2 mins to read

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

Chris Keall
Wed, 22 Jan 2014

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."

Chris Keall
Wed, 22 Jan 2014
© All content copyright NBR. Do not reproduce in any form without permission, even if you have a paid subscription.
Kumar - the meat in Internet Party's policy sandwich?