We're used to the idea that some industries have so much trouble finding local workers they have to bring them in from overseas: fruit pickers, restaurant workers and the Labour Party are among the most prominent.

The story of what really went on with Labour's 85 overseas interns has struggled to gain traction against competition from the glamorous sex, drugs and country music Gore-fest of Todd Barclay.

It first surfaced in April, when Hone Harawira drew attention to it and no one took much notice.

The use of untrained young people to do political drudge work is not unique to Labour. Act has one - he's their MP.


But there are no reports of National doing it, possibly because young people from overseas don't have the necessary dictaphone skills these days.

The interns were lured here with promotional material that promised "a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in New Zealand politics".

If that wasn't enough to put them off, it went on to say, "There has never been a better time to get on the campaign trail and to work towards a Labour victory in New Zealand's most important city, Auckland."

Who were they targeting? People for whom self-flagellation no longer had any appeal?

"The fellows will be tasked primarily with projects surrounding the recruitment and retention of volunteers."

So they were being recruited to come here and recruit people.

Volunteers could presumably graduate to the "fellow" role depending on how many volunteers they recruited. When I was growing up, we called that pyramid selling.

Despite these warning signs, 85 people were still interested enough to come. As we know, they arrived to find conditions weren't exactly five star - more like half asteroid.

It wasn't all bad. One intern reported that "many of us have had positive experiences", which is a little like saying many of us who underwent waterboarding found it a valuable learning opportunity.

Quite quickly an anonymous intern popped up and gave an interview whose purpose seemed to be to separate the real culprits from anyone near the leadership.

It wasn't the Labour Party's fault, just a few bad eggs.

"I am probably the one who knows the most about the situation for certain reasons," said the intern.

Is this how all Americans talk now? "I can't tell you the reasons, but they are great reasons. These are some of the best reasons."

Labour's justification seemed to be that when capitalists exploit people, it's exploitation; when the workers' friends exploit people, it's experience.


Apparently no one at leadership level knew anything about the operation, which was masterminded by a former party president, Matt McCarten, and run by people with labour.org emails.

The scheme was a Labour Party scheme run by Labour.

It hadn't been outsourced to McDonald's, although if it had, the kids would have got paid, been better fed and had better working conditions.

Labour's justification seemed to be that when capitalists exploit people, it's exploitation; when the workers' friends exploit people, it's experience.

Andrew Little, who came to the Labour leadership the old-fashioned way, fighting for workers' rights in the union movement, said in explanation that the scheme "had got out of control".

When "got out of control" is the explanation, you're in real trouble.

The interns were undeniably "volunteers", but the question remains: should Labour be using unpaid foreign workers to do its chores when there is no shortage of unemployed New Zealanders who know how a doorbell works and would appreciate a free feed and a bed?

The arrangement may not have been a breach of visa law; it may not have been a breach of employment law; it's certainly a breach of Labour Party principles, from back when the party had principles.

Asked about their plans for the future, many of the interns said they would like to stay on.

Asked about its plans for the future, the Labour Party said it would like to be the next government of New Zealand.