Unions using interns

The Labour Party got most of the limited attention given by the media to the intern issue. This is because it was clearly a Labour Party scheme – Andrew Kirton eventually acknowledged it was an ‘Auckland Labour Party’ scheme, but that isn’t a separate party.

But unions were intertwined.

Andrew Little has a union background but claims to have had no knowledge of the scheme, apart from hearing about the idea at the start of the year, and finding out an unauthorised scheme was  up and running in May, and then finding out in mid-June it had got out of control so he stepped in as soon as he knew. Or something.

Matt McCarten has been what someone described as a ‘voluntary scapegoat’. He certainly seems to have been a major player in the scheme, while working for Andrew Little in Auckland, while Little knew nothing about it apart from what he knew.

Before being recruited by David Cunliffe as the Labour leader’s chief of staff in 2014 McCarten was secretary of the Unite union since 2005.

Despite working for Labour for three years McCarten still seems to have kept his @unite.co.nz email address. He registered the movementforchange.org.nz domain using it on 15 May, when he was still working for Little. And he registered it under a Unite Union office address.

McCarten registered campaignforchange.org.nz five days later using Little’s Auckland office address (postal and physical).

Unions were a major part of the plans for financing the intern scheme. A document obtained by Newshub had details (this is claimed to be an unfulfilled plan):


This refers to contracts with the Unite and First unions.

The project was said to be managed by “the project manager in paertnership with the Labour Party, CTU (Council of Trade Unions) and AUSA (Auckland University Students’ Association).

The document detailed three parts to the campaign:


So an aim was to recruit and support volunteers for union GOTV (get out the vote) campaigns. Unions were involved in trying to get votes for Labour last election too. I’m not sure that all their union members would be happy with that.

More on money:


But when this document was published unions distanced themselves. Newshub:  Labour’s botched intern scheme planned on union funding

Council of Trade Unions (CTU):

CTU national secretary Sam Huggard says the plan was never shared with them, and the CTU actually turned down a request to manage the interns.

“We’ve never seen this document and the CTU was not involved as described. I presume this was an early proposal document of some sort,” he told Newshub.

“Matt [McCarten] asked CTU to run the worker aspect of Campaign for Change on the 12th of May this year, but we declined.”

Note “the CTU was not involved as described”. That doesn’t rule out being involved, it leaves many possibilities.

The document describes “member recruitment contracts” with the Unite and First unions.

First Union:

Robert Reid, General Secretary of First Union, said it had not provided any funding: “There’d been discussions but no formal request.”

Unite Union:

Gerard Hehir, Secretary of Unite, said: “We had some discussions with Matt but there was no funding and no promises.”

Neither ruled out a contract or agreement for them to pay on recruitment results.

Despite Hehir’s statement there (that Newshub article was dated 23 June 2017) on the same day NZ Herald reported in Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who quotes Unite’s National Director Mike:

“Matt is ambitious, and where there is a will there is a way is often his attitude. He may have tried to reach too far in this case. We thought there were positives and are a little bit sorry to see it’s all fallen on its face.”

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.

So Unite and First both say there was no direct (up front) funding but Treen says Unite planned to use foreign students to recruit union members with the proceeds to be channelled into funding a Labour party election campaign.

Reid and Hehir may have been technically correct if they hadn’t yet handed over any money to Labour’s campaign.

This suggests a plan for unions to use foreign workers to recruit for them, with the bounty going to Labour, rather than using New Zealand workers earning wages for themselves.

Unite Union’s Mike Treen said unpaid interns were common around the world. “It’s stupid to call it ’employment.’ I know the difference between people being taken advantage of and volunteers and being looking to be political agents in the long term. It was probably a very useful experience for many.”

It may be common use to use unpaid interns to campaign for political parties, but is it common to use unpaid interns to work on union recruitment at the same time?

The document refers to Unite/First contracts to “recruit 800 additional members – $40,000”.  That’s $50 per recruited member.

This sounds like an odd campaign – targeting people trying to get them to vote for Labour and join a union at the same time.  It’s either just a crazy mixed up scheme, or it could be a way of trying disguise campaign donations to Labour as commission for services rendered – by foreign volunteers.

Andrew Little said “Somebody had an idea earlier this year that we could get some people down here from other parts of the world. It looks to me like it’s gotten wildly out of control and people have found they can’t manage it” – Intern scheme got ‘wildly out of control’ – Little.

McCarten’s plans as “fantasy world stuff” and an “embarrassment” – see McCarten may have left Labour in debt after intern scheme (27 June)

In this I think Little’s comments are credible. I can imagine he might have turned a blind eye to McCarten bringing in foreign interns to campaign for Labour, but I can’t imagine him or Labour’s head office agreeing to including union recruitment in the same scheme.

But the Labour Party in Auckland seems to have been very much involved in the scheme, possibly with some Little/Head Office plausible deniability distancing from  the machinations of the scheme.

Auckland Labour’s NZ Council representative Paul Chalmers (also with a union background) has “stood down” from his party responsibilities so the inference is that he was involved with McCarten and at least Treen on this.

A bad look for some Auckland unions and the Labour in Auckland at least.

There are plenty of questions still unanswered by Little and Kirton.

Concerns at Mana links with Dotcom

There’s disappointment and concern being expressed over any potential association between the Mana Party and Kim Dotcom’s yet to be registered Internet Party.

Hone Harawira admitted meeting Dotcom earlier this year. A press release from 19 March – Mana meets with Kim Dotcom.

I met with Dotcom at my mates place on the Shore where we discussed a number of issues.

“We clearly have common interests, but for the record, I didn’t ask him to fund MANA, and he didn’t offer to either. I didn’t ask him to join MANA, and he didn’t ask me to join his party.”

Their common interests seem be concentrated on a dislike of John Key.

A Herald on Sunday article indicates an intertwining of interests amongst the Unite union, Mana, Labour and potentially the Internet party.

Anna Sutherland, 40, is different again. She is a true believer. For her, the Kool-Aid is engaging 800,000 non-voters, many young and cynical. Appointed secretary after the resignation of her brother-in-law, Scoop journalist Alistair Thompson, Sutherland’s background is also in left-wing politics.

When she was in her 20s, Sutherland worked at Parliament in Alliance president Matt McCarten’s electorate liaison unit, a hotbed of hard-left politics that was shut down after a Parliamentary Service inquiry identified the use of taxpayer funds to promote the political party. The unit’s five staff lost their jobs, and director Gerard Hehir went on to run McCarten’s Unite union.

Sutherland ran for Parliament as an Alliance candidate, had two children and worked at the Electoral Commission before the left pulled her back into politics this year.

Hehir says: “From my point of view and that of the left, it’s in our interests if we encourage the Internet Party to the left side of the spectrum.”

The faint fingerprints of longtime comrades Hehir and McCarten are on the Internet Party, a nexus linking it to Mana (for which Hehir is Parliamentary chief of staff and party secretary) and Labour (for which McCarten is chief of staff). Labour, the Greens and Mana are working to create a three-headed coalition that can topple National, and they see an ally in Dotcom.

Hehir seems to be the driving force behind a Mana-Dotcom arrangement.

On Monday, February 24, Mana MP Hone Harawira and Hehir invited Dotcom to a friend’s house on the North Shore, where they looked out over the sea and chatted, says Harawira, about “what wonderful beaches we have in Aotearoa”.

They also discussed their mutual enemy, John Key, and a structural alliance of the two parties.

This week, the Mana Party leadership and executive are expected to discuss a proposal to unite the two parties under one umbrella for the election.

“There’s a whole lot of things that could stop it dead in its tracks, but at this stage we’re keen to look at it,” says Hehir. “It’s got to be in the interests of both parties.”

The Herald article closes with…

… the established parties have to weigh up Dotcom’s potential to embarrass them if they ally themselves too closely.

And they have to consider whether an association will split their supporters.

In a Herald article today – Bradford: Any Mana-Dotcom deal would be bad

Any electoral deal between Kim Dotcom and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira may find resistance from activists within Mana.

Mana member and former MP Sue Bradford is worried at the prospect of any deal with Mr Dotcom’s internet Party, which has yet to be launched.

“I would be extremely concerned if Mana was to go into any arrangement with Kim Dotcom because what I think he stands for is the anti-thesis of what Mana is about to me,” she told the Herald last night.

Sue Bradford, a former Green MP, left Parliament in 2009 and joined Mana when it was formed in 2011.She said Mana stood for tino rangatiratanga [self determination] and for all New Zealander on low or no incomes.

“It’s a left rangatiratanga party which had invited the tau iwi [Pakeha] left even though it is Maori-led and Maori-focused and in my political history it is the first time anything like that has happened and so I joined and stood for it in 2011.

“In any way joining forces with a billionaire who is very likely a fraudster and under various legal challenges would really go against the kaupapa that I believe in.”

She said there had also been concerns about the poor payment or no payment of staff and poor payment or low payment of creditors.

“All this does not really one to think he is a person of credibility that a political party with mana in Aotearoa would want to be associated with.”

Far more concern than support has been expressed at The Standard in Which MP is Kim Dotcom talking to?

Disraeli Gladstone:

How can Mana even be considering this? It goes against nearly every principle in the party. Hopefully, Harawira and Sykes just comes out and shut it down, explaining why Dotcom is incompatible with Mana’s political ideals.

The Al1en:“I don’t know why so many people on the left are in love with him. He is a typical rich, frivolous, latent mean-spirited tendencies of a man. He donated money to John Banks. If Key didn’t have him arrested, he’d probably be one of National’s biggest supporters.”

That’s the nail on the head, like whoever jumps in to bed with .com, is a nail in their coffin.

lurgee+1 billion.

Don’t normally do that, but the .com worship sickens me.

Murray Olsen

I also stand alongside my friends and comrades in Mana in not wanting too be part of any amalgamation with the non-existent Internet Party. I have let them know this and as far as I know, there will be no merging. Quite simply, it would be the death of the Mana movement.


Any MP to sign up with dotcom would have to be thick. A great thorn in the government’s side, but he is like Owen Glenn but with worse baggage — has $ but is more trouble than what he is worth.

papa tuanuku

Manipulation of the system without any grass roots involvement is plain manipulation. Mana – elected by the poorest voters – siding with the fulla that lives in the most expensive house in the country.


Hone can’t be so stupid as to take anyone from the proposed Internet Party into the Parliament with Him,(and probably Annette Sykes via a win in Waiariki), simply because the Mana Party kaupapa is diametrically opposed to that which drives Mr Kim DotCom,(we would like to think this at least).


KDC is nothing but a poisoned chalice, a true merchant of death for any politician involved with him.
Horan, Norman and Harawhira should know better.

Te Reo Putake

Hone has reasonable hopes of getting a second MP anyway, and has bugger all in common with Dotcom so doesn’t need the risk of the association. That’s not to say that advisors such as John Minto might be asking him to consider an alliance anyway. But, well, ….really?

Would Minto support this? He’s not saying in a Stuff article today – Mana waits to see Internet Party ideas.

Of crucial importance will be the attitude of Mana’s No 2, Annette Sykes, and its co-president and third-ranked candidate, John Minto, who is keen to broaden the party’s support among urban voters of all ethnicities.

Mr Minto referred questions to Mr Hehir. Mr Harawira answered his phone briefly to say he was driving and to “send a text”. A text was sent but he did not respond.

If Dotcom wants his own candidates on a mixed Internet Party/Mana list it would reduce the chances of Sykes and Minto getting into Parliament on the list.

The Stuff article suggests a more cautious Mana approach:

The Mana Party is taking a rain check on linking up with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party until it sees its candidates, its policy planks and gets an assurance it is committed to a change of government.

And Hehir:

Former Alliance activist Gerard Hehir, now Mana’s party secretary, said it was early days and there was no paper or proposal on the table. The two sides had held only one meeting.

He said it would be unfair to describe him as enthusiastic about a deal. The Internet Party was yet to be formed, had not announced its policy platform and had not yet named candidates. More would be known on Thursday, but there was little time before the election.

The Mana executive had been briefed last week. “We are looking at policy, philosophy and attitude to government. If they’re not aligned, there’s no point in going on.”

There’s no point in going on it it doesn’t have the support of the whole Mana Movement either. The talk of association may have already damaged Mana.