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.