McCarten’s internship programme (modeled on similar examples internationally) was not a Labour Party initiative, though it does use the party name. It has been in the news, with lots of wild accusations getting publicity. The most useful rebuttal was in The Herald:
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.
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.”
She did not believe the interns were in breach of immigration rules – all had been told to get Working Holiday Visas.
She said unpaid internships were common and McCarten had been generous in looking after them. “Numerous times he told us ‘the most important thing is that you walk away happy’.” …
‘Many of us have had positive experiences’ – US intern
One American intern, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that while the programme was not perfect, the interns had been well looked after.
She told Checkpoint with John Campbell the views of a couple did not reflect the majority.
“So many of us have had positive experiences and it’s been a very educational opportunity – the fact that it’s being painted in such a negative way is pretty disconcerting because that’s not what our experience was.
“The fact that the experience of two to three people who have a personal agenda is what’s really being pushed forward is pretty disappointing.”
The American said she would do the internship again. …
The personal account in this blog is also positive:
When I arrived, I was taken to the Marae, which is a traditional communal living space for the Maori, an indigenous group here in New Zealand. The Maori have a very strong presence here in New Zealand, and their culture has been adapted in every part of New Zealand culture. The communal living space is interesting, and I’m grateful to be allowed to live in such a space.
The first day of work, which was on Tuesday was also very relaxed. We did training that day for all the new fellows, and I got to meet the supervisors Caitlin and Kieran, as well as other new arrivals. I learned a lot about how the campaign is supposed to be run, and what my job was. We also had a quiz at the end of the training, and my team came in third. It was fun, and the questions were tricky, but it broke the ice.
Overall, despite my short time here I’ve already learned a lot, and I’ve explored a lot. New Zealand is beautiful country with really nice people, and I can’t wait to see more of it.
It’s clear that there were some genuine issues with the program. Even though it was not a Labour Party initiative Andrew Little was correct to acknowledge them, and to focus on the well being of the young people involved. Labour is taking responsibility for sorting out any mess.
Those who are chucking round terms like slaves, slave labour, #slavegate, slum, slumlords, exploitation, “sweat shop marae”, scam, and the like are over egging the scandal souffle. Their hysteria, and its curiously convenient timing, tells us more about them and their motives than it does about the programme. Team Nat were desperate to try and divert some attention from their floundering leader, and to a certain extent they succeeded.
But compare and contrast Labour and National’s handling of the issues. Front up and fix vs lie harder.
"An amazing opportunity … I would do it again … the marae has been very welcoming and kind to us." https://t.co/MXXOhIwwiI
— Russell Brown (@publicaddress) June 23, 2017
"The allegations of it being a sweat shop or slave labour are completely untrue. I had a really positive experience" https://t.co/x4qN6EV9qS
— Checkpoint (@CheckpointRNZ) June 23, 2017