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Simon Shepherd interviews Vikram Kumar and John Minto


Simon Shepherd interviews Vikram Kumar and John Minto

Simon Shepherd: Vikram I’d like to start with you, let’s look at this; Kim Dotcom promised an interview, he’s pulled out, because he doesn’t like our coverage. He’s already done a couple of u-turns this week. He said he would work with National, now he said he wouldn’t, probably to appease Mana. He’s already said the party would self destruct if it didn’t reach 5%, now he’s going back on that, seems a pretty flaky party. Doesn’t really know what’s going on…

VK: I think it’s also, to be fair, a very early stage in the party. We’ve just launched a call for members, we’re still about 6 weeks away from being formally registered, and I think the time has come when we need to move beyond focusing on Kim, smear campaigns against him, personal life… to focus on what I think the real issue is: What is the Internet Party offering New Zealand.
Well the problem is, how can you move away from Kim Dotcom because he is the founder, I mean this party seems to be the whim of a rich man, and probably a vanity project?

VK: Yeah and that’s absolutely incorrect, but I understand why some perceptions might be like that. I would have loved it if we had more progress by now, and had a party leader who could be sitting here talking to you about that. But that’s the reality is, we need a few more weeks, we are very early in the stage, we are on track. I know it’s a short election and we have to move at internet speed, but we’ll get there.
Yeah, but people want to know, if it’s not Kim Dotcom, who’s going to be the face of this party? Who’s going to be the president? Who’s going to be the person sticking their hand up and saying vote for me?

VK: Yup, and part of that is going to be answered. As Kim has said there is discussions going on with a sitting electorate MP
All right, well who is that?

VK: well, I don’t know…
You don’t know?

VK: No I don’t.
But you’re the chief executive of the party

VK: Yes, but these are discussions that take time and they’re going to work their way through, but also if you look at it this way, the Internet Party is isn’t even formally registered as a party yet. So, I understand that impatience, and I am impatient too but we just need to…
You don’t have much time do you? I mean are you going to be a full party? Are you going to have a complete list of candidates standing in all the electorates? Are you going to have a full list of policies?

VK: Well we’ll be full in every way in this sense; we’ll be far more concentrating on the party list. A full set of policies on everything that people care about, and I think we need to start explaining much better, and I think the Action Agenda was our first step. What does the party stand for, what are the things that we want to achieve. And we’re making I think good progress there.
Do you have a potential list of candidates or a list already? I mean how many have you got?

VK: Well the main thing that the internet party is going to do on the candidate front is to have the most open and democratic process, where anyone can put up their hand and it will be completely merit based, and we will identify the young leaders of the future.
Is this why…you probably realize that you’re not going to reach 5% so you’re chasing an electorate MP. It also seems that you’re trying to do a deal with the Mana party, you’re trying to get into parliament on the coat tails, it’s sort of a backdoor listing like Mega on the NZX

VK: I think that our internal polling shows that we’re actually on track to cross the 5% threshold.
Your internal polling?

Absolutely.
That’s totally different to what everybody else’s polling is saying

VK: It is, and um… my understanding at the moment is, the internal polling of all political parties including National, will be showing them exactly the same thing, which is that there is a very high level of undecided people who are extremely interested in what we can deliver. That is scaring the National Party. Much of the smear campaigns and the personal campaigns, that we’re seeing against Kim, and this is a classic National party campaign of distraction and repeating lies until…
So you’re saying that it’s the national parties smear campaign, you’re absolutely sure of that? Okay.

VK: We believe it’s orchestrated, and that its coordinated..
Is there a danger that you are going to be seen as a single issue party? Single issue parties don’t get into parliament.

VK: Well, we’re not a single issue party, the internet and young people care exactly about the same things that other people care about, it’s about the economy, about wages, about education, about health, it’s about inequalities. That’s what the Internet Party stands for.
All right, so those core issues that you were just talking about, you’ve got to relate those to like child poverty, and smoking, Government intervention. And Kim Dotcom was saying in his political promo, the government has got too big, it’s too invasive. The two don’t marry up.

VK: Well I think what is happening is that you’re approaching this, and a lot of people are approaching this, from a conventional left versus right spectrum. Right… that isn’t the spectrum that applies to the Internet Party. We’re an issues based party, not a single issue, and issues based party. Now the solutions that we look at will be based on data, it will be based on evidence and it will be based on experts. The solution may be seen to be centre left or centre right.
Okay, well let’s nail that down to a particular issue; say smoke free by 2025, which is something that the Mana party is keen on. Yes or no?

VK: Well it sounds like a really good idea, so let’s look at the evidence, let’s look at the data, let’s look at options. But it’s more important that – what we want to see is what are the specific steps and actions that will get us there, and how do we achieve that?
Okay, well to achieve that you’ve got to get into parliament, let me bring in you John Minto, You’ve been sitting here listening to Vikram, you’ve seen the interview with Kim Dotcom. Is a deal on the table with Mana? Is there a deal going on?

JM: There’s no deal going on, there’s no deal on the table, there’s just been some thinking out loud about the possibilities. There is, um… we have a very strong congruence with the Internet Party, on three very important issues, (and what are those?)… and they would be getting rid of the GCSB, closing it down and withdrawing New Zealand from the five eyes alliance. The other issue; privacy on the internet, extremely important and an internet bill of rights. And thirdly, access to the internet for families on low incomes, because we have this internet, we have this digital divide in New Zealand, so on those three areas, we have common ground. But going beyond that, we would have to see what other policies the party came out with.
From your personal stand point, you are a man that’s stood up for the underprivileged for decades. This man, Kim Dotcom – who is the founder of the party, is a billionaire prone to excess, the two don’t match.

JM: Well you’d have to say… I should say at the start, Mana’s policies are not up for sale, they’re not up for grabs, we are, we’ve just been through a policy development programme and…
So you’re not going to take the money?

JM: Well what I’m saying, no – what I’m saying is this…. Mana is its own body, we actually don’t need the money. Mana’s priorities for this election are fighting electorate campaigns where you can’t spend more than $25,000 anyway, and we have that money already. So in terms of priorities, we’re very relaxed about this. But what I do want to say is this, that parties such as the internet party overseas, in Europe have got up to 8 or 10 % of the vote in some cases because of the massive disillusionment with politics. Now we don’t want to see that sort of vote, which is a vote to change the government, being wasted. So there may be some way that we can work together.
Disillusion with politics would be represented in any kind of deal, because they would be coat tailing into parliament on the back of Hone Harawira.

They would be getting into parliament on the basis of party vote, people voting for them as part of a party vote.
The need less than a party vote, If they do a deal with Mana – and Hone Harawira keeps his electorate – they need less of that party vote, they don’t need the 5 %...

JM: Well this is the whole thing, we’re in this terrible situation which I would call a National Party gerrymander of the electoral system where we’ve got a clear consensus from the public that we want to get rid of coat-tailing and reduce the threshold. Now what we’re saying, is yeah, let’s reduce threshold. Mana’s policy is to reduce the threshold down to 0.8% so that we have genuine MMP.
But this kind of deal would be what Russell Norman has just said, unethical and obviously you don’t like it as well, but it’s a possibility…

JM: It’s not unethical for people to vote to change the Government and to have those votes counted in parliament, in a move to change the government. We’re not interested in working with any parties that aren’t determined to change the government, because of the disastrous situation that so many low and middle income families find themselves in today.

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