Bruce Wills explains how Federated Farmers achieves its influence on rural issues in the political arena and why online access has cross-party appeal

Bruce Wills explains how Federated Farmers achieves its influence on rural issues in the political arena and why online access has cross-party appeal

By Bruce Wills*

There’s a Chinese curse apparently which says ‘may you live in interesting times’ and there’s none more interesting than that walking headline Kim DotCom.

Thanks to Mr DotCom, New Zealand may have a new political party but I use “may” deliberately.

In the tech world I am told there is a term called “vapourware.” This is where new applications, hardware or software is announced to excite the market but only exist in the press release announcing it.

Right now, we have 13 registered parties from Alliance to United Future. There’s also a gaggle of non-registered parties, like rurally based Focus NZ and as you can see, the Internet Party is entering a crowded market place.

Of course, the Internet Party was going to hit this General Election Year like a freight train but instead its ‘Party Party’ launch went off with a leaked wimper.

The blogger Cameron Slater put its entire strategy onto his WhaleOil website, which is like England coach Stuart Lancaster placing the All Blacks plan for 2014 onto the English RFU’s website. 

While the idea of an Internet Party may have merit, given its German equivalent secured seven percent over there, its early rhetoric towards rural New Zealand needs reworking.

Another blogger called Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury has written the Internet Party’s political game plan.

He responded to the leak like this: “…I think the ideas of an Internet Party focused on civil rights in the online 21st Century and the economic prosperity that could generate for NZ is the future and anything that moves us away from a dairy dependent, drill and mine economy is a good thing”.

While some may agree it is a fascinating statement from someone whose blog is part supported by the Dairy Workers Union and the Meatworkers Union.

Given his strident left-wing views, he seems to be a strange political bedfellow for Kim DotCom, who strikes me as a libertarian capitalist.

Yet the strangest thing for a budding Internet Party is the way it rounds on “dairy,” which is really short code for agriculture.

Thirty-years after the ‘sunset industry’ misstep there are some who still don’t understand that ‘farming, drill and mine’ generates close to 74 percent of all our merchandise export income and employs some 150,000 voters.

Is the Internet Party really saying to us, via its strategist Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury, that one quarter of Kiwis defined ‘rural’ under the Rural Broadband Initiative do not matter?

That their Internet Party is only for Auckland Central hipsters? 

There is barely an hour when I do not check my mobile phone on-farm and I am not alone in using the increasing number of farming “apps”.

If there was a constituency who’d lap up policies around ultra fast internet access and rural telecommunications, it must be rural New Zealand.

Yet that’s exactly the constituency the aspiring Internet Party has gone out of its way to alienate. 

As any political party will need some 140,000 votes to crack the five-percent MMP threshold, this is a genuinely novel way to attract voters.

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This year has already seen the election starting gun fired by Brendon Horan, Kim DotCom, the Conservative’s Colin Craig, Act’s search for a leader and the rehabilitation of United Future’s Peter Dunne.  Now we are seeing the ‘heavy weights’ swing into gear led by the Prime Minister and Labour’s David Cunliffe. That brings into play NZ First, the Maori Party, Greens and Mana and the respective camps they all fall into.

As a matter of firm policy there will be no Federated Farmers Party. 

Despite what some may think we are apolitical as we work for the right mix of policies for farmers.

Sometimes, we need to don armour but most times we do not.

We achieve more by working on farmer issues as an influencer rather than as a competitor - something I feel Kim DotCom may now be discovering.

If his Party does become registered and does eventually appear on the ballot paper, I suspect it will attract the anti-establishment protest vote.  The question will be how much and from which Opposition Parties it will come from.

The supreme irony is the one person who cannot stand for Parliament is the man himself; Kim DotCom. If his party does feature in the next Parliament, like with any other political party, then Federated Farmers will be there with our suite of policies to take farming forward for the prosperity of all Kiwis.

It’s a prosperity that needs the internet too.

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Bruce Wills is Federated Farmers President

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