Mana's leader and sole MP, Hone Harawira, has used an interview with TVNZ's Q+A to lay out four conditions for an alliance with Kim Dotcom's Internet Party.
Asked if he trusted Dotcom, Mr Harawira replied, "Up to a point, up to a point. It's the reason why we laid out our conditions.:
"1) Move away from National.
"2) Lay out your policies, if there's similarity then we might get into further discussions.
"3) Clarify your membership base, and that’s yet to be done.
"4) Name your candidates. Now those sorts of things have to be cleared up before there's going to be any form of commitment."
The unspoken fifth condition
Dotcom must convince Mr Harawira what's in it for him and, more so, to his lieutenants John Minto, Annette Sykes and Sue Bradford. Minto and Sykes have expressed wariness about the giant German; Bradford has been outright hostile.
The benefit of an Internet Party-Mana alliance is clear for Dotcom's political startup. It could give it a presence in Parliament, even if it fails to make 5% of the party vote.
But it's less clear how a tie-up with with Dotcom - dubbed the 'Fat rich white pr**k' by one Mana staffer - would go down with Maori voters in Mr Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) electorate. A recent poll showed Labour ahead in a close race; Mr Harawira can't afford any backlash. (A 3News-Reid Research poll released this evening had Mana up 0.8% to 1.1% t, and the Internet Party moving from 0.0% to 0.4%. But a blip in nationwide support means nothing if a Dotcom hookup doesn't go over well with Te Tai Tokerau voters).
Harawira must calculate whether Maori voters will empathise with Dotcom as an outsider battling the system, or see him as an opportunistic wannabe.
Not sounding "signed up"
The Mana leader's reserved comments this morning make it sound like a shared list or other cooperation between the two parties seem some distance off, if it happens at all.
That's a sharp constast to a Herald on Sunday report that said, "Internet mogul Kim Dotcom claims he has signed up one sitting MP to join his new party before the election and is talking to three more - a poaching raid unprecedented in New Zealand politics."
Signing up an electorate MP would jump-start the Internet Party's odds of entering Parliament after the September 20 election. And apart from Mr Harawira, there is no other obvious electorate incumbent open to Dotcom's advances. Some list MPs, such as NZ First refugee Brendan Horan, might sign up to the Internet Party - but such a sign up would be worthless after September 20.
The Internet Party seems to have already satisfied Mr Harawira's first condition.
Initially, Dotcom - who has fiercely attacked John Key but also described himself as "pro business" and donated $50,000 to conservative Auckland mayoral candidate John Banks - left open the possibility of working with National.
But after it emerged that Dotcom owned a signed copy of Hitler's hate manifesto Mein Kampf, and a photo emerged of him wearing an SS helmet, the Internet Party founder said National was behind the "smear campaign," and he ruled out working with the party.
In terms of Mr Harawira wanting to see Internet Party policies, he'll have to wait a little longer.
This week the party launched its website, including an "action agenda" with policies like 50% cheaper broadband, copyright reform, more IT skills. However, there was no policy detail, leading to some commentators to dismiss the agenda as a series of feel-good platitudes. The Internet Party says will release a manifesto that will fill out how its policy aims will be achieved.
Separately, in an interview with TV3's The Nation, Dotcom said he was aiming for 7.8% of the party vote - a specific number that came to him in a dream.
With Mana's electorate MP taking a hard-headed approach to alliance talks, a dream of breaking the 5% MMP party vote threshold does indeed seems the Internet Party leader's best hope.
See the full interview here.
RAW DATA: Q + A: Transcript: HONE HARAWIRA Interviewed by RACHEL SMALLEY
RACHEL Hone Harawira is with us in the studio. Good morning Mr Harawira, thank you for joining us. Do you have an affinity with Mr Dotcom?
HONE HARAWIRA – Mana Party Leader I certainly have an affinity with some of the things he talks about the internet, you know greater access, lower cost, about putting a stop to the Five Eyes Network, and stopping mass surveillance. He's got a good sense of humour, I like that in him.
RACHEL He says you're both anti-establishment. Is that where it stops? You know that’s the common ground.
HONE That’s partly it, but when he talks about you know greater access to the internet, I've talked to some of the kids up home, young Maori kids, and they all said that they're into that sort of thing, and I thought to myself you know I've gotta talk to this guy, can't just ignore him because the mainstream media's saying don’t talk to him, he's a crook, he's been in trouble with the law. Well I mean who am I to criticise someone who's been in trouble with the law?
RACHEL When you spoke with him did you get the feeling he was genuine?
HONE Again our time together wasn't long enough to determine whether he thought I was genuine or whether I thought he was genuine, but enough commonality to think that it's worth taking these discussions further.
RACHEL Cos have you considered the fact that you could be a bit of a pawn here, that he might be playing you. There's a lot for him to gain, if you can help him get into a left leaning coalition government then he could potentially you know change the laws, he could avoid extradition. Is he playing you?
HONE At the moment there are three parties that want to change the government. That’s Mana, the Greens and Labour, and when I challenged Dotcom on it, he added his party to that. So as a result of the discussions we've had, he's been added to the list of those wanting to change the government. The question is who's playing who. I'm comfortable about where Mana sit, I'm comfortable with the focus that Mana has on feeding kids, on getting housing for people who don’t have housing, and jobs for everybody who's able to work. If he can add value to that by bringing in ideas about a high tech economy and greater access to the internet for lower cost and reducing mass surveillance on New Zealand citizens, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be working with him.
RACHEL How closely then do you want to work with him? How would you see that relationship?
HONE I leave that up to the brainier types who've been involved in setting up the alliance, but we'd have to be very careful about ensuring that Mana's policies are not compromised at all. And up until now it's been really clear, we've said you’ve gotta move away from National. He's been clear on that. Some of the things you asked him about there today about a whole range of other things, are things that Mana also believes in, and so the question is what is he saying that would be a problem for me, and I've yet to see it.
RACHEL There are those who will say you're selling out, because although you talk about the affinity you have in terms of the internet, in the Far North, you know the people you champion, they need a lot more than a fast internet connection.
HONE So these people who say I'm selling out, what am I selling out?
RACHEL The ideology, maybe.
HONE What's the ideology? Seriously.
RACHEL Well that’s it, we don’t know Dotcom do we. Is he left? Is he right?
HONE But we do know with Mana.
RACHEL He wants to deregulate, you don’t want to do that.
HONE We do know with Mana and what Mana wants is not being compromised by what he's proposing. When you ask a man a one line question and he gives you a short yes or no answer, that doesn’t give you any depth.
RACHEL Decriminalise marijuana you would oppose that.
HONE That’s a personal position I've taken, it's not a position that Mana's taken, but it's a personal position I've taken. And I take it because I'm not one of those like liberals for whom that sort of thing is cool. I see how marijuana leads to dead eyes in some of the kids that we have to teach. I see how it leads to dead eyes in the families that I've gotta go and talk to because my wife who's a Principal makes me go and see some of these families. I see the problems, and so when people talk about decriminalisation at that level, I think to myself it's not actually one of the major priorities in my life. Feeding the children is more important than decriminalisation of marijuana.
RACHEL Do you trust Kim Dotcom?
HONE Do I trust David Cunliffe, do I trust Russel Norman, do I trust many other people in politics? You’ve always gotta hedge your bets on those sorts of things.
RACHEL But you'd be working closely with Kim Dotcom, he's the man you need to trust.
HONE This is all about – politics is all about what's possible.
RACHEL And it's about trust.
HONE Up to a point, up to a point. It's the reason why we laid out our conditions. 1) Move away from National. 2) Lay out your policies, if there's similarity then we might get into further discussions. 3) Clarify your membership base, and that’s yet to be done. 4) Name your candidates. Now those sorts of things have to be cleared up before there's going to be any form of commitment.
RACHEL Well he says he's signed up a sitting MP do you know who it is?
HONE No of course I don’t know who it is.
HONE Absolutely I don’t.
RACHEL Is it you?
HONE No it's not me. No, I mean my discussions with Dotcom are out there and open, there's nothing secret.
RACHEL Have you asked him who that sitting member is?
HONE No I haven't.
RACHEL You need to know who it is don’t you if you're gonna work with him?
HONE Honestly, there are going to be conditions on any further discussions between Mana and Dotcom party. One of them is going to be no surprises on who your candidates are going to be, we want to know. We want to know early. We're not waiting till June.
RACHEL We're not waiting, so what are we talking here? So you need to come clean pretty quickly.
HONE Well a few things. He's clarified the issue about National. We need to know what his policies are going to be. We need to know who his candidates are going to be, and we want to know who the sitting MP is gonna be. We're not gonna be surprised. We don’t want to be surprised after June by saying actually it's Peter Dunne in which case – pull the plug.
RACHEL Might be David Shearer.
HONE Might be David Shearer, I mean he's got a seat. He's clearly opposed to National, he'd like to see a change of government. I quite like David Shearer myself, that wouldn’t be an issue.
RACHEL What's your gut feeling, do you think this is going to go ahead. Do you think something's gonna happen with even Dotcom? Is that alliance going to work?
HONE I think the opportunity is there for us to have an alliance. What exactly that alliance might look like is gonna be very much dependent on what the Mana membership say when we have our AGM on the 12th of April down in Rotorua, and of course it's been very public. Not everybody in Mana is on the same wavelength as me, and that’s cool.
RACHEL That is true.
HONE That’s absolutely true.
RACHEL Sue Bradford, Annette Sykes, you know say this could deunify your party.
HONE It could do if we don’t manage it well, and if we're not clear that these are our policies and we ain't gonna compromise them. If we start compromising on the principles of our policies then I would accept Mana is going to explode tomorrow. But if you're gonna compromise your strategy to achieve a greater principle which is more people in parliament, then I think we're gonna win.
RACHEL Mr Hone Harawira, appreciate your time.