Labour turns on non-voters


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Last week we had the incredible spectacle of Labour general secretary Tim Barnett arguing for the government to withhold family tax credits and Working for Families payments from people who are not enrolled to vote.

Barnett appeared before parliament’s Justice and Electoral Select Committee and argued such measures would help lift New Zealand’s low voter turnout.
So bereft of ideas, vision or common sense Labour is blaming non-voters for its repeated electoral failures.

According to the New Zealand Herald:

Despite being legally obliged to enrol, only 91.7 per cent of people had done so at the last election, down from 93.4 per cent in 2011.
An estimated 77.04 per cent of enrolled voters took part in the election, slightly higher than the 74.2 per cent turnout in 2011.
Low voter turnout tends to hurt the left more. In 2011, about 39,000 people were on the electoral roll in Mangere, whose voters favour Labour, compared to 48,000 in National stronghold Epsom.
Mr Barnett said Labour’s focus on increasing turnout was not self-serving.
“High turnout benefits the nation … it means more people are engaged in our democracy and you have to accept that’s a good thing.”

You can almost hear Barnett’s frustration behind this attack on the poor:

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“It’s the bloody voters – useless bastards living in Mangere who can’t be bothered to enrol and get to the polling booth and tick Labour – cut their benefits, slash their car tyres, pee in their letterboxes”

Barnett’s public justification for this attack on non-voters said “There is widespread concern, not just Labour, with non-enrolment … there is pretty compelling evidence that there is a continuing pattern of people not enrolling.”

What about the continuing pattern of Labour’s political non-performance? Why on earth would anyone in Mangere vote Labour unless through habit?

There are many valid reasons why people on low incomes don’t enrol – escaping thuggish and vicious loan sharks being one. (It’s worth noting that for nine years in power the Labour government refused to regulate loan sharks in any way and left low-income families victims to modern day slavery)

If Labour wants low-income families to enrol and vote then it needs to give them a reason to do so – no sign of that.

While Barnett was looking for a parliamentary stick to corral and beat those he believes should vote Labour his party leader Andrew Little was “schmoozing with some of the cream of New Zealand capitalism”.

When was the last time Little “schmoozed” with the unemployed? state house tenants? families living in cars and caravans?

Like Labour parties around the world here in New Zealand the party is neo-liberal to its core. It’s a party with policies for the 1%.

If it wants the respect of low-income families then it needs to earn that respect rather than use parliament to demand it.


  1. The admission that he is irrelevant British party ‘royalty’ would of course be a painful realisation. All his castles are in Spain.

  2. This proposal must present a dilemma for the Natz.

    One hand it’s an opportunity to bash the disadvantaged, sating the primordial instinct of the right-wing inclined. On the other hand it might play into Labour’s hand.

    Feel their pain at not being able to satisfy their instincts.

  3. What a collection of distorted characterisation, misapplied anecdote and pure falsehood.
    Labour non-performance? How about being out of power for six years. Put that against the non-performance of Mana (an equally unreasonable demand).
    To attempt to suggest that Labour is in the pocket of the”cream of …capitalism” and an unequivocal supporter of neo-liberalism and footsoldiers for the 1% is ludicrous.
    The suggestion that voting should be mandatory may be wrong-headed, but it is far from radical (or neo-liberal). Nor is it necessarily designed to profit Labour (over Mana or anyone else). In fact it might well profit a more radical party of the Left, or even a populist party like New Zealand First. It would depend on how well they mobilise and manage to promote their programmes.
    Different circumstances offer the opportunity for different policies. For instance, a platform like “we will need everyone” resonates on many levels and might serve as a springboard to revisit some form of universal opportunity for affordable tertiary education. (At this point I am not talking about free tertiary education. We have never had that – as anyone who lived through the 60s and 70s will confirm. Education was cheaper, but there were no grants or loans, while UE was a greater barrier than it is now and the choice of programme was much more restricted).

    On Labour – even the Labour-lite under Helen Clark and Michael Cullen – and the assertion that their programme was notable for non-performance is also a distortion. Working for families, Kiwisaver, 4 weeks annual holiday, hiked minimum wage levels, the re-nationalisation of ACC and a foreign policy that Kiwis could be proud of (creating a situation where we were elected to the Security Council – despite the back-sliding of the current administration, and putting Clark in line for being named Secretary General, an honour unlikely to accrue to your good self, John.)
    Just one more point. Putting inverted commas round contentious or provocative assertions does not make them true. “This is a self-serving and slightly shameful post”. We can admire your passion, John. But not so much your holier-than-thou dishonesty.

    • No, I disagree with you Nick, and by default agree with John.
      ALL of the wonderful achievements you lay at Clark/Cullen have absolutely no relevance to anyone who is not middle class or in employment. People on welfare during that reign (such as myself) gained absolutely nothing. I’m sure for you and your friends it was a time of wonderful progression and I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. But please don’t include us “etta” in your praise, it is totally fucking inappropriate and untrue…

    • I not sure how you can argue that Labour are not a neo liberal party. If you check Labour’s policy positions from the last election they were to the right of the policy settings of the 1984 Lange/Douglas Labour government which introduced neo liberalism into NZ. Not to mention all of the policy areas in which Labour lines up with National on.

  4. I’m absolutely horrified that a so called Progressive Social Democrat Party that supposedly has Social Justice at the core of its values would propose such draconian legislation that would be more akin to National and ACT. Labour appears to have lost its soul and conscience and seems intent remaining a Neo-Liberal Party barely unrecognisable from National.
    Labour seemingly has learnt nothing from three successive electoral defeats and allows them to be accused of being irrelevant with such ill-thought out policy.
    It’s no wonder so many Kiwis feel disenfranchised today, the political party that supposedly represents them has deserted its core supporters in a vain attempt to be an acceptable alternative for Middle Class Right wing voters.
    The Labour Movement in New Zealand, United Kingdom and Australia seems to be in a death throes struggling to remain relevant and appeal to voters

  5. Yeah this blame the workers is typical of a labour bureaucrats party punishing workers to prove its worth to the bosses.
    It wants to punish workers until they become Labour voters.
    After all if you can’t even get elected what use are you to the bosses?
    This is the same mentality shown by the AWU pulling out of the CTU because Helen Kelly took up the cause of the non-union security guard who was beaten to death on his first night on the job.
    This young guy deserved to die because as a young migrant worker he had not signed up to the union before he had even signed up to the job?!?!
    The pathetic performance of UK Labour shows where NZ Labour is headed. First betray the unions by years of neo-liberal attacks, then blame the victims when they throw Labour into the dust-bin of history.
    Scots workers have shown what to do to such sellout Labour Parties.
    After 20 years of New Labour aping the Conservatives, they threw Labour out of Scotland.
    NZ workers need to stop behaving like timid English workers voting for a party that betrayed them in the 1980s, or not voting at all, and be more like Scots workers and find another party that they are proud to vote for.

  6. Two things
    1. If the don’t vote, won’t vote, can’t be arsed to enroll to vote and even enrolled but it was too hard to vote on the day(it was drizzling a bit) were counted as a voice in their own right and that disenfranchised tally is the majority – we live in a so called democracy right? where the largest group is the winner on the day. If we had enthusiastic confidence in it then we would enthusiastically vote for it – surely!
    No vote = no confidence. – so no confidence in the system the winner maybe? not the group shouting the loudest with the largest collection of the remaining scraps.
    (ie the blah blah blag – we have 51% of the vote – which really means 51 % of the 43% of citizens that voted – not a mandate or majority)
    The apathetic and unrepresented win by default, they just won’t get counted.

    2. If they put a ‘None of the above’ box on the ballot – I would finally have representation.

    This way if you force them to vote, give a clear choice of sanity to the largest silent voice in NZ…
    Vote for none of the above…! It would send a message to listen for a change.

    I heard an old saying – Anyone who aspires to be a politician should be automatically disqualified from becoming one.

  7. So Barnett thinks he has the right to tell the sentencing judge what the sentence should be. If a resident does not enroll to vote, they have committed a crime and can rightly so be charged with said crime and have normal justice take it’s course. Why is it necessary for Barnett to interfere by pre-judging the whole incident and demanding his choice of punishment? For those who don’t receive Family Tax Credits or Working for Famiies Payments, how does he suggest they be punished?

    • Labour doesn’t like attacking the comfortably off – that’s why they’ve pulled back on a capital gains tax but have been silent on their desire to up the retirement age. They only know how to attack strugglers and this has been their modus operandi since 1984.

      Giving us something that inspires us to vote is far too hard for this bunch of student politicians/parliamentary services apparatchiks/union bureaucrats. They haven’t got a bloody clue and it’s about time we did a Scotland on them.

  8. “There are many valid reasons why people on low incomes don’t enrol – escaping thuggish and vicious loan sharks being one.”

    That’s an interesting point, and since enrolling is compulsory, there should be protection against non-electoral uses of the electoral rolls, such as mass-marketting and various kinds of harassment. Are battered spouses able to get their addresses suppressed?

    • The electoral roll is used for far greater purpose than the mere policing of voting eligibility.

      It’s just a step away from the universal identity card, and, as long as the populace rejects the introduction of such cards the State, and other agencies, will make as much use of the roll as they possibly can.

  9. As it stands at present, lite blue Labour neither represents, supports nor advocates for disadvantaged Kiwis. So as I see it, they have no reason to enrol as voters.

    Using coercion, threats, intimidation etc by any political party to enrol, is distasteful, as well as dangerous to the extreme and should be viewed with caution by all voters!

    The only way I can see for disaffected NZers to register as voters is for the NZ Green Party to push and promote social and economic policies hard for as long as it takes, to encourage this growing section of society to recognize the fact they just might have something to actually vote for after all.

  10. Dear Labour, this is what will happen to you with this voter enrolment brain explosion:

    If I was to lose my income as a punishment for not enrolling to vote then yes it would ensure I enrol alright but then I would either vote against the bastards who are threatening me or not vote at all. I certainly would not vote Labour. Make sense?

    For example people tend to disengage in their jobs because they are poorly paid and treated, they no longer think the boss listens or cares and they think the place they work is a bad joke. To some extent they hope it fails to bring the whole house down and to make the bosses see what they see, feel what they feel. It the same with politics

    Maybe Labour needs to look at why people see no point in participating at all. If you have stuff all and have become a serf in our system of government then nothing is going to change, you may as well piss into the wind. People simply don’t believe politicians anymore, they are now superfluous, a contributor to the problem not a solution.

    I think the current western way of economics and government is history. For far too long there’s been too much lying, too much cynicism, too much corruption/cronyism/nepotism, too much abuse and too many people in that game for their own gain. And on these fronts our current government excels and is now taking the piss monumentally.

    Divorce yourselves from this stench and maybe then you might engage the disengaged. Try implementing FDR’s long lost 2nd Bill of Rights and mean it, make it a cornerstone non negotiable policy and that might be a start.

  11. How about the ‘Labour Party ‘ present voters with a party worth voting for instead of ‘National Lite ‘ ?
    How about they rummage about and find a spine and then start acting like a Left Wing Party ? Speak out against the TPPA … Speak out against ‘austerity ‘ – speak out about Child Poverty ….. renounce neo-liberalism !
    They won’t because they’re a bunch of lily-livered hypocrites , well paid , comfortable and happy to sit in ‘opposition’ jeering and booing and pretending they would have done otherwise.

    I come from what WAS a staunch Labour Voting family – we haven’t even considered voting for the bastards since Roger Douglas and we never will – their complicity in the ousting of Hone Harawira last year was a real nail in their coffin for us – long disillusioned anyway .

    Like Britain’s Labour Party they’ve strayed so far from their roots they may as well just hand in the leases on all their electorate offices and share offices with their political twins the National party .

    • BR You’ve hit the nail on the head. I too will not vote for Labour until they prove that they can and will represent the workers of this country.
      Douglas and his crew set the ball in motion, and not one voice from Labour today appears to disagree with this neoliberal crap.

      • What sort of work makes someone a “worker”, and what sort doesn’t? How much are you allowed to earn before you stop being a “worker”? How little must you earn to be not Middle Class? Are you allowed to wear a suit? Where does the Upper Class start and who are they and why don’t we complain about them? Still learning …

    • I think if a serious, large, genuinely left-wing party emerged, it would force Labour and National together, which is where they should be.

      Then we could have a serious political contest in this country between *entirely different* and *counterposed* views of how society should be organised.

      Until then, we’re stuck with the National Party front-stabbers and the Labour Party back-stabbers.


  12. “If Labour wants low-income families to enrol and vote then it needs to give them a reason to do so – no sign of that.

    While Barnett was looking for a parliamentary stick to corral and beat those he believes should vote Labour his party leader Andrew Little was “schmoozing with some of the cream of New Zealand capitalism”.

    When was the last time Little “schmoozed” with the unemployed? state house tenants? families living in cars and caravans?”

    I was watching Q+A on TV One this morning, and desperately waiting for one on their arrogant, upper middle class, lecturing “academic” panel members to say something like this!!!

    It was making me absolutely furious what comments I heard from the two women, who have in the past actually been capable of making some more enlightening comments than they did on Q+A this morning.

    They were almost praising Paula Bennett for handing state housing to NGOs now, to then contract with developers and turn present state housing into only part “social housing” and otherwise use state owned land and real estate to allow private investors to build on them and sell houses to private buyers on the open, high priced real estate market, potentially new migrants and overseas investors with large cheque books.

    When do people get it? The policy of the Nats is to SELL most of the land and homes owned by Housing NZ to private developers and investors, and only use a remnant of the assets to build high density, shoe box sized flats for the poor that Housing NZ is supposed to cater for.

    People will get thrown out of houses, and put into tiny multi-level units or flats, where you have NO garden, NO space to put much furniture, and not much of a view and environment to enjoy, but watch dumb down TV and so.

    “Wrap around services” is the catch-cry now, and the panel seemed to fall for the propaganda, and ask few questions. So it was easy game for Michael Barnett to push for National’s policies in housing and social areas. Were the scientist from Canterbury UNI and the UNICEF spokeswoman or manager for real? They praised some of what the government was doing, meaning out-sourcing and contracting with private providers, also praising English for his speaking skills and so forth.

    And reading the above here, that just makes me furious, I hear the first time what Tim Barnett said at Select Committee. It speaks volumes now what drivel comes also out of Grant Robertson’s mouth every time he asks a question in Parliament, or holds a speech, and what he said in the interview on Q+A today.

    It is much “soft talk”, slogans with no substance, general speak, and nothing much else. Now Labour are schmoozing with big and maybe not so big business. Well, of course they need to talk with business, but what it now seems to be like, it is about “warming” to the private sector all over the place. Mike Williams, former Labour president and campaigner was only days ago praising the new private prison run by Serco in South Auckland. I could not believe my ears.

    It seems Labour wants to leave the hundreds of thousands of non voters, of resigned, disappointed, disillusioned and no longer interested by the wayside, and rather simply try to snatch voters from that so much quoted “centre”, where now Nats, NZ First and Greens compete for votes of the middle class home owners and small business operators, the professionals, and ones that have settled for neoliberalism as being OK to them.

    I am totally disillusioned with NZ politics, we need a NEW FORCE to be reckoned with, that actually sees the whole picture and that cares and embraces the ones that are not even talked about anymore. When has any Labour MP last mentioned the word “poverty” or “beneficiary”, I ask?

    • If you want to know when Little last “schmoozed with the unemployed, state house tenants, families living in cars and caravans” – you should ask him. Message him on his Facebook page. It was probably quite recently.

      • Stuff Facebook, if Andrew wants to share his loyalties with said groups of people, he is welcome here to express himself.

        And you did not even provide a link to his Facebook page anyway.

  13. When two days ago the MSM reported about that 85 percent of politicians (MPs and Ministers) had according to a new survey experienced incidents of abuse, harassment, threats and even assault, I was hardly surprised to be honest. The way so many treat us voters, it is astonishing that not more anger has been expressed towards them.

    Then some media reporters said, it seems to be, because politicians here are so more “accessible” compared to other countries. Well, that was once the case, I know, but has anybody ever had much response when sending an email to an MP or member of a Select Committee?

    I know that many never get a response, or if they do, it comes extremely late, after a very long time.

    I am rather surprised that not more has happened to some of them so far, given the way they treat us voters.

  14. “Labour has proposed withholding state support such as tax credits and Working For Families from people who are not enrolled to vote.The measure could be justified if it lifts New Zealand’s low voter turnout, the party says.”

    Do Labour just not get Working for Families? Taking completely the wrong turn in 2006 Labour tried to use the tax credits to incentivise work. A disastrous approach that entrenched deep child poverty. What could possess then to even contemplate using the same tax credits now to incentive voting?
    The tax credits go to the caregiver to assist low income households to feed clothe and house their children. Of all parties Labour should understand the morality of harming children to change parental behavior. What an arrogance to say the measure that hurts innocent children could be justified by any statistical rise in voter turnout.
    Children’s groups are currently petitioning government to make Working for Families inclusive of the poorest children to ensure all low income children are treated the same for this tax-funded child support regardless of the source of low parental income. Let Labour hear the message. Sign the Actionstation petition

  15. Yet another bloody whinging pom telling us how to do things “right”. And “right” is the operative word here. The pervasiveness of the totally corrupt neo-liberal agenda into NZ politics has resulted in a disenfranchisement of a large number of people. To be coerced to vote is a new low in neo-liberal cynicism.
    When I turn up at the polling booth I look at the list of candidates and despair. So I do the only truly democratic thing left to me. I write across my voting paper “NONE OF THIS RUBBISH IS WORTH MY VOTE!” and slip it into the ballot box. True my party never wins but at least the political hegemony gets another awkward spoiled paper for their records.
    If you were honest about getting people to vote you would do something about the shitty choices you give us and bury that fuck-awful neo-liberalism for once and for all. Public mood and community is fed from the top so you’ve only got yourselves to thank for the lack of cohesion and the mean-spiritedness among NZers. To boot, most people have a sense of the intent of these messages and for a long time now the messages have been duplicitous and meaningless. We now know that nothing coming from the top has any truth or meaning in it. We live our lives accordingly.
    I strongly suspect that the only choices left to us “miserables” are the Molotov and the gun. And if it comes to that it will define completely the ineffectiveness of the political cadres.

  16. Voting should be compulsory.

    You must, by law, get a WOF and registration on your car. You must , by law, have a gun license, a fishing license, a marriage license and a car license and yet one can sit on ones arse and not give one flying little fuck-ette about what mutt runs our country down into the shitter . So you’re on the electoral role but don’t have to vote ? What the fuck’s the use of that ???

    If you don’t vote, you’re deported to a country who’s populace can’t fucking vote where you must live for the duration of one electoral cycle . Then you can come home . See how you sprint to the polling booth then Matey . And I bet you’d be taking great care in who you voted for and why and I bet another thing . You’d be watching his or her performance very closely and ready to act accordingly.
    I don’t mean you personally John Minto . I was generalising, just to be clear x

    • Voting should be reserved to those who can be bothered getting off their arse and doing so. I am not interested in the views of losers who cannot even be arsed to vote.

  17. I don’t necessarily support the move to cut people’s working for family tax credits if they don’t enroll, but as someone who worked my guts out last election to try and get a left wing government elected (or for those of you who don’t think of Labour as left wing, fair enough, I worked to get this wretched government out. I am pissed off that there are so many people who don’t bother to vote (or enroll). To be completely honest, my situation means I benefit somewhat from having a National Govt in (just being honest here). So I worked dam hard against my own best interests (no problem with that, greater good and all that), I feel f off with those who don’t vote. Labour would have benefited low paid workers, and they certainly had plans to tackle Aucklands housing crisis and create jobs around the regions. So they may not have been as left as many would like, but it would be an improvement. Every time people on the left criticize Labour, I think great, that’s not helping get National out at all. Just think about it.

  18. Tim Barnett has lost the plot.

    There is good reason why people have turned away from Labour. The Labour hierarchy’s attack on Mana – specifically Hone Harawira – to destroy it as a political force, was a vile act.

    If that is how Labour treats others on the Left – it’s potential allies – then it has lost it’s way…

    Barnett can rant all he likes. It changes nothing.

    • Interesting! What is your comment on Labour supporting Winston Peters in Northland? Certainly not a push for the left!

      • I would suggest Labour supporting Peters is entirely consistent with Franks point. Labour have lost the plot. Peters is a centre right reactionary, who Labour supported only to put a dent in National, not because of any principled agreement with NZ First. Hone is well to the left of Labour, and he is far closer to their founding principles than Peter’s will ever be.

      • I don’t think Labour did much supporting of Winston First at all. Little made the best of a bad situation in an attempt to salvage some dignity. Northland is one of our poorest and neglected electorates and to have a Labour Party that isn’t seen as an option even after the Sabin business is a real indictment.

    • Oh come on Frank. I really like your comments usually. But don’t Mana have to take some responsibility for their loss??? Um……….Internet Mana????? Did that not have something to do with it? Or was it all down to those baddies in Labour (who fought to win a political seat??? Heavens forbid!)
      Mana took a big risk with the Internet Party. At this time I thought it was a savvy bit of genius. But it back fired. Labour didn’t present itself as a coalition partner of either Mana, Greens or NZ first. They chose to go it alone. That was likely a mistake. However on this site and in the msm Labour seem to be dammed if they do, dammed if they don’t (their tacitly supporting a NZ First win in Northland has copped criticism and the msm are now saying Little has lost momentum because of it as a leader). But keep going with bashing Labour. Please do. The Tories will be thrilled.!!!

    • The Labour Party at large is lost.

      Nearly 8 months after the election, Labour has probably got another 10 months to get its act together and start working with the other parties for the demise of this National led Government.

      Otherwise we can kiss the prospect of a centre-left Government in 2017 good bye.

  19. For the first time in my entire life, I agree with Minto.The left of labour however has to accept that it will never be in power (its fan base is just too small – and its blogs/bloggers are something akin a wank fest). Somehow the left needs to unite (excuse the pun) and present an acceptable front to the voting public, if some of those so richly deserving policies (dare I say it again – the removal of zero hour contracts) are to see the light of day.

    • that’s great Dan. The left have to Unite and your trashing Labour. How does that work then??? Oh the Left isn’t Labour. Well good luck with uniting the Greens, and Internet Mana now (I guess they are just Mana).

      What percentage of the votes does that get you????? Sounds like we will have another National Govt then?????

        • Hi Dan

          Yes you are right. My apologies for my comment. I replied to you, but it was or should have been directed at the author of this post (who I have some respect for since 1981) and others who comment here.

          I am just wanting to put forward the view that Labour is dammed by many on the left and of course the msm and that gets us nowhere.
          I am a pragmatist. I want National out. NZ first would be preferable to them. Labour would be even more preferable. And I support most of the Greens and the Mana parties policies. The reality is if people don’t vote, we won’t get National out. And if it is true the non voters didn’t vote cause Labour’s policies weren’t speaking to them, how come those voters didn’t vote Greens or IMP????

  20. If Labour wants votes, they have to earn it. Simple.

    Backstabbing possible coalition allies and snuggling up to the TPPA is not the way to go about it.

    The only impression I’m getting from Labour is that they are desperate for power, not desperate to help the country. That’s why bugger all voters support them.

    • yea but they got rid of zero hour contracts (almost by lunchtime) according to them, and they are slagging off the government for not reducing ACC levies quick enough, they have been quick to suggest ideas to reduce the road toll, all positive really.

  21. Labour got rid of the zero hours contracts. Get real that was Unite and other unions that work with the poorest paid.

    • Oh, god! You don’t have to be an unwashed illiterate coal miner to represent “the working class”, do you? 30s lefties fought for their kids to have access to education and decent pay, and when they get it they’re dismissed as traitors! So what then – let’s ban education and decent wages and all leap down t’pit again? Switching off your brain and frothing at the mouth might make you feel good but it don’t get us nowhere, mate.

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