Rodney Hide: God defend our citizens - the Government won't

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Kim Dotcom's treatment by the New Zealand authorities deserves scrutiny. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Kim Dotcom's treatment by the New Zealand authorities deserves scrutiny. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The more I see of Kim Dotcom the more I like him. I have never met him but his bodyguard, Wayne Tempero, taught me some self-defence moves some years ago that no doubt could save my life. I haven't seen Wayne since he's worked for Dotcom but I texted him after his arrest to check he was okay.

What I know of Dotcom is through the news. The scandal to me is not that John Banks was trying to help Dotcom - or that Dotcom was helping John Banks - but that our own Government is helping the US Government destroy Dotcom.

Dotcom's internet company is precisely the type of high-value, high-knowledge business that I understood New Zealand was anxious to attract.

Dotcom has upset Hollywood. But why should that be our concern?

I am sure the invention of the printing press upset the oral storytellers of the time but, thankfully, we didn't have the government of the era destroying printing presses to protect the storytelling industry.

Our Government should have stood up for Dotcom as a New Zealand resident and simply told the US Government to prove it. Dotcom would still be in business and other digital entrepreneurs would be attracted to New Zealand for the lifestyle and for a government that sticks up for its people.

New Zealand can't build a new economy defending old technology and old business models. We could do well to become a safe haven for the new entrepreneurs.

Banks is also taking a public battering. John Key, however, is sticking up for Banks, declaring him innocent until proven guilty. Dotcom was arrested, his assets frozen and his business destroyed before he was even charged, let alone convicted.

Banks' return to Parliament has not been easy. His motive was to help Key. But it's like watching Colin Meads run on to Eden Park to help Richie McCaw.

It was first-past-the-post when Banks was last a minister. There were just two political parties. The political news was the evening TV news and in morning papers.

There was no instantly updated news through the internet, no full-length video footage of interviews online, no experts dissecting real-time events on blogs and no immediate public feedback as now occurs through Twitter feeds and Facebook.

Back in 1996, ministers were questioned at press conferences. They weren't chased through airports or in the street by a media pack with video cameras.

Politics is a different game now. It's faster. It's harder. It's more brutal.

There is no time for the politician in the eye of the storm to gather his or her thoughts, consult colleagues, or, if need be, construct a plausible story that has a chance of getting them off the hook.

When I was a new MP I was convicted by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee for saying rude things about the Speaker. MP after MP stood up in Parliament to declare me a thoroughly disreputable threat to parliamentary democracy.

The only kind word I got was from Banks the next day. He told me he had seen some hidings meted out in Parliament but nothing like the one I got.

Watching Banks under the lights of today's political scrutiny made me cringe. I felt sorry for him.

It was as if they'd thrown the ball to Meads at the Rugby World Cup, with the French pack bearing down on him. It was a political train wreck.

I have publicly battered my share of Government Ministers. I have been battered a few times myself. The stories were big news at the time. They made not a jot of difference to the state of the country.

It will be the same with the Banks story. A new scandal will fill the news vacuum.

But the Dotcom story is a different matter. We are a different country now because of the way he has been treated. And we will have a vastly different and poorer future from the one we could have had if only our Government had stood up for him as a citizen - innocent until proven guilty.

- Herald on Sunday

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