference to investigative journalists should be removed from this Order. It is inappropriate and heavy handed."
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