Internet Party a strange beast

BRUCE WILLS
Last updated 12:00 28/01/2014

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OPINION: There's a Chinese curse apparently which says ‘may you live in interesting times' and there's none more interesting than the walking headline that is Kim Dotcom.

Thanks to Mr Dotcom, New Zealand may have a new political party but I use "may" deliberately. In the tech world, which Kim Dotcom inhabits, I am told there is a term called "vapourware." This is where new applications, hardware or software is announced to excite the market but only exist in the press release announcing it.

Right now, we have 13 registered parties from Alliance to United Future. There's also a gaggle of non-registered parties, like rurally based Focus NZ, so as you can see, the Internet Party is entering a crowded market place.

Of course, the Internet Party was going to hit this general election year like a freight train but instead its ‘Party Party' launch went off with a leaked whimper. The blogger Cameron Slater put its entire strategy onto his Whale Oil website, which is like England coach Stuart Lancaster placing the All Blacks plan for 2014 on the English Rugby Union's website.

While the idea of an Internet party may have merit, given its German equivalent secured seven per cent over there, its early rhetoric towards rural New Zealand needs some reworking.

Another blogger called Martyn ‘Bomber' Bradbury has written the Internet Party's political game plan and he responded to the leak like this: ". . . I think the ideas of an Internet Party focused on civil rights in the online 21st Century and the economic prosperity that could generate for NZ is the future and anything that moves us away from a dairy dependent, drill and mine economy is a good thing".

While some may agree, it is a fascinating statement from someone whose blog is part supported by the Dairy Workers Union and the Meatworkers Union. Given his rather strident left-wing views, he does seem a strange political bedfellow for Kim Dotcom who comes across as capitalist.

Yet the strangest thing for a budding Internet Party is the way it rounds on "dairy" which is really short code for agriculture. Thirty-years after the ‘sunset industry' misstep there are some who still don't understand that the ‘farming, drill and mine' generates close to 74 per cent of all our merchandise export income and employs some 150,000 voters.

Is the Internet Party really saying, via strategist Martyn ‘Bomber' Bradbury, that a quarter of Kiwis defined ‘rural' under the Rural Boadband Initiative do not matter to them? That their Internet Party is only for Auckland Central hipsters?

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There is barely an hour when I do not check my mobile phone on-farm and I am not alone in using the increasing number of farming "apps". If there was a constituency that would lap up policies around ultrafast internet access and rural telecommunications, it must be rural New Zealand. Yet that's exactly the constituency the aspiring Internet Party has gone out of its way to alienate.

As any political party will need about 140,000 votes to crack the five-per cent MMP threshold, this seems a genuinely novel way to go about getting voters.

This year has already seen the election starting gun fired by Brendon Horan, Kim Dotcom, the Conservative's Colin Craig, ACT's search for a leader and the rehabilitation of UnitedFuture's Peter Dunne. Now we are seeing the ‘heavyweights' swing into gear, led by the Prime Minister and Labour's David Cunliffe. That brings into play NZ First, the Maori Party, Greens and Mana and the respective camps they all fall into.

As a matter of firm policy there will be no Federated Farmers Party. Despite what some may think we are apolitical as we work for the right mix of policies for farmers.

Sometimes, we need to don armour but most times we do not. We achieve more by working on farmer issues as an influencer rather than as a competitor, something Kim Dotcom may now be discovering. I suspect if his Party does become registered and if it does eventually appear on the ballot paper, it may indeed attract the anti-establishment protest vote. The question will be how much and from which Opposition Parties will that protest vote come from.

The irony is the one person who cannot stand for Parliament in all of this is Kim Dotcom. If his party does feature in the next Parliament, like with any other political party, then Federated Farmers will be there with our policies to take farming forward for the prosperity of all Kiwis. It's a prosperity that needs the internet too.

- Manawatu Standard

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