Free university top of Harre's list

Laila Harre.
Laila Harre.
Newly reinvented as the leader of the Internet Party, veteran of the political left Laila Harre made an immediate play for young voters with a pledge to tackle "unfinished business" from her last time in Parliament -- free tertiary education.

Ms Harre was confirmed in the role yesterday at a well-catered event at Auckland's swanky Langham Hotel where she was literally welcomed into the arms of Kim Dotcom and his political ally, Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.

The former Alliance Cabinet minister gave an assured performance in her first public outing as leader, articulating the most coherent policy outline so far from the fledgling party and launching a strong attack on the National Government.

The self-confessed "ordinary internet user" with no specialist technical background later told the Herald she was first drawn by the party's commitment to free tertiary education.

"For me that's been unfinished business. It's something I wish we had achieved in Government and we failed to do it and I'm looking forward to leading the only party that makes that an absolutely core commitment."

But the policy would not be a bottom line if the party was ever in the position of having post-election coalition talks. "The only bottom line is we're not supporting a National Government after September."

Mr Dotcom said Ms Harre brought political experience to his party "and she has her heart in the right place".

"I'm quite happy that we've found a strong leader like this because it allows me to take a step back and let her take this party forward."

The party last night continued its candidate selection process in Auckland but with Mr Harawira, Ms Harre, and the Mana Party's Annette Sykes and John Minto taking the joint entity's top four list places, whoever else is selected would be very lucky to make it into Parliament.

Nevertheless, Mr Dotcom, who last night said he had committed a further $3 million to his party's campaign, said his "young aspiring candidates need great leadership and I think Laila will deliver that".

Sue Bradford, who resigned from Mana over its Internet deal, said Ms Harre's selection was "a very clever move" but "it hasn't changed anything for me".

"I just can't see any congruence between the Internet Party and Kim Dotcom and what the Mana Party is about."

Neither could Prime Minister John Key, who said Ms Harre and Mr Harawira had "zero" in common with millionaire Mr Dotcom. He said the Internet-Mana deal "seems a bit of a rort" and was different to his party's deals with Act and United Future.

"Those people win their seats outright, in their own right. Their motivations are the beliefs of those parties. That's not the case here."

But Ms Harre said she made "no apologies for acting in the strategic interests of this generation".

Mr Key said he had little doubt Mr Dotcom was simply trying to get politicians in place who might be able to help block his extradition.

Ms Harre told the Herald Mr Dotcom's extradition case was "not a matter I have any say in judging" and she would not comment on it. "In fact it's not a matter we've discussed."

- Adam Bennett of the NZ Herald

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