Title: Two-Way/Wrong Way? Credit: Politics and religion commentator Craig Young Comment Wednesday 23rd July 2014 - 12:16pm1406074560 Article: 15433 Rights
I wish I didn't have to write this particular article, but the current policy stance of the Internet Mana Coalition leaves me no option. When I first heard that Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom's Internet Party were talking about a possible coalition, I was interested, although faintly sceptical. I have a lot of time for Hone Harawira, who is a person of principle and who seems to be a strong voice against New Right economic prescriptions, especially given the poverty and deprivation in Northland (and his Te Tai Tokerau electorate). He has always been on side insofar as LGBTI communities are concerned, voting for civil unions and marriage equality and opposing the dire Manukau City Council (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill. I certainly hope that he retains his parliamentary seat and I personally wish him well. But... But, there's also the question of the Internet Party. I raise this question not because I oppose that party's core cyberlibertarian values. As I said earlier this year, the Internet Party is reminiscent of theGerman Pirate Party and its cyberlibertarian counterparts in New Zealand, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nepal, Norway, Slovenia, Poland, Switzerland, Tunisia and the United Kingdom. Of these, state German Pirate Parties have won state legislature and city council seats, the Czech Pirate Party has a Senate and city council seats, the Iceland Pirate Party has three parliamentary seats in its national parliament, the Swedish Pirate Party elected two European Parliamentary members and the Swiss Pirate Party has two municipal councillors while the Catalonian Pirate Party has two municipal councillors. So, parliamentary and local council representation does seem possible, although it seems to be the case that cyberlibertarian parties have had their greatest success in European politics, particularly within the German state and municipal context. Certainly, I am concerned about theKey administration's online surveillance and data interception legislation and its potentially chilling effects on government transparency and accountability and civil liberties. However, the federal German Pirate Party failed to pick up Bundestag seats due to its political naivetie and absence of legislative experience.In any case, the Greens have greater longevity and detail when it comes to digital rights and civil liberties. To counter this, Dotcom shoulder tapped experienced ex-Alliance MP, former Cabinet Minister and trade unionist Laila Harre, who has thus far stated that the Internet Party also stands for the decriminalisation of pot. Now, I don't have all that many problems with that policy, as long as it stays focused on that recreational drug. The party has made no statements about LGBT rights, but on the other hand, Harre is an ex-Alliance MP and that was an inclusive centre-left political party. Apparently too, Kim Dotcom himself used to vote Social Democrat back in Germany and the SPD and the German Greens support marriage equality. Still, some rainbow policies would be a good idea. What is the Internet Party's perspective on inclusion of transgender rights within the Human Rights Act and the Manukau City Council (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill, given that Hone Harawira and Mana seem commendably opposed, probably because of the highly destructive consequences for Maori and Pacific Island whakawahine, fa'afafine, faikaleite and cisgender street sex workers in Manukau and elsewhere should that bill be passed. However, there's now the issue of MMP reforms. Mana-Internet is currently circulating a petition that advocates two policies on this front. One of them involves the abolition of anti-democratic 'coat tailing' provisions within the current Election Act 1993, which mean that even if a political party polls under five percent of total voter share, it is entitled to additional top-up List MPs if it wins a single constituency seat. In the past, this has meant that New Zealand First, the Progressive Coalition, ACT and United Future have all benefited. If enacted, it would limit the damage if Colin Craig somehow managed to score a bolthole constituency seat gift from the Key administration, which seems increasingly unlikely. In Germany, a political party needs to have acquired two Bundestag seats if it is to have top-up List MPs, although Germany is a larger country and the Bundestag is a larger legislature than our Parliament. I support the abolition of coat-tailing precisely because it would mean extremist MPs and unrepresentative microparties would not be represented within Parliament. Unfortunately, this stance means that I must (reluctantly) oppose Mana-Internet's other electoral reform policy, which is reduction of MMP's five percent threshold to a mere three percent. No. Absolutely not. Especially not when the Conservative Party polled perilously near three percent at its first election outing in 2011. It might also throw New Zealand First a lifeline, given that it is struggling to stay above the current MMP five percent threshold waterline. Laila Harre thinks that merely because New Zealand admittedly has no problem with electorally viable neofascist political organisations, unlike the situation in Germany and Western Europe at present, we should support radical reduction of MMP's five percent threshold. Obviously, I disagree with this. It isn't only because the Conservatives are antigay, anti-abortion, anti-sexworker, charter school supporters, and advocate dangerous binding citizens referenda against vulnerable ethnic, sexual and gender minorities. It is also because of the monstrous Conservative Party anti-Treaty policy which advocates radical abrogation of the Treaty of Waitangi, urged by a handful of right-wing populist extremists. I am just as opposed to that policy- in fact, I think that the Treaty of Waitangi should become one of the cornerpieces of constitutional reform and entrenched in law, preferably within a written constitution that has a robust and open-ended equality rights clause, akin to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Reluctantly, then, however much I respect Hone Harawira and Laila Harre as political figures of integrity and inclusion, I cannot sign their petition, even though I strongly support its anti-coattailing provisions. Or, for that matter, similar private members bills that couple opposition to coattailing with radical MMP threshold reduction. I hope that they discuss this matter further and narrow their proposed petition down to anti-coattailing reforms only. I could sign such a petition as I would strongly support it. Reducing the five percent threshold is a separate issue altogether and should be uncoupled from it when it comes to MMP reforms. As for their potential coalition partners, Labour and the Greens, their reception is somewhat cool. At Labour's 2014 conference, Leader David Cunliffe stated that he did not intend to provide either Harre or Harawira with Cabinet seats, although they would be welcome to contract a confidence and supply agreement. Select committee leadership wasn't mentioned. Although Laila Harre was a first term Clark administration Cabinet Minister for the Alliance, one suspects that the Internet Party leader's role in the ensuing self-destruction of Labour's first coalition partner, the Alliance, may have raised questions of party stability and consequent governmental stability. Harawira may be seen as "too radical" in other quarters. In addition, there are questions about Mana/Internet's policy development, costings, ultimate internal coalition stability and other issues that suggest that Cunliffe's prudence may be well-founded. [Editor's Note: We may have more to report after Rainbow Wellington's pre-election forum next week]. Recommended: Mana Party: Internet Party: Not Recommended: Petition: Conservative Party: Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 23rd July 2014    
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