These are not the droids you are looking for

Rodney Hide wisely has left Parliament behind him. But that doesn't mean he gets to pretend that he never was in Parliament.

According to the NZ Herald (which in turn cites TV3's The Nation ... sorry, Tim!), Rodney Hide has done with politics, is busy renovating his house and moving on with his post-Parliamentary life. Good for him.

However, he seems to be taking the whole "it's all in the past for me now" thing a bit too far. In particular, he's started writing a regular column in the Herald on Sunday in which he expresses opinions that appear to directly contradict everything he spent the past fifteen years doing. What is it, I wonder, about leading the ACT party that seems to wipe inconvenient memories from your frontal cortex?

The column to which I refer is here. In it, he decries the way that Kim Dotcom has been treated by the New Zealand justice system, and says some quite nice (and pretty insightful) things about John Banks. I've no problem with the latter sentiments. Nor am I especially upset by the former - although it is worth remembering that the US Government alleges Mr Dotcom's business model calculatedly was based upon permitting people to breach copyright. If those allegations are correct, Mr Dotcom's "business" was in effect a digital warehouse from which he made money by other people storing stolen stuff in it, and Mr Dotcom not only knew this but set about trying to get even more people to store even more stolen stuff there. 

Which might make Mr Dotcom a somewhat unusual target for sympathy for someone who championed the Regulatory Responsibility Bill, with its focus on protecting the sanctity of private property rights. But as Mr Dotcom's criminal activity is as yet only alleged, let's put that to one side and look at why Mr Hide thinks his story is so worrying ... and what Mr Hide's own role in that narrative has been.

The scandal to me is not that John Banks was trying to help Dotcom - or that Dotcom was helping John Banks - but that our own Government is helping the US Government destroy Dotcom.

How is "our own Government is helping the US Government destroy Dotcom"? Well, assumedly by arresting him, holding him in custody (until the court ordered his release) and preparing to extradite him to the United States to face trial. Why on earth is our Government doing this?

Because there is a piece of legislation that sets out a legal process to be followed when a country with which New Zealand has an extradition arrangement (like the USA) requests such extradition. And guess when that legislation was passed? In 1999. And guess which political party formed a part of Government in 1999? And guess who was an MP for that political party?

Dotcom's internet company is precisely the type of high-value, high-knowledge business that I understood New Zealand was anxious to attract.

Dotcom has upset Hollywood. But why should that be our concern?

Let's put aside the overall wisdom of an economic development model that is based on offering sanctuary to individuals who are seeking a consequences-free zone in which to challenge the intellectual property claims of multi-national corporations and take Mr Hide at his word. Should New Zealand be standing up to the bully-boys of Hollywood and refusing to allow our legal system to be used to protect their interests?

Well, if so, you wouldn't expect us to pass something like the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Act 2011, which imposes liability on internet providers in exactly the circumstances alleged against Kim Dotcom. Yet we did ... with the support of guess which party at all stages? And guess who was an MP for (and leader of) that party for most of the legislation's passage through the House?

And you certainly wouldn't expect us to change the law so as to mollify alleged concerns about our industrial relations processes held by a major film studio ... but I guess we all know the saga of The Hobbit and the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act. Passed with support of guess which party? Led by guess who? 

Our Government should have stood up for Dotcom as a New Zealand resident and simply told the US Government to prove it. Dotcom would still be in business and other digital entrepreneurs would be attracted to New Zealand for the lifestyle and for a government that sticks up for its people.

The idea that we shouldn't be visiting consequences on individuals based purely on allegations of wrongdoing seems to me a good one to hew to. After all, the fact that Mr Dotcom has had all his New Zealand assets seized by the Government without any finding of wrongdoing, purely because it's said that he got them through criminal activity, seems highly draconian.

But how is it that the Government could do this to Mr Dotcom? Well, because of this piece of legislation. Introduced by Labour, to be sure. But adopted by the National Government. And supported at each stage of its parliamentary journey by guess which party? Led by guess who?

But the Dotcom story is a different matter. We are a different country now because of the way he has been treated. And we will have a vastly different and poorer future from the one we could have had if only our Government had stood up for him as a citizen - innocent until proven guilty.

This seems to me a perfectly reasonable argument to make. But it needs to be rewritten a little.

"[W]e will have a vastly different and poorer future from the one we could have had if only I hadn't spent the last 15 years actively making the laws that allowed him to be treated in this way and instead stood up for this basic principle - innocent until proven guilty."