RoadTrip with Kim Dotcom | The Internet Party

RoadTrip with Kim Dotcom | The Internet Party

Last year the New Zealand Pirates half expected Kim Dotcom to take over the Pirate Party of New Zealand when he first declared that he would move into politics. The common ground of internet politics and a pro-business stance would have made it an attractive idea for the Kiwi Pirates, But he chose to create a new party and, on tactical grounds,  join forces with the Mana Movement. New Zealand’s electoral system allows for MPs to enter parliament even if they have not achieved the 5% hurdle if they have an MP elected in a constituant seat. Mana already has an MP.

A city called Palmerston North, located in the lower half of New Zealand’s North Island, was the venue for the ‘Internet Mana RoadTrip’ that took place last Sunday, 3 August 2014 . We will see if we can learn anything from it.

Some of the highlights from a previous meeting on youtube.

The hall filled up, despite rumours saying that Kim Dotcom was ill and that the leader of the Mana Movement, Hone Harawera, was at a funeral. The crowd was a mix of young and old – Maori, European and Asians – a telling reflection of New Zealand’s cosmopolitan population.

The proceedings opened with singer who sang  in both English and Maori. With the help of an accomplished master of Maori singer playing a Maori fluteceremonies he soon got the crowd into the right mood. The first speaker, Angeline Greensill from Mana, stood in for the absent Hone Harawera. Angeline is well known in New Zealand for fighting for the rivers and lakes. Under a succession of neo-liberal governments the once pristine rivers of the country have been badly polluted, today 70% of the rivers are no longer safe to swim in or drink from.

The next speaker was, despite the rumours, able to attend. The ailing Kim Dotcom, despite a 40° fever, spoke on why he had formed the Internet Party and his vision for the country. He spoke of the reaction from his neighbours to his arrest and the seizing of his entire wealth, turning his family’s lavish lifestyle into penury almost overnight (without transport of any means to pay  mounting bills). He was overwhelmed that New Zealanders would care enough to provide him with life’s basics. He pointed out that the country  is overly dependent on primary industries. He wanted to see massive improvements in education and internet infrastructure that would lead to a tech revolution much like that seen in South Korea.

John Minto is an activist legend in New Zealand and is currently the Vice President of the Mana Movement. He was one of the most visible leaders of the protests against apartheid in South Africa, an action that led Nelson Mandela to recall that it was “as if the sun had come out” when an important demonstration forced the cancellation of a rugby match. John Minto spoke about the continued fight for human rights in general and for the disadvantaged Maori and Islander populations. He also rejected the slur from right wing parties that Mana was “race based” pointing out that most of the candidates where not Maori.

Iranian born Dr. Pani Farvid is the local candidate and her area of expertise is gender politics and LGBTI rights. She also announced that the party would work for free tertiary education. Under the MMP electoral system, she is campaigning for the party vote, rather than the electoral vote so people can vote tactically to remove the current government MP.

Laila Harré speaking

Laila Harré

Laila Harré is the leader of the Internet Party and despite sharing Kim’s flu, she managed to carry on until the end. She spoke more broadly of the way the Party’s policies were being developed in a Loomio based policy incubator where members openly discussed the pros and cons of member initiated ideas. Once a policy had sufficiently developed it was sent to an expert drafting team. This is unique in New Zealand politics where most policies originate in think tanks and focus groups.

Laila was pleased to meet up with someone from the Pirate Party and expressed an interest in working with the international Pirate Movement after the election on 20 September is over and she has taken her seat in Parliament. Laila was happy to pose for a photograph with a group of  pirates, some PPNZ members, and a Pirate Party flag (see featured image).

These meetings, along with other campaigning strategies, have resulted in the Party increasing its poll from nothing to about 1.5%. It shows the advantage of having a nationally recognised figure, a well organized team and plenty of funds.  Most Pirate Parties do not have these in abundance.

There is another thing we share – commitment. Anna Sutherland, the very busy general manager of the Internet Party, left her office in Wellington and drove to the RoadTrip meeting to help with sales of merchandise after the event. This kind of dedication is what wins elections.

Campaign worker showing t-shirt with "Don't mess with the internet"

Anna Sutherland and campaign helper.

All images:  CC BY-SA  Pirate Times