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Matthew "Matt" McCarten (born Dunedin, 1959) is a New Zealand political organiser, of Ngāpuhi descent. He has been involved with several leftist or centre-left political parties, and is also active in the trade-union movement. He wrote a weekly column for the Herald on Sunday from 2010 until 2014.

Matt McCarten
Matt McCarten (crop).jpg
4th Leader of the Alliance
In office
30 November 2003 – 28 November 2004
Preceded byLaila Harré
Succeeded byJill Ovens & Paul Piesse
Personal details
Dunedin, New Zealand
Political partyLabour (1978–89; 2013–)
Other political
NewLabour (1989–91)
Alliance (1991–2004)


Political activityEdit

McCarten, who had been a member of the Labour Party since he was nineteen, [1] became dissatisfied with the party's direction under Minister of Finance Roger Douglas. Douglas was a strong promoter of free-market economics and deregulation, which McCarten and others saw as a betrayal of Labour's roots. Eventually, one of Labour's MPs, Jim Anderton, broke away to found NewLabour, and McCarten became the president of the new organisation. NewLabour later joined with several other parties to form the Alliance – McCarten became president of this new party as well.

After the 1999 elections, the Alliance became the junior partner in a coalition government with Labour (which had now moved away from its programme of economic reforms). However, some members of the Alliance, including McCarten, felt their grouping had made too many concessions to the more centrist Labour, and that the Alliance was abandoning its left-wing principles. Eventually, a rift developed between McCarten (serving as the Alliance's organisational leader) and Jim Anderton (serving as its political leader) – the party's governing Council backed McCarten, but most of its MPs backed Anderton.

After a long and bitter dispute, Anderton and his supporters left the Alliance to found the Progressive Party in 2002, leaving McCarten's faction in control of the Alliance.

The Alliance, led politically by Laila Harré from 2002 to 2003, suffered heavily in the 2002 elections, losing all representation in Parliament. The following year, McCarten himself assumed the political leadership from Harré.[2] He was compelled to resign this position in November 2004, however, after becoming increasingly involved with campaign work for the new Māori Party. McCarten believed the Alliance and the Māori Party were compatible, and that they should not regard each other as rivals, but this view was not shared by the members of either group. McCarten chose to leave the Alliance to focus on the Māori Party.[3]

In early 2005, however, McCarten ended his association with the Māori Party as well, amid reports that he wanted to found a new working-class based party. In early 2005 Matt McCarten gained a mandate from the Unite Union to take its leadership as secretary. Since then the Unite Union has won significant victories organising workers in New Zealand's secondary labour market ("the working poor"). Its most significant victory came out of the "" campaign, in which it negotiated a collective agreement covering the 7,000 employees of Restaurant Brands Ltd (Starbucks, KFC and Pizza Hutt). It continues to expand its coverage of low-paid workers in the fast-food, call-centre, security, hotel and hospitality industries, particularly in Auckland.

On 27 October 2010 McCarten announced he would stand as an independent candidate for Parliament in the Mana by-election caused by Winnie Laban resigning as an MP.[4]

In April 2011, McCarten was appointed "interim" chair of Hone Harawira's new 'Mana Party'. However, it appears McCarten's role is more akin to an advisor than a "Chair" in the ordinary sense of the word.[5] McCarten has previously distanced himself from attempts to forge a new Left Wing party in New Zealand.

In July 2011, it was reported that the Inland Revenue Department ("IRD") was chasing Unite Support Services Limited for $150,175 in unpaid taxes.[6] Unite Support Services Limited was placed into liquidation on 17 June 2011 following a winding-up application brought by IRD. Based on a report filed by the Official Assignee, there appear to be no realisable assets and creditor claims totalling around $153,000, including around $97,000 owing to IRD.

It was announced in February 2014 that McCarten would become the "chief of staff" for the David Cunliffe led Labour party.[7] He continues as chief of staff for new Labour leader, Andrew Little. In August 2016 he left that role. [2]

Political viewsEdit

Social justiceEdit

McCarten has an interest in New Left and socialist views, calling into question capitalism and the Establishment.[8]


McCarten has expressed strong criticism of the state of Israel and has publicly declared that Israel is "a terrorist state". In January 2008, McCarten wrote (in a column in The New Zealand Herald) that:

The truth is Israel is a terrorist state and is able to wage crimes on an innocent people because it is funded and abetted by the world's only superpower. Watching the television images of the Palestinians breaking through to freedom surely must make everyone in the world realise we are being sold a great lie about Israel wanting to negotiate peace.[9]

In response to this article, Israel's Ambassador to Australia and non-resident Ambassador to New Zealand, Yuval Rotem, sharply criticized McCarten and accused him of "blunt anti-Israel sentiment which is a camouflage for anti-Semitism".[10]

Comparing the situation of Gaza with that of the Warsaw Ghetto in occupied Poland, McCarten has also suggested the next move of Israeli leaders could be "to follow the example of the Nazis who in the end massacred everyone".[9]

McCarten reportedly[citation needed] garnered some criticism in January 2009 when, as weekly columnist for The New Zealand Herald, he accused Israel of ordering its soldiers to "slaughter and mutilate hundreds of citizens trapped on the Gaza Strip." McCarten also wrote, "The Nazis used a similar policy during World War II in their occupied territories. The Israelis are getting the same results the Nazis got – their victims increase their hatred and determination to seek revenge." McCarten further stated Israeli politicians' "prattling about the need to kill and maim thousands of citizens in their campaign for democracy and peace against barbarism would be comical, if it wasn't so outrageous".[11][12]


  1. ^ Sheppard, Simon (1999). Broken Circle: The Decline and Fall of the Fourth Labour Government. Wellington: PSL Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 0-9582063-1-7.
  2. ^ Watkins, Tracey (1 December 2003). "McCarten takes the helm". The Dominion Post. p. 7.
  3. ^ Bain, Helen (28 November 2004). "Alliance party nearing end". Sunday Star Times. p. A9.
  4. ^ "Matt McCarten to stand in Mana". The New Zealand Herald. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  5. ^ "Harawira's party set to benefit Labour – former MP". One News. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  6. ^ Paul Mcbeth (26 July 2011). "IRD chasing Matt McCarten company". Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ McCarten, Matt. "all Matt's columns". Unite website. Unite Union. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  9. ^ a b McCarten, Matt (27 January 2008). "Matt McCarten: West stands by while a whole population is illegally jailed". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  10. ^ Rotem, Yuval (3 February 2008). "Yuval Rotem: Try wearing Israeli shoes". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  11. ^ Australians rally against Israel Archived 1 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), 4 January 2009.
  12. ^ McCarten, Matt (4 January 2009). "Matt McCarten: Palestinians' fight is a struggle against 'apartheid'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 October 2011.

Further readingEdit

  • Matt McCarten and Cathy Casey (2002), Rebel in the Ranks.