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Put up or shut up questions for Dotcom, Key, Cunliffe, Peters and Craig

John Key has called on Kim Dotcom to put up or shut up over his allegation the PM knew about before the eve of the raid on his mansion.

Fair enough. Love or hate it, the Internet Party had previously been very straight up, developing detailed policy and honestly answering questions about it (Policy on student loans: abolish them. Will it be a bottom line in coalition talks: no).

Now, party founder Kim Dotcom has strayed firmly into Winston Peters-style teasing territory, promising a bombshell revelation about Mr Key five days before the election — and playing his cards so close to his chest in his bid to maximise publicity that he won't even tell party leader Laila Harre the specifics of his pending September 15 revelation. Suddenly, she's looking less like a leader, and more like the hired help.

The Internet Party has gone from a well-drilled policy machine lead by the professional Ms Harre to being All About Kim and his case. With the Internet Party founder's September 15 rally, important questions about surveillance and foreign policy will be debased to the level of are you pro or anti Kim Dotcom?

Well might the PM tell him to simply put whatever information he has out there in the public domain. And I'm guessing that, secretly, Ms Harre agrees.

As for whether Mr Dotcom's revelation will be a bomb or a fizzer, I lean toward fizzer. It's been noted the giant German destroyed John Banks, but Mr Banks was largely the architect of his own downfall with his lax donation regime. If Mr Dotcom had similar legal dynamite against the PM, he would have lit it long ago.

I think we'll see evidence Mr Key was in a meeting with such-and-such an official or minister who knew about Mr Dotcom well ahead of January 20, 2012, so it's unbelievable the PM could have been unaware of the accused pirate and should resign. 

Hardcore Internet Party supporters will consider it a bombshell. Middle New Zealand will say whatever. Labour and the Greens will be drowned out of the news cycle just days before the election to the benefit of Dotcom. And, at the end of the day, John Key.

Yet Mr Key is also guilty of MMP games. Right now, his decision on whether to stand down Murray McCully in East Coast Bays seems poll-driven. It looks like he's waiting to see if the nationwide-race tightens up closer to election day before he cuts a deal with the Conservatives.

He should just be straight up and tell National voters now. It's a question that goes beyond September 20: Will National help foster the Conservatives as its new partner on the right, or not? Because without East Coast Bays, the Conservatives will likely go no where. Colin Craig cuts too awkward a figure for the party to breakthrough 5%.

The word among the chattering classes is that National fears the Conservatives are polling too low at around 1.5% — not enough to offset the 2% to 3% of socially liberal National voters whom party insiders think would be turned off by deal.

Mr Craig made himself even less attractive over the weekend by reiterating that binding Citizens-Initiated Referenda would be a Conservative bottom line (remembering that last year's referendum went against partial asset sales).

Mr Craig has been pretty straight up and down with policy, but I still want to know if his new campaign imagery (above right) features special technology that allows his eyes to follow you around the room (as David Farrier has suggested).

Cunliffe and Parker
Labour leader David Cunliffe and his finance spokesman David Parker need to make it clear whether they will buy back the partially privatised power companies, or not (Mr Cunliffe says the party will "have a look" at buying back each company on a case-by-case basis). 

On the face of things, the policy looks like a winner. After all, a big majority of people voted against the asset sales programme in last year's Citizens-Initiated Referenda. But Cunliffe and Parker are also possibly wary of the practical and economic problems of reversing the sales, so are trying to have a buck each way (for more see Ten questions for Cunliffe and Parker on asset buyback policy).

Mr Cunliffe also has to deliver a black and white response to the question: would Labour work with Internet Mana? (A poll released over the weekend reveals only a small number of Labour voters are open to the idea). Again it's the balance between voters wanting him to be more straightup vs Labour's secret delight at Internet Mana causing problems for the Greens, and the machinations of MMP that would see total centre left representation expand if Labour throws Te Tai Tokerau.

As ever, trying to pin down Winston Peters is like herding cats in the fog. He's vague and mysterious on so many issues they cannot be captured in a single paragraph (and do so would be fruitless, given once out of campaign mode and into government, Mr Peters  has largely been a good solider for National and Labour governments successively, backing mainstream policies).

But just to pick on one recent announcement: NZ First's policy to introduce a capital gains tax on foreign owned homes and assets would violate NZ's Free Trade Agreement with China (as the Taxpayers' Union and others pointed out over the weekend).

So would NZ First rip up the FTA? (Signed in October 2008)

The irony is that the FTA with China, which has quickly become so crucial to NZ's economic wellbeing, was an achievement of Helen Clark's Labour government, at a time when it was in coalition with NZ First and Mr Peters occupied the pivotal position of Foreign Affairs Minister.

Labour and NZ First should be crowing about the China FTA, and its key role in turning around our balance of payments. Instead, they're gambling on xenophobic populism. For Mr Peters, it would well work. Yet again. For Messrs Cunliffe and Parker ... well, look at the polls.

What do you think? Should Citizens-Initiated Referendums be binding? Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.

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Comments and questions

Free trade is just that TRADE.
Not domestic homes.
So exclude those from the fta like all other countries.

The FTA requires all investors in NZ to be treated equally.

Buying a home is "trade", just the same as milk powder, it is bought and sold (traded) between willing buyer and willing seller, the nationality of the "traders", or the price they agree on, should not be a concern of Government

Winston Peters goes to the core of the concerns of wiser more experienced New Zealanders, who have lived through a 20th century which took a huge toll on them and their families through two world wars.They are what the mainstream media like to sneer at as "Winston's mainly grey-haired audience" - as arrogant and condescending an example of ageism that we are likely to see.

When foreigners, whether of housing (many with multiple buy-ups New Zealand's housing market, of corporations,and land - all New Zealanders' assets - can take their profits out of the country without paying the tax that New Zealanders are required to pay, then we've got things all wrong. Or rather, the government with its nose to the money and little else has got it all wrong.

The FTA? Allowing this for exported goods - for what one could call mobile productivity - is quite different to extending it for tax avoidance purposes by those milking our country by the means mentioned above.

What are these 'profits that foreigners can take without paying the tax NZers are required to pay'?

I found myself in the same room as Peters the other day. He shared the stage with some other politicians and candidates, on the subject of economic development in the Pacific.

I was struck by his uncanny ability to play the audience for laughs. Impeccable timing, eye-brow raising set-ups, killer punch lines.

And all the more impressive to do that, without any actual demonstrable knowledge of what he was talking about. Just the trappings of authority.

You are confusing foreign ownership of assets with multinational businesses (like Google). Foreigners who own businesses in NZ are subject to the same Company and Personal tax as NZ citizens.

Are you sure Winston supporters, "..have lived through a 20th century which took a huge toll on them and their families through two world wars."?
I do hope he has a sharp spade, 'cos I reckon he has a lot of digging to do 'fore 'lection day!

While it's tempting to write Harre off as the hired help, the truth is that he's never said his bombshell timed for 15 Sep has anything to do with the Internet Party. BTW how do you know he hasn't told her what it is?

KDC has every right to harness the political currents of the day to his legal advantage.

The difference between KDC and Peters is that only one of them is a career politician.

If foreigners are to own land in New Zealand, it should be limited to those from countries in which New Zealanders can own land outright.

Anything else is just a naive farce. (Including the current state of affairs.)

What's wrong with having the same rights as the resident population? For example we should be able to lease land in China because that is their system and is all the Chinese are allowed.

You can lease property in China. Dolly on up there, put your money down, fill lots of forms, and Bob's your uncle.

Plenty of foreigners own apartments or condos in China. Some, Fonterra for example, have lease arrangements on large dairy farms they manage in China.

This is the key thing. Foreigners can own condos, but they cannot own land. This is pretty common in Asia.

It should be the same here.