There's been a lot of nonsense around Russel Norman the past 24 hours, but one very serious question remains. And if the Prime Minister has reason to believe what he suggested, he should put up or shut up
Well, what a fuss. In the past 24 hours I've heard and seen reports of Greens' co-leader Russel Norman having "secret" meetings with Kim Dotcom, of him having a "brain fade" about said meetings and accusations – of a very serious nature – that he has been using parliamentary questions to favour a political ally. Surely, the man must step down.
At least, he should if these allegations were true and proven. But there doesn't seem to be any fire beneath all this smoke.
Did he have secret meetings with Kim Dotcom? Well, we know we met with the internet millionaire, because he said so publically days ago. So it was hardly news yesterday. We even already knew why Norman visited Dotcom and that the visit was political in nature – he didn't want Dotcom to set up a political party that could take votes off the Greens and, without a viable electorate candidate or much chance of getting 5 percent – waste them.
Is it so despicable for a politician to meet and strategise with another public figure? Rather, it's utterly run of the mill. And not secret.
Did he have a "brain fade" over those meetings? He couldn't remember what days the meetings where when asked on the bridge, but checked his diary and supplied the dates within two hours. That's hardly comparable to the Prime Minister misrememberings around the appointment of childhood friend (or acquaintance) Ian Fletcher or even David Shearer forgetting he had a large amount of money in an American bank account.
Finally, did he ask questions in parliament as a political favour? More specifically, did he ask quetions for a man facing serious charges in the New Zealand courts? That's a very serious allegation.
We all remember the cash-for-questions affair in Britain. MPs asked questions for the likes of Mohamed Fayed in return for money. They were either suspended or forced to step down and the rules of MP behaviour were changed.
John Key raised the prospect yesterday, pointing out that his office had been asked "hundreds" of questions about the internet millionaire and wondered who they were asking the questions for.
Now you might just put that down to political mischief. But if Key is going to make such a serious suggestion, surely it's incumbent on journalits who treat the Prime Minister seriously and ask what led him to make such a statement. Does he have evidence? Is the number of questions so out of kilter with others? He suggested that Dotcom got something "in return" for the Greens' commitment to refuse to extradite Dotcom to America to stand trial for his alleged internet piracy. Again, is there evidence?
Sure, Norman has opened himself to such an attack. We know that he met Dotcom and we know that the Greens have since said they would fight against any extradition. Asking if the two are linked is a reasonable question. But for the Prime Minister to specifically raise the possibility of parliamentary questions being the currency for trade, well, that would be a career-ending form of corruption by Norman and the Prime Minister should be willing to back up his words with substance.
Norman has put himself in this position by pre-empting the court and declaring how the Greens would respond should it find that Dotcom should be extradited. Cue the PM saying that Norman is willing to ride roughshod over our independent courts.
However, as Andrew Geddis explained two days ago, under the Extradition Act the Justice Minister is required to exercise her or his discretion when it comes to surrendering an alleged criminal to another country. Andrew wrote:
So the Minister can't ignore this discretion and surrender everyone that the courts say are eligible for extradition without any further thought. Because to do so would be to fail to comply with the Minister's obligations under the statute, meaning that the Minister's decision would inevitably be overturned by the court on the subsequent judicial review.
For me, Norman erred in declaring his intent before the court has ruled. It potentially puts pressure on the court. But a) it's hardly a surprising position given the Greens' consistent position on the Dotcom case and b) it doesn't step outside the law.
The lesson from all this is that Kim Dotcom is the political version of an electric fence – touch him and you get one hell of a jolt. But we also need to keep a sense of perspective on this. Now that we've got the secret meetings and brain fade nonsense done and dusted, I'd really like to know whether the Greens did strategise with Dotcom about what questions they might ask in the House and whether there was anything promised in return for those questions.
The first person to ask is John Key, as he presumably has a reason for suggesting that scenario. And while we're at it, can we clear up exactly how Key knew Peters had visited Dotcom's house three times? Because that's interesting... and so are Peters' visits.
Norman has told us exactly why he went. So why was Peters there?