A miner crawls out of a mine explosion, gets to an emergency station and finds it’s empty. It was decommissioned but the workers were never told.
Meanwhile nobody outside realises there’s been an explosion until an electrician drives straight into the aftermath and only just manages to save himself from the deadly fumes. That would have been about twenty minutes after the blast – that’s some early warning system.
These stories and others that have come out of the Pike River inquiry are stories from the third world. But they happened here.
And they happened against a backdrop of cowboy capitalism and deregulation that has marked the last thirty years of New Zealand’s history.
A few months ago I heard Helen Kelly talk about Pike and about the Hobbit. She pointed out that the wanton disregard for workers’ safety at Pike is part of the same culture that saw our Prime Minister bend over backwards to take work rights off film workers when Warners came calling. That that culture is about a job being a privilege and about the belief that anyone that asks for more, be it more rights, more pay or simply a safer workplace is branded a troublemaker and a risk to business.
I know a lot of the media and most of the gallery have heard Kelly give this speech. She gave it at Labour’s conference, she gave it at the CTU conference, she’s given it elswhere. We published a variant of it here back in April.
But as far as I can tell none of the gallery believe this is a message that bears repeating. I think they believe it’s just another form of political rhetoric or perhaps it’s simply that they look down on anything that isn’t Clever Political Tactics.
Of course these are the same people that made a hero of Pike manager, Peter Whittall in the days following the blast. A man that made his workers dig a hole if they needed to shit.