Yes We CAN? Labour launches its Community Action Network


LABOUR ACTIVISTS bang on and on about “community”. It’s a nice safe word that allows them to express ideas that are vaguely collective in nature, but without resorting to that awful, unspeakable word – class. That said, it is difficult to drive into an ageing state-house suburb like Otara, in Auckland, without the word “community” popping into your head.

Maybe that’s why Labour, in attempting to maximise its vote in the South Auckland electorates, has come up with the “Community Action Network” (CAN). In a nutshell, the party is attempting to sign up as many volunteers as possible to make sure that the voters of Manukau East, Mangere, Manurewa and Tamaki Makaurau: a) Enrol; b) Receive Labour’s Message; and c) Vote.

This is a very big deal for the Labour Party because, in the general election of 2005, the voters of South Auckland came through for Labour in a very big way. For most of election night, National’s thin blue line had been edging just ahead of Labour’s on the TVNZ graph. But then, almost literally at the eleventh hour, the massive polling booths of South Auckland finished their count and Labour’s red line edged ahead of National’s.

Thus were Don Brash’s plans to scrap the Treaty of Waitangi and get rid of the Maori seats thwarted. Those South Auckland voters – Maori and Pacifica for the most part – are the people we have to thank for New Zealand avoiding what would, almost certainly, have been a rapid descent into massive civil and racial strife.

So, South Auckland matters – a lot. Which is why, on Saturday, I took myself down the Southern Motorway, to the Otara Mormon Church on Ferguson Road, for the launch of CAN. I wanted to get a feel for whether this was a viable election project or just wishful thinking. Is Labour still able to make an appeal that resonates with Maori and Pacifica voters – or not?

It should be easy. In Su’a William Sio, Jenny Salesa, Louisa Wall and Peeni Henare, Labour has a group of MPs who look and sound very much like the people they’ve been elected to represent. Moreover, their constituents give the impression of both liking and respecting them. If people need help, these MPs are there, no matter what the day or the hour. That’s why they keep getting elected with ridiculously large majorities.

But Labour? Well, that’s slightly different. The loyalty to Labour that still exists among the voters of South Auckland appears, to me at least, to be more residual than active. The Labour Party they celebrate is the Labour Party of their hearts. A party that stands for all the values they hold dear: a political symbol – not a real political force.

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Because, actually, the real Labour Party, the party that makes the policies and orders the priorities, isn’t anything like the people of South Auckland. Where the people of Otara are devout Christians, the Labour leadership are (mostly) atheists. Where the people of Mangere are convinced (some might say militant) social conservatives, the Labour leadership are aggressive social liberals. Where the people of Manukau East are clearly and unequivocally members of the working-class, the Labour leadership are all, and very obviously, members of the professional and managerial class.

I guess that’s why the appeals of Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little were received with warm, rather than fervent, applause. In essence, both Deputy and Leader told their audience (of about 300) that Labour can’t make it into government without them: without South Auckland voting like it’s 2005. And, yes, by way of inducement, they ran through all the usual things that Labour likes to think of itself as standing for: health, education, housing, jobs; but not in a way that even remotely suggested that they knew what the lack of these things means, in terms of brutal everyday realities, to the people seated in front of them.

To get these people out in the numbers Labour is hoping for, they’ll need more than Andrew Little’s war stories from his days as a student politician. As one trade unionists quipped: “It might have been better if he’d told a story or two from his days on the picket line.” To which, I could not forbear from responding: “Has he got any?”

Nor could I forget, as I headed back to my Three Kings bungalow, the power of the singing led-off by Su’a William Sio to end the day’s proceedings. Intricate female harmonies were laid over the full-throated basso profundo of the men – the whole hymn rising and falling as effortlessly as breathing in and out. Unshakeable values, widely shared: the words known by everyone; believed by everyone; sung by everyone.

That is the music a real community gives voice to – and Labour’s leaders know neither the words, nor the tune.


  1. “The Community” it has got the feel good factor about it, however Labour still really need to identify who their key demographic segment is where they are going to capture the votes ?

    The strength of Labour’s performance in the run up to the 2017 Election is going to determine whether we will get a change of Government ?

  2. Good stuff. It is hard to find anything that these MPs have achieved for their people, the poorest electorates in the country, under the Labour banner. I will never forget Ross Robertson, the patron of every dam sports club in his electorate, but hey what else did he do, sure he was the speaker which helped his bank balance but did nothing for his constituents. I have always thought Labour wants these seats, but they really want these bank benchers representing these seats to sit on their hands and not to upset the status quo. Pisses me off big time. They do not deserve to have the seats.

    I am sure each and every one who has held one of these seats has done things for individual constituents that is not my point.

  3. is there a current Labour MP or candidate indeed, with any picket line stories to tell? count them on one finger, is my stab at that question (heh, and Sue Moroney is going soon)

    Labour seemingly will not break the neo-liberal consensus with the Nats–Reserve Bank Act, SOEs, FTAs, Tax Haven, free inflow and outflow of capital etc. so it is doomed to electoral no persons land

    people living in cars don’t vote, while people with 5 houses definitely do!

  4. Do you guys want a change of Government or not? With friends like the above comments being made who needs enemies? Do you think the lower socio-economic in our society will start to flourish under the Natz? Come on guys, we need a change even if it isn’t perfect.

    • Inclined to agree , and that’s the sad fact.

      However, Chris raises a brutal point , and that’s also a sad fact.

      This piece in particular :

      ” Labour likes to think of itself as standing for: health, education, housing, jobs; but not in a way that even remotely suggested that they knew what the lack of these things means, in terms of brutal everyday realities, to the people seated in front of them.”


      We need to start seeing an active movement among the Labour party , – one that will dislodge , discourage and dismantle the neo liberal apron strings it clings on to. Some progress is being made , – but that was more because of time and attrition rather than any active attempt at changing its core ideology.

      And I said ‘ changing’ , – not merely ‘ shifting’ .

      It is ethically wrong to carry on with that neo liberal agenda and still expect to garner huge numbers of votes from the very people that ideology harms.

      Why should the people vote for that?

      Its akin to being hit on the head with a hammer and going back and asking for more.

      And while I support a Labour led govt after September , – they had better start thinking of the reasons as to why large numbers of people only are giving them lip service as being the party that represents their interests as well as the corporate’s and the finance houses .

      We are not all business people , CEO’s and General Managers…

    • Yes I desperately want a change ,but I don’t see Labour as a positive change, more a milder form of National .

  5. We need a change all right and it is going to take several elections to drive neo liberalism right out of this country.

    This election is only the start of the process if labour Greens and NZ first actually achieve Government.

    The National party has to be driven right down to Act party level only way to achieve that is everyone enrols and then votes left.

  6. South Auckland is important, and Chris describes here, how alien the people of South Auckland may at times feel, when hearing their Labour MP representatives talk about the party and their policies.

    Well, the Polynesian MPs may still convince, hence they continue to get voted for, but the rest of Labour, have they by now got it, how big the challenge is to win in September?

    We have a government that has let in hundreds of thousands of new immigrants, some of them may have now got PR, and they will as foreign bred individualists, or conservative family folk, rather vote National, than they may vote for a Labour Party that dreams of its past history, to which they cannot connect at all.

    The ones who will definitely come out to vote will be the white middle and upper middle class, the professionals, the self employed, the higher educated and better earning people. It will also be those immigrants that are pro business, pro opportunity, pro self serving interests, and their cultural values, and they may in higher numbers vote National and ACT, than Labour or even Greens or NZ First.

    Yes, some shop owners and so, those dairy owners being robbed so often, they may vote Winston and his harder line on crime, calling for more police and so, but I cannot see all that many migrants vote for NZ First.

    Society is divided, do not fall for the BS propaganda about people caring, so many do not care anymore, they rather look for faults they can blame their compatriots for, than show true solidarity.

    Come to Auckland and see the rat race we have now, the me first society, the consumerism, the house property speculation, the rip off rents charged by landlords, see how the better educated live in gated communities or homes with high fences, and alarm systems, keeping an eye on the neighbourhood.

    It is not by coincidence that we now have increasing robberies, burglaries, and much other crime, some have given up trying to make an honest living, they may not even have access to proper jobs, so they try to survive by other means.

    South Auckland votes are needed, few there will vote Greens, so Labour needs to reach out and do its best to hold onto and grow that community. But more is needed, I cannot yet see Labour gain enough to reach 35 percent of the vote. Hopefully I am wrong, but the recent contradictions within the party do not help, again the MSM is cherishing every opportunity to present Labour as disunited, full of hypocrisy and as being out of touch.

    Get your shit together, Labour. and present some solid, convincing policy also, thanks.

    • I agree @ JACK RAMAKA
      That’s why ‘voting’ must be made compulsory. Having to be enrolled is, so why not voting? Perhaps it’s best, in the interests of the Right Wing that the sleeping, non voters are not woken up for fear they might start to take an interest in what’s going on. Clearly, they’re not Right Wing voters or they’d vote. They’re more than likely Left wing but have lost faith in the system. Or have never had faith in the system to begin with. Either way, it’s worth trying compulsory voting to see what might happen. My feeling is that the deep state neoliberals will feel very uncomfortable with the idea and any idea that makes those fuckers feel uncomfortable seems like a good idea to me.

    • Well, if Labour continues to stand for nothing, why should people bother voting? To get the current mob out? Because “at least Labour’s better than National”? That’s no way for a political system to operate. Until Labour shows some balls I certainly won’t be voting for them. Their lies and continued lack of action for the poor is going to take a long time to overcome. Heck, they still haven’t made the slightest effort to convince us that anything’s changed since the last election. Absolutely nothing to suggest they won’t be continuing to decimate what happens to remain of the welfare state. Labour still sickens me to the core.

      • “Labour still sickens me to the core.”

        And National doesn’t!

        Forget about personality politics, National are driving people to their graves, literally!

        • Yes, National sickens me, and the lack of opposition to National sickens me just as much. When you’ve got an opposition that has welfare policies almost identical to National’s then you know you’re in trouble because it means nothing’s going to change. So if the current mob is ousted in September we know it’s more of the same. That’s why Labour sickens me.

      • Look deeper into their policies first Chris . If you are predetermined and anti the left you will always find fault. Eye’s and ears wide open to start with and think of how National’s policies have crippled N.Z. over the past 9 years. And remember that Key did a runner, why was that?

        • I’ve looked very deeply at Labour’s policies, closer than most. If you did the same you’d see the utter decimation to social welfare that Clark exacted during her 9 years, too. It’s completely reprehensible to sit back and forget this when there’s no evidence at all that Labour’s changed. We need to challenge Labour about how committed they really are to improving the lives of the poorest in our community.

    • It will not happen under the present circumstances, so many are not the slightest bit interested in politics, the younger ones were told by their generation X parents to get educated, trained and good jobs, or start a business, they just focus on that now.

      Others that may have less favourable starts in life are distracted by many challenges and also silly stuff, that tickles their fancy. I see also many of all types wandering around magnetised to their little gadgets, gazing on screens all day, that is when they are not having to work or study.

      While there is some useful and interesting info on the web, there is also a huge amount of distraction and misinformation, and many just chat on social forums, exchange their latest pics, play games and read click bait “news” from mostly commercial news media sites.

      Solid, true information is hardly consumed, although this blog is frequented by many, or some who are very active here, it is still but one blog among many, and most people do not even read let alone comment on blogs.

      So endless numbers of people live in their private spaces, in their little web based and other mental bubbles, they do often not even know the name of the Prime Minister, or who is in charge of education. They know stuff all about policy or politics, they have been told by the MSM, it is like a boxing match or like team games, where it is all about scoring and beating the other on whatever little topic.

      We have a widely politically, even economically and socially illiterate population, that does in large percentages consider itself smart, but only so, because they know how to use the latest smart phone or tablet and various apps.

      The system we have, it wants it this way, it wants most to be shallow and dumb, or poorly informed, and to simply rather go and shop and buy stuff, to be easy consumerists. The pressure for money will anyway keep them on their feet to look for whatever job, to work and earn the currency, to pay for what they need.

      Shortsightedness is rampant in New Zealand, and individualism, many have never learned to properly and maturely communicate and socialise, they rather sit and stare at screens, while they sit on the couch at home, or on a seat in the bus or car.

      We have a totally dysfunctional society now, where most just get up to work, work and work, or to study to get work, and train to get work, to earn the money that they need to pay the basics or a bit more.

      They fall for many temptations and follies, and have zilch real experience with the natural environment, as most are urban citizens, who only know a tree by its shape, never being able to name more than perhaps two or three native trees, let along know how crops are grown that end up in a supermarket.

      We are creating a modern day Babylon, where they will one day all be confounded, and lose the ability to relate to others, so when the system breaks down for a longer time, mayhem will fallow, looting, burglaries, robberies, rapes, theft and assaults and much worse, to get what they think they need or deserve.

      So far we have only reached the early stages of this deterioration, but it will get worse, and the Orwellian society we already almost have, will not even be able to contain the chaos once the shit really hits the fan.

      Today Labour showed, being pressed by some in the media, that it is divided within as ever, some Maori MPs supporting private prisons for only Maori, also charter schools as worth trying out. Others in Labour stiffly oppose all this, say it is not their policy, the leader is not leading, he has some responsibility for this.

      It seems the Nats and the MSM have succeeded in hitting Labour where they were most vulnerable, and now they have exposed the leader Andrew Little as being unable to keep a united caucus and party, also due to him encouraging Willie Jackson to become a candidate, without first having discussed this with others in the party, and without clarifying with Willie some important details.

      So more of this may happen, it is extremely damaging, and the Greens must wonder, will the glue that was put between them and Labour with the MoU even last until election day?

      I consider, the shit must really hit the fan, before the progressives or left of centre politicians and parties will have the fertile ground they need to get back into power, to be voted for, until that happens, we are merely tinkering around the edges of issues, and maintaining a very volatile state of affairs, that may look good or acceptable to some on the surface.

      No wonder Key left early, as PM, he saw that serious issues will arise, and that the good times will be over, he will earn high salaries doing other things now, Labour is struggling to show it can govern though.

  7. Thumbs up to Labour and CAN! To defeat the Natz a grass roots approach has to be adopted to get people to vote and great to see Labour organising it AND both Little and Arden both being there to actively support it.

    While superficially Little and Arden have less in common with the Pacifica community, the reality is that most change comes from the middle class – so to judge someone on their ‘class’ and ‘race’ for change is ignoring what history has taught us.

    Labour has historically done the most for the poor. Yep, they went wrong in the 1980’s, BUT I look around I see in my own families and the Labour policies of working for families is actually the one that helps them keep their head above water the most at present.

    I’ve just heard that the council run contract that employs some of my family in Auckand has been sold to an Australian company bringing in their own workers… so that is why people need to still vote Labour.

    Natz have already removed NZ state houses, worker job security and benefits and hours, and ability to get welfare that people are legally entitled too and if Natz get in next time, it will be curtains for public sector job and contracts and working for families….

    So that should be the message, not identity politics. Who cares if Little is white if he and Labour policy support someone who’s not.

    • Labour should be well aware of the plight of some workers, and especially beneficiaries, but they NEVER STRONGLY and decisively take a stand, which raises endless suspicion among voters, so they feel, they cannot trust Labour. Close to 300 thousand on benefits are in their majority probably not even going to vote, a pool of voters Labour has ignored, or to some degree taken for granted, for decades.

      It is disgusting behaviour by a party that is supposed to stand up for the worker and the weakest in society.

      • The sad thing Mike is so few people have ‘worker’ jobs now. Think about how everyone is on a ‘contract’ they are not really ’employed’ anymore.

        So my view is that ‘workers’ are actually a dying breed and now there are so many self employed contractors, zero hour contracts and employment conditions that are laughable to be considered what was once a ‘job’ for a ‘worker’ 30 years ago.

        Our whole society and how people actually work has now changed. I’m not sure I identify myself as a ‘worker’ and I think increasingly more and more people don’t. So all the talk about ‘workers’ rights is now obsolete for Gen x and younger.

        What worker rights? none of us ever even had a real job after Shipley destroyed us in the 1990’s leaving us with massive student loan debts and zero employment! It’s now got worse with our low wage economy because to ‘stimulate’ the economy they are importing 100,000’s of people in to compete for lower waged jobs and housing and buy more cars and cornflakes off offshore multi nationals.

        In fact if the unions want to reinvent themselves there’s a massive need for a drop in union centres just to get advice on employment issues such as contracts and what employee (and even employeer rights) are such as redundancy and sick leave. Nobody knows what anyone is entitled too, anymore.

        Yep there’s the private lawyers advertising these types of employment services, but most people would feel more comfortable discussing their plight with a non profit organisation like a union and having a legal team to fight on their behalf for a need for need basis.

        At present standards of people have dropped to just surviving not living and being forced to compete from other desperate people everything from housing to jobs. And that is what needs to change.

        Meanwhile we are encouraging people in to gamble $293m at Sky City – no questions asked (until he got his stake in Mega and the vendetta from Hollywood to Dotcom). There is a separate justice as well as tax system for the mega rich.

        • One law for poor South Auckland youth, another law application to a rich fraudster and rip off artist, who gets special treatment as a Chinese immigrant with just mentioned attributes:
          “The 45-year-old millionaire businessman will spend the next five months serving home detention in a luxury apartment in downtown Auckland.

          To allow Yan to work, Judge Rob Ronayne granted him permission to leave the apartment for meetings during weekdays, for up to five hours a day, but only with the approval of his probation officer.

          The judge flatly denied a request for Yan to use the gymnasium in the Auckland hotel complex where he lives.”

          That is from that NZ Herald article from yesterday!

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