‘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.