Some strong stuff from Labour’s spokesperson for Labour, Iain Lees-Galloway, in Question Time yesterday.
Those final supplementaries may have been disallowed, but they still demand an answer.
Transcript courtesy of Scoop:
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety : In the four and a half years since the Pike River disaster, how many New Zealanders have been killed or injured at work?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): In the period since 19 November 2010 there have been 228 workplace fatalities and 23,416 serious injuries notified to WorkSafe New Zealand.
Iain Lees-Galloway : Would passing stronger health and safety laws help prevent injuries like the following injuries that all happened to workers who worked for the same employer: Alister Doran, whose arm was sliced open while he was working at the Malvern freezing works, David Brine who suffered respiratory problems after being poisoned at the Malvern freezing works, Jason Matahiki who was impaled in the back of the head with a 10 centimetre hook, dragged along the chain like a carcass, and had to wait—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have got to take this opportunity of reminding the member of Standing Order 380: questions must be concise. I have allowed the member one or two examples, because I think that reinforces his simple question as to whether these accidents would have occurred if the law was stronger. But I cannot allow the member to carry on if he is going to carry on with the number of examples that he is giving. Bring the question to a conclusion.
Iain Lees-Galloway : If so, why are we still waiting for urgently needed improvements to health and safety law 4½ years after the Pike River mine disaster?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : To the extent that a very strong legislative framework is important in improving health and safety, yes. But laws alone will not prevent the types of deaths and injuries the member describes, any more than road rules prevent death and injury on the road. What will improve our health and safety record is changes in behaviour and attitude, and that is what I am promoting.
Iain Lees-Galloway : Do these horrific workplace injuries and the many thousands like them indicate to him that the Health and Safety Reform Bill needs to be weakened, as a faction of the National caucus would like to see happen, or strengthened, which is what the Labour Party wants?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : I do not accept the prefacing statement in that question. The bill will be returned to this House in an appropriate form to ensure significant improvements in the legislative framework for health and safety.
Barbara Stewart : What additional funding has been contributed by WorkSafe New Zealand to the new $500,000 rural mental health programme, considering that 169 farmers have committed suicide since 2008, compared with 112 agricultural occupational deaths, and if mental health is not a consideration for workplace relations and safety, why not?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : In relation to the first part of the question, of course, the taxpayer contributes that money—whatever the vehicle is through which it goes. I applaud the Minister for Primary Industries and the Minister of Health for that announcement earlier this week. In respect of the latter, yes indeed, it is. Positive mental health is important to good physical health at work.
Iain Lees-Galloway : Has the lobbying he has received from National Party MPs at the behest of employers with terrible safety records led him to agree to weaken the— [Health and Safety reform bill?]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! That question is simply out of order.
Iain Lees-Galloway : When he says he wants a balanced framework for workplace safety, does not that really mean that National is weighing Kiwis’ lives against the interests of his corporate allies; and how many meat hooks to the head will it take— [to keep Talley’s happy?]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! That question is also out of order.