The Labour interns – ACT exposes hypocrisy!




The headlines!

A few days ago, headlines appeared supposedly “exposing  a rort” by the NZ Labour Party to exploit American interns for electoral campaigning purposes;



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The “Shock! Horror!” story occurred at the worst possible time for Labour and  the Opposition, as National was being held to account for attempting to  cover up the Todd Barclay Tape scandal and possibly perverting the course of justice;



The facts behind the “headlines”

However, as the initial media frenzy subsided and gave way to a closer look at the allegations, the narrative soon changed from “slave labour conditions“; “substandard conditions“; and “a cramped marae with no working shower” – to some actual facts.

Awataha marae‘s spokesperson, Anthony Wilson rejected  suggestions that his facilities were “substandard”;

“ We don’t know what the organizers promised our guests but we are like any other marae we only have the facilities we currently have.

We don’t think our facilities are substandard although we are not a five-star hotel. We are working on developing our marae facilities to cater for the influx of schools, community and internationals.

Our role is to manaaki and awhi our manuhiri. If the organizers choose better accommodation that’s fine by us, we wish the young people all the best for the future as many of them have become our friends.”

Anthony Wilson appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A on 25 June, and further rejected the smears against his marae;

“ What was not being told was we’ve got eight showers. It’s not like that we only had one shower. And the other thing – the broken cabinet. We get broken things all the time when we have groups of this sort of size and nature using our facilities all the time. So we kind of resent the implications of disgruntled students trying to make a point out of this. I believe it’s quite good now that some of those stories have been outed. I’ve seen a few articles just recently now where the students have actually come out and defended the marae and saying that they had a wonderful time and also the facilities were adequate for what they required.”

The Politik story seemed bemused by the tasks expected from volunteers;

“They were told that they are broken down into teams- they will be either phone soliciting ( they’ve bought 30-ish Alcatel phones, and they sit in a room and call, from this marae, very disorganised, many of these people have been called already ) , door knocking in regions in Auckland, or approaching universities and “unions” to recruit votes ad more volunteers. They have one day of ‘training’ tomorrow. There is nothing else planned for these guys as far as I am aware.”

The complaints regarding campaign work are fatuous. Political volunteer work is never paid. Volunteer work consists precisely of “drudge” activities such as door-knocking, phone calling, leafletting, putting up billboards, staffing stalls; etc.

As a volunteer for the Alliance in the 1990s, this is precisely the work that this blogger, and thousands of others around New Zealand, carried out in the 1999 and 2002 election campaigns; “drudge” activities such as door-knocking, phone calling, leafletting, putting up billboards, staffing stalls; etc.

Unpaid volunteer work is not restricted to parties on the Left.  This is a page from the National party website* outlining what work unpaid volunteers are asked to carry out;



The Maori Party – which slammed Labour’s use of  volunteers as “slave labour” – also has a webpage touting for unpaid volunteers;



The ACT Party’s website is even more specific and wide-ranging in the expertise it demands from unpaid volunteers;




Considering the financial support ACT enjoys from its wealthy donors, it seems almost scrooge-like in it’s unwillingness to pay for services.

Interns and volunteers

The American volunteers were described as “interns” by the media;

A group of 85 interns flew to New Zealand from around the world expecting lectures from Helen Clark and real world campaign experience.

They arrived to a cramped dormitory, no pay, no lectures, and a broken shower.

Aside from the one broken shower out of eight (which – according to some breathless media pundits – pushes New Zealand automatically into Third World status), complaints that interns were not paid appears contradictory.  Internship NZ suggests that interns are paid at aleast the minimum wage in New Zealand, to avoid exploitation;

The only cost to the employer is the intern’s wage. We ask that the interns get paid what workers doing the same job are being paid (we do not want the interns exploited). We advise our interns that the minimum wage in New Zealand is $15.75 per hour, and that in most cases they will be paid more than this. We ask that the interns get between 30 – 40 hours per week (or enough for them to “live” comfortably).


One broken shower out of eight – a fact missing from most msm coverage of this “story”.


However, when taken in conjunction with political volunteer work, the very definition of internship can involve paid or unpaid work;

Internships for professional careers are similar in some ways but not as rigorous as apprenticeships for professions, trade and vocational jobs, but the lack of standardisation and oversight leaves the term open to broad interpretation. Interns may be college or university students, high school students, or post-graduate adults. These positions may be paid or unpaid and are usually temporary.

Generally, an internship consists of an exchange of services for experience between the student and an organization. Students can also use an internship to determine if they have an interest in a particular career, to create a network of contacts, to acquire a recommendation letter to add to their curriculum vitae, or to gain school credit. Some interns find permanent, paid employment with the organizations for which they worked upon completion of the internship.

Unpaid work is not only recognised in New Zealand – Statistic NZ even counts it toward employment data;



A revelation

Following  complaints from some interns, others came forward with  more positive experiences. And there was a revelation of what might have pricipitated  the complaint(s);

An American student taking part in a “fellowship” programme for the Labour Party campaign has defended it, saying most of the 85 interns on it are happy.

The student spoke on the condition of anonymity because most in the programme had signed non-disclosure agreements before starting on the programme.

She believed the complaints and leaks to the media were driven by one or two interns who had a beef with the programme. She claimed one was dropped from a leadership position on the programme after allegedly taking bottles of wine from Labour MP Jenny Salesa’s house after Salesa hosted a meal for them.

“We sat down, we ate and he walked away with two bottles of wine. The organisers called him out for it. Since then it’s been a simmering pot.”

She said it was disappointing to read comments in the media about “sweatshop” conditions and “slave labour”.

“Three meals a day, every single day, were provided. The care they have provided is comprehensive. The one thing that has cause a bit of chatter is the cubicle situation, which I understand is not ideal. But the sweatshop conditions, where we were rallied into a line and forced to work, that’s not true at all.”

She defended Awataha marae, saying most were moved into proper living quarters on the marae which are “more than ideal”.

“The food is great and they are very accommodating.”

ACT exposes hypocrisy

Perhaps the most outrageously hypocritical response to this non-story came from the ACT Party. On 23 June, ACT tweeted;



ACT is hardly known as a champion of workers’ rights.

ACT’s policy toward the minimum wage, for example, is anything but positive as former party-leader Jamie Whyte expressed three years ago;

“The economists in the National Party aren’t stupid, They know that this will have adverse effects for New Zealand workers and the economy. Yet they continue to intervene in wage rates, in an attempt to position themselves as moderates,” says Dr Whyte.

“In doing this, National perpetuates the myth that minimum wages protect the poor.

“John Key has skimmed over the inevitable consequences of this intervention, saying job losses will be ‘relatively negligible’. What Key doesn’t acknowledge is the unseen effects of minimum wages — those businesses which don’t directly lay off workers will be discouraged from employing more, or replacing those who leave voluntarily in future.

“The best thing that low skilled workers can do is get work experience. It’s hard to think of a more cruel policy than passing a law that bans the people most in need of work experience from getting any.

“Furthermore, many businesses will pass on their increasing employment costs to the consumer, contributing to the rising price of living which many New Zealanders have come to accept as normal.

“ACT doesn’t think it’s okay for the state to put up barriers to employment. Nor does ACT think it’s okay for the state to intervene to drive up the cost of living.”


“Hero of the Working Class” and former ACT leader, Jamie Whyte


Whyte’s successor, David Seymour,  gave ACT’s support to the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which  further eroded worker’s rights and promoted neo-liberal employment ideology;

“  Why, then, do the opponents of flexible labour markets in general, and this bill in particular, not see the futility in trying to legislate a different outcome in the labour market and the damage it is likely to do? Why, indeed, has the National Government compromised on the vulnerable worker clause and the requirement to conclude bargaining when these should be removed entirely?


I support this bill because it is a step in the right direction towards more flexible markets. Like all attempts to improve public policy, this amendment is imperfect. Economic reality and experience suggests it should have gone further.”

The only hypocrisy exposed in this non-story is the willingness of an amoral Right to seize an opportunity, to leap on an issue in a lame attempt to gain the moral highground.

A closer examination reveals a somewhat different  picture. Instead of skewering the Labour Party with a sloppily-written “exposé“, based on half-truths from a few disgruntled individuals, we are reminded that the ACT Party is no friend of the working class (or even the Middle Classes, who would suffer higher and more intrusive user-pays under a punitive ACT-style neo-liberal system).

Perhaps Laurie Fleming summed it up best on Twitter, when he posted this response to ACT’s faux tears about fabricated worker exploitation;



Yes indeed, ACT has exposed hypocrisy on this issue: it’s own.


* National Party webpages are saved and retained, as National regularly removes pages from its site.





Radio NZ:  Labour Party intern programme ‘got out of control’

Radio NZ:  Awataha Marae rejects ‘substandard’ housings claim

NZ Herald:  Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who

The Wireless:  Unpaid, unhappy and over here – Labour’s intern scandal explained

Maori TV:  Labour Party intern scheme “slave labour” – Marama Fox

Newstalk ZB:  Labour’s ‘looking into’ their unpaid internships

Fairfax media:  Labour Party brings in unpaid overseas students

NZ Herald:  Taping scandal: National Party board member who advised Glenys Dickson to withdraw Todd Barclay complaint named

Mediaworks/Newshub: Todd Barclay tape scandal – More allegations of false statements emerge

Radio NZ: Todd Barclay – ‘I’ve made some mistakes’

Radio NZ:  Barclay apologises for ‘misleading’ answers

Fairfax media:  Todd Barclay fronts after revelations of secret recording

NZ Herald:  Glenys Dickson breaks silence over Todd Barclay secret tapes scandal

Fairfax media:  Todd Barclay invented complaints on staffer Glenys Dickson – allegations

Mediaworks/Radiolive:  Patrick Gower – Todd Barclay’s admission means police must reopen case

The Spinoff:  All the untruths, evasions and, um, bullshit in the Todd Barclay debacle

Scoop media: Q+A – Anthony Wilson and Andrew Little

Politik:  Labour Party volunteer workers rebel over living conditions

National Party: Volunteers

Maori Party: Volunteers

ACT Party: Home Page

Electoral Commission: 2014 party donations and loans returns – ACT Party

Fairfax media: Internal docs on Labour intern scheme ‘wishful thinking’

Internship NZ:  Information for Employers

Wikipedia:  Internship

Statistics NZ:  Labour Market Statistics Quarterly Concept set – Employed

NZ Herald:  US intern defends Labour’s ‘fellowship’ campaign programme from ‘sweatshop’ claims

Twitter: ACT – Labour interns

NBR:  National bows to minimum wage myths – ACT

Parliament:  Employment Relations Amendment Bill – Third Reading – David Seymour

Twitter: Laurie Fleming – ACT – workers rights


NZ Herald:  Audrey Young – No comparison between Labour’s intern strife and National’s crisis

Other Blogs

The Jackal:  No comparison in substandard housing

The Standard:  Racist attack on marae living

The Standard:  Over egging the scandal soufflee

Previous related blogposts

A great business opportunity, courtesy of ACT

ACT leader, Jamie Whyte, refutes cliched stereotype of solo-mothers?

National-ACT supporters – not the brightest lights in the night sky, eh?

ACT Party candidate David Seymour – revealed

It’s official: ACT’s Jamie Whyte is several-sandwiches-and-a-salad short of a picnic

Today’s irony was brought to you courtesy of former ACT MP and Govt Minister, Rodney Hide

Foot in Mouth award – Former ACT MP exposes flaw in free-market system

Foot in Mouth award – another former ACT MP plumbs new depths of dumbness






= fs =


  1. ‘ They only call it Class War when we fight back ”

    How apt.

    Its obvious that those punters lobbied the media to provide some sort of twisted ‘ Yin and Yan’ cock and bull story here …

    The difference is , this is not geopolitics, and there is a glaring ‘imbalance of power’ in NZ politics which was largely manipulated not by the Left or the Right – but by Globalist neo liberals.

    It is important to always remember that fact . In doing so, … you leave no room open for these subversive types. They have been playing one side off against the other for over 33 years – three decades – and its time we, the media, and even the Left stopped playing into the narrative and rounded on these anti sovereignty moles.

    So here we have a simple and clear cut case of these odious individuals and their supporters in the media trying to not only deflect from the severity against our democracy of the Barclay / English scandal ,… but attempting by contrast to equate a trivial non event against Labour as some sort of smear ,… yet as facts emerge , … is seen to be completely bogus.

    You would likely find, … if the actual names of the people involved in this failed smear were to be known,… that it would only consist of a dozen individuals at best.

    One dozen people with vested interests who see the very real possibility’s of NZ’s laws being broken by those in the Senior National party as a potential threat to their personal vested interests in maintaining this government.

    And shower heads at a local marae do not constitute a valid enough reason to smear both the Labour party and the marae that was gracious enough to billet those young people.

    We start to see , therefore , … the sickness of certain individuals who have a lot riding on those in the senior National party’s ranks ability to remain in power and perpetuate their Globalist neo liberal anti sovereignty agenda.

  2. Andrew Little should hit back at any further allegations of “slum-like” accomodation. He’s had plenty of time to say he’s looked into the problem, assessed what’s going on, and refute allegations as petty politicking from a disgruntled few, aided and abetted by the Right.

    Don’t let the Nats off the hook over the Barclay scandal. Hit back hard, Mr Little!!

    • To me the Police are on the hook with their double standard investigations into alleged offences raised with the Police by Key’s government. Seems the police are very efficient in the labours for the National government than for less important plaintives,which is pretty much anyone else.
      The police are an extension of the government.

  3. Go you @ Frank!

    I try to think beyond the term ‘ neo liberal’ these days. It implies, to me at any rate, some kind of half cooked political ideology that seemed like a good idea at the time.
    It perhaps was regarded as being so in some political quarters but it’s also something much more sinister.
    The concept of ‘ neo liberalism’ implies that user pays and asset sell offs were thought of as a good idea. Make our assets private thus competitive thus not only profitable but more efficient. Of course, looking back, that’s laughable at best.
    The very term itself is a logical fallacy to hide simple con artistry that led to the thievery of our belongings and cash assets. It really is that simple.
    I think the term neoliberalism has become archaic and should be replaced by a term more fitting. ‘Theft’ is a good one. ‘Embezzlement’ another.
    I listened to alan gibb talk to kim hill on RNZ a while back. He was most scathing of public office, of ‘ government’ generally but thought nothing of him making millions from our telecom’s sell-off. kim hill let him away with that and I’m less than impressed.
    The stink of those kinds of misleading lies spouted out by such adept liars is precisely the same thing happening here. Chuck enough mud at even the slipperiest thing and some will stick.
    And it’s not designed to destroy Labour. Far from it. Labour’s just fine, ticking away on the side lines sucking on the public money tit.
    The real reason, I believe, for such a shit slinging at the Labour Intern Programme is to create disharmony amongst a sector of the community that could cause real damage if properly united. Both Labour and National are perfectly fine with the million disillusioned Kiwis not bothering to vote. The Labour stalwarts are a minority therefore Labour stays where it is on our $ six figures plus entitlements, the National stalwarts are faux riche so will certainly vote. Twice or more, if it meant they could to keep their investment property portfolios afloat.
    The PLU’s like you and me are lost in no mans land, doomed to wander about in the mire of logical fallacies and cryptic MSM misinformation.
    To summarise, it’s all a game. And we’re the ones being played.
    It’s my view, that if we’re to climb back up out of the hole the crooks coerced us to dig ourselves in to for their profits then we must begin to think entirely differently. Albert Einstein says the definition of madness is to keep doing the same things while expecting different results.
    If you, as a voter, think Labour will somehow fix things? You’d be wrong.
    National are the crooks party and have Labour on a hook. ACT run a decent defence at being so loony they make the extremism of National look positively moderate by comparison.
    Do you think that ACT, a roger douglas ( One time Labour minister of finance ) / don (governor of the reserve bank) brash initiative is a goer for good and honesty? Do you think winston peters is a champion of the lavender bath salts brigade? You have seen that photograph of peters doing tea and bickies with don brash right?
    Do you know how much money’s involved? Both now and historically? Are the foreign owners of what were our banks and sundry infrastructure keeping away from our politics out of respect for who we are? Heard of Iraq? Who’s country will most likely be left intact and arguably the most liveable if the dopy Koreans are used as an excuse to drop orgasmic A bombs for peace and stiffies by the narcissistic USA?
    Fresh water is rare outside bottles in most countries now. Super Hot summers and drought are on the way for Europe Asia and the USA and we think misleading media is all about us and two main political parties trying to out do each other to provide the very best for us Kiwis?
    Look into the faces of those poor homeless bastards living in shop doorways along Queen Street and in Wellington? They’re not as a result of poor policy foisted upon us by well intended morons. They’re as a direct result of crooks doing dodgy business with what was our money and stuff and things. We’re all being suckered. What to do? Think laterally and cultivate an open mind because thinking the same-same’s clearly not working. An effecient thing to do would be to wait for a parliamentry sitting then lock them in the bee hive. Call it Wellington Central prison. Job done.

    • Much like this perchance , COUNTRYBOY ?

      2 Kings 10:18-28New King James Version (NKJV)

      Worshipers of Baal Killed :

      18 Then Jehu gathered all the people together, and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little, Jehu will serve him much. 19 Now therefore, call to me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests. Let no one be missing, for I have a great sacrifice for Baal. Whoever is missing shall not live.” But Jehu acted deceptively, with the intent of destroying the worshipers of Baal. 20 And Jehu said, “Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal.” So they proclaimed it. 21 Then Jehu sent throughout all Israel; and all the worshipers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. So they came into the temple[a] of Baal, and the temple of Baal was full from one end to the other. 22 And he said to the one in charge of the wardrobe, “Bring out vestments for all the worshipers of Baal.” So he brought out vestments for them. 23 Then Jehu and Jehonadab the son of Rechab went into the temple of Baal, and said to the worshipers of Baal, “Search and see that no servants of the Lord are here with you, but only the worshipers of Baal.” 24 So they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had appointed for himself eighty men on the outside, and had said, “If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escapes, whoever lets him escape, it shall be his life for the life of the other.”

      25 Now it happened, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, “Go in and kill them; let no one come out!” And they killed them with the edge of the sword; then the guards and the officers threw them out, and went into the inner room of the temple of Baal. 26 And they brought the sacred pillars out of the temple of Baal and burned them. 27 Then they broke down the sacred pillar of Baal, and tore down the temple of Baal and made it a refuse dump to this day. 28 Thus Jehu destroyed Baal from Israel.

      I would have to concur with your sentiments at times… for the sake of the preservation of our country ,…. no less ,…

    • And as to my last comment,… I mean it to paraphrase all you have said for so many years now…

      In other words,… a purge of all that is despicable , both to the conservative and those who hope for better.

      The ‘ Blood and Guts ‘ Patton analogy of direct action. And no quarters given to these fawning neo liberal scum.

  4. noun: hypocrisy; plural noun: hypocrisies

    “the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case.”

    So ACT is not in the least hypocritical, because their talk and actions are consistent.

      • When you are an ACT sycophant, you don’t need to be able to read, you only need to believe what you are told.

    • Bullshit, Andrew. I notice you haven’t rebutted a single point in this blogpost, just off on your merry way. If you think your argument wins any points, you’re way off beam.

      Act is hypocrisy distilled to its most pungeant, toxic stew. Seymour left himself wide open by attempting to latch onto this non-issue, faux “scandal”.

  5. “I try to think beyond the term ‘ neo liberal’ these days. It implies, to me at any rate, some kind of half cooked political ideology that seemed like a good idea at the time.”

    “Half cooked”. Apt.

    No wonder the world is rebelling against neo-liberalism-come-globalism.

    • The fruits of the Neoliberal Experiment are now coming to fruition with 1% of the world’s population owning 99% of the wealth.

      There was a huge transfer of State Assets owned by the taxpayers transferred to the Global Elite during the 1980’s-1990’s even the Soviet Union transferred valuable State Assets to the oligarchs.

  6. The hypocrisy of the ACT party is breath taking !. I learnt a few years back never to read anything by ACT as it is simply big business propoganda.
    I suppose David Seymour gets some brownie points for being young.

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