Dot­com for man of the year?

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

In any con­test for New Zealand Man of the Year sta­tus, the in­ter­net en­tre­pre­neur Kim Dot­com would have to be the rag­ing favourite.

Sin­gle- hand­edly, Dot­com has de­fined our news agenda dur­ing 2012 from the mo­ment the FBI and lo­cal po­lice raided his man­sion in Jan­uary, un­til last week’s an­nounce­ment that he plans to co- fi­nance the res­ur­rec­tion of the Pa­cific Fi­bre ca­ble project link­ing New Zealand to the United States.

In be­tween came the string of sto­ries about Dot­com’s ‘‘anony­mous’’ do­na­tion to the John Banks may­oral cam­paign.

Not to men­tion the se­ries of le­gal vic­to­ries won by the Dot­com de­fence team, which ul­ti­mately trig­gered weeks of po­lit­i­cally em­bar­rass­ing reve­la­tions about il­le­gal sur­veil­lance ad­ven­tures by our se­cu­rity ser­vices.

Along the way, New Zealan­ders have de­vel­oped an un­likely af­fec­tion for Dot­com, so much so that the re­cent Tui bill­board at­tacks on his wife seemed a se­ri­ous pub­lic re­la­tions blun­der by the beer com­pany.

Dot­com has also shone an ac­ci­den­tal spot­light on sev­eral im­por­tant na­tional is­sues.

Ev­i­dently, there is an in­ad­e­quate sys­tem of checks and balances on our se­cu­rity ser­vices.

Our po­lice were also far too keen to co-op­er­ate with the FBI in a mis­sion against Dot­com that looked like overkill, and which lacked proper le­gal author­ity.

We’ve been here be­fore, course.

The in­abil­ity of the New Zealand se­cu­rity ser­vices to sep­a­rate fact from fan­tasy in the in­for­ma­tion fed to them by for­eign in­tel­li­gence sources – or to ad­mit their er­rors once the mis­takes be­come ap­par­ent – had been well demon­strated a few years ago, in the case of the Al­ge­rian refugee Ahmed Zaoui.

Ev­i­dently, noth­ing use­ful was learned from that de­ba­cle.

No sys­temic change re­sulted, and a sim­i­lar readi­ness to leap to

of du­bi­ous con­clu­sions was demon­strated over Dot­com.

Luck­ily for the Clark Gov­ern­ment, Zaoui never at­tained the level of pub­lic pop­u­lar­ity that Dot­com has achieved.

As­sum­ing that his of­fer to part­fi­nance the $400 mil­lion Pa­cific Fi­bre project is gen­uine, Dot­com would al­most dou­ble New Zealand’s avail­able band­width, and in the process would cre­ate jobs in a fast-grow­ing in­dus­try.

In short, Dot­com could eas­ily be­come the poster boy for ev­ery­thing our busi­ness im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy pur­ports to stand for, and yet so rarely de­liv­ers.

If it hasn’t reached that point al­ready, the ques­tions with re­spect to Dot­com could soon be­come: On eco­nomic grounds, can we af­ford to ex­tra­dite such a per­son? On po­lit­i­cal grounds, can Prime Min­is­ter John Key af­ford the fall­out from Dot­com’s dis­patch in shack­les from Auck­land Air­port?

Keep in mind that with Dot­com’s ad­vent into the Pa­cific Fi­bre project, New Zealan­ders would still be charged an ac­cess fee, but re­port­edly, the amount in­volved could be as low as one-fifth of cur­rent band­width plans and three to five times faster, with no trans­fer lim­its.

Sup­pos­edly, British Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron is Key’s po­lit­i­cal men­tor.

Well, only weeks ago, Cameron’s Gov­ern­ment fi­nally de­cided to refuse to ex­tra­dite the hacker Gary McKin­non to face trial in the United States.

If Key did like­wise, Dot­com might well make a gen­uine con­tri­bu­tion to New Zealand.

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