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Kumar - the meat in Internet Party's policy sandwich?

Kim Dotcom's putative Internet Party seems to have two pools of potential support - disillusioned Gen Y who don't vote and are disillusioned with politics in general and an older, more serious faction angry about the two "spy bills" that passed last year (with some crossover).

LATEST: Kumar quits Mega for Internet Party role

Many members of the latter group -  the "serious faction" - like Mr Dotcom's ability to stir up popular interest in issues like copyright, surveillance and privacy but are worried to what degree the Internet Party will become a vehicle for the giant German's various commercial initiatives, or debating his extradition case.

Many have dismissed the party out of hand, of course, including NBR political editor Rob Hosking, here. It's is a barn door-sized target if you're serious about politics.

Yet politics often takes surreal turns but of course under MMP the Internet Party only has to get 5% of the vote to get seven or so MPs into Parliament. And even if it only gets 2% or 3%, that written off vote could prove decisive in a close race between National and the Labour-Greens bloc. The Internet Party could easily (and inadvertently) deliver the Beehive to John Key.

So it matters what the serious faction of Dotcom supporters think. On forums like InternetNZ's Policy Advisory Group discussion thread, people are looking to see who will be named to the Internet Party's list, and for policy to emerge - particularly heavyweight policy that will prove the party is no mere vanity project.

Mr Dotcom can't necessarily win over this crowd by bashing the GCSB and telecommunications intercept legislation. Labour and the Greens have already provided robust criticism of those two laws (though Dotcom did it with charisma - possibly too much as he drowned out Tech Liberty, InternetNZ and other articulate voices at last year's select committee hearings). And the overall IT picture is nuanced. Many give the government a degree of credit for passing forward-thinking patent legislation that excluded software, and the UFB (which, although marked by bungling mismanagement so far, represents three times Labour's broadband spend, and was opposed by former ACT leader Don Brash - whom Mr Dotcom has reportedly consulted with on policy).

Here, Mr Dotcom's secret sauce could be Mega chief executive Vikram Kumar - the former InternetNZ CEO and State Services Commission insider who knows the ins-and-outs of surveillance legislation, and complex controversies like the TPP and how to put articulate, headline-grabbing arguments forward about both.

He certainly has more credibility with the chattering classes, and middle New Zealand than blogger Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury.

However, Mr Kumar was reticient when NBR asked him if he would have any Internet Party policy input.

"Mega is and will remain politically neutral," he said.

"The focus is on building a great global company delivering security and privacy for everyone. As CEO, I am fully aware of how critical it is for me to also reflect this personally. All Mega staff are also aware of this requirement.

"I'm available to any and every political party interested in Mega's views on the internet, security, and privacy.

"So far, no one has asked."

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions
3

So is Vikky part of the Internet Party or not?

Turns out yes...another undeclared association and this article is a mockery.

There are a substantial amount of disillusioned young people who are highly educated, technology savvy and social media connected in a way that was never previously available. They can communicate to large amounts of like-minded others in an instant and therefore have the ability to mobilise and shift opinion in way that the “old guard” politicians cannot fathom. This is a generation who can see the cynical nature of politicians who ignore what the voters are telling them. This generation is frustrated that it does not have a collective voice that registers with politicians.

Although Kim Dotcom might appear to be the “face” of change, look a little deeper and you can see he is simply a catalyst that has shown a way for the young educated and technically savvy to believe they can have a voice and can make a change to the status quo. If this change can be managed in a relatively rapid form there is the ability to institute real change in government as opposed the old way where those younger MP’s with vision enter parliament and get squashed by the old guard (none of whom would never qualify for employment in the “productive sector” of the economy), who like the way things currently run as its personally beneficial.

It’s only a generation away before these young and savvy become the politicians of tomorrow so change is inevitable. It’s simply a question of has Dotcom by default become a catalyst for initiating a faster change and paradigm shift in government thinking; something I would love to see happen.

Perhaps the way forward to instituting change is to create a new political party that is comprised of experienced international business people (export-driven) and technically savvy younger people with the total focus on growth and wealth generation for New Zealand.

The aim of a new “tech savvy” party would be to pass the 5% threshold and gain an influence in Government acting as an independent party that can work with any party in government. Perhaps the party’s focus would be solely on growth and wealth generation for New Zealand. Matters of health, education, social services and general administration could be left to the other coalition parties.

Identifying the future needs of the world, matching New Zealand’s strengths to meet what these opportunities and needs might be and then working with the industry sectors that can speedily be positioned to meet these identified future needs could be the party’s mandate. Acceleration mechanisms for these businesses might include faster rollout of broadband, less regulation, R&D tax breaks, government R&D grants in return for equity etc.

Based on 23 years’ experience in creating and exporting technology that has been created in New Zealand, I feel qualified to know the struggles and obstacles technology businesses face and how to successfully overcome them. There are many similar businesses that have had international success whose owners/managers have a wealth of international experience that could add value to New Zealand’s future if given access to a political vehicle that understands and champions their proven history of successful conception, action and commercialisation.

The bottom line is that if we don’t make a change and create a party that can bring in a substantial amount of fresh and untainted political talent, that can shift of the current emphasis from the non-productive sectors to the productive sectors of the economy, then the medium to longer term outcome for New Zealand is about as good as Greece.

Love him or loathe him, good on Kim Dotcom for igniting this debate.