The time has come for Kim Dotcom to put up or shut up.
The time has come for this very intelligent, very canny but
highly manipulative individual to front with his
yet-to-be-made-public disclosures which he boasts will blow
John Key out of the water - and though Mr Dotcom does not say
it directly, presumably bring a rapid end to Mr Key's days as
The time has come for Mr Dotcom to prove way beyond any
reasonable doubt Mr Key has lied repeatedly when challenged
as to when exactly he became aware or was made aware of the
former Megaupload mogul's existence. If Mr Dotcom cannot or
will not do that, he should zip it.
As a New Zealand resident, though not a citizen and thus
unable to stand for Parliament, Mr Dotcom otherwise has the
same political rights accorded any voter. But turning the
coming election campaign into even more of a circus - with
the result it is further divorced from people's day-to-day
lives - is not one of them.
Before those on the left misinterpret that statement as
attempting to absolve Mr Key in advance, they might like to
ponder the potential electoral repercussions if Mr Dotcom's
assertions turn out to be little more than hot air.
Mr Key will stand or fall on the strength of Mr Dotcom's
case. The time has come for the country to hear it and
appraise it. The time has come for Mr Dotcom to cut the
babble and prove Mr Key is the one talking nonsense when the
latter insists that until the eve of the police raid on Mr
Dotcom's Coatesville mansion, he did not know of Mr Dotcom,
let alone that Mr Dotcom was living in his Helensville
electorate, nor that Mr Dotcom was the subject of a major FBI
investigation even though the intelligence agencies for which
Mr Key has ministerial responsibility had known that was the
case for at least 15 months before the raid.
If the prime minister has not been telling the truth, then,
as Mr Dotcom and his supporters argue, it is a matter of
paramount importance even if what the two leaders are arguing
about could hardly be more trivial.
It follows that New Zealanders are surely entitled to know
whether or not Mr Key's word is utterly devoid of
trustworthiness. And told today. Not tomorrow. Not next week.
Not next month. And most surely not when it is most
politically advantageous for the leadership of Internet Mana
- Mr Dotcom, Laila Harre and Hone Harawira.
To keep everyone else on tenterhooks until Mr Dotcom reveals
all at an Internet Mana party rally at the Auckland Town Hall
just five days before September's general election may be a
very cunning tactical move. It is also a very cynical one.
It is also not risk-free. It could yet backfire on Mr Dotcom
and his party.
It is clever because some 20% or more of those who do vote do
not make up their minds until the final week of the election
campaign. That percentage is probably even higher for the
kind of non-aligned voter Internet Mana is targeting. If Mr
Dotcom delivers the goods, then naturally it will be a huge
story which would throw Mr Key deep into the resignation
As was the case in 2011 with the Epsom cup of tea - the
tete-a-tete between Mr Key and Act New Zealand's John Banks -
the by-product could be that Opposition parties other than
Internet Mana, having planned their campaigns and, more
specifically, their advertising budgets, in order to reach a
crescendo in the final week before polling day, could instead
find themselves utterly peripheral to the action.
Mr Dotcom's gambit is even more high risk for Internet Mana.
Tackling any prime minister, let alone one as popular, smart,
adept and seemingly Teflon-coated as Mr Key, is not a task
for the faint-hearted - or the over-confident.
The stakes simply do not get any higher than this. Foolishly,
Mr Dotcom has raised expectations to a level which is so high
that falling short even by a small margin will be see him
torn apart by the media and become subject to ridicule.
The historical comparison with which Mr Dotcom might well
acquaint himself is the argy-bargy surrounding Don Brash's
embarrassing supposed quip as National's leader to a visiting
delegation of American senators that Labour's anti-nuclear
law would be ''gone by lunchtime'' if National won that
year's election. National went into damage-control and denied
Mr Brash had said it. Mr Brash could not remember. But
clearly he had. Even so, Labour never quite pinned the remark
on Mr Brash to the degree it had hoped for.
If Mr Dotcom's case similarly relies on hearsay or
circumstantial evidence in any way, then he would be best
advised to work on an exit strategy - one which sees him
exiting now. Or at least as quickly as he can without losing
too much face.
Mr Key, in contrast, has said little he might later regret,
but done much to try to second-guess exactly what Mr Dotcom
seems to think he has on him.
When Mr Dotcom first suggested Mr Key had known of him some
time before Mr Key claims to have heard of him, the prime
minister and his staff, both in Wellington and Helensville,
turned their desks, filing cabinets and computer records
inside out and upside down in the search for anything that
might be incriminating even in the slightest. They found
Lastly, Mr Dotcom should ponder over this scenario. If Mr Key
is caught out, he will likely apologise and then make his
credibility the very issue for the final days of the
campaign. He will be able to wager his huge stocks of
popularity on voters viewing any conflict over what he said
about Mr Dotcom and what he knew about Mr Dotcom as a minor
Again, the argument is probably too trivial to destroy Mr
Key. But Mr Dotcom needs a change of government if he is to
have any hope of avoiding extradition to the United States.
And Mr Key's hard-to-believe ignorance of his existence is
one of the few means Mr Dotcom has of securing such a change.
- John Armstrong is The New Zealand Herald political