Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Laila Harre confirmed as Internet Party leader

Laila Harré brought political polish and signs of a coherent policy platform to the official announcement of her leadership of the fledgling Internet Party this afternoon.

In her first comments as Internet Party Leader, Ms Harré offered a commitment to giving young New Zealanders "a future in the digital economy".

"We are going to weave an awesome future."

Ms Harré's speech to media and Internet Party hopefuls gathered at Auckland's Langham Hotel was also a strong attack on the National Government.

Addressing criticism of the deal between Kim Dotcom's new party and Hone Harawira's Mana Party she said the party made "no apologies for acting in the strategic interests of this generation".

National's "capture of MMP strategy" had led to the further privatisation of state assets, a strengthening of spying agencies, the "trading of employment laws to Hollywood and a "deal to double the size of the Auckland Casino with a disregard for accepted Government practices".

"It is time for the people to take back MMP for ourselves."

Half of young voters had chosen to participate in the last election and the Internet Mana alliance would "give them a reason to care and to engage".

Referring to what she said was the "political negligence" which only saw the belated recognition of women's right to paid parental leave in 2001, she saw "similar negligence in the failure of the establishment to recognise the the public policy challenges and opportunities of the age of the internet."

She said as Internet Party Leader she would be supporting teachers' ability to do their jobs "without the straightjacket of National Standards imposed by this Government".

The internet age "demands all of us especially the young have continual access to education". Ms Harré said she had "unfinished business with tertiary education".

The Internet Party was the only party with "a core policy of restoring free tertiary education".

New Zealand had led the world in investing the welfare state, banning nuclear weapons and offering "a ray of sunlight" to the imprisoned Nelson Mandela with the 1981 Springbok tour protests.

"I remember what side I was on in 1981," she said in well received swipe at Prime Minister John Key.

"We are going to change the Government, and this is going to be awesome."

Ms Harré, a Cabinet minister from 1999-2002, is a former Minister of Women's Affairs, Youth Affairs and Statistics, and Associate Minister of Labour and of Commerce.

Ms Harre is a qualified barrister and solicitor educated at Auckland University.

She said her experience of the internet was much the same as many others who use it, but she is joining an organisation with expert personnel who have a vast knowledge of technology issues and solutions.

"Internet freedom is the free speech issue of our age," she said. "The Internet creates the spaces in which our youth gather. The town hall meetings of the smartphone age happen online. The Internet Party is teaching me a valuable lesson - that we're the ones who need to change, to engage.

"But the Internet Party represents so much more than that. Our Action Agenda and policy development process clearly shows the depth and breadth of our vision for health, education, environment, the economy - all the things that New Zealanders care about."

Since leaving Parliament, Ms Harré's work has included a United Nations programme in Fiji strengthening the position of women vendors in produce markets, a two-year job in Fiji running the International Labour Office's Strategies for Decent Work project, designing and managing human resources involved in setting up Auckland Council, and positions with one if the country's largest private sector unions, the National Distribution Union, and the NZ Nurses' Organisation.

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- APNZ

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