AUT Law School Public Lecture
In 2013, the AUT Law School’s Visiting Professor was the distinguished public law academic, Keith Ewing, Professor of Law at King's College London. Professor Ewing has written extensively in the area of public law and human rights and is perhaps, best known for his 2010 publication, The Bonfire of the Liberties: New Labour, human rights, and the rule of law. This book provides an outstanding critique of the failure of constitutional principle to protect civil liberties and restrict the power of executive government in the UK.
In his AUT Law School Public Lecture, “State surveillance and Public Rights”, however, Professor Ewing provided an historical context for the current state surveillance disclosures of whistle blowers like Edward Snowdon and Julian Assange. His current, ground-breaking research draws on recently released UK state papers from the 1950s and details the surveillance of political activists in western countries during this phase of the cold war period. The fascinating insights these official papers provide is of extensive and far-reaching government security operations, rivalling the detailed obsessiveness of the East German “Stasi”, in the minutiae of daily trivia collected on individuals under observation.
Despite the more limited technology of the period, it appears that up to two million UK citizens may have been under surveillance at any one time. In light of this extensive government surveillance activity in the past, Professor Ewing’s observed that the main surprise about current surveillance disclosures is the extent to which we are surprised that the state should be so obtrusively present in our everyday lives.
Professor Ewing was also in Auckland to present a keynote address to the New Zealand Labour Law Society biennial conference, held at AUT University.