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
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
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?
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
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.
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
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?
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
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 %...
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.