David Cunliffe nailed John Key with a series of questions in Parliament today and I have never seen Key look so uncomfortable.
The questions neatly boxed Key into an indefensible position.
Key agreed that Pike River mine would have been illegal in Australia but did not accept that the Government had a legal obligation to pay out because of this.
He did not dispute the Government had through ACC and the NZ Superannuation fund received insurance payouts on behalf of Pike River Coal of $80 million, but made no comment about whether there was a moral obligation to ensure that the Pike River families received ordered compensation from this payout.
He declined to accept responsibility for regulatory failings.
The last question from Cunliffe was the coup de grace.
He asked if Key had thought about whether or not he had a legal obligation before paying $30 million to Rio Tinto, or before considering paying $400 million in subsidies to Chorus and if he does not have a legal obligation to those two companies then why doesn’t he have a moral obligation to the families of the dead miners. Key could only respond weakly that the Government had not yet decided to pay anything to Chorus, and then accused Cunliffe of playing political games.
The actual answer is clear. This Government will hand out our assets and our resources to its corporate mates on request. But when it comes to fulfilling a moral obligation to compensate ordinary New Zealand families for the loss of their loved ones it stands behind legal niceties.