Continued from: National’s disdain for democracy and dissent
When things go horribly wrong – whether by accident or negligence – we expect mishaps to be investigated. If a mishap is due to the latter – someone stuffed up – we demand that those responsible be held to account.
This is what it looks like when people are held to account for their actions,
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Pacific Blue pilot fined, ordered to retrain
Acknowledgement: Waikato Times – Rena captain and officer jailed for 7 months
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Capital + Merchant’s directors face judge
This is what it looks like when no one – especially when in a position of authority – is held to account,
Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – No blame for Pike River tragedy
Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions
It simply beggers belief and defies understanding that a Minister of the Crown – Simon Bridges, to be specific – could utter words like this,
“At the time of Pike River there’s been serous systemic failures in the old Department of Labour, and as a health and safety regulator they were clearly dysfunctional and ineffectual.
But the problems were truly systematic and no one person was to blame.”
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Pike River report: Learn from tragedy – Minister
So how on Earth has Bill Birch – when he was Minister for Labour in the 1990s and was the architect of de-regulation of the mining sector – gotten off so lightly in the media?
For Birch to say,
“It raises the question of why weren’t they addressed if they were obvious deficiencies in the legislation – I don’t believe they were. I think systemic failure is more about people not putting the systems in place.”
– is a travesty of everything that decent New Zealanders believe in.
Basically, what this “gentlemen” is saying is that because we, as a country, were lucky enough to get away with no disaster in our mines up until the day that Pike River Mine exploded in a flash of explosive methane – that his “reforms” cannot in any way be blamed?!?!
How in gods’ name does that make any sense whatsoever?!
Why on Earth has the media not jumped all over this?!
The record of Birch’s “reforms” is readily available for those with the eyes to see, and the inclination to use those eyes.
As I wrote in an earlier blogpost on 29 October last year,
The gutting of the mines inspectorate and permitting self-regulation by mining companies, had it’s genesis in the early 1990s – again the Bolger-led National government – where Bill Birch introduced the so-called “Health and Safety in Employment Act”, in 1992.
Under the guise of “eliminating red tape”, this dangerous piece of legislation allowed mining companies to self-monitor their own activities,
“39. Prior to the enactment of the HSE Act, New Zealand had a ‘mishmash of legislation’, in which the duties of employers and others tended to be set out prescriptively and in considerable detail. Under this regime, specification standards directed duty holders as to precisely what preventive measures they must take in particular circumstances. Such standards identified inputs, telling duty holders how to meet a goal, rather than health and safety outcomes to be achieved…
42. In undertaking reform, New Zealand, like the UK and Australia before it, was strongly influenced by the British Robens Report of 1972. This report resulted in widespread legislative change, from the traditional, ‘command and control’ model, imposing detailed obligations on firms enforced by a state inspectorate, to a more ‘self-regulatory’ regime, using less direct means to achieve broad social goals…
46. New Zealand embraced the Robens philosophy of self-regulation somewhat belatedly, but with particular enthusiasm and in the context of a political environment that was strongly supportive of deregulation. Indeed, in various forms, deregulation (and reducing the regulatory burden on industry more broadly) was strongly endorsed by the Labour Government that came into power in 1984 and by the National Government that succeeded it in 1990. The HSE Act was a product of this deregulatory environment and in its initial version was stripped of some of the key measures recommended by Robens, not least tripartism, worker participation and an independent executive. It was regarded, so we were told, as a ‘necessary evil’ at a time when the predominant public policy goal was to enhance business competitiveness…”
The conclusion of this experiment in free market de-regulation lies deep within the Pike River Mine, with the entombed bodies of 29 dead miners.
Unfortunately, the architects of this de-regulation, Bill Birch Birch, Ruth Richardson, and Jim Bolger were never prosecuted for their part in this tragedy.
They should have been.
Of all the political Parties in Parliament, National holds itself up as the torch-bearer for “personal responsibility”. Their website is littered with references to being the Party of “personal responsibility (see: National’s Vision For New Zealand).
Where is the responsibility being shown here?
How can 29 people have been killed in a disaster that should never have been allowed to occur – and no one is responsible?
When ordinary people commit acts that endanger the lives of others, or even lead to death(s), the State is quick to hold the (alleged) perpetrators to account.
When acts of endangerments are committed, leading to death(s), and the State is involved – it appears that “no one person was to blame”.
It’s a “systemic” thing.
Well, to hell with that.
I hold the following to account for the deaths of 29 men at Pike River Mine,
- Bill Birch
- Jim Bolger
- the management of Pike River Mine
- and the CEOs of the Labour Department from 1992 to 19 November 2010
Every one of these people should be prosecuted for varying degrees of malfeasance leading to manslaughter.
Or else, maybe, we should all just break the law whenever we feel like it, and not be prosecuted?
We can say it’s a “systemic” thing.
Continued at: National’s disdain for our credulity
Previous related blogposts
Dominion Post: No blame for Pike River tragedy (11 April 2013)
Fairfax Media: Pike River report: Learn from tragedy – Minister (11 April 2013)
Radio NZ: Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions (11 April 2013)
Radio NZ: Lack of consquences over Pike disaster ‘unsatisfactory’ (13 April 2013)
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