Q+A – Andrew Little on the intern problem

Andrew Little on Q+A this morning:

Labour leader Andrew Little gives his take on National’s handling of the Todd Barclay affair – plus Jessica Mutch will ask him about Labour’s treatment of foreign campaign volunteers.

Bill English is also being interviewed so their performances will be able to be compared.

Little doesn’t say that English should resign but has shown that he can’t be trusted. He questions English’s leadership.

Little says that if he had to deal with a Labour MP was being investigated by the police he would insist they cooperate with the police – something they aren’t required to do legally.

Little chose to switch to the intern scheme.

How many are staying? About 60.

He is pushing how he dealt with this compared to English.

He says it is an idea that started at the beginning of the year. He says people did things without authority.

He says that in May the Party (Head Office) became aware of problems and the links with Labour and stepped in to deal with it.

A fairly strong interview from Little. He and his advisers have decided to promote his dealing with the interns in comparison to English’s dealing with the Barclay stuff.

It will be worth looking more closely at what he has said – largely an unauthorised and maverick party scheme that got out of control.

A Marae spokesperson has also been interviewed. He was asked about expected numbers of interns – he says “about 80”. Not many more than that were involved, so the claims of a major oversubscription sounds fanciful.

Michelle Boag says that Little is disingenuous distancing Labour from the scheme and then claiming moral superiority coming in and sorting things out.

John Tamihere basically agrees with this.

Some quotes from the interview:

Little: You do have to step up and take responsibility straight away.

I was confronted with a situation that I was frankly horrified with in our party earlier this week when I heard about the complaints of those students, they way they were being treated. Found out they were here because people closely associated with the Labour Party had got them here and made promises to them.

I said the the party “We must take moral responsibility. We step in and we clean it up”.

We didn’t wait til a media story broke to respond.

That’s how it looks. Politik broke the story on Thursday morning. Perhaps the party had already stepped in.

We responded straight away. The story came out, um, but I but you take leadership is about taking responsibility and doing the right thing.

Jessica Mutch: But in this case was that the right thing to do? Because as we’ve seen this play out over the last few days, students have come out sticking up for the conditions in the marae, saying that they’ve enjoyed the programme. Do you feel like maybe if you’d taken a bit of time, stepped back, perhaps gone to the marae and assessed it for yourself, you may have been able to handle this another way instead of saying “look, we did this wrong”. Is that the right approach in this circumstance?

Little: The right approach was once we got notification of complaints, or the party didn’t, I was told about it, I said we get up there straight away. The general secretary Andrew Kirton and his team did an outstanding job, he was there on Monday…

That’s before the story broke.

…talked to the students, started getting things sorted out. The reality is some of them did want to have different arrangements, the vast majority have said look they want to stay, they’re excited by the programme, and they want to carry on doing it.

Jessica Mutch: How many are staying?

Little: Um, I don’t know what the final is. As of yesterday it was about 60 of the 85. I think they’re still working through some of the final ones. So um many of them will.

But many of them, it goes back to the story about when you’re confronted with something that you might find personally uncomfortable or embarrassing, it’s your personal feelings aren’t the issue, it’s when you’ve got people’s livelihoods at stake and their welfare at stake, you step in and do the right thing.

If you’re the head of an organisation, it’s not about you, it’s about the organisation, and if you’re the Prime Minister of a country, it’s about the country, it’s values and it’s standards.  That’s what you’ve got to stick up for, that’s what the Prime Minister’s role is about.

Jessica Mutch: Let’s talk about that then. How did it get out of control? Was it a lack of organisation on the part of Labour?

Little: No. This started out as an idea at the beginning of the year. I certainly became aware of it, um when it was raised with me. I said it’s a campaign issue, it’s a party issue, you’ve got to deal with it as a campaign issue.

Jessica Mutch: But it had Labour’s name on it though.

Little: And it did.

Jessica Mutch: It was called 2017 Labour Campaign Fellowship.

Little: Yeah because people closely associated with the Labour Party were involved. Without without approval or authority or any mandate they went ahead and did stuff.

McCarten was supposed to be working for Little in the Labour Leader’s office in Auckland. See from last September:  Andrew Little: nothing wrong with taxpayers footing the bill for his Auckland guru Matt McCarten

Labour leader Andrew Little says his adviser Matt McCarten’s taxpayer-funded salary is within the rules because McCarten will be doing “outreach” work for Little rather than campaign work.

He denied he was trying to use taxpayer funds for campaign-related work, saying party work would be done by party workers in the same office rather than McCarten and other Parliamentary-funded staff.

It looks like either McCarten was doing campaigning withoiut Little’s knowledge, or with Little’s knowledge. I’m not sure which is more shonky.

Other people with @labour.org.nz email addresses were advertising the programme. Little is implying he wasn’t aware of what was going on. Back to Q+A:

Little: The next I became aware was about May this year when the party was getting messages from students about to arr… within days of arriving, um, ah, the party stepped in straight away…

But Little said the party stepped in straight away last Monday.

Little: …to people associated with it saying what is going on, there’s no approval for this, this is not the party thing.

The party was given assurances, “we’ve got funding, we’ve got a programme sorted out, nothing to worry about’.

An unapproved unauthorised programme under Labour’s name that Little and the Labour Head Office knew nothing about was nothing to worry about?

Jessica Mutch: But then there was something to worry about.

Little: There was, yeah, we got the complaints this week and the minute that happened, because we were aware that the Labour Party name was associated with it.

It’s not about legal technicalities. I take a very dim view of those who hide behind legality and say it is moral responsibility that is the most important thing.

So from what he says Little was happy to let an unauthorised programme that was using Labour’s name and was being run not just by Labour Party personnel but by McCarten who was supposed to be Little’s main man in Auckland to continue until complaints started being made on Monday.

McCarten says he left his Labour job in May. Was that when Little found out what his Auckland organiser was up to?

Jessica Mutch: But Matt McCarten has been a bit of a fall guy for you guys this week, he’s been mentioned a lot, taking responsibility for this, have you talked to about that in the last few days?

Little: I haven’t personally spoken to him about it. And yeah he has been involved in it.

Jessica Mutch: Is he the fall guy?

Little: I don’t know what you mean about fall guy.

Jessica Mutch: Has he taken responsibility for how this played out?

Little: Well I haven’t spoke to him, um, ah I’m sure others have, I haven’t spoken to him.

Sounds like he knows about others talking to him and doesn’t want to go there.

Little: My priority, and I said to the party right from the outset, when we got those complaints last week, the priority is the well being of those young people, that’s what we focus on now. That’s what this week has been about.

Diversion from McCarten, who seems to have been running a rogue programme that Little knew about in May.

Little: Next week and the weeks that follow there are still questions to be answered, we’ll get on top of all that.

A lot of questions that could do with answers, something Little seems to be avoiding.

Jessica Mutch: Why not use New Zealanders for this kind of work?

Little: We have thousands of New Zealanders in our campaign. We’ve got the most campaign activists signed up to our campaign.

Jessica Mutch: But why use foreign students coming in, or interns coming in?

Little: We’ve been part of, and actually the National Party will have too, part of international political internship programmes for donkeys years. We’ve had people, very small numbers, involved in our campaigns in the past.

We’ve sent young Labour people, the National Party sends young National people off to the United States, to Australia, to the UK, to participate in internship programmes that means they get to see a campaign, get to know about   another country and it’s political systems.

That happens world wide. That’s what this was a part of. It got way beyond people’s ability to control. We’ve stepped in to take over.

So it was a normal campaign programme that Little had heard an idea at the start of the year, had found out more about it in May, but the party is just stepping in to take over now. Something doesn’t add up here.

Jessica Mutch: The marae has had some bad PR over this. Is that fair?

Little: No, totally unfair. That is a good marae. It’s well set up. It’s got good facilities, um it’s got fantastic leadership…

Jessica Mutch: So how did this happen them, why are the students complaining?

Little: Well the students did complain, that’s just a fact, you get the complaints, you deal with it.

And look I’m not one of those people that goes around quibbling about ‘well it’s only one person, two people or three people”, there’s a complaint, you get stuck in, you get involved, you find out, you deal with the people, you know, saying there were things wrong. You’ve got to deal with it. That’s what taking responsibility is about.

And even if it is embarrassing, as it was for us, ah you’ve got to step in and do the right thing at the right time and that’s what we did.

So Labour has dealt with, or is dealing with, the student complaints.

But there is a lot more to this than Little is wanting to talk about.

He said “We didn’t wait til a media story broke to respond.” But he is avoiding responding to bigger questions than a few disillusioned foreign students.

Like what did Little’s supposedly main man in Auckland run an unauthorised programme under Labour’s name and then suddenly quit when a few foreign students complained?

Video here: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/q-and-a


Leave a comment


  1. Gezza

     /  25th June 2017

    Just watched it. Andrew acquitted himself surprisingly well, although I think Jess was quite soft on him & gave him bags of time & encouragement to slam Bill English at the start. Not anything like the grilling Corin Dann bored into Bill Englsh with.

  2. Pete Kane

     /  25th June 2017

    Some of Andrew’s very early messaging was directed at his own team as much as the PM ( a little later he later addressed it directly). Note the “comrade” reference and “try to preserve the dignity and reputations of others”, G.

  3. PDB

     /  25th June 2017

    The irony is not lost in Little calling out English for poor leadership when Little seemed to have no idea what the Auckland Labour Party faction (based out of Andrew Little’s Auckland office) was doing for a period of about six months.

  4. PDB

     /  25th June 2017

    Little: “He says that in May the Party (Head Office) became aware of problems and the links with Labour and stepped in to deal with it.”

    Is this what he said? (can someone confirm) as the party line is head office only found out a week or so ago and only stepped in then? Newshub 23rd June: “Labour’s General Secretary Andrew Kirton took over the programme this week after concerns about how it was being run and the ability to manage the numbers involved.”

    If head office knew of problems with the scheme as far back as May then this comes into play;

    Stuff: “The scheme was run by former Labour Auckland head Matt McCarten, who left his job in mid-May.”

    If Little’s May statement is correct it seems to confirm Labour found out there were problems with the internship in May but instead of dealing with them they cut McCarten loose and tried to disassociate themselves from the scheme by renaming it, pretending it was an impartial scheme & making it out to be an independent McCarten project?

    It was only when the media got hold of the story last week that Labour had to take responsibility but even then under the false pretense of just fixing it up and blaming McCarten for everything.

    That appears to be the true story.

    • Gezza

       /  25th June 2017

      Just a misunderstanding ……….

      • PDB

         /  25th June 2017

        Did he really say ‘May’?

        • I have been doing a transcript and have added some to the post. Yes, he said he knew an unauthorised Programme was running in May but didn’t step in until complaints were made on Monday.

          • PDB

             /  25th June 2017

            Ok – so my theory stands up – Little: “The next I became aware was about May this year when the party was getting messages from students about to arr… within days of arriving, um, ah, the party stepped in straight away…”

            Little is contradicting himself by saying they (head office) stepped in to sort the thing out in May when the students first arrived (and obviously some complaints were made), but Kirton said they only found about the problems last week and he flew up to sort them out ASAP.

            So what we have is Labour HQ finding out in May there is problems as the students arrive and some are not happy, and then in the month between then and Labour HQ doing anything about it they tried to disassociate themselves from the scheme by renaming it, pretending it was an impartial scheme & making it out to be an independent McCarten project by cutting him loose from Labour?

            And this cover-up isn’t a story??

            On top of that why are the MSM not chasing up who the mystery donor is and how they remained hidden from Labour party officials, especially considering the fairly large amount of money involved? Is Little really saying the Labour Party accept large donations with no questions asked?

            It also shows why Labour went soft on the Barclay incident with only Robertson (one of the few of the top brass not mentioned in the intern disaster) being the only one to try and do any damage. Little was especially poor in taking it to English – was he worried about being unmasked as a hypocrite if the intern story broke?

            • PDB

               /  25th June 2017

              To add: the mystery backer’s funding had to have been in place BEFORE the students started arriving hence before McCarten left the Labour Party.

  5. Reply
    • Gezza

       /  25th June 2017

      He (or someone from the marae) also spoke about this on The Marae, which followed Q&A. I didn’t actually get a chance to watch it, just noticed that it was their first item. Apparently other interns have provided glowing reports & felt very welcome & were enthusiastic about the novel experience.

      Guess when you recruit US college kids from the cities whose idea of roughing it is a visit to Yellowstone in an RV, mucking in & rugging up must seem like appalling maltreatment.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  25th June 2017

      As good Lefties surely they believe the taxpayer should be putting them up in first class accommodation?

  6. Brown

     /  25th June 2017

    I think Little is correct that English should resign because he can’t be trusted. Little should resign because he can’t be trusted and is incredibly and repeatedly stupid to boot. Little wins 2-1 I guess.


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