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Another deregulation fiasco

Written By: - Date published: 7:28 am, July 14th, 2011 - 36 comments
Categories: disaster, Mining - Tags: ,

The right wing of politics likes to moan and wail about all forms of “red tape” and regulation. History frequently shows them to be fools.  It’s not always easy finding the balance, but a healthy dose of sensible regulation is essential for the smooth running of our complex economies and societies.  Deregulate, and all that is left is the short term profit motive.

Major case in point, the recent global financial crisis, which had its origins in the deregulation of the American financial markets.  For the New Zealand example which is going to be a crippling drain on our economy, the $22 Billion leaky homes disaster, a legacy of the last National government’s deregulation of building industry codes.  And how’s that deregulated electricity industry working out?  Is competition lowering your bills?  No, mine neither.

Now deregulation is being identified as the underlying cause of the Pike River disaster.  This has already been commented on in the international media: “A DECISION to relax mining regulations a decade ago has put the New Zealand government in the firing line ahead of a royal commission of inquiry into the collapsed Pike River mine”.  Testimony at the inquiry yesterday further strengthened this claim:

Safety changes led to Pike River explosion

The explosion that ripped through Pike River mine last year had its origin in changes to mining regulations in the 1990s, a former chief inspector of coal mines told the Royal Commission into the tragedy today.

The commission is inquiring into the disaster at the West Coast coal mine in November last year which left 29 miners and contractors dead.

Giving evidence this morning, former chief inspector of coal mines Robin Hughes, who has over 40 years of coal mining experience, criticised mine safety changes made by the National Government in the 1990s.

“The explosion at Pike River mine..had its origins in the repealing of the Coal Mining Act and regulations in 1993,” Mr Hughes said.

“The unwillingness of government officials up to and including the Prime Minister of the day to act on advice offered by a number of individuals resulted in the loss of a robust coal mines inspectorate, staffed by the most experienced and skilled personnel available.

Remember this the next time we hear rhetoric about “streamlining” regulations (such as the RMA), or “cutting through red tape”.  In most cases that red tape is there for a good reason. Cutting through it might make things seem easier for a while.  It might make someone a bit of money.  But further down the line, when the true costs come to light, long after the people who made the stupid decisions are gone, somebody else has to pick up the bill.  And sometimes the cost is high.

RIP Pike River miners.

36 comments on “Another deregulation fiasco”

  1. vto 1

    Agree 100% mr r0bin (is that you r0b?).

    What I would like to see, subject to any findings to counter this accusation and reality, is that the Minister involved in this deregulation, no matter where he/she is today, standing up and accepting responsibility for this act and acknowledging its failure and resultant killings.

    Like a big strong fully matured human being.

    I actually cannot remember the last time one of our politicians admitted such a thing. Shallow weak weasels that they are when the chips are down. Spineless.

    Let’s watch and see.

    • r0b 1.1

      is that you r0b?

      Yes, that’s me.

      • vto 1.1.1

        aha, fancy that. And to think I thought once that you were Helen Clark, ha ha ha.

        Anyways, free market deregulation and self-imposed disciplines resulted also in an emergency phone line being connected to an answer phone no less.

        Who put that in place? What is the person’s name? And how did they expect it would work if the mine blew up? The stuck miners just wait around until some call centre in India gets back to them?

        Look forward to the answers to those questions….

        Pike River, the final exemplar of all that has failed with right wing free market deregulation. Shame.

        • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1

          Different but related.

          Lessons from the space shuttle Challenger incident.

          http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/may2003/chal-m06.shtml

          The initial phase of the inquiry into the Feb. 1destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia reveals the systematic erosion of safety standards in the space program and the enormous strains on the space agency resulting from its subordination to commercial interests and the Pentagon.

          There is a common pattern: standards and quality of decision making is a allowed to slip. Nothing “bad” immediately happens, so despite people raising problems with ‘theoretical’ risks bosses think that things must be ‘OK’.

          Standards and quality of decision making is allowed to slip further. Again nothing ‘bad’ happens. The usual naysayers whine about ‘theoretical’ risks but bosses think, no problems have actually arisen so things must still be ‘OK’.

          This goes on for a while.

          And then the the whole fraking blows up, killing people.

        • Swampy 1.1.1.2

          Should wait to see whether the answer phone was because every phone was in use already

    • Agreed VTO.
       
      What is especially bad is for the current Minister to refuse to do anything while awaiting the royal commission report.  It could take over a year.  It seems abundantly clear that there is a flaw with the system now. 
       
      Crossing her fingers and hoping should not be an option.
       
       
       
       

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        If there are further mining deaths during this one year, the current Minister’s head will have to roll down the steps of Parliament, then be placed upon a pike at the gates for a month.

    • mik e 1.3

      YEAH right the party of personal responsibility. Could someone tell me the minister in charge at the time of deregulation in1991 and the minister who canceled mining inspectors 97-98

    • prism 1.4

      Some top dignitaries resigned in Cyprus as a result of a big explosion that killed an army chief among others. I wonder what would shame any of our smug pollies from resigning?

  2. randal 2

    leaky homes,banged up mines. all this stuff is the result of the National party and its backers pushing the neo-con line that somehow in this stage of civilisation we can regulate ourselves.
    well you can bloody well pull the other one.
    the buggers are just getting greedier and greedier and trying every trick they know to abate the effects of regulation just so as they can have more money.
    you should have seen bill english promoting the same line of bullshit on teevee last night.

    • prism 2.1

      The ultimate in efficiency for mine owners and employers, is for the workers to make their working conditions safe themselves and be paid on production at a rate that is adjusted to the price of market demand. Emile Zola covered that real situation earlier in the 19th? century.

      I heard on Radionz that the surviving miners tried to call for help and the phone was manned by an answerphone machine – voicemail. If they could have started a siren it would have helped. But the batteries would have run down or been ‘borrowed’ by workers and with no-one paid to check for working order, even this simple and useful device would not have been available either.

  3. prism 3

    The results of deregulation and disaster? – Being Right means never having to say you’re Sorry.

    • Roflcopter 3.1

      Being Left means spending 9 years not rectifying the situation.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        It takes time to determine what the previous 9 years of National governments truly fucked up, determine what should be done to fix those fuck ups and then to enact the legislation. In fact, it always takes longer to fix the fuck up than it does to make the fuck up in the first place.

        National fucked up, the Left were getting around to fixing it when they were voted out and now NAct are fucking things up again. Normal cycle really.

        • RedLogix 3.1.1.1

          Agree totally DtB.

          What’s becoming really apparent is how EASY it is to: sell assets, de-regulate, slash the public sector….and how HARD it is to put things right again.

          There is in life a strong assymetry between creating things and destroying them. And that alone tells me something deeply fundamental about NACT ideology.

          • vto 3.1.1.1.1

            It’s not that hard to put things back mr illogix, you just legislate for it. Like everythhing else.

            • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Actually, it is especially if a law was changed some time ago as other laws would have been changed to take that law into account. So, not only do you have to change that one law but you also have to go through all the legislation to see what other laws will need to be changed as well.

              Then it may not be just a matter of repealing the law either. The law that you’re looking at may be a total fuck up overall but it may also have brought in some beneficial effects which you want to keep so you have to design the new legislation to take that into account.

              “…just legislate”, pft, that’s what NAct do and why it takes the left so long after they get back into power to fix the RWNJs fuck ups.

        • Swampy 3.1.1.2

          Labour didn’t fix anything. They haven’t changed the fundamentals of the HSE act, just a few tokens like HSE comittees in workplaces. There obviously needs to be a lot more and I wonder whether the Labour Party was really on top of the mining safety issue since Little said he didn’t know of any problems at Pike River.

      • vto 3.1.2

        Well yes mr copter there is some culpability resting with Clark’s regime too. Clearly.

        However imo the vast majority rests with the Minister and govt who deregulated the necessary regulations. Resulting in 29 people being killed.

        Apology and resignation due.

        Agreed?

        • Swampy 3.1.2.1

          Not in office now. They lost the election in 1999.

          You can’t hold Key’s government responsible any more than Clark’s.

      • mik e 3.1.3

        Thats not true with leaky buildings flashings, air gaps, mono cladding, were changed in 2003 also private inspectors were canned after an enquiry also inspections were increased. a mining enquiry was set up in 2007 after many complaints about mining safety, that was canceled by Gerry Brownlee 2 months after taking office 2009 ! aye Roflcopter .

        • Swampy 3.1.3.1

          I have looked for where there was any review.

          There is this press release which talks about mineral regulations

          http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/minerals-reviews-combined

          If course we now know the regulations for mining safety are pretty toothless.

          NZ needs to move into something like joint safety regime with Australia or a whole huge review of HSE legislation. Labour needs to start campaigning and come up with HSE policy to take the initiative on the massive workplace safety regime.

  4. prism 4

    Roflcopter – Trouble is this infiltration thing. The Left got infiltrated by the Right and steam-rolled almost out of existence. Sir Rodger was knighted for it. Some of the unions needed to be controlled from continually going on strike, so that and a few other things created problems which were presented as a crisis.

    The Left split, lost their way leaving the road open to the Right neo-lib tsunami. Those leave a lot of shattered stuff. It takes years of hard work, determination and a clear-thinking NZ committed electorate behind them to do it. Labour made some changes – I wish they could have made more.

  5. red blooded 5

    This might be going off on a tangent a bit, but it’s the same general issue (‘red tape’ vs ‘deregulation’): the last Nat govt cut all requirements for teachers to be registered, or even qualified. They said schools should be able to make their own free choice about who to hire. Of course, the fact that they were also pushing bulk-funding, so that it was in schools’ best interests to hire un(or under-) qualified teachers (so that they could hire more, or could spend the money saved on meeting other costs) was part of the same mind-set.

    The Labour government of Helen Clarke had to reinstate the requirement for training and reconfigure a registration system (set up under the specially set-up Teachers’ Council). They were then left with a significant problem: what to do with the people who had been hired without qualifications or training – how to get them up to the required standard for registration. It left schools (and the PPTA) with a real headache, and in the meantime of course significant numbers of students had been taught by un(or under-)qualified people. Some may have been naturally talented teachers, but there was no way of knowing this for sure and their subject skills often needed support from their colleagues.

    Some freedom. I’m wondering how many politicians from the government who scrapped the requirements would have wanted their kids taught by people hired off the street. 

     

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      The freedom the nATs want is for privateers and corporations to do as they please.

      Its corporatist freedom.

  6. RedLogix 6

    A good source tells me that he fully expects criminal charges to fall out of at least one of the investigations.

    And at some point in the next few months the Opposition has the golden opportunity to challenge National to repudiate this failed de-regulation ideology or challenge them to take responsibility for it’s now self-evident consequences.

    Building de-regulation.. costing the nation something in the order of $20-30 BILLION.

    Mining de-regulation.. costing the nation one of it’s worst industrial disasters. (I can’t bring myself to use the word ‘accident’. It wasn’t.)

    • Swampy 6.1

      We don’t kniow that for sure as yet.

      For example Bell gave his evidence, yet he was not involved with the mine after a certain time frame, so actually there is a big hole that any half competent lawyer could drive a truck through, where he did not have direct knowledge of what was happening in the mine.

  7. In the light that the safety of the mine was in question and the Pike River company was warned of impending disaster: An avoidable disaster

    Also in the light that the safty of the mine was compromised due to the laxing of the regulations; CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE !!!!!!! AND HEADS SHOULD ROLL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Swampy 7.1

      The company will most certainly be prosecuted as already even in the first day or so of evidence there was plenty come out and still more to come. hopefully it will not take long after the first hearings for charges to be laid.

  8. vto 8

    This is the biggest story and people don’t even realice. I’m going to sleep now. Hooroo.

  9. Pascal's bookie 9

    Big ups are due to west coaster Green MP Kevin Hague who is going great guns on this stuff. Bit mystified as to the comparative quiet from labour to be honest.

    Anyone would think that a certain mp would be trying to retake the seat, but he’s being completely outclassed by someone who, if he was in Labour, he would have described as being part of ‘gaggle’. Ironic lulz aside, point being, Kevin Hague is class act. Real fucking deal.

    • Swampy 9.1

      Note its just the Greens trying to make political capital out of it when the Royal Commission is the non political forum which everyone knows is where we are going to ge the truth instead of a fringe small party grandstanding.

  10. mik e 10

    Kevin Hague supporters on the coast should split their votes for o,conner electorate green list maximize vote . its a pity it seems only National & Maori know how to maximize their vote

  11. Swampy 11

    Yes it is, and I hope the Act party people that were behin the law changes Ruth Richardson etc and all the other Sct idiots which was in the National government when the HSE Act was passed dont get back into Parlamnet at the next election.

    and maybe we need to have a real good lock at what the Health sand Safety Legislation is about and wehrther it really works like its spose to.

  12. flossie 12

    Ho Hum. It’s all bullshit. The blameworthy will get off Scot-free (hahah no pun intended, and the innocent will be proved guilty – as per usual). The RCOI is a government led inquiry after all and the evidence starts off all about how Pike River Mine was negligent etc, etc., next week it will turn to the evidence of Pike which will blame the men (no, really?) and will exonerate them (Pike) from all blame (no, really?) and we will be no further forwards until some brave soul takes the lead and announces that Pike were negligent in their duty of care to their employees, and lo and behold, we have someone to blame – at last! No joke! Pray that this will make change for future & current NZ miners, coz that’s about all it will do. Gee, thanks those of you giving evidence after the fact – before, it might have saved lives. My brother died at the hands of negligence – someone’s – that’s a fact. This is all shit. My brother was killed because of someone’s negligence and as sad as it may seem – I think they should pay. I am sick of being an apologist. For feeling guilty because he died and I might have to blame someone eventually. For the people who say -“get over it!”. I am not over it, and I never will be and I never want to be – as long as shit practices for the sake of finances keep on going. My brother was a good and decent man – an oil rig worker who knew and was expertly trained in safety. If only… a great statement in hindsight. He was leaving in December because he thought Pike was utter crap. How right he was!

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