Interview with New Zealand Pirate Party President
The Pirate Times continues to introduce you to Pirate Parties around the world. Today we look at the Pirate Party of New Zealand or Aotearoa. We asked the President , Daniel Bertinshaw a few questions about the party and himself. The picture above shows him with his wife and the Party Secretary Camille Cowley.
Pirate Times: You go by a number of names;Daniel Bertinshaw, Laserface, Sentient Headmounted Laser. How do you prefer to be called?
Daniel: Generally with formal matters Daniel, but with political and online ‘Laser’ or ‘Laserface’ seems to have stuck. Since I grew up in an era of Role Playing Games and IRC handles, I’m just kinda running with it. Plus it adds to the parties’ culture (which is pretty fun, because of jolly roger flags etc).
Pirate Times: When did you become a Pirate?
Daniel: About 2.5 years ago, since I’m busy doing a doctorate I didn’t really take much of an active part, until I operated the university stall and got sucked into the dreaded state of “involvement”.
Pirate Times: What led you to become a Pirate?
Daniel: It was actually the hilariously ignorance speeches before parliament given by Jonathon Young, where in the defence of the 3 strikes copyright law he described the internet as being Skynet from the terminator movies and Melissa Lee’s equally insane technical understanding . Hilariously Lee tweeted about how a friend copied a CD of K-Pop music the next day, which was subsequently deleted.
I just could not believe that in a world with a deeply ingrained social fabric enabled by technology that our legislators where so deeply ignorant. I saw the Pirate Party as a way to have the “technorati” directly represented in the political process.
Pirate Times: Were politically active before you became a Pirate?
Daniel: No, I generally found politics tedious, painful and generally depressing. But I guess if you don’t pay attention to politics, sooner or later it will pay attention to you…
Pirate Times: Do you see yourself standing for parliament sometime in the future?
Daniel: Possibly. It appeals to the troublemaker I am. I plan to stand in North Dunedin in the next general election.
Pirate Times: How does living outside the country affect your ability to carry out the role of President of PPNZ? (If what your FB profile says is true and up to date)
Daniel: Don’t trust everything you read on the internet. I’m just deliberately perturbing FB’s psychometric profiles. Plus I value not being known because of my teaching role and I’d rather just leave my high school experiences behind.
Pirate Times: How big is the party?
Daniel: Quite small. We are below the 500 electorate voting members needed to register for the general election, but I see this as a dual issue of misunderstanding of our platform and it’s relevance and that we a small group of dedicated but unfunded and part time activists.
Pirate Times: What sort of people make up the party?
Daniel: “Young male white middle class geek” seems to be the norm, but less and less so. For one thing, geek culture is becoming pretty mainstream and the view of technology as a “boy’s club” is eroding: for example, my wife who is a software developer, is also party secretary.There are less older people, but I see this as the issues that apply to the internet becoming better known among youth, and most new movements start with youth anyway.
Pirate Times: The party has a policy committee. Does that mean that policy is not decided by the base?
Daniel: The policy committee’s job is co-ordination. We’re in the process of moving to Liquid Feedback to reduce the human overhead, which when you’re as small as us and volunteer only, is a really huge premium.
Pirate Times: Have you had any electoral successes?
Daniel: Hamilton East and Christchurch Central electorates both stood members last election, and both got significant results, though very, very small. Which I’d call a success given that our campaigning budget is nothing.
Pirate Times: What are the party’s goals for the coming year?
Daniel: Consolidation of our infrastructure and membership base partly. Also approaching like minded organisations such as InternetNZ and The Institute of IT Professionals, to reduce being perceived as “a bunch of angry white male trolls and content thieves”.
Pirate Times: Where do you think PPNZ will be in 5 years?
Daniel: Standing in the general elections, and hopefully making a lot more noise in criticism of government policy that is not in the interest of the internet and the technology society in general
Pirate Times: Where do you think the Pirate Movement will be in 5 years?
Daniel: Hopefully we can create a kind of “internet bill of rights” solidifying the notion of internet freedom and move on, expanding the platform to broader issues of the technological society. I don’t think the copyright industry will have changed much in that time though, so I think we’ll still be fighting that.
Pirate Times: What are the parties policies?
Daniel: Currently we’re redeveloping our core policies of personal privacy, government transparency and copyright reform, but we’re still bashing out the details.
Pirate Times: Do you expect to be expanding on these policies in the near future?
Daniel: Yes, we want to add policy to help bridge the “digital divide”, increasing the quality of New Zealand’s technical education, and to create flexible, secure digital infrastructure for New Zealand.
Pirate Times: New Zealand is geographical isolated. What effect so you think this has on the Pirate Movement in the country?
Daniel: It means that being online and “weightless exports” are actually a huge issue for us. But distance has also somewhat slowed our cultural development in respect to the net, so we’re not really seen as being as relevant to international issues as, say, the PPDE.
Pirate Times: PPAU recently became a registered political party – what is the cooperation/rivalry between both countries’ parties like?
Daniel: Generally pretty supportive of each other. PPAU and PPNZ have very little of the traditional Transtasman rivalry of this part of the world. Mostly we just share information on IRC and report / relay each others stories. Though, when New Zealand Pirates go to Australia and Vice Versa, we tend to easily switch parties.
Pirate Times: How do you think New Zealanders will react to the so called “Skynet” prosecutions of people for downloading files? (Skynet is the name Kiwis give to a “three strikes and you are out ” law that means that people can lose their internet connection after three complaints of copyright infringement.)
Daniel: Our first convictions have just gone through, and the reaction has been somewhat mixed. Either the public don’t care, because in their eyes it’s a minor issue, or they understand the issue and are concerned but can do little about it, because our incumbents don’t care to listen on the matter.
Pirate Times: What are your feelings toward the relationship with the New Zealand government towards the American film industry and the allegations that Hollywood is manipulating New Zealand legislation?
Daniel: After the TPPA sections on IP and trade were leaked, it became quite obvious, and disturbing since the TPPA negotiations are all closed door, shutting the public out of the democratic process. Because of the draconian IP provisions in the TPPA and the lack of transparency, were strongly against it, and the possibility of the allegations being true.
Pirate Times: In the light of a number of Pirate Parties, under the leadership of Pirate Party Catalonia, have stepped in to help Megaupload sue the US government, what is the relationship of PPNZ to Kim Dotcom?
Daniel: The charges against him are ones that we still feel are illegal (reselling copyrighted content without permission) so we have no formal alliance to him, but we are sympathetic to his plight, in particular the illegal use of the GCSB to spy on him, and the withholding of his property after the arrest. He has also expressed endorsement of our efforts.
Featured image: by Daniel Bertinshaw CC-BY-SA
Update 17 april 2013 The formatting of this interview was altered to make it conform to the Pirate Times Style Guide