Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Dotcom's the man to get city noticed

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Larger-than-life internet tycoon would be an ideal candidate to liven up Auckland mayoral contest.

Kim Dotcom has certainly helped to focus attention on Big Brother developments.   Photo / Mark Mitchell
Kim Dotcom has certainly helped to focus attention on Big Brother developments. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Kim Dotcom for mayor? Now there's a thought. If Prime Minister John Key is to be believed - and a recent poll suggests he has a certain problem there - it can only be a matter of time before the celebrity du jour throws his black cap into the Auckland mayoralty ring.

In anti-spying bill protests last week, the internet tycoon described Mr Key as "the biggest puppet of them all" of the United States Government. The Prime Minister's response from Seoul was "I think he loves the limelight".

He added: "You've got to remember he's got a long-term agenda here, and that is to try and convince people that he should be allowed to stay forever."

If his theory is right, then how better to sink your roots into the country than get yourself elected as mayor of the Super City. With a transport policy of busting congestion with a helicopter taxi service, along with free encrypted superfast broadband for all voters, to protect us from the Prime Minister's spies, the contest would rapidly come alive.

Mr Dotcom is that larger-than-life oddball that mayoral contests tend to attract. Tim Shadbolt out West and Invercargill, for example, Boris Johnson in London, the appropriately named Mr Weiner in New York. Mayor Robbie was Auckland City's last flirtation with the eccentric, so we are overdue for one. The late Paul Holmes did fancy the job, only to be dissuaded after his television masters warned him that ruling the airwaves was really enough for any one person.

If getting Auckland's name noticed worldwide is part of the mayoral job sheet, then there's no doubt Mr Dotcom's our man. Imagine the headlines if, a couple of years down the track, the Hollywood FBI turned up in the dead of night to "rendition" him out of town.

Three years ago, he was the mystery dotcom multimillionaire, hidden out in a Coatesville mansion, who quietly slipped Super City mayoral hopeful John Banks $50,000 for his campaign funds.

That relationship turned sour when Mr Banks, by then Epsom MP, failed to come to Mr Dotcom's aid when he ended up in Mt Eden Prison on a too-hard mattress, after the January 20, 2012 police raid on his home. Overnight, the mystery man became a celebrity as big in legend as he is in physical size.

By year's end he was upstaging Mayor Len Brown at the switch-on of the famous Franklin Rd Christmas lights.

Last month he was as big as a royal baby, the television channels feeling the need to cross live to parliament to a select committee hearing of the controversial spy legislation to hear Mr Dotcom publicly cheek committee chairman Mr Key - and get away with it.

"Why are you turning red, Prime Minister," he asked. He was referring to Mr Key's continuing denial he knew anything of the existence of Mr Dotcom, the multimillionaire mystery man living in his electorate, until after the January 20 raid.

A recent TV3-Reid poll asked voters who they believed and a stunning 52 per cent backed Mr Dotcom. The Prime Minister brought up the rear on 34 per cent.

Then on Thursday Mr Dotcom was the star turn at a public meeting in Mt Albert protesting against the impending GCSB spying bill, sharing the stage with prominent citizens such as New Zealander of the Year Dame Anne Salmond, Law Society representative Dr Rodney Harrison, QC, and retired Supreme Court judge, Sir Ted Thomas.

Playing second fiddle at the back of the hall was Labour leader David Shearer.

If the Prime Minister is correct in his claim that Mr Dotcom both enjoys the limelight and has an "agenda" to remain in the public eye, then how better to feed both desires than to use the mayoral contest as his stage.

And it wouldn't just be a stunt. As Mr Dotcom told Thursday's meeting: "I am a living and breathing example of why the GCSB must not be given greater powers and limited accountability."

Yesterday's Sunday Star-Times revealed details of how the United States spy agencies worked with the New Zealand military to monitor the phone calls of New Zealand journalist Jon Stephenson while he was covering the war in Afghanistan. A leaked New Zealand defence force manual listed investigative journalism as "subversive".

Mr Dotcom's emergence as a celebrity - to say nothing of the millions he is spending on lawyers - is helping focus attention on these dangerous Big Brother developments. To me, he's welcome on any platform going if it helps getting this message about.

Debate on this issue is now closed.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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