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Chris Ford: Could Kim Dotcom be the undoing of National (and some other people)?

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 Could Kim Dotcom be the undoing of National in government?

While I'm not predicting that the National Government will fall as a result of Kim Dotcom, it's no doubt that his ongoing presence is doing further significant long-term damage to the government's credibility.

Back in January, when Dotcom was arrested on a US arrest warrant, no one could have envisaged, not least within government (apart from John Banks) how much damage he would have caused near year's end.

First, there was the heavy handedness involved in Dotcom's arrest. Back in January, it seemed that half of Auckland's police force and armed offenders units had been roped in to arrest Dotcom and some of his entourage on American-filed copyright charges.

Second, the John Banks-Dotcom donations affair where a very vengeful Kim revealed that John Banks had 'anonymously' (or not as it turned out) received donations from the allegedly internet pirating German. Only a legal technicality saved Banks from being prosecuted.

And third, just yesterday and today have come further revelations, this time about the Government Security Communications Bureau's illegal interception of Dotcom's communications. The GCSB is forbidden by law from intercepting the private communications of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. That role, within New Zealand, is performed by the Security Intelligence Service (SIS). Just this afternoon (Tuesday), it emerged that it was the Police who incorrectly informed the GCSB that Kim and his associate Bram Van Der Kolk were foreign nationals when, in reality, they are New Zealand residents.

But the Dotcom affair has exposed National as vulnerable on many fronts meaning that even more questions have been raised. Not the least is who is responsible politically as it has also emerged today that Deputy Prime Minister Bill English was informed about the GCSE's spying on Dotcom last month while the PM was out of the country. I agree with New Zealand First (a party of which I'm not a great fan) that has issued a media release this afternoon asking as to whether this indicates a further break down in the relationship between Key and English. After all, English reportedly did not inform his boss about the GCSE operation and his knowledge of it. Furthermore, did John Key know more about the operation than he has let on so far and, if so, when was he advised? Was it just yesterday as he has claimed? Or further back than that? The New Zealand Herald's John Armstrong has rightly challenged Key to come out and disclose everything he knows.

And I wouldn't want to be Police Minister Anne Tolley today, either - and nor Police Commissioner Peter Marshall. Given that it was the New Zealand Police who have owed up to their error in falsely informing the GCSB of Dotcom's nationality, I would say that there will be heads rolling down within the next week or two down at Police HQ.

Also, what of the GCSB itself? As Green Co-Leader Russell Norman asked in the House today why didn't they check readily available facts such as media stories to correctly verify Dotcom's nationality? After all, the media extensively reported on Dotcom's donation of New Year's Eve fireworks to Auckland City in 2010 as part of a celebration of his being granted New Zealand residency. Haven't the GCSB heard of the internet? And if I were the head of the GCSB, perhaps I would be starting to thinking of scouring Seek and Trade Me Jobs too. 

However, getting back to National, the word Dotcom has spelled trouble all year. This situation ain't going to change anytime soon - and his plight (among other issues) could be the ultimate game changer as far as support for the government goes. I know that I wrote on Sunday about National perhaps staying in lead in the polls for the rest of the year and into early next. I am now beginning to re-think this earlier assessment in the wake of yesterday's and today's revelations (plus other events including a recent poll).

If National's support begins to slide further, then the centre-left can thank (in part) a millionaire German immigrant for helping move that process along.



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