Arrest in relation to alleged sexual assault at Labour camp

A week after Andrew Kirton announces he is leaving his job with Labour.

Police are believed to have arrested the man at the centre of the Labour Party summer youth camp sexual assault allegations.

Newsroom understands the man, who Labour said at the time was not a party member, was arrested and charged yesterday and will appear in a court in Auckland in the next week.

One victim told Newsroom last night: “To know that four months after the assaults occurred, that some action is finally being taken is fantastic. It feels like there’s some closure. After months of backtracks, lack of support and media coverage, its all coming to a head.”

Kirton resigned last Friday to take a government relations role at Air New Zealand but is expected to be in office when the Berryman report is received. His actions over the camp allegations were widely criticised but he was praised highly by the party president at the time and when his resignation was announced.

I expect suppression will apply to the victims at least, and probably initially to the person arrested. So no naming here please – this will be strictly enforced,

Kirton resigning from Labour

Andrew Kirton moved to New Zealand two years ago to run the Labour Party as general Secretary, helped them to an election win and to negotiate a governing deal.

He ran into difficulties in handling of the Labour camp where it was alleged sexual harassment occurred. With the results of an investigation into the camp thought by some to be imminent (of course that could be coincidental), Kirton is leaving Labour.

Newsroom: Labour Party chief resigns

The Labour Party’s general secretary Andrew Kirton announced his resignation this afternoon – after the high of an election win last year and the low of allegations of sexual assault and drunkenness at a Labour Youth Camp in February.

But when Newsroom broke news of the allegations from the summer camp near Waihi, Kirton’s handling of the matter was under intense scrutiny. Labour took what it called a “victim-led” approach to the complaints and no outside investigation was sought.

Newsroom revealed Kirton’s plans at lunchtime today and he announced this afternoon he was heading to a new role as government relations executive at Air New Zealand.

Some eyebrows could be raised over the timing of the announcement, coming at a time when political and media eyes are on Ardern’s new baby at Auckland Hospital.

On the investigation:

Police have been investigating and have indicated a charge may yet be laid against the person accused of the late-night assaults on young party supporters, one as young as 16.

Labour commissioned Wellington lawyer Maria Berryman in March to investigate how it handled the affair, its general culture and any other incidents of sexual harassment or abuse within the party. She had three months to report back and her findings were not to be made public but go to key party leaders.

Berryman only recently spoke to some of the five victims of the assaults at the camp.

So it could be a while before the investigation is completed. Kirton could be gone by then.

‘Future qualification’ on Northcote by-election candidate’s profile

Three candidates have been announced for the Northcote by-election (to be held on 9 June) – National selected Dan Bidois and Labour selected their general election candidate Shanan Halbert, and Peter Wakeman seems to have selected himself. Brief details (some from Wikipedia):

  • Dan Bidois – Economist, 72nd on National’s 2017 party list
  • Shanan Halbert – Head of Recruitment & Relationships at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, 51st on Labour’s 2017 party list
  • Peter Wakeman – Perennial candidate

National Party announcement: Bidois selected as National’s Northcote candidate

Mr Bidois is currently Strategy Manager for Foodstuffs. He was raised and educated in Auckland, leaving school at 15 to complete a butchery apprenticeship with Woolworth’s New Zealand. Aspirational for his future, he went on to study at the University of Auckland, and attended Harvard University on a Fulbright Scholarship. He has worked as a strategist and economist in New Zealand, the United States, and Malaysia.

Labour party announcement: Shanan Halbert selected as Labour’s candidate for Northcote

Shanan is an education professional with experience across the sector including secondary, tertiary and with the education unions. Locally he has been in leadership and governance roles at Northcote’s Hato Petera College. Currently he is head of Relationships and Recruitment at Te Wananga o Aotearoa.

“I look forward to campaigning in Northcote on the issues that matter locally – transport, decent housing, health and education,” says Shanan Halbert.

(Oddly that can’t be found on Labour’s website,  had to go to Scoop for it).

I don’t recall hearing of Bidois or Wakeman before, but Halbert featured in the Labour intern issue last June – see Little and Labour MPs with interns.

Earlier in the week Labour party secretary Andrew Kirton promoted Halbert’s selection:

And David Farrar dissed Halbert’s chances and promoted all National candidates in  It’s Bidois vs Halbert for Northcote.

Yesterday Farrar tweeted on a Kiwiblog post What happened to Shanan’s MBA?:

He saw a MBA from AUT listed for Shanan Halbert (the Labour candidate). He checked out the AUT graduate page and they do not have Halbert as a graduate.

He then checked back Halbert’s Linked In page the next day, and the MBA mention was gone.

Stating unearned qualifications on your CV looks bad, and more so if you are a head of the Recruitment & Relationships department at an educational institute.

And the misrepresentation has been confirmed by Kirton in a response to Farrar on twitter:

That’s a remarkable explanation. The LinkedIn  page says nothing about ‘a timeframe of 2016-2020’, and it is extraordinary to list under Education courses you are enrolled in and are nowhere near completing. If Halbert wins the by-election he will have less time still to study.

And Kirton  goes further:

It’s not a dirty trick pointing out a candidate falsely claiming a qualification, it is holding to account, something some who are new to Government don’t seem to comprehend.

I don’t know enough about any of the candidates to rate them as potential MPs, but Halbert and Labour have not started their campaign very well.

UPDATE: I have just found Halbert’s profile on the Labour website. It includes:

As a senior manager in the education field, Shanan knows that life-long learning must be made available in our fast-changing world.

Changing so fast he got ahead of himself in claiming to have an MBA.

Colmar Brunton poll – little change

Polls have been scarce lately. 1 news have their second poll of the year. It doesn’t show anything drastic – a bit of movement from Labour to their Government partners.

  • National 44% (up 1)
  • Labour 43% (down 5)
  • Greens 6% (up 1)
  • NZ First 5% (up 2)
  • Maori Party 1%

So Labour have eased back a bit after a difficult period, and National have held up despite the exit of Bill English and Steven Joyce – it is the first poll since Simon Bridges took over leadership.

Greens and NZ First have both improved marginally (at Labour’s expense).

  • Refuse to answer 4%
  • Undecided 8% (down 1)

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern 37% (down 4)
  • Simon Bridges 10% (up 9)
  • Winston Peters 5% (up 1)

The gloss seems to have worn off Ardern a bit. It’s early for Bridges, he will still hardly be known by most of the electorate.

Peters doesn’t seem to be liked outside NZ First support.

Poll conducted 7-11 April 2018.

What try hard bollocks.

National are likely to be pleased a change of leadership has barely changed their support.

 

Middlemore mould, health budget hole, the budget

Since the new Government took over there seems to have been a reduction in stories about hard done by beneficiaries and people living rough. But there has been a lot of lobbying going on before new Minister of Finance Grant Robertson’s first budget – nurses want more money, so do teachers, and health is always short of funds.

The Government is faced with a difficult decision over a new prison to cater for growing prisoner numbers. They have committed to a number of costs like benefit increases, the the ‘winter heating’ handout, free university fees, NZ First has been given a billion dollars a year to dole out to regions, and a major shift in transport funding has just been announced.

There’s been a number of curious things coming out about health and hospitals, perhaps not coincidentally leading up to next month’s budget. Is the public being prepared for a policy switch to justify increased health spending? More tax or more debt?

Suddenly it seems it has been discovered that there are major mould problems with multiple buildings at Middlemore Hospital.

Earlier this week – Ardern: Don’t blame us for health sector problems

The Prime Minister says National would have known the shortfall in the health spend when they were in government.

Jacinda Ardern says there’s a hole of around $10 billion – and that’s one of the reasons why her Government cancelled planned tax cuts scheduled for this month.

“I would have thought a minister of health would probably know that,” Ardern says.

Ardern says for National to claim they knew nothing about things like the mould at Middlemore Hospital is disingenuous.

Staff at Middlemore have also claimed they knew nothing about it.

“One of the latest emerging problems is the news that the buildings at Middlemore Hospital have become rotten and infested with a toxic black mould. I found out in the middle of a late-night ward round from a Radio NZ journalist who phoned seeking comment – I had none, because it was news to me. The next morning, the rest of our staff and all of New Zealand heard the story and over the next few days there followed a confusion of detail about the extent of the problems and who knew what when.”

https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/03-04-2018/the-toxic-mould-and-rot-of-middlemore-is-the-legacy-of-a-crisis-in-values/

So has the mould information only just come out, or did the last Minister of Health keep it a secret for this long?

Ardern:

“It is worse than we thought, when we look at the capital needs of hospitals and health in particular, [and] also the deficits DHBs are facing, it is worse than I anticipated.”

Blaming the previous Government is normal, as is acting surprised about higher costs than anticipated.

If people don’t pay as much on tax they can afford to spend more on health perhaps.

I would have thought that Steven Joyce would have proved the $11.7 billion hole existed if he could. Was he right, but hid details?

Or is Labour now trying to claim they have been duped?

It’s hard to know whether some of this is part or a PR plan or not, softening the public up for ‘unexpected’ increases in budget costs, and a sudden need to fund this through more taxes. National sort of did that by increasing GST, but they also decreased personal tax rates and had a Global Financial Crisis to deal with.

It’s hard to trust either Labour or National as they throw around blame and claims and money.

Talking of $11.7 billion, this may be just a coincidence, but the same number was noticed here:

 

 

20 year old should front up

One 20 year old man has caused substantial damage after alleged sexual assaults at a party during a Young Labour summer camp last month.

I think he should front up and identify himself, to remove suspicion from anyone else (particularly the other young males who attended the camp). As he is facing a police investigation and possible charges he shouldn’t have to admit anything, but he should out himself.

Jacinda Ardern accepts that something serious occurred:

“The environment was not a safe one and that’s something we have to fix.

“It shouldn’t have happened, we should absolutely have made sure those people were looked after and that hasn’t happened.”

From a statement from Labour General Secretary Andrew Kirton indicates no party denial that something serious happened:

“We are extremely disappointed that an incident like this happened at a Labour event and we are working to make sure those involved receive any support they need. We are deeply sorry for the distress that’s been caused. It shouldn’t have happened.

“The morning after an evening in which we understand several young people had consumed alcohol, Young Labour was alerted to complaints in relation to the behaviour of a 20-year-old man.

“I have subsequently banned the perpetrator from any future Labour Party events.”

The actions of the 20 year old have caused problems for many.

Obviously the claimed four victims will be have been affected, at least one (reported to be male) to the extent that they prompted Labour (Megan Woods) to do something about it, and they have now complained to the police, who are investigating.

Others impacted by their actions or by association:

  • Young Labour, who have had all events suspended by the Labour Party.
  • The camp organiser (who went to bed early, before the alleged offences occurred).
  • The Labour Party, in particular secretary Andrew Kirton who has admitted not responding to the allegations adequately, and also president Nigel Haworth who was involved in the inadequate action.
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who, if as claimed she only found out when blind sided at a media conference on Monday, has been seriously embarrassed by the offending at the camp (which she had attended) and by the poor handling of the aftermath.
  • Cabinet Minister Megan Woods who initiated action when approached by someone on Facebook – she should be credited for acting immediately, but has been criticised for not informing Ardern.
  • New Labour MP Liz Craig, who was at the camp but was asleep when the alleged offences occurred (however she was present when alcohol was being consumed).
  • The 50 or so attendees at the camp.

Those who attended the camp other than the alleged victims will also have been impacted. I’m sure they have had to explain their involvement in the camp, and the partying, and if under age the alcohol consumption (and possibly drugs).

NZ Herald:

Kirton told the Herald that Labour had not sought the consent of minors to supply them alcohol because it had not been expected that they would be drinking alcohol.

Under the law it is unlawful to supply anyone aged under 18 with alcohol without the consent of a parent or guardian.

Kirton said such consent was not sought “because the intention was no one under 18 would participate in that.”

According to witnesses who spoke to Newsroom, there was a large array of alcohol available at the Saturday night party including rum, vodka, cider and a large array of RTDs. The witness saw many people drinking, including a 15-year-old.

This will affect any Labour events in the future.

But the biggest and immediate issue is the alleged sexual assaults.

Any of the males who attended the camp will be under suspicion. Most won’t be 20 years old, but they shouldn’t have to wear signs around their necks saying “Yes I was at the camp but no I am not 20!”

Andrew Kirton:

Kirton says the 20-year-old alleged to have groped the four teenagers at the event was “deeply embarrassed” when confronted about it the next day.

“He was spoken to the morning after and my understanding is he was deeply embarrassed and they got him out straight away.

“My understanding from the conversation relayed back to me was that he recognised he had drunk too much and that he was embarrassed by what happened.”

Recognising that he had drunk too much is not the issue. The allegations of multiple sexual groping are the problem here, and alcohol consumption is no excuse for that. Most people who drink alcohol don’t act as alleged he did. There is only one alleged offender.

That person should identify themselves so that no one else involved is under suspicion.

This shouldn’t impact on the victims, who won’t be identified any more than they are now.

The 20 year old, if he did offend, has a legal right to not admit anything, but he could save the victims a lot ongoing attention and grief by fronting up and accepting responsibility and admitting what he did. This would mean the victims would not have to go through the investigation processes and possibly court processes.

The 20 year old has caused many problems and has done a lot of damage, to the victims if the allegations are true, to Young Labour and to Labour.

He could mitigate some of that damage by fronting up. This would also mitigate the end result of any legal repercussions.

If he remains silent and anonymous the damage will continue – in particular for the victims and for innocent males who also attended the camp.

 

Labour laxness, and parents’ right to know about sexual assault

Criticism of Labour’s lax handling of the summer camp sexual assaults continues.

ODT Editorial: Missteps on harassment allegations

Allegations have been made four Young Labour supporters were sexually assaulted at the camp last month. Two males and two females, all 16, were allegedly assaulted or harassed by a 20-year-old man during a party at the Waihi camp.

The man was reportedly intoxicated and put his hand down the pants of at least three of the four young people. The affected teenagers did not get much support until the day before the story was due to break on the Newsroom website. The support came three weeks after the camp.

The things which did not happen include Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton not telling the parents of the young people, not notifying the police of the allegations and not informing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was apparently caught unawares by the allegations when questioned by the media.

One of the reasons put forward by Mr Kirton for not telling anyone about the incidents was he wanted a victim-led process, defying the logic of having 16-year-olds allegedly sexually harassed or interfered with.

There have been suggestions Ms Ardern is going to investigate the matter; not a wise decision if true. A prime ministerial investigation could step across any investigation to be instigated by the police.

Ardern may have had sufficient time to rethink that proposal.

There are huge implications for Labour in this. Strong women MPs have, over the years, stood together on issues such as gender equality and sexual connotations.

Labour has made serious mistakes in the handling of this complicated issue. The young people are again being made victims because of the ineptness by party officials.

Whether parents will again trust Young Labour at a future camp is a moot point. The party’s obligation was to the young people and their families. The police should have been involved at the earliest opportunity.

Dominion Post editorial: Labour should have fronted on sexual misconduct

Sorry, Labour, but the age of innocence is over. It’s well and truly buried. There are no longer any excuses.

Woman after woman after woman – and the odd man too – has stepped forward to declare that time’s up on sexual harassment, on assault, on staying quiet.

Ignorance is not bliss. Was it ever?

So it’s quite extraordinary that a political party that has appeared to embrace the social-media surge and momentum behind the #metoo movement and the rise of young, ambitious women; that has euphorically smashed a few of its own glass ceilings in storming the citadels of power; and which offers such wonderful inspiration to wide-eyed youngsters considering their own political and business careers, should have chosen to maintain a small, closed circle around sexual assault.

​Extraordinary, and possibly just a little convenient. There is an argument to be made that Labour’s hierarchy was focused solely on the wishes of four 16-year-olds allegedly sexually assaulted at one of the party’s events when it largely kept the issue ‘in-house’. That is certainly its stance.

There is another argument that the hierarchy’s considered, “victim-led” approach carried an element of political calibration. We’ll leave readers to draw their own conclusions on that.

Political considerations cannot be separated from Labour’s inept handling of the assaults.

Sadly, the reaction echoes the darker machinations of other previously austere bodies when faced with such issues: the transgressions have been kept behind closed doors and the transgressor has simply been moved on.

Labour has handled this poorly, at practically every step. The party’s general secretary, Andrew Kirton, wasn’t informed until four days later. He made another, possibly politically motivated, decision not to tell his boss, Jacinda Ardern.

Why? It’s a simple enough question. Did he think such things below her station? Did he believe that not telling her would give her some protection against any possible media prying in future? Did he simply believe that it was contained?

Again, it’s hard not to see a political method to the madness.

Ex-ACT MP Heather Roy has a say on Young Labour Summer Camp and Parents’ Right to Know

There has been much discussion today about what should have happened when a drunken 20 year old allegedly sexually assaulted three 16 year olds at a Labour Party summer Youth Camp. The handling of the affair by Labour party officials was clumsy at best, bungling and harmful at worst. Everyone agrees that the inappropriate events should have been dealt with swiftly.

Parents, who had presumably consented to their 16 year olds going off to Labour summer camp, had the right to believe their children were going to a safe environment. Yes things sometimes happen, but when they do the expectation is that they are dealt with adequately.

The decision to not tell parents what had happened (so they could assist their children if traumatized) is either amazingly naïve or, more likely, it was intended to prevent the media storm and disdain now being launched at Labour for a significant lack of judgement.

Some have said that it is ‘best practice’ not to tell parents or police, but I think that many, if not most, parents would disagree.

The matter should have been dealt with by the system – the police – not ineptly handled by the Labour Party, acting as police, judge and jury, to avoid public and political embarrassment. There is a presumed perpetrator who should be held to account or vindicated if not guilty.

So the Prime Minister didn’t know, wasn’t told and was surprised when door stopped by media. That’s a failing by her party. More importantly, they have let down young people who don’t deserve to be let down.

And Labour are still flailing and failing on this. They haven’t fronted up adequately – including Prime Minister Ardern.

And this isn’t the first time Andrew Kirton has tried to paper over a major embarrassment for Labour, in a situation where coincidentally Ardern also separated herself from any knowledge. This involved young people again, the mis-managed, ill-fated intern issue before last year’s election with a disingenuous conclusion.

Allegation of sexual misconduct at Young Labour camp

Newsroom has another story about allegations of sexual misconduct, this time at a Young Labour summer camp. There are also questions over supply of alcohol to minors.

One drunk person can do a lot damage, but how it was dealt with is also important, and it seems astounding that while Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton was aware of it and is dealing with it, Jacinda Ardern said this afternoon that she knew nothing about it.

Newsroom: Sexual misconduct alleged at boozy Labour Party camp

The Labour Party has been hit with claims that four young supporters were sexually assaulted at one of its annual ‘Summer School’ camps near Waihi last month.

The four – two males and two females – are all 16 and were allegedly assaulted or harassed by a 20-year-old man during a wild party on the second night of the camp.

Newsroom has been told the man was intoxicated and put his hand down the pants of at least three of the four young people.

Labour Summer Schools are open to supporters of all ages including those under 18 and this year’s camp in the Karangahake Gorge ran from late afternoon on Friday, February 9 to Sunday, February 11.

More than 50 people attended the camp and about a third of those were 18 or under.

The ages of those who were allegedly assaulted has not been revealed.

According to witnesses, a large variety of alcohol was available on Saturday night and many people, including a 15-year-old boy, were drinking.

The “mountain” of alcohol included rum, vodka, cider and a large array of RTDs.

If people under the legal drinking age were supplied with alcohol, that’s another serious problem for Labour.

It’s understood the camp’s supervisor, Young Labour’s Tess Macintyre, had gone to bed around 9pm and was not present at the party.

Was no one in charge or responsible after that?

The camp’s ‘Code of Conduct’ was given to everyone who registered for the event.

It states there is “zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour. Inappropriate behaviour includes any criminal activity, as well as bullying or acting inappropriately toward other attendees”.

It sounds like a major fail on that one.

The code also refers to alcohol and sexual harassment.

“The organising committee has to pay special attention to the activities of all under 18s in the camp (especially in regards to alcohol). We do not want to prevent you having fun but must act according to the law. No Means No! Sexism and sexual harassment of any form will not be tolerated.”

And a fail on that as well.

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, spoke at the event but was not present at the time of the incident.

Other speakers included Labour’s General Secretary, who outlined the party’s plans for 2018, MP for Waiariki Tamati Coffey on Māori development and Dr Sarb Johal on mental health.

Newsroom understands that the man involved was removed from the camp on the Sunday morning, the same day those attending heard a talk on feminism by Angie Warren-Clark – a Labour list MP and manager of the Tauranga Women’s Refuge.

She may not be very happy about the allegations.

Labour’s General Secretary, Andrew Kirton said he was aware of the incident and was currently, “working through it”.

Keeping the lid on it, until the news broke.

In a press conference this afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was the first she’d heard of the allegations.

“I went to the opening of that summer camp, I attended at the very beginning, people had just arrived so certainly none of that was apparent when I was there. This is the first I’ve heard of any such allegations but now that you’ve made them I’ll happily investigate them because that is not what I would expect of any Labour function.”

‘Happily’ is not a great word to use in these circumstances.

“Given that I’ve just heard it now, I’d just ask for the time to look into that personally.”

On whether leadership knew: “That could well be the case, I’m certainly not ruling out that our Labour Party leadership may well be aware, I’m certainly just pointing out it has not been raised with me until now.”

It seems remarkable that the Labour Party was aware of the incident and “working through it”, but that Ardern was not informed.

This is a major embarrassment, with possible illegalities have occurred in respect of alcohol and supply and the sexual misconduct.

1 News has just reported that the police were not involved in the complaints. Why not?

How Labour deals with this from now is very important. This has put the Prime Minister in a very difficult position.

UPDATE: Statement from Andrew Kirton:

This sounds like an attempt at belated damage control. I think that Kirton has a bit more explaining to do.

UPDATE 2:

So it appears this was known about publicly (on Twitter) a month ago. I have the  Twitter account details but there is associated information on that tweet thread that I don’t want to repeat here).

UPDATE 3: a statement from Ardern:

That is doing little other then repeating Kirton’s ‘assurances’. Ardern needs to step up and show leadership on this – which means taking appropriate responsibility.

So Kirton decided to try and deal with it all on the quiet himself? Very risky.

So it sounds like acted when he knew the story was coming out.

There is more of this story to come out by the look of things.

McCarten and the intern scheme donor

When Labour’s intern scheme story broke in June it was reported that the scheme had been funded by one large donor.

Stuff: Two on Labour’s intern programme may have broken immigration rules as council member stands down

McCarten’s original plan was to have union funding, but it seems that was not forthcoming.

A big donor did back the plan, but their identity has not been released to the party or to the public.

Little said the party had disclosure obligations, both in terms of donors and spending. The party was dealing with that.

Little said the party had a moral responsibility to look after creditors and suppliers because there was the “potential” for a shortfall in funding raised for the intern scheme.

NZH: Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who

A mystery backer funded the volunteer scheme for overseas students working on Labour’s campaign – and even Labour does not know who it was or how much was involved.

Matt McCarten, who set up the scheme and ran it under his “Campaign for Change” organisation, told the Herald it was funded by a “private funder” who thought the scheme was a good idea.

McCarten’s confirmation of a “private funder” followed the release of a document obtained by Newshub which showed McCarten expected it to cost at least $150,000 and planned to get $100,000 from the FIRST and Unite unions, as well as seeking contributions from other unions and fundraising.

However, those unions said yesterday they had not put any funding in.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the party would disclose anything it was required to and would ensure third parties did as well. However, the party was still working out what funding there was in place.

At the time this sounded like avoidance from Labour (and it was successful avoidance). It should have been a simple matter of asking McCarten how the scheme had been funded to that stage.

The Herald also quoted Mike Treen, the Unite union’s National Director:

Treen said the union had taken part in the programme and planned to use the interns for a programme to enrol Unite members, but had not provided any direct funding.

No ‘direct funding’ is a curious reference.

David Farrar wrote to the Electoral Commission asking them to investigate the donation and funding. He published their response last week on Kiwiblog:  Electoral Commission rules Campaign for Change counts as Labour candidate donations

The Electoral Commission has investigated the Campaign for Change and made the following determinations:

  1. All funds spent by the Campaign for Change are Labour candidate donations and must be declared in returns after the election
  2. McCarten personally paid for the costs
  3. $65,095 was spent up until Labour formally took over
  4. The Campaign for Change was not a neutral enrolment exercise

McCarten had referred to a ‘private funder’, which clearly implies someone other than himself.

If McCarten was always the funder why did he mislead the public, and also apparently not divulge this to Labour?

This leaves questions unanswered.

Was there a private funder who backed out when the scheme became public and it looked likely the funder would be named as a donor?

Did McCarten donate with his own money? Or was it an indirect donation, with money given to him by ‘a private benefactor’, and then he handed that over to Labour?

Does it matter?

Labour seem finished with their use of McCarten’s services, and so they should be. He was always a high risk to them. McCarten must now surely be seen as politically toxic by any party.

 

‘Auckland Labour Party’ responsible for intern scheme

The ‘Auckland Labour Party’ has now been named by Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton as responsible along with Matt McCarten for the intern scheme.

Kirton has also said that “it started off as a Labour Party project”. So Kirton, and one would expect Labour’s leader Andrew Little, would have known more about the scheme than they have admitted.

When the Labour intern story broke it was obvious that Little and Kirton were not being open about what they knew about the scheme.

Little has said he had heard about the scheme as an idea at the start of the year, has admitted finding out it was running as an unapproved scheme in May, and he says he stepped in when they started getting complaints around Monday last week (but there are variations in that story too).

Matt McCarten quickly became the scapegoat. He was employed (by Parliamentary Services) to work for Andrew Little in Auckland, and no campaign work was allowed. However it is clear that McCarten has spent some time (months) working on the intern scheme aimed at campaigning for Labour.

The scheme was advertised overseas in February as a “Labour Party Fellowship”, with @labour.org.nz email addresses for contact. It became ”Movement for Change” in May and changed soon afterwards to “Campaign for Change”.  With McCarten leaving his Labour job it seems there was an attempt to distance the scheme from the party.

Little in particular has talked as though it was not a Labour Party scheme.

But that position was untenable. Other Labour Party people were connected with the scheme.

Earlier this week it was reported that Labour’s Auckland/Northland Representative on their NZ Council, Paul Chalmers, had stood down. Stuff on Tuesday (27 June): Two on Labour’s intern programme may have broken immigration rules as council member stands down:

Labour Leader Andrew Little on Tuesday said Paul Chalmers, who was connected with the scheme, had voluntarily stood down over the weekend “and he is not involved in the governing council of the party at this point”.

Chalmers is still named on Labour’s website as an Auckland/Northland representative.

Little said it was also possible the party would have to cover some of the costs of the plan masterminded by Little’s former chief of staff Matt McCarten, who more recently was Little’s Auckland organiser but stood down from that role in mid May when his contract ended and was not renewed.

An eight month contract terminated four months before the election seems odd.

Also on Tuesday in an RNZ interview Little’s story was starting to wobble over what he knew and who was responsible. From More details emerge of Labour’s intern scheme:

Suzy Ferguson: Are you saying you don’t know where this money’s coming from?

Little: I don’t know any details about the organisation of it apart from what we now know, I think 85 young people here staying on a marae, and helping out in various parts of the Auckland campaign. Beyond that I don’t know, I’m not sure if the party knows or knew at the time, and we’re in the process now of getting the detail about the organisation behind it.

Suzy Ferguson: …are you saying you don’t know where the thick end of two hundred grand has come from?

Little: Well, um, no one in the party is responsible for what Matt and others, and let’s be fair, it wasn’t Matt alone, there were at least four people involved in driving this, three on the party side…

Suzy Ferguson: …while this was being done Matt McCarten was in the pay of the Labour Party wasn’t he.

Little: Um, he was the, he was my, he was the director of the Auckland office, um, which is funded out of the Leader’s office, my office, um he was working for me (a) to open and run the office and (b) to run my Auckland programme, outreach programme.

Suzy Ferguson: Ok, so he’s working for you, but you’re saying you didn’t know what he was doing, you didn’t know about this?

Little: I didn’t know about this. I didn’t know the extent to which he was organising stuff.

That didn’t sound convincing.

Even more details emerged yesterday. Newshub ‘It’s not a good look’ – Labour fronts up on intern visa problems

Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton told The AM Show it’s “not a good look,” but said as soon as he heard of the programme’s problems, he stepped in to sort it out.

“My team arrived on Tuesday to sort out this programme of Matt McCarten’s and the Auckland Labour Party.”

“It’s been a bit of an effort but we’re getting on top of it now. The young volunteers are now really excited to get out and learn about MMP environments across the country.

“It started off as a Labour Party project – not too dissimilar to what we’ve done in the past. The problem with this though was it was expanded out quite significantly by Matt McCarten with support from the Auckland Labour Party.

“[It] got out of control, the management got out of control, and that’s why we stepped in straight away.”

So after about a week of trying to distance Labour from the intern scheme Kirton has admitted that it was an “Auckland Labour Party” programme, along with McCarten who was effectively Little’s chief of staff in Auckland.

Little and Kirton appear to have been somewhat frugal with the truth over the last week.

They have either deliberately misled and lied about the extent of their knowledge of the scheme, or the Labour Party in Auckland and Little’s Auckland employee were running an unauthorised scheme without telling them anything about it and without them finding out about it until last week. Or the week before. Or in May, depending on which explanation you listen to.

A number of Labour’s Auckland MPs and candidates have been involved with the interns in their campaigning – seeLinks between interns and Labour from April.

Alongside Little’s claimed lack of knowledge of the scheme it is also curious that deputy leader Jacinda Ardern, Auckland based and with a special interest in young people and getting them out to vote, seems to also have had no knowledge of an international and local student get out the vote campaign in her own city.

Labour still have major questions to answer about who the mysterious anonymous donor was, and why McCarten and possible other Labour staffers were running a campaign scheme when their employment terms didn’t allow that.