Is Labour in breach of Electoral laws now?

It seems that Labour may well be in breach of electoral laws surrounding donations as a result of their slave labour debacle.

The NZ Herald reports:

A mystery backer funded the volunteer scheme for overseas students working on Labour’s campaign – and even Labour does not know who it was or how much was involved.

Matt McCarten, who set up the scheme and ran it under his “Campaign for Change” organisation, told the Herald it was funded by a “private funder” who thought the scheme was a good idea.

It is understood Labour itself still does not know who that funder is or how much was spent on the programme and it has been left to cover some of the costs of housing the interns at Awataha Marae, although McCarten said he believed the payments were up to date.

McCarten’s confirmation of a “private funder” followed the release of a document obtained by Newshub which showed McCarten expected it to cost at least $150,000 and planned to get $100,000 from the FIRST and Unite unions, as well as seeking contributions from other unions and fundraising.

However, those unions said yesterday they had not put any funding in.

Labour’s General Secretary Andrew Kirton took over the programme this week after concerns about how it was being run and the ability to manage the numbers involved.

He would not comment on the funding issue, saying he was still working on taking care of the interns and “sorting the mess out”.

Labour will also have to consider whether it needs to declare any contributions to the costs of the programme as a donation.

Electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler said it would have to if it was a Labour Party programme, but it probably would not have to if it was a third party campaigning for Labour.

It was advertised as a “Labour Party Fellowship”, involved Labour MPs, and was set up by McCarten while he worked for Labour until May – but was run by his Campaign for Change.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the party would disclose anything it was required to and would ensure third parties did as well. However, the party was still working out what funding there was in place.

Big problem for Andrew Little, it is highly likely given the numbers of interns and the amounts involved in housing them, feeding them and transporting them that the numbers exceed $30,000. The Electoral Commission and the law states:

A return must be filed by a party secretary with the Electoral Commission within 10 working days of receipt whenever a party receives a donation that:

  • exceeds $30,000, or
  • when added to all the donations received from the same donor in the preceding 12 months exceeds $30,000.

The return should be filed using the prescribed form setting out the name and address of the donor, the amount and date of the donation together with details of the amounts and dates of all previous donations received from that donor.

There is no way that Labour can argue this is anything but their initiative. The advertising for it was begun when Matt McCarten still worked for Labour. The advertisements clearly identified this as a Labour party activity. The staff assigned to it are all Labour party staff. This is clearly their gig and they’ve failed to declare who their donor is.

Labour are already in breach of the Electoral Act and the campaign period has only just begun.

This debacle is just getting worse for Andrew Little and for Labour. Luckily for caucus they are now within the 90 day period where they can axe Little without having a debilitating membership leadership race.


-NZ Herald