John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Greens blinded by Dotcom's aura

Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / Glenn Taylor

It is bad enough that the Greens are naive enough to sign up to the fan club which accords Kim Dotcom the folk hero status he clearly craves, but scarcely deserves as some modern-day Robin Hood of cyberspace.

Much worse, however, is that it now turns out that party is blithely willing to play politics with New Zealand's courts, the country's extradition laws and its extradition treaty with the United States.

Were John Key to allow some right-wing businessman facing extradition to stay in New Zealand in exchange for him abandoning his plans to establish a political party which might drain votes off National, then the Greens would be climbing on their high horses at break-neck speed and leading the charge in slamming the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms. And rightly so.

Yet the Greens seem to be so blinded by Dotcom's aura that they seem to see nothing wrong with Russel Norman talking to Dotcom about the risks of the latter's yet-to-be-launched Internet Party wasting centre-left votes, only for the party's co-leader to subsequently declare that the Greens will probably fight Dotcom's extradition.

It is all very murky and hypocritical - at best.

By appearing to countenance such a massive conflict of interest through political interference in Dotcom's potential ejection from New Zealand, Norman has instantly disqualified his party from having any ministerial posts in a coalition with Labour which involve responsibility for the extradition process.

In fact, Norman has probably disqualified his party from having any role in the Justice portfolio full stop.

It is now incumbent on Labour as the likely major party in such a coalition to give an assurance that portfolio will be quarantined from the Greens.

Unfortunately, Labour's leader David Cunliffe was equivocal yesterday about ruling out special treatment for Dotcom.

Under the Extradition Act, the Justice minister has the final say when it comes to approving or rejecting an extradition order issued by the courts.

The act gives the minister wide discretion to avoid unforeseen potential injustices. But that power puts the onus on the minister to use it in a responsible fashion. That is the bottom line.

It is true New Zealand authorities have handled the Dotcom case in a manner which has veered between total farce and absolute disgrace.

It is the case that many people have enjoyed Dotcom's irreverence whereby he has been the political equivalent of a banana skin upon which the Prime Minister has slipped and fallen.

Amidst all the fun, a lot of people seem to have forgotten Dotcom faces extremely serious allegations in the United States that he has made millions out of copyright theft.

Dotcom may have made himself the latest pin-up boy of the left. But his notoriety and money does not exempt him from being treated just like everyone else.

As a party which has vented savage criticism of National for cutting corners so SkyCity got the international convention centre deal and accused the governing party of trying to manipulate the electoral system through accommodations with minor parties, the Greens need to take a long hard look in the mirror and address matters much closer to home.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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