Pike River

Labour’s attempt to sabotage Key’s security speech (#FAIL)

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Two minutes before John Key started his speech, this was “BREAKING NEWS”

Solid Energy is poised to walk away from the Pike River mine re-entry, the MP for West Coast Tasman claims.

This morning Labour’s Damien O’Connor said he believed Solid Energy was about to “walk away from all responsibility” for the mine. Read more »

Armstrong on Labour’s little shop of horrors

John Armstrong examines why it is that Labour is so out of touch.

Is brand “Labour” depreciating so rapidly in electoral value that the party’s long-term future is now in serious jeopardy? This week’s hostilities both outside and inside the Labour caucus weren’t just about the post-election future of David Cunliffe or, to be exact, the lack thereof.

It was another exchange of volleys from Labour’s parliamentary wing fired in the direction of the wider party’s left faction, who take very strong exception to the caucus pressuring Cunliffe to give up the leadership.

But Labour’s really serious underlying problems run a lot deeper than that. A decade or so ago, Labour was still seemingly indestructible. Over preceding years, Labour regularly suffered from mass desertion by voters and was consequently written off, only to recover Phoenix-like within a relatively short period of time, such was the two-party monopoly under a first-past-the-post electoral system.

Labour’s present parlous state is unprecedented, however. Much has been made of last Saturday’s capture by the party of a paltry 24.7 per cent of the party vote as being Labour’s worst result since 1922.

Indeed, that is the case. But it’s only half the story. In 1922, Labour was a new political movement on the way up, not a tiring one with distinct signs of being on the way down.

Labour have forgotten their brand.

Josie Pagani regularly points out that Labour used to support the working voter.

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Now it seems they support the luvvies, the indigent and the criminal classes.

Labour ever more resembles a classic 1950s-style department store selling a broad range of general merchandise, but not stocking the specialist goods its declining number of customers actually want to buy.

In trying to satisfy everyone, the store is pleasing no one. Shoppers are instead getting what they want from smaller, more flexible competitors enjoying a deregulated market.

To make matters worse, the store’s staff keep ordering outdated or hard-to-sell items liked by only a few very elderly browsers and people from ethnic groups. Meanwhile, faulty market research has the store’s management targeting a clientele which no longer exists.

Yet, another far more modern department store across the road is raking in the cash like never before. That is because John Key and National know what their market likes. Labour believes in supplying goods that its customers ought to like for their own good – and is then surprised when they reject them.

Read more »

Pike River 29 – leave them in peace

The revelation the Pike River mine has been safe to enter for some time isn’t the same as the mine being able to be entered easily to remove the remains of the 29 miners that perished.   If the mine is ever opened commercially, I believe the removal should be mandatory.  Until then, this NZ Herald editorial explains a reasonable alternative.

All things considered, it would have been kinder to their families to have sealed the mine soon after the second explosion and declared it to be a grave. There was never much prospect of the mine reopening even when state-owned Solid Energy took it over. The nearby Strongman mine has never allowed re-entry to shafts where an explosion killed 19 miners in 1967. But nobody has wanted to dispel the hopes constantly expressed by Bernie Monk, spokesman for the Pike River victims’ families, and Greymouth Mayor Tony Kokshoorn.

The Government has come as close as it dares to dashing the hope. The day the Prime Minister conditionally committed $10 million to the re-entry plan he said the chances of reaching the main working were remote. “The advice I have received is that it is very unlikely that the High Hazards Unit would deem it to be safe,” he said. Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges doubted anything would be found beyond the rockfall. “There’s been fires, there’s been floods, there’s been explosions, so it has been and probably still is a very unstable environment.” Read more »

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Andrew Little and EPMU seriously criticised by the Left

From the The Owl

We all wish and hope that bodies can be recovered or at least closure is gained for the families of the Pike River mine.

A number of editorials and opinion writers for MSM have suggested as soon as the report into the Pike River tragedy was released the “blame game” would begin.

Having read as many reports as possible it is the left wing blogger Steve Cowan with his article on “Against the Current” which is absolutely superb.

The parties involved have all put their hands up and in lay men’s terms have said “we have had a part to play in the disaster”. Prime Minister John Key, Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson, David Shearer on behalf of previous Labour Governments and the list goes on.

However as Steve Cowan writes, the EPMU had a golden opportunity under Andrew Little’s leadership to raise concerns about the mine and health and safety within the mining industry. If his analysis is right and it is a very well researched piece he squarely puts part of the blame on “modern unionism”.

The focus must remain on the findings on the report, implementation of measures suggested without political tinkering and closure for the Pike River families. Accordingly Steve Cowan suggests that the EPMU, Andrew Little and Damian O’Connor should also look very seriously at their roles.

Observation by the Owl

For the followers of the Owl my mandate is to always apologise if what I have written is wrong.

Sometimes that takes guts and Steve Cowan piece has really got me thinking.

The words “modern unionism” means what? I don’t know what that means but what I do know is that people within the union have used their unions to build profiles and enter such domains as parliament.

The 20% voting shifty pulled by the Unions for the future appointment of any Labour Leader shows again how agendas can destroy institutions.

New Zealand needs strong governments and equally needs strong opposition – we can all handle a good debate but leadership on either side of the house also needs to exercise “humility”. Empathy for others.

As I heard recently on a radio show when the talk back hosts was criticising the 7% unemployment rate, the astute co-host said – that’s great 93% are employed in New Zealand.

Andrew Little comment in parliament this week when he said that “there was no business leadership in this country” reminded me how much our politicians are out of touch with reality.

Every morning, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders wake up each day and go open their workshops, businesses and work on innovations and design to satisfy their needs of their workers, clients and families – not to satisfy unions or politicians.

Steve Cowan, the unions didn’t kill the workers, nor did the government – a whole lot of personal and ideological agendas did over a very long time.

Chris Trotter on Pike River

Chris Trotter is holding Labour accountable for Pike River, much more so than National:

[T]his column is written from the Left, so my focus will be on the party of the workers; the party whose founders came from the West Coast pits around Blackball; the party of the coalminers’ trade unions; the party which for nine long years did nothing to prevent the tragedy which, in such a criminally deregulated environment, was only ever a matter of time.

Labour took control of New Zealand’s state apparatus on November 27, 1999, and relinquished it on November 8, 2008.

During that time three Labour MPs held the labour portfolio: Margaret Wilson (1999-2004), Ruth Dyson (2005-07) and Trevor Mallard (2007-08).

All three of these politicians came into Parliament with strong Left-wing credentials.

And all of them, I’m sure, wanted to do only good things for the people they represented.

How, then, are we to explain their inaction? Their failure to impose a state-of-the-art health and safety regime on New Zealand’s coalmining industry?

Trevor Mallard isn’t too happy about that either…but Trotter goes on.

Throughout the 19th century, the dangers facing workers underground and the disasters which so regularly took their lives provided a powerful moral impetus for labour movements all over the world – including New Zealand’s.

In 2007, workers’ safety campaigner Hazel Armstrong wrote: “The 1890s’ West Coast coalfields have been evocatively described as a ‘slough of despond’.

“They were notoriously hazardous working environments: ‘There’s always blood on the coal’, miners said.”

It’s why the story of Paddy Webb’s 1908 fight for the Blackball miners’ rights became as ingrained as coal-dust in the political memory of Labour Party people.

How could three successive Labour ministers have forgotten so much?

Two of them are still in parliament, perhaps they might to atone by resigning?

There was no appetite in the Clark-led Labour Government for a return to the “heavy-handed” regulations of the past. As the source of rational behaviour, the market was still considered uniquely capable of regulating itself.

Tragically, it has taken the Pike River disaster to expose the fatal falsity of that belief.

Following the royal commission report’s release, Labour leader David Shearer was asked if he thought the deregulatory pendulum had swung too far. He responded by saying that, “the Government needs to be much more hands-on than it has been”.

It is to be hoped that these words reflect a genuine change of heart on Labour’s part, and that the next time they’re in office, Labour politicians will not hesitate to prevent the private sector’s “drive for production” (and profits) from pushing workers’ rights to effective workplace protection off the agenda.

Because if there’s “blood on the coal” at Pike River, Labour helped to put it there.

If anyone is responsible then it falls to Helen Clark and her ministers, from the Labour ministers listed above to the Conservation minister who cared more about two Blue Ducks than 29 miners lives.

Sledge of the Day

As Labour seeks to play politics with Pike River, John Key helpfully reminds Trevor Mallard that he was the Minister of Labour right before Kate Wilkinson.

Pressure on Comrade Kate

Comrade Kate is facing increased pressure to do a proper resignation, from all her positions:

Praise for Kate Wilkinson’s decision to quit as labour minister over the Pike River disaster has quickly turned sour, with pressure building on her to resign from the Cabinet altogether.

Within minutes of the publication of findings by a royal commission that the Labour Department contributed to the deaths of 29 miners by not closing down unsafe operations at Pike River, the MP for Waimakariri fell on her sword.

After initial admiration from West Coast-based Opposition MPs, questions were raised yesterday about why she remained in the Cabinet on a $250,000-plus salary.

Before publishing the commission’s report, the Government spent six days trawling through paperwork before Prime Minister John Key announced that none of Ms Wilkinson’s “actions or inactions” made her “culpable”.

But yesterday Labour’s industrial relations spokeswoman, Darien Fenton, called for her to step down from her remaining portfolios which include conservation.

Asked yesterday if she was going to resign from the Cabinet, an emotional Ms Wilkinson replied: “What else have I . . . what have I done wrong?”

Well there is quite long list on that…especially in Conservation, but that is for another day.

The problem Labour has in pushing for her total resignation (hey are bitter that she stole their thunder) is twofold. First, if she had to quit all posts then there really is no real reason to stick around and so would probably throw her toys and quit parliament altogether forcing a by-election which National would lose, thus ending the government. Second, the focus would then also be drawn to forcing Labour’s responsible former ministers to likewise quit.

Fortunately for Kate Wilkinson she has the double insulation of those reasons protecting her from too much pressure.

John Armstrong nearly asks the right question

John Armstrong makes an interesting observation and nearly asks the right question:

In its most damning criticism, the Commission says Wilkinson’s department should have prohibited Pike from operating the mine until its health and safety systems were adequate.

Given the mine opened in November 2008 – just a month before Wilkinson became Minister of Labour – there would have been demands for her resignation as her department’s woeful performance happened on her watch.

 It opened in the same month that National was elected. That means that previous ministers were responsible for the commissioning of the mine and the work to get it operational along with all the consents.

Farrar has gone all soft on this:

The Minister, when it did start operating, was Trevor Mallard – not Kate Wilkinson.

Now I say this not do do a blame game. I don’t think either Mallard or Wilkinson are to blame.

Chris Carter consented the mine with all of the silly provisions that ultimately led to the disaster, but Trevor Mallard and Ruth Dyson before him were the ministers responsible for the safety aspects during the construction of the mine.

If as Armstrong contends that the mine should never have opened, then it stands to reason that those most responsible for it being in a position to open should be held accountable like Kate Wilkinson.

If David Shearer is true to his word that Labour must share the blame, then he too must hold those in Labour who were responsible accountable. They cannot resign ministerial portfolios but they can resign from parliament. It is the right thing to do.

Should More Heads Roll?

I’ve spent some time yesterday, in between editing pages for my first issue of Truth, reading though the report on Pike River.

It’s not pretty reading for anyone. Unsurprisingly Kate Wilkinson fell on her sword…the accident happened on her watch.

However I’m really surprised by the void that appears to exist between consent (1997) and then its opening in November 2008.

There’s lots about the greenie protests and the agreements with DOC, including the award and praise given by Chris Carter.

But what was the Labour Department doing between 1999 and 2008 and who was the Minister?

Margaret Wilson 1999 – 2004

Ruth Dyson 2005 -07

Trevor Mallard 2007 – 08

And now I see Labour accepting some blame? Hannah Lynch from Newsroom reports:

Labour leader David Shearer says his party is prepared to share the blame for the Pike River coal mining disaster after the Royal Commission of Inquiry found the mining company put production before safety and the former Department of Labour should have shut the mine down.
The commission’s report was released to the public this afternoon after being presented to the families of the 29 miners killed following a series of explosions in November 2010. Their bodies remain trapped in the mine.
“If there is any portion of blame towards us during our term in office we have to accept that,” Mr Shearer told reporters.
“We stand by the fact that if there was any fault during our term of office we would also have to acknowledge that as well.”

Will Trevor and Ruth resign too? Have they the courage that Kate Wilkinson and National have shown?

Some how I doubt it.

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The Huddle at 1740

I am on The Huddle tonight with Larry Williams, and my new columnist Josie Pagani.

We will be talking about:

  • Pike River and Comrade Kate’s resignation
  • The MMP review
  • The US elections if there is time

You can listen through usual channels or online.

As usual I will post audio tomorrow morning.