The Internet Party‘s website just launched, but sadly for them this is what happened when I tried to play on the video at the top of the site:
I tried a bit later and had a different sort of error with the same lack of result.
But enough of presentation – let’s instead look at their 9 policy points. My initial take before reading this and before the party has announced any candidates is that they will need to have great policies for this to work, but that other parties can simply steal those policies to defuse the new party.
1: Deliver cheaper, unlimited, high-speed Internet for everyone.
Hard to argue with this goal, but other parties have this goal as well. Two details are 50% cheaper connectivity for everyone and an international cable. The devil will very much be in the details which are not available, but the second is a really simple business case to make to those who get it (Labou and the Greens do too), and the first is going to require quite some money and effort, which is already underway.
2: Stop the government from spying on citizens
The details of this will be critical as well – there are clear cases where spying is a good thing, and Kim Dotcom has a clear (and justifiable) bone to pick. Covered under point 7 is the much more important policy about foreign governments spying on New Zealanders and vice versa. Most people won’t get excited about this, unless there is scaremongering.
3: Reform copyright laws.
This would be a strength of the Internet Party, and the rhetoric so far is good. I very much like the idea of compelling content creators offshore to make their content available in NZ at essentially the same time as offshore (and, I trust for a similar price) or else we can copy it regardless. That’s a policy that will hasten the day where all content is released globally. The party also advocates for open research, and those efforts are already happening, with Waikato University just launching their new policy on this. Fair Use is another policy and that’s well overdue here, though the lack of the law doesn’t stop bloggers from excerpting liberally. The safe harbour for ISPs will be scrutinised pretty hard given Kim Dotcom’s involvement.
4: Make government work for its citizens, not the other way around.
“The Internet Party will make government more efficient.” This is an old chestnut, and I give a lot of credit to the work that the public service and government are constantly doing to make things better. But that doesn’t mean to say there isn’t a lot more to do. For example, it would be great to allow people working for government be able to embrace modern online tools such as Dropbox & Skype that the rest of us take for granted.
5: Encourage green technologies and protect our environment.
All standard stuff and as a country that build lots of hydro power stations and has reaped the benefits of cost-free power generation ever since, green tech should be an easy business case to make. The Internet Party throws in the red herring of green data centres, but the greenness comes mainly from the grid electricity generation mix, and that means building more green power stations and shutting down Huntly. Huntly power station is of course the key asset of Genesis Energy, currently on the block.
6: Boost innovation and high-tech jobs in New Zealand.
Blah blah. This is not easy to do, and I suggest the Internet Party just support and tweak the MBIE Business Growth Agenda.
7: Strengthen New Zealand’s independence.
Reviewing the TPP and the national security arrangements. That’s code for don’t sign the TPP because of the ridiculous copyright (and other) provisions (it’s basically been captured by US corporate lobbyists). It’s also code for “why be in bed with the USA (or anyone for that matter) when China is far more important to our economy?”
This will be a fascinating policy area, and sure to provoke discussion and outrage. However they also need to be careful to balance naive “do the right thing” against the relative size and power of New Zealand versus other countries. Both Helen Clark and John Key are walking the international corridors of power exceedingly well, and we cannot afford to risk being isolated and at the wrong end of a trade war. That said, there is scope here for major change, akin to the Nuclear Free moment and it should be exciting to watch.
8: Introduce a government-sponsored digital currency.
A giant red herring that could be crazy enough to work, but why would you lose your ability to print money? Why not start, instead, with regulation that accepts verified digital currencies as currencies per se, and provides/nudges/forces banks to be able to exchange them. Why not fix the asinine anti-money laundering know your customer requirements for financial institutions at the same time? We are subject to US imposed regulations on this, and it is making of dreadful customer experiences and attacking our “ease of doing business” philosophy.
9: Modernise schools and the education system.
Nothing that’s not being already done here.
I would encourage political parties to observe and copy critical elements of these policies.
The copyright, spying and internet access policies should be the most well-formed, and will drive a lot of the party’s support. So borrow extensively from them rather than fight them outright, and the party will lose impact.
The environment, responsive government, modern schools and innovation and jobs policies are all relatively bland, and should already be part of all other party platforms. Obviously there are tweaks that each political party brings, but they are minor, and smart parties will be looking for policy elements that they can adopt.
The digital currency policy can be safely ignored. It might be a god or bad idea, but it’s mainly a distraction.
The spying and independence policies are potential election year nightmares, and not just for the Internet Party. Watch those closely, and if public opinion starts moving then the other parties will have to form strong responses. These could develop into signature issues for the election, or they could fizzle along with the Internet Party itself.
And finally the elephant in the room is Kim Dotcom. He’s great at generating press coverage, but he’s also great at delivering poor coverage. The party, to be credible, needs him to be replaced in the limelight by a whole host of high quality candidates.
It’s going to be an interesting year in politics.