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Little 'not aware' of McCarten's programme

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/06/2017 Karen Sweeney

Labour leader Andrew Little had no idea the man running his Auckland office was also operating the intern campaign that is causing embarrassment for the party.

Matt McCarten was employed essentially as Mr Little's Auckland chief of staff, a role funded out of the party's leader's budget, when he began a programme to bring 85 foreign students to New Zealand to work on the party's election campaign.

Last week the party was forced to step in and take control after students, mostly from the US and UK, complained about squalid living conditions and the work they were being made do.

Mr Little describes the programme as "frankly a source of embarrassment for us" and says he would have expected Mr McCarten to tell him about what he was doing given the programme's party links.

It's possible the failed intern programme will cost the party after the unions Mr McCarten claimed were funding it denied covering costs.

"I think there is the potential for that [shortfall] ... we're taking moral responsibility and that means that any creditors or suppliers have to be looked after too and we'll have to do that," he said.

Mr McCarten first floated the idea with Mr Little at the start of the year, but Mr Little says he redirected it as a matter for the party and didn't hear of it again until mid-May when applicants contacted the party asking 'what now' regarding process, and again last week when full details came out.

"He doesn't have to tell me everything he's doing in his personal life ... but if this was something being done in the name of the Labour Party in pursuit of Labour Party interest I think I would have expected to have known about it but he didn't," he said.

On whether Mr McCarten was actively deceiving him, Mr Little said it was something he'd have to deal with at some point.

He's yet to speak to his former staffer, who left his job in May apparently to pursue campaigning opportunities.

Labour Party officials have taken over operations of the programme and are billeting students and putting them to work on local campaigns.

Since the story broke several students have gone public and said the accommodation wasn't as bad as had been portrayed and they were enjoying working on Labour's campaign.

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