Clifton: post-mortem on the McCarten fiasco

This is one of the few attempts by anyone in media to have a good look at the Labour intern fiasco – a “post-mortem on Matt Mcarten fiasco” (and the Barclay fiasco) has just popped up on Noted after being in the Listener a couple of weeks ago.

Matt McCarten drove the scheme while working for Labour leader Andrew Little, then when things turned to custard he made a rapid exit, leaving Labour to try and clean up the mess.

At issue here was his grandiose scheme to bring nearly 100 young politics students to New Zealand to work for the Campaign for Change, a movement he has set up to motivate perennial non-voters and vote-shy youngsters to get to the ballot box.

Foreign volunteers typically pay their own way and get billeted. That was the deal for McCarten’s intern army. But the plan was both over-egged and underprepared: he didn’t have enough money committed to look after the students properly; many found their marae accommodation inadequate; some had the wrong visas; others felt they were being exploited; one couple even caught the next plane back home.

And just like National’s Barclay issue, the problem had hatched right under the party’s nose.

McCarten was hardly the covert field marshal. Since at least last Christmas, he’s been telling anyone in proximity how he saw his new job – “I’m gonna raise an army!” – and until recently, he was still in Labour’s part-time employ, while prepping the Campaign for Change.

Little tried to claim he knew virtually nothing about it, which seemed unlikely and still does.

That alone merited careful watching: electoral law and parliamentary funding rules mandate strict boundaries between such projects.

And while keeping an eye on that, party officials should have noticed that despite having been told Labour did not support his intern scheme, he was still doing it in Labour’s name. Anyone who has ever worked with McCarten knows very well that he’s congenitally incapable, when around a meeting table, of hearing the word “no” in so much as it might apply to him.

Yet somehow, he was left to carry on, plastering Labour’s brand and reputation all over a scheme that might have been tailor-made to contradict the party’s core messages. This is the Chinese-sounding-names fiasco to the power of 10.

From now on, anytime anyone mentions sub-standard housing, the living wage, student-visa manipulation, the perils of immigrant labour, exploitation of workers and dubious electoral expenses, Labour’s opponents will have this almighty compound hypocrisy stick with which to beat the party.

Labour will now have to be ultra-cautious they avoid anything that could give opponents a free shot on a number of issues.

Then there’s the ticklish matter of electoral law. McCarten part-funded the scheme with money from a donor whose identity and donation size he won’t disclose, even to Labour. The party risks being deemed to have benefited from that as electoral spending, though it did not want, authorise or control it. It was also misleading that McCarten used the term “fellowship” for the scheme, a term that connotes at least a quasi-formal tertiary-studies orientation, when it was nothing of the kind.

Now, Labour is morally obliged to reimburse the disaffected students’ expenses and pay for those still working here, which could badly dent its campaign war chest. Labour’s donors are entitled to be hopping mad that some of their money will be used not for campaigning but to mitigate McCarten’s folly. Lord only knows what the party will face if the scheme proves to have broken labour or visa rules.

Or electoral laws.

But the most damaging aspect of this affair is what it strobes about Labour’s competence to govern. If it can’t control one known excitable within its ranks, what chance would it have of wrangling New Zealand First and the Greens in a putative coalition?

Labour may think they have successfully kept this fiasco fairly well suppressed, but the media, and many left wingers, are more aware than they had been how shaky Labour’s competence looks.

For Labour, on the other hand, there may be no delay button. The polls are already suggesting that voters don’t think it’s ready to govern. The intern fiasco risks adding a big dump of concrete to the weight of that perception.

Labour avoided it blowing up into a festering public nuisance, thanks to much of the media which seemed to lack curiosity and interest – but this may have been in part because they had already given up on McCarten’s competence, and on Labour’s competence, and on Little’s competence, so didn’t see much point in hammering away at a coffin already in descent.

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):

LabourInternDocumentFinance

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:

LabourInternsManagement

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:

LabourInternsMoney

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.

Labour interns – follow the money rumours

The Labour Party, with the help of an uninquisitive media, seems to have weathered the issue reasonably well – for now. They have managed to put off questions about McCarten and others campaigning while paid by Parliamentary services, and about the source of what has been intimated to be a substantial donor.

Kicking the can down the road will only spread out the story. There are inquiries pending both with the Privileges Committee and with the Electoral Commission.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog:  Electoral Commission letter re Campaign for Change

Below is a letter I sent to the Electoral Commission earlier this week. Labour often go on about the need for transparency over political donations, so I hope they will co-operate in determining who the mystery donor is.

The specific issues I wish the Electoral Commission to consider is whether the reported donation to the Campaign for Change should be regarded as a donation to Labour and if over $30,000 reported within 10 working days.

I also would like considered whether any of the expenses incurred by the Coalition for Change should be treated as expenses by Labour, if they fall within the regulated period.

A separate issue to this is any investigation by The Parliamentary Service into how Matt McCarten was setting this all up while employed by them.

Keeping Stock advises there is a separate investigation.

I lodged a complaint with the Speaker last week about the possible misuse of taxpayer funds by Labour. I have had a reply informing me that the complaint has been passed to the Parliamentary Service to investigate. I hope that investigation is comprehensive, and that Mr Little, the budget-holder is open and transparent about how a significant sum of public money has been spent.

I understand there may be multiple complaints being dealt with in Parliament.

Andrew Little and Andrew Kirton tried to limit the story to dealing with the complaints by the international students.

Labour have had the troops out with similar stories, like this from Willie Jackson (Labour list candidate) at The Daily Blog: GUEST BLOG: Willie Jackson – Compare Labour Intern ‘scandal’ with National’s week of lies

But what was actually true? It turns out that the vast majority of students had a great time, that only two Interns had complaints and that while one shower was broken, there were actually 8 showers at the Marae.

How did Labour handle it? They immediately moved in and took the internship over from my mate Matt McCarten and looked after every student. Labour Leader Andrew Little took responsibility for it, admitted the program had been too successful and hadn’t been able to grow quickly enough to sustain its goals of engaging young New Zealander’s with the democratic process.

While the story was overblown, Labour acknowledged that mistakes had been made and we immediately owned those mistakes and set about ensuring every student was looked after.

We need Politicians who aren’t afraid to admit mistakes and who move to fix those mistakes as soon as they become apparent, we don’t need politicians who tell us different stories that keep turning out to be false.

But Labour have not fixed the mistakes as soon as they became apparent. Andrew Little has admitted knowing about the ‘unauthorised scheme’ in May but said he only took action last week, in mid-June.

Both Little and Kirton ininitally tried to distance themselves and Labour from the scheme and the problems, but as details emerged it became obvious that Laboue was closely involved, and earlier this week Kirton conceded ‘Auckland Labour Party’ responsible for intern scheme.

With Labour’s avoidance of being forthright about the key issues – the student complaints were relatively minor, as was Labour’s hypocrisy – there has been speculation about the donor.

Stuff reported on Thursday:

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.

Dealing with it slowly. Farrar:  Who is the mystery donor?

I believe the donation to the campaign was an effective donation to Labour and if over $15,000 (I hear it is well over $100,000) needs to be declared to the Electoral Commission.

The whisper I have heard is that the identity of the donor will cause huge embarrassment as the donor is an entity funded by the taxpayer to provide social services.

I look forward to Labour revealing who the donor is. It’s ridiculous to claim they don’t know when the entire campaign was run by Labour party staff and officers.

There are whispers around. I don’t know if they have some basis in reasonable suspicion or are just attempts to join some dots.

Ex National MP @tauhenare:

&John, I’ve heard a rumor and it’s only a rumor that (Waipareira and or MUMA) were the ones behind funding

… I hope it ain’t so, more shit on us if it’s true.

this needs to be a public condemnation of scurrilous rumours. Put it to bed immediately. If they don’t it hurts all Maori.

Ringing and texting apopo, will publically back them when they tell me straight up if ain’t them. I trust them to allay my fears.

Henare is referring to Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust and Manakau Urban Maori Authority. I’ll keep an eye on whether he gets a response.

I have heard them suggested as possible donors elsewhere. If they are not involved in the intern scheme then it’s unfair for them to be seen as linked.

I note that Willie Jackson is both the and Maori Campaign Director for Labour and “the chief executive for MUMA, chairman of the National Māori Radio Network – Te Whakaruruhau o Ngā Reo Irirangi Māori, and chairman of the National Urban Māori Authority.”

It would help if the Waipereira Trust and MUMA make statements on either their involvement or their lack of involvement.

It’s unfortunate they are in this position – if Labour were as open and honest and moral and as quick to take responsibility as they have claimed to be over this issue then they would have avoided this situation of uncertainty.

I think it really is Labour’s responsibility to clear this up urgently. Otherwise this could drag on into the election campaign and get very awkward for them.

 

 

 

 

Interns worked with Labour MPs

Andrew Little and Andrew Kirton have tried to distance themselves from the Labour Party labelled fellowship/intern scheme, blaming it on Matt McCarten and as Little said ” people closely associated with the Labour Party”.

But some things don’t add up about Little’s claims of what he knew about the scheme.

The interns have been busy scrubbing any references to the scheme from their social media but some snippets have been found that suggest that the interns were working with Labour MPs in Auckland.

If that’s the case it would be remarkable if the Labour leadership and head office were largely unaware of what was going on.

Little has claimed the high ground saying it was a moral responsibility to step in and sort out the problems that were revealed last week, but he also has a moral responsibility to be up front and honest about what he knew about the scheme.

If he knew more about the scheme than he is saying then he is being evasive, some call what he is doing as lying by omission.

If Labour in Auckland were running an unapproved and unauthorised scheme that Little and Labour’s head office knew nothing about then that also looks bad.

On Q+A yesterday:

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.

The person most involved appears to have been Matt McCarten. He was supposed to be working for Little in the Labour Leader’s  Auckland Office – from last September when McCarten left his job as Little’s Chief of Staff:  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.

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 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’.

Interns were being confirmed in April and arriving in mid- May:

InternChatfield

Little was at least partially aware of this but then said:

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.

It wasn’t just the Labour Party name that was associated with it.  There seems to have been quite a bit of direct Labour party involvement in the scheme, in Auckland at least.

David Farrar posted in Of course this was Labour’s scheme:

And the five people named are all Labour Party.

  • Matt McCarten organised the scheme out of the Labour Leader’s Office, being paid by the taxpayer to do so
  • Caitlin Johnson and Kieran O’Halloran are paid staff for the Labour Party, It’s ridiculous to think they were doing this independently and without approval of the party.
  • Paul Chalmers is on the Council of the Labour Party and is a regional chair
  • Simon Mitchell is a longtime Labour activist

To argue this scheme was independent of Labour when it was called a Labour fellowship, and run by staff from the Leader’s Office and Labour field offices, plus a member of Labour’s National Council is beyond credibility.

But information from an intern suggests that Labour MPs in Auckland were also involved.

InternPak2

InternPak3

InternPak1

From that:

“worked directly with North Shore MPs to craft specifically altered campaign strategy”

“worked directly with MPs to craft specialized strategy that matched their electorates”

This may or may not be embellished, but there is a clear indication this intern was working directly with Labour MPs in Auckland.

This is how things look:

  • Little “certainly became aware of” what he says “started out as an idea at the beginning of the year”.
  • Interns were advised of being accepted in the scheme in April.
  • Interns were arriving in mid May.
  • Little: “The next I became aware was about May this year when the party was getting messages from students”
  • In May “the party stepped in straight away 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”
  • McCarten, who was supposedly doing “outreach” work for Little was involved
  • Labour Party staff were involved
  • Labour MPs appear to have been directly involved
  • Little “we got the complaints this week [he says Monday 29 June] and the minute that happened, because we were aware that the Labour Party name was associated with it.”

A number of things don’t add up, and Little is not being honest about what he knew about the scheme.

Why did Little do nothing about a scheme involving the election campaign in the crucial Auckland region despite saying “there’s no approval for this, this is not the party thing”?

Why did Andrew Kirton not act until Monday last week?

Why were Labour MPs and Labour Party employees involved in an unauthorised scheme in Auckland that the Labour leadership and party head office claim to have only become involved in  one week ago?

Why is Little claiming the moral high ground when he is not being open and honest about details of his knowledge of the scheme?

It looks like either Little is hiding a lot, or Auckland Labour has been acting independently of the Labour leadership and Labour’s head office with Little having some knowledge of it.

If Labour were to succeed in September’s election they would not only need to have  their Wellington leadership and head office working with their Auckland MPs, they would also need to work with the Green Party and probably with NZ First.

What confidence can voters have in their honesty and confidence?

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

 

Labour policy coup attempt?

The Labour Party has handled the foreign student intern issue very poorly and they have been justifiably been blasted from all sides.

Leader Andrew Little and general secretary Andrew Kirton have been trying to repair the damage and pile the blame on Matt McCarten, but they should have known exactly what was being done and ensured it was properly managed. They stuffed up badly.

However there are suggestions that McCarten and others involved in the debacle may have been attempting some sort of grand plan to push the party left and effectively execute a policy coup.

Martyn Bradbury has been involved, and as usual he has trouble keeping quiet. He has posted Why the Labour Party Student Intern ‘scandal’ is a smear

Watching that meltdown into the shameful scandal it’s being sold as by the media and Politicians desperate to move the attention from Bill English is as ugly as it is typical.

The spluttering shock and hyperventilation of the corporate media at a story that is over a 2 months old right when English was getting screwed seems remarkably good timing for National.

Mostly fortuitous timing I think. National and the media didn’t engineer the Labour intern debacle, and the timing seems to be largely coincidental.

What Labour were doing with these interns happens every election. International Students come here to monitor and experience our elections, what was different about this year was how quickly over subscribed the programme became.

There’s doubt about that claim as documents (see Funding of Labour’s intern scheme) have revealed plans for more interns than have arrived.

The plan to use international students who had worked on campaigns like Jeremy Corbyn’s and Bernie Sander’s were going to be matched by domestic volunteers who were going to target 60 000 Aucklander’s who had enrolled to vote but hadn’t voted and 60 000 Aucklander’s who hadn’t enrolled at all.

They wanted to import the success of Sanders and Corbyn campaigns at getting out young voters (but failed at winning elections).

The campaigns focus was engagement and it had Labour Party sign off and Union buy in.

What happened however was Labour Party HQ Wellington become panicked by how big the Campaign had grown and despite green lighting it started dragging their feet until the thing fell over.

A whispering campaign targeting the funders strangled off money because Labour Party HQ Wellington’s preference is to win over voters who are exisiting voters because the policy platform doesn’t have to be particularly radical for that.

The Newshub documents show “First and Unite unions agreed to contribute $100,000, “white collar unions” committed to $50,000, while Union Trust put up a start-up loan of $25,000″ and the “Council of Trade Unions (CTU) was also to be involved in management of the project” but they have quickly distanced themselves today and claim that they hadn’t committed any funds.

Did the scheme proceed without proper funding in place?

Bradbury:

What Labour didn’t want was a huge campaign to the Left of Labour pressuring them for a Corbyn or Sanders platform.

Labour didn’t want this…

Campaign for Change Manifesto 
1: Free public transport for students and beneficiaries
2: 18 month rent freeze 
3: 5% maximum rent rise
4: $20 per hour minimum wage
5: Artists and Volunteers benefit
6: Free condoms, contraceptive pills and sanitary pads available at schools and family planning
7: Universal Student Allowance for Tertiary students
8: Free public internet
9: Lower voting age to 16
10: Free school lunches 

…so the fear of a successful left wing agenda has once again managed to doom Labour. Just like the candidate selection fiasco and just like the Party List fiasco, this has come down to poor internal management by the Wellington arm of the Party.

While it’s not clear it appears that Campaign for Change tried to force these policies on the Labour Party – in effect trying a policy coup.

Policy development usually takes years and includes input from party members. It is not usually foisted on a party by a small group of activists with revolution in mind.

The perception of political hypocrisy is a mainstream media generated one, the real story is Labour’s fear of a courageous left wing platform.

There was a heap of hypocrisy over student workers working for nothing and living in poor cramped conditions. But that’s not a big deal compared to what Bradbury is suggesting.

Blaming Matt McCarten and leaving him to twist in the wind is expected but it certainly isn’t honourable or justified.

If McCarten and Bradbury and whoever else was involved thought that importing a team of campaign slaves that would somehow magically turn out hundreds of thousands of votes for Labour they are naive or nuts.

If they thought that three months out from the election the Labour Party establishment would change all their policy plans and take on a ten step pathway to political oblivion then all the criticism that can be mustered is justified.

It looks like a policy coup attempt by a bunch of clowns absent any clues or leadership.

Back to the actual party leadership – how Little and Kirton allowed this to even get off the ground I have no idea. I am flabbergasted at how this looks.

 

Labour intern interview

One of the Labour interns in New Zealand on a student visa has had an interview with 95bFM:

95bFM spoke this afternoon to an intern who came over to work as an intern for the Labour Party, who wishes to remain anonymous.

A: Basically, I don’t even know where to start – the story broke this morning… I didn’t leak it, and it’s not the full narrative and it’s not the truth – as of now, I’ve been reading every article that’s been published and stuff it’s just not [true] – I am probably the one who knows the most about the situation for certain reasons and I would just say that it is not the Labour Party’s fault. It is Matt McCarten, Paul Chalmers, Simon Mitchell, Caitlin Johnson, Kieran O’Halloran.

They kind of organised on their own, lied to the Labour Party, went off and said they were bringing over 15 Americans to work on campaigns, and really tried to bring over 115 at peak capacity, and then just kept on bringing people from the US, the UK, Ireland, Italy. It was mostly a way to exploit – we were meeting their targets for phone calls and door knocks, and then for Matt McCarten, we were going to work for labour unions and increace the participation with those labour unions, so there’s just a lot of shady shit up in the air right now.

Q: So who are those four names do they work for the Labour Party?

A: Caitlin Johnson, Kieran O’Halloran, and… they are the only officially paid staffers for the Labour Party, that may have changed within the last couple of days, I’m unsure, Matt McCarten was the former chief of staff, he resigned, and has been playing it off like he hasn’t been involved at all. Paul Chalmers is the regional chair for Auckland, so he is supposed to help campaigns all kind of organise together, other than that he doesn’t have authority for the Labour Party. Those are the key people who are being left out of this statement, and i think it’s for a reason, the people who leaked it are damage controlling. A lot of the narrative right now is around immigration policy and stuff like that, and they’re really missing a lot of the legality issues of everything that they’ve done.

Q: So why do you think they’re being left out of the narrative?

A: I think that Caitlin and Kieran came forward to the media and leaked and tried to blame it all on Matt McCarten. None of these people are good people and they all exploited us, but i think that they are trying to push the blame off of them more and more on to Matt.

Q: So have have you been exploited? How did you hear about coming to NZ, are you a volunteer for the Labour Party?

A: Uhh yeah well allegedy. So they sent out emails to our advisors at university, that they spoke with professors in NZ – and so my advisor recommended this to me, was like “this is a safe programme, go ahead, go” – and so I was like “okay, I’ll just go over”. I was brought under the idea there would only be like 15 people, and I’d only work 40 hours a week, and the accomodation would be like dorm style accomodation with basic groceries provided, cause that’s literally what’s written down on our contract that they made me. And so generally everyone got lied to in different ways, cause there are so many people involved in it. But like it’s hard to get one strict clear narrative, cause they keep on changing it on these different groups of people cause they split up the email groupings into different categories and stuff like that.

Q: So it’s very intentional that they’ve done this? 

A: Yup, it’s very intentional. Without a doubt.

Q: So what were the conditions like when you arrived?

A: When I arrived no-one was actually in Auckland and I didn’t actually know where I was going, and I didn’t know if anyone was actually picking me up from the airport or not. Luckily I got picked up and dropped off at somebody’s house and so that was fine, but that was not made known to me before coming over, that I would be living with some random person for a little bit, and then we moved to the marae where we had to build cubicles out of plastic and we also raided this abandoned church for furniture and stuff like that. And basically we made our own accomodation out of like abandonded materials and plastic… it’s a very odd situation.

Q: Yeah, definitely sounds like it. Do you have anything else you would like to add? 

A: Mostly this is not the Labour Party’s fault. It really isn’t. They’re honestly trying their best and doing as much as they can at their full capacity right now, and I’m really appreciative of it. I just wish that these people didn’t lie to all of us in the first place.