Labour’s Caucus will next week discuss the proposal by the party’s General Secretary, Tim Barnett to deny Working for Families tax credits to people who don’t enrol on the electoral roll.

The proposal was made to Parliament’s Justice Committee’s Review of the Election.

It appears to have caught the Parliamentary wing of the party by surprise and has angered some.

A spokesperson for Leader Andrew Little said the first he heard about it was in the media.

It has not yet been discussed by Caucus but does not have his support anyway.

That’s a damning indictment of a party secretary over such a high profile action as a submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee.

The submission itself claims that it was “lodged on the authority of the New Zealand Council, the governing body of the Labour Party.”

It said “our democratic arrangements are now falling into significant disrepair” and that “the cumbersome and ineffective response to a declining election turnout rate” was a very clear example of that.

Among his proposals to remedy that Mr Barnett says: “The possibility of making enrolment to vote a pre-condition to receipt of various forms of state support (e.g. Working for Families, tax credits) should be examined. “

There is an argument that some inside Labour run that the party is disadvantaged by a significant “under enrolment” by particularly South Auckland Pacific Islanders who if they did vote would be likely to vote Labour.


Mr Barnett’s submission is obviously designed to address that.

But proposing to use benefits as a reward/penalty for other actions is anathema to most Labour MPs.

It is clear there is a division between the Parliamentary wing and the Party organisation on this.

Mr Barnett has his critics within the Caucus and it would not be surprising if they wanted to see him face some censure as a consequence of his submission.

It comes at a time when Mr Little is having some success at getting Labour’s often disputatious Caucus to start working together and with a degree of discipline and apparent unity.

Next Tuesday’s Caucus will not be the end of this matter.