Pike River

What was Andrew Little’s role in Pike River?

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George commented last night:

Could you ever imagine John Key making such a childish statement when debating the recovery of the Pike River miners? Andrew Little at his contemptuous best. “Just this week, Mr Key sent Nick Smith to threaten the Pike families with arrest if they try to stop Solid Energy entombing their loved ones”. what a bonehead! It is statements like that which endorses the commonly held belief that he does not have the dignity, decorum or intelligence to lead the country. Whilst this braindead statement is a figment of his unionist imagination, the more disturbing aspect of this uttering is his belief that it will generate political capital. This is clear evidence how out of touch he is with the common decency of the average Kiwi.

Whilst we are on the issue of Pike River might I take the liberty to remind you Andrew of a few small details. At the time of the 2010 explosion you were head of the EPMU which represented approximately half of the 140 miners on the site. You said there had been no problems at Pike River Coal and defended its safety record. (21 Nov 2010 Morning Report RNZ) and (NZH 22 Nov). The question that needs to be answered is why you sat on your hands when members of your union had expressed concerns about the safety of the mine?   Read more »

After Labour goes all in over Pike River the facts emerge

Labour has gone all in over Pike River trying to get a hit on John Key.

Yet again though they haven’t done their homework and after claiming it was safe to go get the charred remains (if any) the facts about the mine have emerged.

In a strongly worded statement released earlier today, Solid Energy hit out at “inaccurate and misleading statements in the media“, saying they were feeding “false hope”.

“It is disingenuous and, frankly, deeply disappointing for commentators who lack the full information base on which this decision was made – and who bear no legal responsibility for the outcomes of the re-entry project – to once again raise hopes regarding re-entry,” the statement said.

The company said its decision was based on an exhaustive investigation into the feasibility of safe re-entry and was backed by the independent expertise of Emeritus Professor Jim Galvin – a professor of mining engineering at the University of New South Wales and an internationally recognised expert in underground coal mining risk management.   Read more »

Karl du Fresne on Woodhouse’s stupidity

The health & safety law was pushed through parliament last week in all its glory as we found out worm farming and lavender farming were categorised as high risk.

Karl du Fresne analyses the ineptitude from not only the minister but also the opposition, media and the unions.

You could understand why unions felt betrayed by the government’s back-pedalling, but that was a wild overstatement.

Certainly the bill was weakened, especially when you consider that 97 per cent of workplaces employ fewer than 20 people. But the majority of those workplaces are not high-risk, so the outcry was a bit theatrical. So was the carefully orchestrated presence at Parliament of widows and families bereaved by workplace accidents.

It was only to be expected that the unions would extract maximum leverage from the situation. After all, they don’t get many opportunities these days to put runs on the board. But there were moments when I felt those widows and families were too blatantly being used in pursuit of a political agenda.

As Workplace Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse pointed out, larger workplaces – which, although relatively few in number, employ 75 per cent of the labour force – will still be subject to the requirement to have elected health and safety representatives. And all the other provisions of the legislation will still apply to smaller workplaces, so they’re not “off the hook”, in the minister’s words.

Read more »

Is Andrea Vance miffed she wasn’t invited on the helicopter?

Andrea Vance has her knickers in a bunch over the use of a helicopter by Nick Smith to take some of the family members of Pike River victims to…and here’s the kicker…places that can only be reached by…yes your guessed…helicopter.

No-one is objecting to the source of funds.

Bernie Monk not only says its ok, he says it’s necessary

Andrea Vance needs to report what the news is, not what she would rather it was.

Cabinet minister Nick Smith has chartered another helicopter for television cameras – this time using tax-payer cash set aside for the families of the Pike River victims.

Last year Smith used $6344 of Department of Conservation money to send up a chopper for a photo opportunity with ministers Peter Dunne and Te Ururoa Flavell.

Today he was back on the West Coast for a press conference about the future of the Pike River mine site.

Families of the victims want a walking track and visitor centre to mark the place where 29 men died in 2010.   Read more »

The hypocrisy of Andrea Vance

Andrea Vance was at great pains to keep her door swipe card data private, she also refused to cough up texts and phone records between her and a minister.

But now in true typical media and left-wing hypocrisy she is demanding the PM coughs up his texts.

In the vaults of Archives New Zealand lies a unique collection of several thousand fading letters, photographs and papers. The Nash Collection offers a window into a world gone by.

Former prime minister Sir Walter Nash became involved in local politics from his arrival in Wellington in 1909. His personal papers are a treasure trove of information about World War II, the birth of the New Zealand Labour Party, as well as every noteworthy issue of the day.

Without them, a hole would exist in the nation’s historical record.

From the same building, chief archivist Marilyn Little will soon start an investigation into the deletion of Prime Minister John Key’s text messages.

Her inquiry stems from a request by the Green Party. It is a spot of political point-scoring, exploiting Key’s embarrassing friendship with hit-job blogger Cameron Slater. But politicking aside, the investigation is truly important.

In the age of the spin doctor, we now rarely know what a politician really thinks. Their response to a crisis is packaged up into palatable soundbites for news bulletins. Biographies, sympathetically penned by acolytes and admirers, have become another election campaign weapon.   Read more »

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.

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