Laila Harre's NBR interview part 1: Free varsity; that John Banks donation
I sat down with Laila Harre soon after she was named Internet Party leader on Thursday.
We were joined by Mikee Tucker, director of independent record label Loop Recordings and managing director of Baboom, Kim Dotocm's new music service due to launch later this year.
We talked about a number of issues, include the UFB and broadband, and Dotcom's seemingly right-wing stance ahead of his arrest and his entry into public life.
But the first subject was the Internet Party's pledge to abolish student loans — a policy that neatly allows the "oldies" in the Internet Party hierachy to connect with the large pool of non-voting Gen Y youth.
CK: You say you’ve got unfinished business from your last time in Parliament. What is that?
The single issue that made me prick up my ears in response to the suggestion that I might be involved with the Internet Party was the tertiary education policy.
I was involved in politics outside of government in the late 1980s when Labour introduced the first tertiary fees. I made a pledge to fight that and overturn it and since then it hasn’t really been at the core of any serious political party’s policy framework.
So for me, hearing that the Internet Party was making tertiary education a core commitment was the kind of green light to take this outfit seriously.
CK: But it’s not going to be an MMP negotiation bottom line?
LH: Our bottom line is that we’re not supporting a National government and we’re going to see what the voters deliver in terms of potential partners and we’re going to fight hard for our policies on the floor of Parliament.
CK: You were quite focussed on free education today. Is that going to be your top priority?
LH: It’s not a question of me setting the top priorities. We’ve got a party here and the policy process is ongoing. It’s a very open process and I think a very credible one. In terms of the kind of expertise that’s being brought to bear and then we’ll need to go through and work out our strategic campaign priorities and that will be something that’s done by the leadership team of the party.
CK: Who first approached you?
LH: I first met with Vikram Kumar, the chief executive of the Internet Party.
CK: You’ve come from a left wing background, and now you’ve joined a party founded by someone who lives in a bigger house than John Key.
And before his conviction he donated money to John Banks who [went on to] vote for the GCSB Bill, as you’d expect as an authoritarian social conservative. Dotcom described himself as pro-business in his autobiography. How do you reconcile having Kim Dotcom as your “sponsor” [as Harre called him in her speech]?
LH: I feel incredibly lucky as a New Zealander that force of circumstance has created this opportunity to bring a new political force into Parliament.
I’m very grateful to Kim Dotcom for his vision and support and enabling that to happen.
I think we need to run with this opportunity and I’m certainly intending to do that.
CK: What’s your personal theory about why Dotcom gave John Banks $50,000 – or two cheques for $25,000?
LH: I have absolutely no idea [laughs].
If I’d known him then I would have advised him against that decision.
Mikee Tucker: If I could just step in here. I’m running Baboom, and the party for Kim, and New Zealand’s most respected independent record label, Loop.
So [Kim Dotcom] is up for secondary copyright infringement. I look after bands like Fly My Pretties and helped the Black Seeds begin. And I had nothing to weigh up. I am totally sure that it was a setup. After SOPA failed the door was open …
CK: There seem to be two theories about why Dotcom donated Banks the money. Finn Batato told me it was because Banks was pro-internet and pro business, which wouldn't seem to sit well with you. The other theory is that he donated the money to curry favour for his citizenship. Neither is particularly—
LH: I have not given it a second’s thought and I don’t intend to.
MT: The other thing is, I've known Kim since January when this party starting getting serious, and looking at the party ecosystem now including Liala – the Banks thing was well before our era. I’ve known Kim since January and he’s never commented on it.
LH: No it’s never been the subject of conversation.
CK: I’d be curious about the political history of someone who was becoming my political sponsor.
LH: Um … he’s a man who’s made significant financial donations. Um …, I mean … all his publicly expressed values for enabling New Zealanders to make the most of the internet opportunities, and his commitment to a party that has a core value of social justice are completely aligned with my values. So I haven't seen anything in terms of his values or beliefs that have caused me concerns.
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