Dotcom roadshow wows the crowd
Georgina Beyer was loud and feisty, Laila Harre was articulate and thoughtful, but it was Kim Dotcom who the 200-plus audience was most curious to see, and the giant German didn't disappoint.
Last night's Internet-Mana roadshow at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, the first South Island stop, had the trappings of a band tour.
There was a stylish young DJ playing and swaying to light hip-hop as she warmed up the crowd. There was a road crew, all in black, moving seats, checking sound equipment and handing out information.
There was a tall, black-clad, miked security man who tested the strength of the low stage by bouncing up and down a couple of times, and a 20-minute delay on the advertised start time of 6pm.
By then the crowd was spilling through the rear doors of NMIT's Kowhai Lounge, with around 50 left to stand outside.
This was double what Labour's David Cunliffe and the Conservatives' Colin Craig got at their Nelson meetings a fortnight ago.
Last night's audience included everyone from tattooed young people to silver-haired grandmothers, with strong representation by the middle-aged.
Internet Party leader Harre and Mana's representative, Te Tai Tonga candidate Beyer, were welcomed warmly, but it was the arrival of Dotcom, to a pumping rock beat, that got the biggest cheer.
Wearing the team colour (black) and sporting his usual scarf, he said the big crowds the roadshow was pulling showed there was an appetite for "the progressive and disruptive political force" of Internet-Mana.
"We cannot just rely on our old economy, our farming, the sale of milk powder and our forestry industries. We need to focus on the digital age, on technology and the internet to take this country forward."
"We are not a First World country when it comes to connectivity and technology. We are more like Zimbabwe, and that has to change. We are going to do that for you."
Addressing media and political comment that backing the Internet Party was about fighting his extradition to the United States, Dotcom said that was happening in court, where he was "doing quite OK".
His crime, he said, was to "basically invent cloud storage" on the internet and make "50 million people happy every day".
"But 10 billionaires in Hollywood, they didn't like my technology . . . they saw it as a threat." They had used their power and money to bring about the 2012 raid on his Auckland property, with Prime Minister John Key knowing "exactly what was going on", Dotcom said.
"This party is my gratitude and my gift to those New Zealanders who stood by me, especially the young people who understand what Megaupload [his former internet company] was all about, and that I'm not a criminal."
He said the party was a time machine. "If you fuel it with your votes . . . we are going to take New Zealand forward 10 years, fast-track."
Dotcom promised free tertiary education to stop the country's young talent moving overseas to pay off student loans.
One of his biggest rounds of applause came when he described the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement as "a total piece of crap" and "a world domination agreement for US corporations". He pledged to stop it.
Earlier, in a brisk speech attacking the Government's welfare policies and performance, Beyer said she was "sharing the stage with titans" in a new political beginning.
Dotcom had impressed her when he spoke to the Mana Party conference, when he had been "straight-up and honest", she said.
Harre said Internet-Mana was "a political entrepreneurial exercise" breaking with old traditions and rules, not apologising to anyone "and liberating us to tell the truth about the real issues".
In linking with Mana, the Internet Party was committing to "a true partnership based on the Treaty of Waitangi and representing the best of a modern treaty relationship", Harre said.
The blame for New Zealand's employment ills lay with failure of successive governments to build a vision and make the transformational investment bring full employment, she said.
"We need to stop talking about knowledge waves. What we need in New Zealand is a knowledge tsunami, and the Internet-Mana Party is going to be the earthquake that creates that tsunami on September 20."
After 45 minutes of questions, Dotcom posed for selfies with the crowd that gathered around him.
The Nelson Mail