Fran O'Sullivan: Dotcom puts Harawira's principles on the line

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Politics makes strange bedfellows and none stranger than a Mana-Internet Party linkup

Kim Dotcom bought his New Zealand residency with a $10 million cheque; now he wants to buy off Hone Harawira to try to secure the balance of power at the September election.

That's the most important development relating to the birth of the Internet Party.

It's certainly not his pledge to bring internet equality to New Zealand. Who's going fund that, Kim?

Nor the fact that Dotcom owns a signed copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. So what? Mere ownership doesn't make him a Nazi sympathiser. (I own a Chinese tract signed by the disgraced Bo Xilai and that doesn't make me a Communist either).

This issue will remain a red herring unless evidence is made public — not merely hinted at — that Dotcom is a closet Nazi and anti-Semitic to boot.

Until then there is no game-changer.

Dotcom is clearly gambling that a successful foray into national politics could result in a post-election outcome to stop his extradition to the United States to face charges of money laundering, racketeering and copyright piracy.

Showing the chutzpah that made him No1 player in Call of Duty and a hit in the Gumball 3000 rally he is playing the angles for all they are worth.

What is relevant is the proposed "Mana Dotcom" trade-off.

Despite Sue Bradford's valid concerns it is by no means dead. It's just in the background as Harawira negotiates the shallow shoals of the Mana Party to tease support for the proposed alliance of their two parties.

Harawira's press secretary, Jevan Goulter, laid out the deal on Facebook this week.

"Okay, so we would be helping a fat white rich prick with a bunch of money," Goulter wrote. But the parties will not merge. They would share the list with Mana holding the top spots.

"If we did it, the difference could be two or three Mana MPs," he chirped.

This is smart politics. It is cynical. But so, too, is National's institutionalised gerrymandering in the Epsom and Ohariu Valley seats where the party has essentially given winnable seats to Act NZ and United Future and maximised its own parliamentary representation through the list vote.

The difference is that Harawira and Dotcom do not even share the same basic politics or ideology. What unites them is power (Harawira's as a sitting MP), money (Dotcom's) and a shared desire to get rid of John Key's government at the September 20 election.

Harawira should tiptoe cautiously.

Dotcom has convictions for computer hacking and insider trading. The co-founder of file-sharing website Megaupload and three other colleagues have been charged with money laundering, racketeering and copyright piracy. The FBI indictment is a compelling read.

Naturally Dotcom is fighting against authorities for his life and ability to stay on in New Zealand. A country which bores him but whose immigration authorities were foolish enough to stare past his previous convictions and obvious character questions because he bought $10 million of Government bonds.

This incensed NZ First's Winston Peters when it became public. Then, Peters wanted a Government inquiry into the Immigration approvals.

His own tolerance of Dotcom may evaporate if he perceives a Mana-Dotcom alliance as threatening NZ First's claim to the balance of power.

This is not the first time a German "businessman" has played fast and loose with New Zealand's body politic.

Labour MPs such as Phil Goff and Annette King will remember how the Lange Government nearly came unstuck in late 1986 when self-styled German financier Max Raepple tried to fit up the then Maori Affairs Department with a $600 million development loan.

Peters broke the scandal in Parliament.

Lange later swiped at "some of the Maori whingers and activists [with] something of a cargo cult mentality which is an utter betrayal of what Maori enterprise is about" and expressed sympathy for the Maori people who have "had to put up with their standing in the community being absolutely ravaged by the self-appointed activists in international finance ranging from undischarged bankrupts to lapsed priests and all sorts of people who accept the bona fides of [Raepple]".

Ironically, activist Titewhai Harawira told Lange then that "the Maori people needed far more than $600 million, and the Government should let them borrow it".

There's no question of a loan this time round.

What Dotcom is offering is a gift. Money and resources for a shared tilt at power.

The big question is whether Harawira sticks to the principles on which he founded the Mana Party, or sells out to Dotcom in a naked dirty deal to get more seats in Parliament.

- NZ Herald

Fran O'Sullivan

A columnist for the NZ Herald

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