Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Mana happy as Internet Party picks left-winger

Mana helped the Internet Party find its new leader. Photo / NZ Herald
Mana helped the Internet Party find its new leader. Photo / NZ Herald

Former Alliance Party Cabinet minister Laila Harre will be formally announced as the leader of Kim Dotcom's Internet Party this afternoon thanks partly to the Mana Party, which had a hand in her selection.

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The appointment of the veteran political figure has been welcomed by some on the left as giving the startup party some much-needed political credibility.

When Mana Party leader Hone Harawira confirmed the alliance between the Internet Party and Mana this week, he said the appointment of an acceptable Internet Party leader helped to close the deal.

Mana Party secretary Gerard Hehir, who worked with Ms Harre in the Alliance, said Mana helped the Internet Party find its new leader.

"What happened is we knew that the Internet Party was looking for candidates ...

Certainly Mana has made some suggestions."

Ms Harre's name was leaked yesterday afternoon but Internet Party chief executive Vikram Kumar refused to confirm her appointment. Ms Harre did not respond to the Herald's requests for comment.

She was until recently working as an adviser for the Green Party but is now working on the Council of Trade Unions' Get Out and Vote campaign.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said she didn't believe the Internet Party represented more of a threat to the Greens with Ms Harre as leader.

"Their intention is to get new voters. That's a good thing for the democratic process."

Broadcaster and former Alliance MP Willie Jackson said Ms Harre's appointment was "great news".

"I've always admired her politics, she's a woman of principle and she'll be a great advocate in terms of working-class people. I think it's a very smart and strategic move by both sides.

"It really does give them a lot of credibility because people were thinking some nut was going to end up in the position."

National Government Minister Gerry Brownlee said Ms Harre had "destroyed" the Alliance over differences of opinion with then-leader Jim Anderton.

It was "highly unlikely" she would work well with the Internet Party.

Ms Harre, who was last in Parliament in 2002, will be at number two on the joint Internet-Mana list behind Hone Harawira who the two parties are banking on retaining his Te Tai Tokerau seat in September.

Should he do that and the joint entity secure at least 1.3 per cent of the party vote, Ms Harre will be back.

While Mana says it stands to benefit from Mr Dotcom's financial resources and internet capability, Mr Kumar yesterday said the Internet Party would be funding "strategic electorate candidates, not the Mana Party".

The Maori Party yesterday continued to attack Mana over its plan to bring Internet Party MPs into Parliament on the coattails of Mr Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau Maori seat.

"It's disgusting," said Maori Party MP Pita Sharples. "It will force people to wonder what the Maori seats are really there for."

Labour list MP and Te Tai Tokerau challenger Kelvin Davis also criticised the arrangement in spite of the fact the Herald understands Labour has considered pulling its punches in the electorate to ensure Mr Harawira wins and brings in additional MPs on the left for a potential coalition.

"People can see that this is just a stitch-up," he said. "I don't think they like seeing Te Tai Tokerau being traded off like that. I think they're taking the voters of Te Tai Tokerau for granted."


Champion of parental leave

The prospect of Laila Harre returning to Parliament came as MPs yesterday debated a bill that would extend what may be her greatest achievement as a politician — paid parental leave.

Ms Harre championed the policy while an Alliance MP in Opposition in the late 1990s and as a Cabinet Minister shepherded legislation through Parliament in 2002.

The Auckland born and raised industrial relations and employment lawyer, Ms Harre, 48, joined the Labour Party as an 18-year-old, leaving it in 1989 in reaction to Roger Douglas' reforms. Throwing her lot in with Jim Anderton's New Labour Party, she unsuccessfully tried for Parliament in 1993 but made it in 1996 as part of the Alliance Party. She went on to hold the Women's Affairs, Youth Affairs and Statistics portfolios before the Alliance split in 2002 and she failed to make it back into Parliament.

Since then she has worked for the Nurses Organisation, the National Distribution Union, the Auckland Transition Agency and the International Labour Organisation in Fiji.

In 2012 she took up work with the Green Party as adviser.

The fitness fanatic, who was competing in the Boston Marathon and heard the explosion when the event was bombed last year, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She was given the all clear the following year after having a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery.

She is the co-owner of Auckland restaurant O'Sarracino in Mt Eden Rd which was this year accredited as one of the country's first living wage employers.

- NZ Herald

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