Matt McCarten

Contractors aren’t workers?

Andrew Little, rather than simply apologising to NBR reporter David Cohen for the lengthy non-payment of his $950 invoice and moving on, seems dedicated to providing Patrick Gower with more ammunition.

On 3News last night, Mr Little attempted to amend Gower’s terminology:

“Your commentary talked about a worker. He [David Cohen] was a contractor.”

Unfortunately, Cohen had exchanged numerous emails with Little’s chief of staff, Matt McCarten, during his attempt to get paid, and at one point Mr McCarten had written:

“I’ll make it a priority. Every worker must be paid for work they are asked to do.”

When confronted with this by Gower, Little accepted that if it was okay for McCarten to refer to Cohen as a worker, it was also okay for Gower to do so.

Presumably, Little was concerned that use of the word “worker” might imply to the public that Cohen had been a Labour staffer who hadn’t been paid, as opposed to a one-off contractor. Nonetheless, it was a baffling piece of semantics, given that the first definition of “worker” in my dictionary is:

A person who works; one who works well or in a specified way.

As a former union boss, Mr Little will be well-versed in the distinctions between different types of workers – employees v contractors, for instance – but to try and paint a freelance contractor as someone who is not a worker seemed like a hiding to nothing. For a leader who, late last year, was bellowing “Cut the crap!” at John Key, this ill-considered linguistic smokescreen looked decidedly mealymouthed.

It was a line that Mr Little surely hadn’t thought through before he said it. If he had thought it through, he would have realised that it jarred rather uncomfortably against the idea that the Labour Party is supposedly there for all workers, not just the ones who belong to unions and have employment contracts.

Once again this week, Andrew Little has unnecessarily shot himself in the foot.



Paying one’s debts (or The Ongoing Art of Political Stupidity)

No one likes being caught saying one thing and doing another. So it’s been more than a little embarrassing for Andrew Little to have been talking up the need for Labour to reach out to small business and contractors, only to be busted for not having paid a contractor’s $950 invoice for four months.

Many Labour supporters will argue that it’s a minor issue, blown out of proportion by Patrick Gower’s gleeful penchant for sensationalist reporting. Nonetheless, the problem for Andrew Little is that it’s a very simple issue that all small business owners and contractors can relate to: you do the work, you send out the invoice, and you wait, and wait, and wait. And while you wait, and pay your own bills, you think how nice it would be to have that money sitting in your bank account. Because there’s a rates invoice due in a few days, or a GST payment coming up fast, or the oven at home has just committed hara-kiri.

Of course, it’s unlikely that the invoice sat on Andrew Little’s desk for four months, with Little making a personal decision to obstinately not pay it. Instead, it will have been with any number of underlings, who are paid to sort such things out.

They’ve certainly dropped the ball on this one, and not merely in their handling of the (non)payment of the invoice.

For a start, the contractor, freelance journalist David Cohen, writes for the National Business Review, a publication not often known as a bastion of left wing journalism. Cohen’s latest NBR piece states that he was contracted to “take a few hours to talk with Mr Little and then independently distill his views as they might sound to an outsider”. Quite why anyone in Camp Little thought that the ideal independent outsider to hire was a right wing journalist is rather beyond me.

As The Dim-Post‘s Danyl Mclauchlan writes in the comments to his latest post:

Here’s how a similar conversation would go in the National Party:

Aide: We’ve arranged for Danyl Mclauchlan to interview you then distill it into key messages.
MP: Who’s he?
Aide: He’s a left-wing blogger, his wife was a senior staffer for the Greens . . .
MP: Let’s not use him. That’s just stupid.

Nonetheless, the political preferences of Mr Cohen presumably wouldn’t have been an issue had the invoice simply been paid. But it wasn’t, and according to Mr Cohen on Morning Report this morning, that’s despite him having contact with various Little staff members, including Chief of Staff Matt McCarten.

Did no one, especially Mr McCarten, think, “We owe an NBR journalist $950. We should probably pay that before he turns feral…”?

And so Mr Cohen writes a story about his shoddy treatment, exposing Mr Little’s hypocrisy and making Little and his staff look like a pack of extremely odd individuals.

And so Andrew Little is embarrassed in Parliament by Stephen Joyce, who gleefully lampoons Little’s “no payment contract”.

And so Patrick Gower makes Mr Little look like a fool on 3News, as Gower asks again and again when and why the bill was suddenly paid, and Little tries not to answer.

It’s an issue that should never have got to that stage, and it beggars belief that Little and/or his staff allowed it to end up on the six o’clock news. Reverting to type, Labour once again fluffs its basic political management.

Kelvin Davis – rock and a hard place

Kelvin Davis really, really wants to win Te Tai Tokerau. You can’t really blame him for that. The vagaries of relying on the party list to get into Parliament mean that he missed out in 2011 and is only back thanks to Shane Jones departing for other climes.

And now Mr Davis is back in the danger zone. Yes, he’s number eighteen on the Labour list, but when you take into account those who will or could win electorate seats, Mr Davis is effectively between 32 and 34 on the list (depending on whether Labour hold Palmerston North and/or Port Hills).

In this site’s Poll of Polls, Labour are currently sitting on 27.7%, which gets them 36 MPs. That gives Mr Davis a little bit of buffer room, but only because NZ First are sitting on 4.6% and zero MPs. If we imagine NZ First taking 0.4% off National, and hitting the 5% threshold, it’s suddenly a very different story – Labour would have just 34 MPs, leaving Davis with little to no buffer zone at all.

Which leaves him in a spot of bother, given that his party doesn’t seem to want him to win Te Tai Tokerau. Although Labour are in public stating that they want to win all seven Maori seats, it’s plainly obvious that on current polling Labour has no chance of forming a Government without the Internet Mana Party bringing in two or more MPs. If David Cunliffe can’t lift Labour’s polling rather dramatically, then Internet Mana are vital to Cunliffe’s Prime Ministerial dreams.

So what to make of Kelvin Davis’ personal crusade against Kim Dotcom?

It’s been revealed that Mr Davis’ campaign team had sought head office approval to run a website taking aim at Dotcom and picking a fight with Internet Mana. Here’s the response from Tim Barnett, Labour’s General Secretary, taken from emails leaked to 3News:

This website and its messaging is problematic and presents a risk for the Party for the following significant reasons:

  • Its’ overall tone is negative and not consistent with our Vote Positive message
  • The first sentence uses the National Party slogan “Working for New Zealand”
  • The cartoon of Kim dot com is could be viewed as offensive and the website picks a fight with Internet Mana. I know that is your local fight, but to present that nationally would not be helpful when both parties are presenting as progressive
  • The messaging about anonymous donations is inconsistent with Labour Party policy and practice, both at Head Office and across electorate campaigns, and would be messaged by media as . [sic]
  • The website has no Party Vote message and does not carry an authorisation statement.

The response from Davis’ campaign team?

I think we as a party need to realize that the battle we are fighting in the north is unique. Our opposition is not Keys and his party. We are fighting against Hone who is being funded by a multi- millionaire who is frankly trying to buy his way into parliament. The website is confrontational as it is a wakeup call, it’s not aimed at traditional supporters, honestly I think national supporters may contribute.

Having had the orders come down from on high to keep the Te Tai Tokerau campaign clean and positive, Kelvin Davis then publishes the following Facebook posts:

Kelvin Davis 1


Kelvin Davis 2

With Hone Harawira calling on Davis to resign for attempting to solicit funds from National Party supporters, Davis is unapologetic, as his above Facebook posts demonstrate. There may not be many Kelvin Davis hoardings up in the Far North, but he’s made it as public as he possibly could that he intends to win, which may well be a thorn in David Cunliffe’s side.

As Patrick Gower tweeted yesterday morning:

What will Cunliffe, McCarten & Barnett do about Kelvin Davis who is going hard, going negative and wants to win the Tai Tokerau?