Megaupload interest a mixed blessing for Pirate Party

We are not the new Greens, say party officials

The Pirate Party of New Zealand (PPNZ) says it is wary that the Megaupload controversy might generate superficial interest in the party's policies and attract approaches from insufficiently committed new members.

"Incidents like these only become useful if we can spread our underlying message of the current state of the workings of government and the internet on a holistic level," PPNZ says an emailed reply to Computerworld questions, jointly written by party president Tommy Fergusson and secretary Mark Brown.

PPNZ has commented that New Zealand law and the rights of New Zealand citizens should have been given more attention before the go-ahead was given for US authorities to launch a police raid on Megaupload staff in this country.

Computerworld asked whether the affair had generated extra interest in the small party.

Incidents such as the Megaupload raids are "slowly bringing us in more members," PPNZ replies, but this may not bring the deeper commitment that will be to its lasting benefit.

Currently, the party has about 183 official members, the spokespeople say -- far short of the 500 required to put them on the party-vote form for an election. "We don't believe we are off the radar, keeping in mind we have only been around for a year officially," say Fergusson and Brown. "We do perhaps need to bring the policy into the mainstream." However, PPNZ appreciates that matters outside the internet and laws governing it are not currently a high-ranking concern for most New Zealanders, beside, for example, "the state of the economy, the growing epidemic of child abuse and poverty and the state-owned asset issues".

Although issues revolving around the internet do not seem important to most Kiwis, PPNZ says, "we do see the importance of the internet as an instrument of development, scientific discovery and a [vehicle] for more accessible information and education required to take us forward.

"The PPNZ is quite content with the fact that we may have a long journey to go, to get to Parliament, but we will continue the good fight. Perhaps with some strong ideas - not only for the internet itself but for high-tech industry, knowledge-economy-based jobs creation, a state-of-the-art education system, equitable investments, fair civil rights and a few good words from our kind friends in the media - we will open the doors for the proud generation of the techno savvy on the doorsteps of Parliament House."

A recent Sunday Star-Times article said the Pirate Party's European divisions could be regarded as "the new Greens" -- having taken over the mantle of a courageous unconventional take on controversial issues from a Green Party that has drifted towards the more conventional thinking that comes with big-party political alliances. Fergusson and Brown say the PPNZ does not see itself in this light. "In Europe, that's probably quite an insightful observation, but the context isn't quite the same in NZ."

The Greens in New Zealand still have a lot of policies in common with PPNZ, as well as other ideas less in line with it, they say. "However, for Pirates, the tool that is the internet is the specific priority. Sadly no other parties are as committed to the internet and its current uses or future possibilities as we are. Whereas the Greens have a diverse range of policy from welfare to the environment, we feel they are not as focused on the world's largest socio-economic device that transcends single nations or societies."

This does not mean PPNZ ignores issues outside the internet, they say. Like most Kiwis, the party "wants a government that is transparent and involves the public, even the apolitical ones. Most Kiwis would like privacy in the home, most Kiwis want supportive work practices that allow for productive, academic and creative freedom. Most Kiwis want sustainable ways to use technology from mining and roading to other infrastructure such as the internet. We largely agree with our countrymen and want the same thing."

The party spokespeople say the PPNZ has attracted former adherents of parties across the political spectrum, from the Greens to ACT.

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