About 20 overseas students have been told their places on an internship programme to campaign for the Labour Party have been cancelled, some just days before they were due to arrive.

Among them was Anna Kettle, 20, from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, who got an email to say her place had been cancelled four days before she was due to fly out.

Labour's General Secretary Andrew Kirton contacted her again yesterday to offer her another place but Kettle has turned it down.

She had by then already cancelled her flights for a 50 per cent refund and could not afford new tickets. She had been $759 out of pocket as a result, for the unrefunded portion of her flight and her visa.

Advertisement

But after her plight was published by the Herald tonight, Kirton contacted her family and offered to reimburse Anna for the money lost through the cancellation.

Anna said the flights were a birthday present from her parents and she had been looking forward to her six-week time on the programme. A friend of hers was in the same situation.

"I'm really passionate about politics and it was a chance to travel to the other side of the world and learn about a whole other way of how politics work and get that experience."

She had been trawling through the news as it broke "and I'm actually counting myself quite lucky that I didn't go, looking at some of the stuff that's coming out."

Her father Dave Kettle said earlier that she was also wary of taking part after the past few days and the new offer did not seem as promising.

"As she said to me, there are few things worse than being somewhere where you are not really wanted, and this offer certainly smacks of this.

"Whilst I can sympathise with Mr Kirton's position (assuming he knew nothing about all of this until last week), I'm afraid the organisation needs to take responsibility for the actions done in its name. Make amends, pay what's owed and move on.

"He was annoyed about the way it was handled and at Labour expecting students to cancel travel at a personal cost to them."

He said although the visa and flights had cost $1500 it had seemed like a worthwhile experience.

It had also meant Anna had not had time to organise an internship in the UK for her summer holidays - something many second-year politics students would do.

She had earlier asked Labour if it was possible to get compensation for the cancelled flights, but had not heard anything back until the family was conctated by Kirton tonight.

Kirton has said Labour will consider covering the cost of airfares for some interns after deciding to send some home early and billet others out. He took over the programme from local organisers and Matt McCarten's Campaign for Change group after he was made aware of problems with the accommodation and the programme being offered.