Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Internet Party's focus on young people

Laila Harre says she has the connections and conviction to lead Dotcom’s party.
Internet Party leader Laila Harre at home with her son Sam. Photo / Doug Sherring
Internet Party leader Laila Harre at home with her son Sam. Photo / Doug Sherring

The Internet Party's first leader, Laila Harre, is promising young New Zealanders an "awesome" future in a growing digital economy.

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The 48-year-old mother of Sam, 24, and Jack, 19, has brushed aside criticism of the deal between Kim Dotcom's new party and Hone Harawira's Mana Party and vows to change the political landscape. The former Alliance Cabinet minister and trade union executive tells the Herald on Sunday why she feels she is the right woman for the job.

Is it your purpose to destroy Prime Minister John Key, as this appears to be a motivation of your party founder Kim Dotcom?

We are determined to change the government of New Zealand come September. The global financial crisis in 2008 and the Canterbury earthquakes had a massive impact on people's sense of security. This climate led to a rise in conservatism and a fear of change. We are now moving beyond that.

What do you think of Kim Dotcom, his business practices and the charges he is facing?

He is a world expert in his field - a highly intelligent man who is serious and passionate about this party and public policy issues. I think New Zealanders feel embarrassed by our Government's treatment of him as well as the misuse of our intelligence agency with regard to a number of other New Zealanders they have admitted to spying on. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the charges against Kim Dotcom.

Did you tell Helen Kelly, president of the Council of Trade Unions, about your new role before it was announced to the media this week?

I was still making my mind up about the leadership role on Sunday, so it has all happened rather quickly. Helen was advised well before any announcements. She was out of the country but I told vice-president Richard Wagstaff before all of this became public.

Your party is targeting young, disillusioned voters, but does a middle-aged woman have the credibility to pull this off?

I am connected to young people through my own two children, who are now young adults. There is nothing artificial about my sense of conviction to serving the needs of younger people. At the core of that initial appeal is the scandalously high prices for internet access in this country. I was in Fiji for two years and had faster internet there than we have in New Zealand, where some 70,000 school children do not even have internet access at home.

How proficient are you on the internet and social media, then?

I am no expert, but my husband [Barry Gribben] has an internet business and we have computers all over the house. I will be on Facebook a lot more in my leadership role. And lots of tweets on Twitter.

- Herald on Sunday

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