One of the charges levelled at the previous government was that of running a “nanny state”. Of course the Nats are every bit as guilty in practice. In fact, more so, the Nats are far more inclined to use the bulldozing force of the state to do whatever the hell they like than any government since the Muldoon era.
A highly charged example of the Nats authoritarian character is playing itself out in Christchurch. Owners of businesses in the red zone CBD want brief access to their premises to retrieve items and data that are vital to whatever remaining chance they have of keeping their enterprises alive. Their frustration at being kept out, while any number of “VIPs” and journalists have been wandering about, has reached boiling point. They have been desperate enough to breach the cordon, and there have been angry meetings with John Carter and Civil Defence. The government is offering a $6.85 million dollar aid package, but business owners are very clear about what they really want:
Christchurch earthquake: Business owners slam aid package
Frustrated Christchurch business owners have slammed a multimillion-dollar Government assistance package, saying their only hope of saving their firms is to be allowed past the earthquake cordons.
Many who have businesses in the worst-affected CBD areas are still unable to access their premises a month on from the deadly quake. Civil Defence officials did not give a timeline at a private meeting yesterday.
“So we are still in limbo,” said Kishor Singh, who owns two buildings in the CBD’s earthquake “red zone”.
Government ministers yesterday reiterated that lives would not be risked to allow access to businesses.
This is not a simple issue. The government has a perfectly defensible position in arguing that safety is the paramount concern. It would be a tragedy if any more lives were lost. However the individual businesspeople also have a perfectly defensible position in arguing that the decision and the risk are theirs to take. It would be a tragedy to them if their life’s work and their livelihoods are taken away from them for the sake of what is, in the final analysis, a pretty low risk.
So there’s the rub. Right on both sides. But for myself I tend to the business owners. If each one was allowed one hour to access their premises and retrieve vital items, the risk is low. Can we not trust these mature individuals to give their informed consent to that risk? We risk our lives every time we step out of our front doors, drive on our roads, go in for surgery, ski, swim, tramp, climb, skydive, smoke, drink, or a host of other ordinary every day activities.
Complete intransigence from government is starting to look like a bunch of authoritarians a little bit too much in love with their own power. (If you have any doubt about the bossy, petty little power tripper instincts of the average Nat then check out DPF on this very issue.) Why not trust the people to make their own assessment of risks and needs, and put in place a well supervised process that is as safe as it can get? Hey Nanny — whatever happened to informed consent?