Two faced John Key on Pike River

Written By: - Date published: 7:17 am, November 7th, 2012 - 53 comments
Categories: disaster, john key, making shit up, Mining - Tags: , ,

John Key says whatever it is convenient for him to say at the time. Usually he can keep track of his many faces well enough to avoid blatantly contradicting himself. But maybe the strain of his recent string of batshit behaviour is starting to tell, because he’s really blown it this time.

On Monday Key was interviewed by John Campbell. The 3 News article is called “Pike River Coal put profit ahead of safety, says John Key” (video link) – here’s a transcript from the start of the piece:

Campbell: …In short it [the report] says Pikes’s safety was compromised by a drive for coal production before the mine was ready, and the Department of Labour who should have prevented that from becoming deadly lacked focus, resourcing and inspection capacity. … I suggested to the Prime Minister that the report is grim and depressing reading.

Key: Yeah I think that’s a good summary actually John. I mean in the end what this report says is that the company essentially put its profits and its production ahead of the safety and lives of those 29 workers. That the company while it had primary responsibility failed to do its job properly…

Fair enough, that’s what the report says, that is what is now obvious to the whole country, only a fool would try and deny it. But oddly enough, deny it is exactly what Key did (ht NRT) during a discussion of Pike River the very next day in parliament:

Kevin Hague: Does he agree that standard economic theory suggests that profit-maximising firms will always prioritise profitability over safety, unless the Government, as regulator, ensures the safety of workers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think that is a ridiculous statement. That is saying that a company is prepared to risk the deaths of its employees and the reputation of the company for the sole purpose of making money, and even from the most hardened socialist I find that something difficult to believe. In the case of the Pike River mine, let us argue just for a moment that the Pike River Coal company was halfway through its mining operations, and was a successful operation that was operating well. An explosion of the magnitude that took place back in 2010 would have then completely and utterly collapsed that company. That would have made no economic sense to anyone.

OK, so which of the two faces of John Key should we believe on Pike River? John Key Monday who acknowledged that Pike River Coal put profits ahead of safety, or John Key Tuesday who says that such suggestions are ridiculous? (Given his answer on Monday, does Tuesday constitute lying to Parliament?) Can John Key even remember what he is saying from one day to the next? Does he care?

53 comments on “Two faced John Key on Pike River”

  1. karol 1

    Good catch, Anthony.  Pity the TV3 and TV One news last night missed it, focusing more on what Key got away with.
     
    The contradiction is because the government is in a bit of a bind: caught between their promotion of deregualted business and the whole freemarket, small government ethos ont he one hand; and trying to shift the blame from the culpability of the government for not regulating business enough.
     
    And, of course, Key’s reasonng in the house yesterday is a muddle of nonsense and accidental truth:
     

    In the case of the Pike River mine, let us argue just for a moment that the Pike River Coal company was halfway through its mining operations, and was a successful operation that was operating well. An explosion of the magnitude that took place back in 2010 would have then completely and utterly collapsed that company. That would have made no economic sense to anyone.

     
    Actually, the company was struggling, and could only operate to reap the kind of profits they wanted, by cutting Health and Safety corners. 
     
    And Key does not seem to have noticed that the explosion did collapse the company – economic sense?  Well neoliberalism doesn’t ultimately make economic sense.  It does require doing destructive things that will evenutally collapse the freemarket system.

    • Jim Nald 1.1

      Agree. “Good catch”, indeed.

      “Usually he can keep track of his many faces well enough to avoid blatantly contradicting himself.”

      Well, we can start to discern what has happened in quick succession within a few days.

      You see, the many faces of John Key include the one who mouths bullshit, and there is the other one that goes with the head which is – quoting the man himself – as thick as batshit.

      With the stresses of various things swirling (some of which he unhelpfully created and added himself) and having to be briefed (needing to resuscitate the bloody bugger of his memory and actually do some brainwork) about how to media-manage himself for the Pike River report and in the House, he cocked up. Usually, he is quite artful at hiding away one face while another yaps away. This time, his political coordination is not as deft.

      *smirk* Does anyone remember Pansy? Wong? Pansy should bring one of the Bian Lian masters over to refresh John mask-changing tricKey skills:

  2. tinfoilhat 2

    Key and his kronies should suffer the same fate as [no calls for violence please. r0b]

  3. Red Rosa 3

    The Pike River directors need to be grilled too.

    As the PM himself says “I mean in the end what this report says is that the company essentially put its profits and its production ahead of the safety and lives of those 29 workers.”

    So let’s hear a bit more from Dow, Meyer, and Natrass. Who have their story and are sticking to it.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/7909923/Pike-River-Directors-hit-back

    Not entirely convincing, you’d have to say.

    Glaring failures of maintenance in the UK led to rail crash deaths – and directly as a result of privatisation and deregulation. Criminal proceedings followed. Sounds familiar?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/may/13/network-rail-fined-potters-bar

    That was a 3 million pound fine. But Pike River of course is bust.

    Still seems a criminal trial is appropriate.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Forget the fine; custodial time is required.

    • Tracey 3.2

      What were their director and chair fees per annum? I ask because they appear to be distancing themselves on the old chestnut of “that’s operational matters” BUT H & S in a high risk industry ought to be eagerly and regularly enquired upon by the Board, in a civilised country…

  4. Tom Gould 4

    Slippery John up to his old tricks. Tell them what they want to hear, then force a brain fade. Must make his job much easier if he can just make it up as he goes along, knowing the lazy media have an even shorter attention span.

  5. I heard Key in Parliament and that statement immediately jarred.

    Is it that he just makes stuff up whenever he opens his mouth?  Or he forgot what he said the day before?  Or he calculates what he needs to say depending on the time and place and just says it?

    Because he was right first time. It seems clear that Pike River was willing to risk the safety of its workers and its reputation solely to make money.

    And if you need any proof how about the reports of workplace bullying, a report showing gas levels spiked to explosive levels six times in five days a month before the mine exploded, evidence from one former mining operator who left the company fearing the mine could explode at any moment, ”impossible” workloads facing mines inspectors, a lack of enforcement action, plastic bags placed over gas sensors, a lax safety attitude encouraged by production bonuses, potentially flammable gas mixtures in an electrical substation and safety systems inside the mine being bypassed.
     

    • felix 5.1

      This is the one that nearly tripped me up, micky:

      Kevin Hague: Does he agree that the deregulation of occupational health and safety that occurred in the 1990s was the major factor in creating an environment where management at Pike River were able to ignore workers’ calls to improve safety; if not, why not?

      Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. Let us take a step back. The primary responsibility of any company, when it comes to health and safety issues, rests with that company, so a good employer is always going to make sure that their employees are safe in the workplace. The role of a regulator is someone to ensure that the company is fulfilling its obligations, not to fulfil those obligations for the company. The company itself must do that. In the case of Pike River Coal, the company utterly failed.

      Seems Key just accidentally admitted responsibility.

      • ianmac 5.1.1

        And then there is the fact that Wilkinson canned the attempt to reinstate the mine monitoring. Now they claim it was not about deep underground mining. Mr Mallard can and has refuted that.

    • vto 5.2

      micky, John Key makes everything up as he goes. He doesn’t care what was said previously or whether what he says is consistent.

      This is his training. This is his career. This is his modus operandi. We have seen it for a long time now. We need to stop being surprised and start throwing it back at him. Or simply refer to him as a bullshitter everytime he opens his mouth.

      In my opinion he is the most untrustworthy, lying, deceptive snake of a Prime Minister we have ever had. And most all of New Zealand is waking up to this.

      I think what happenned with this particular episode of bullshitting is that John Campbell actually caught him on the hop. Campbell’s questions were very good and aimed at his underlying political philosophy. When Key came to answer these he had not a clue (because he has no clue around political philosophies and their histories and effects and intents) and blustered along makeing a complete hash of everything he said. I would say he actually believes what he said in Parliament and what he said on Campbell Live accidentally flopped out because he was flummoxed by the interview.

      Key is weak.
      Key is a liar.
      Key is shallow.

      And John Campbell’s interviewing skills are very good. It was interesting to note that Key stayed in Parliament for that remote interview and also that there was no ‘hello John’ at the start nor ‘thank you John’ at the end. There is clear animosity with TV3. The only reason Key agreed to an interview, I would suggest, was because of the magnitude of the event and report.

      • Wychbych 5.2.1

        +100

      • fabregas4 5.2.2

        I was surprised that he fronted at first (given his reluctance to appear at other times) but then it became clear that he did because he thought that his government was blameless and that he could shift the focus to someone else. That he went on to confirm that it is indeed the governments role to ensure that regulations are in place that ensure that employers meet safety standards must be galling to him. If he realises he did that of course.

    • Wychbych 5.3

      Key is tired of being PM. His attention span has gone, and now he’s just talking crap whenever he opens his gob.

      He wants to move on to his tiny planet and forget being held to account for his execrable performance as PM.

      • Enough is Enough 5.3.1

        That is bullshit. He is not tired of the job. He is not even half way through doing what he needs to do to satisfy his masters (i.e. sell New Zealand to those Chinese).

        He will need a third term to complete the job he wants to do. It is up to us to rise up and ensure him and his party are crushed at the next election.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.4

      Or he calculates what he needs to say depending on the time and place and just says it?

      No, he doesn’t do that – that’s what he has spin PR firms for.

      It seems clear that Pike River was willing to risk the safety of its workers and its reputation solely to make money.

      That would be normal operating procedure for capitalist firms and why we had strict regulation in the first place. Regulation that the governments from the 1980s have been systematically removing.

  6. ianmac 6

    “No. Let us take a step back…….”
    Whenever Mr Key prefaces an answer with that phrase you can be sure that what follows will obscure a proper answer. Ding ding ding! Watch out.

    • Jim Nald 6.1

      And be wary of being led astray when he starts on “let us argue just for a moment …”

      • mike e 6.1.1

        Jim lets argue for a moment that I can remember in every detail on most subjects (that crosby textor have prompted me) relating to running the country but when push comes to shove I can’t remember one single mistake I’ve made!
        Narcissism at its best!

  7. Saarbo 7

    Great explanation on Key’s behaviour on http://www.thepoliticalscientist.org . Awesome article if you have not read it already. 

  8. Lanthanide 8

    John Key also assured us that Pike River could operate in OZ and that our mine safety was as good as theirs.

    So, yeah…

  9. Tracey 9

    John Key and his minders know that the Media (firstly) and the public (secondly) have short attention spans… The Herald’s headline the morning after the report was pitiful. Sure it focused on the families but that wasn’t the story…

  10. Enough is Enough 10

    This man is incredible in that he thinks he can get away with this. His time is coming and it will be so sweet when it happens.

    Why can’t the media take a lead from Homebrew and call it like it is.

  11. Roy 11

    Looks like Key has been taking lessons in flipflopping from Mitt Romney.

  12. Draco T Bastard 12

    via twitter

    http://t.co/r8C4KENh

  13. Key is full of “b!*#shit .

  14. Helen Clark has him taped right did’nt she, some of us saw it but so many people just thought he had made a lot of money for himself so he would make them wealthy also.

    But no the only people John Key is interested in making more wealthy is the 1% and American Corporates.

  15. Tracey 15

    A few years ago the sports industry got in a tizzy when an event organiser was found guilty of criminal nuisance. In that case she had put measures in place to prevent accidents, such as road closures, but her communication was poor and this caused some confusion. A cyclist died.

    On appeal she was found not guilty BUT that was an unfortunate culmination of confusion and miscommunication, quite different from Pike River. I would expect, based on that case, to find criminal nuisance charges laid against a number of people including Mr Whittall.

    Section 145 of the Crimes Act 1961 states, that “Every one commits criminal nuisance who does any unlawful act or omits to discharge any legal duty, such act or omission being one which he knew would endanger the lives, safety, or health of the public, or the life, safety, or health of any individual” (Crimes Act 1961).

  16. Treetop 16

    Key is not sincere one bit. When it came to Dotcom losing his livelyhood, Key could not have cared less and he “completely and utterly collapsed that company”. The only time Key cared was when GCSB got caught out. Key apologised to Dotcom and used words like “appalled” and “failed” to justify what had happened under Keys watch.

    The type of mentality Key displays, it would fit in well on the Pike River Coal Board.

    • karol 16.1

      Key is not sincere one bit.


      Indeed.  And Bill English was going on about how David Cunliffe was not sincere, in the General Debate today.  But then, the NActs are always very good at projecting their own faults on to others.

      • Jim Nald 16.1.1

        Billshit is seeing his own ugliness wherever he looks
        He fills up time in the house with his own shit to avoid scrutiny on his sinister cum incompetent management of the country’s finances.

        • mike e 16.1.1.1

          Yes Jim the double dipping dip-shit hasn’t figured out that Austerity leads to a down ward spiral
          Which is leading to a bigger deficit more borrowing higher interest rates which increases the amount of speculation on our dollar which makes us less competitive loosing more jobs and so on the downward spiral continues under Nationals default policy change nothing do nothing blame every body else!
          More Austerity more decline blind leading the blind!

          • SpaceMonkey 16.1.1.1.1

            “the double dipping dip-shit hasn’t figured out that Austerity leads to a down ward spiral.”

            Yes he has… it’s part of the plan. Collapsing economies, the proverbial “race-to-the-bottom”, is all the rage these days. Except rage is all it will end in, and that’s another concern altogether.

  17. Brilliant piece, Anthony!

  18. Steve W 18

    Good job.

    Key should read the DimPost for a brief summary of how diffuse decision making can lead to lethal consequences…….as simply and naturally as the Sun coming up in the morning…and almost as inevitably.

    http://dimpost.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/cognitive-bias-and-self-regulation/

    If no one else in the Beehive has the mental bandwidth and business experience to understand this…..maybe they should get @danylmc in on a retainer.

  19. Tracey 19

    “Local oil and gas company Todd Energy says the practice of ‘fracking’ in New Zealand’s oil and gas wells is safe. ”

    Phew, that’s settled then.

  20. bad12 20

    Ah another bit of clever tongue in cheek from the Slippery Prime Minister attempting to divert attention away from what seems to be the REALITY of Pike River,

    There’s a question begging in the Slippery ones little spiel of bullshit uttered in defense of the indefensible, lets for a moment examine the financial status of the Pike River Coal Company at the time of the mines explosion shall we, only a moment is needed here as to all extents and purposes Pike River Coal at the time of the explosion were in a word BROKE,

    Whittal the CEO had been told by the directors of the company that the parent company would not be investing any more monies and Whittal had been personally tasked with raising the capital necessary to continue mining from ‘other’ interests,

    It is obvious that should Whittal have not found that money the Pike River Coal Company would be forced to cease coal extraction of coal already ordered and would be effectively bankrupt, SO scratch Slippery’s little hypothesis of the profitable coal company, it wasn’t,

    In a way tho, the Slippery little Shyster is right , it wouldn’t make any sense at all to have a highly profitable coal mine blow up in ya face, but, Pike River was anything but profitable,

    It wouldn’t make any sense to have a highly profitable coal mine being worked 40 days prior to it’s explosion with Methane gas levels on 20 of those days sitting within the narrow range of gas/air where methane will explode either,

    Actually it makes no sense whatsoever, nada, zilch, NONE, i dont mean what the Slippery little shyster has to say about Pike River, there can be ONE and only ONE reason why the management of a coal mine would allow it to be worked while methane gas to air levels on 20 out of 40 days are at an explosive level,

    That reason???? COZ THEY WANTED IT TO, explode that is, why else would anyone run a mine they knew was continually at a level of methane gas/air that one spark would explode it,

    This wasn’t an error made against the extraction of highly profitable coal which lead to tragedy, this was a systematic ignoring of the fact that prior to the actual explosion for 20 of the previous 40 days that mine was a bomb waiting for the smallest of sparks,

    This ignoring of the fact that the mine was a ‘bomb’ has to be viewed in the face of the facts that (a), if Whittal couldn’t raise cash from off shore the mine was effectively broke, (b), there was a ship due in a couple of weeks to take away 60,000 tonnes of premium grade coal that had not been mined and in fact did not seem to exist, Pike River in desperation had tried to purchase coal from Solid Energy, and (c), the shareholders from the parent company were demanding payment on their investments,

    For the ‘investors’ the only possible outcome from Pike River where they didn’t lose the lot was in fact the explosion of a coalmine that was reportedly insured for a 100 million dollars,

    SO, in a way the Slippery little Shyster we have as a Prime Minister is right in posing a question of why would a highly profitable mine deliberately allow such a catastrophic outcome,

    Obviously, the short and only answer to that is IT WASN’T and they sure as hell did coz in any sense of basic understanding of mining no one and i mean NO ONE in their right mind would operate a coal mine with methane gas levels directly within the range of explosiveness for 20 out of 40 days unless they WANTED that mine to explode,

    My only real question of Slippery the Prime Minister seeing as he seems to ‘know’ so much about this issue and the question would need be directed at those managing the Pike River Mine at the time as well,

    Did they get tired of waiting??? did they get tired of waiting for the thing to blow up, imagine sitting around for a full 40 days with a coal mine continually reaching a level of methane gas to air where the slightest spark would blow it apart, must have been hell on the nerves,

    The reason for the question above is that i am not fully convinced that the 1st explosion in that mine was in fact a methane gas explosion, it is possible and even highly likely that it was, BUT,

    Methane Gas when combusted is odorless, the first person sent into the Pike River Mine after the explosion a South African electrician with 26 years of experience in mining for coal,gold and other things told the Royal Commission that the place reeked of a smell like burned diesel, in His words the smell was exactly like that given off after the use of AMFRO explosives He had experienced in mines in South Africa….

    • RedLogix 20.1

      Combine this with Bernie Monk telling Kathryn Ryan on this last Monday morning that the families have encountered nothing but obstruction, lies and cover-ups from the company and authorities in seeking to re-enter the mine.

      As the Royal Commission rightly mentions, no-one knows exactly what caused the first explosion because no-one has been allowed to examine the evidence first-hand.

      And certain people seem very keen not to let anyone look either.

      http://www.odt.co.nz/regions/west-coast/176303/pike-river-electrician-feared-he-would-die

      • Tracey 20.1.1

        Agreed, he said the government cut off all communication with the families 18 months ago….

      • bad12 20.1.2

        Yes there is a huge question of there being a ‘safe’ means of entering the Pike River Mine and why those in positions of power have so far refused to entertain such a re-entry,

        My only real question here would be are the levels of Methane gas over 30% of the mines atmosphere across the whole mine including the drive and the coal faces,

        If the levels of Methane gas across the whole interior of the mine are above 30% of atmosphere then i would happily wander about the place with a lighted torch made from petrol soaked rags,

        Methane cannot burn nor explode at levels of 30%+ of an atmosphere, us humans can tolerate an atmosphere of 30% methane in an air atmosphere so says the science,

        Obviously anyone entering the mine would need breathing apparatus and a battery powered torch as the petrol soaked rags would not remain combustible for long in such an atmosphere,

        My view is that at the coal face of the mine there is likely to be a point of combustion active in the form of a smouldering coal seam, the science again says that even were there to be such a source of combustion present at levels of Methane Gas 30%+ of the mines atmosphere there is ZERO chance of further explosion as such a level of Methane Gas will neither burn nor explode…

    • vto 20.2

      hmmmm bad12, tought provoking. was aware of financial problems and things but deliberate?

      • RedLogix 20.2.1

        This is speculation vto. Not proof nor evidence.

        But if I were a detective examining a crime scene, it’s a ‘line of enquiry’ that could not, should not, be overlooked.

        And if one of the main suspects seemed very keen for me not to look …

      • bad12 20.2.2

        VTO, in my definition of deliberate and considering that Whittal and various others from the management of the Pike River Mine Company must have ‘known’ the risk inherent in allowing the mine to be worked while gas levels were within the 4-17% Methane gas to Air band,

        Having allowed the mine to be worked with the gas levels within that explosive range for 20 of the 40 days prior to the mine actually blowing up those managers who must have or ought to have known can now hardly claim the fact that the mine did explode was an ‘accident’

        If once in a 40 day period work were allowed to continue in that mine while the Methane gas/Air levels were such that an explosion ‘could’ occur i could conceivably attach the epithet ‘accidental’ to that singular occurrence,

        However, a singular occurrence this was not and it is reasonably obvious that allowing the mine to be worked in this fashion was the ‘norm’ at Pike River,

        In mining there is one certainty, if a mine were to be continually mined with an atmosphere of Methane Gas/Air of between 4-17% sooner or later something or someone would cause a spark to occur and the smallest of sparks would cause such an atmosphere to explode,

        So deliberation??? my opinion is yes the mine was deliberately mined while gas levels where at an explosive point not by accident but as a ‘norm’ of that mines operation and management did?, should?, or ought to have known the only possible outcome of continually mining in such a fashion was the inevitable explosion of that mine,

        The latter point i make with my query ”did they all get sick of waiting for that mine to explode” is in fact speculation based upon what the South African electrician ‘smelled’ when He was sent into the mine to ascertain what had happened after the initial explosion,

        His description of having smelled a powerful smell of burned diesel was in fact accurate as the mine manager at the time said in His evidence to the Royal Commission that when He exited the mines office some distance away from the actual mine He could smell burned diesel while standing in the car park,

        My understanding of Methane Gas and i will happily be corrected on this point of fact is that it is odorless and when combusted does not give off any smell let alone the powerful smell of burned diesel,

        What the South African electrician told the Royal Commission, and remembering that He had 26 years of experience in South African mines was that it smelled the same as the aftermath of AMFRO explosives having been used in South African mines,

        As a logical conclusion to that if what the South African electrician smelled within the mine on the day of the first explosion was in fact the aftermath of the use of AMFRO explosives then there can be only one answer to any query upon deliberation?,

        My sense of speculation and inquiry are only heightened by the utterly facile remarks made by Slippery the Prime Minister, the evidence given to the Royal Commission clearly showed that Pike River was scrambling to find the cash needed to continue mining, the billions of dollars of premium grade coal supposedly there to be taken wasn’t, and, Pike River could not hope to fill a 60,000 tonne order for premium grade coal for a ship due to dock 2 weeks after the actual mine explosion,

        It is Slippery the Prime Minister who poses the question why would anyone in their right minds deliberately allow a highly profitable coal mine to explode,

        The answer to that of course is what would you do if your supposed golden seam of premium grade coal had materialized to be hardly above the class of dross,your capital from shareholders was exhausted and there was trouble finding a new source of funding and you couldn’t fill a 60,000 tonne order for premium grade coal due in 2 weeks???

        Oh and you had an insurance premium covering the mine reportedly worth 100 million bucks, what would you do….

  21. Tracey 21

    ” Instead of being “prescriptive” as the DoL laments, individual companies were to adopt a “a performance-based approach” and to “to take ‘all practicable steps’ to ensure health and safety, leaving it to the discretion of the duty holder how they achieve that standard“.”

    This precisely what happened in the 1991 and 2004 building Act’s… it went from prescriptive to performance based, same words used… it was an across the board policy which ultimately took those lives at the mines, other lives on numerous work sites across NZ and fucked up homes in Auckland.

    Someone could do a study on how many developers personally suffered financially loss fromt he building changes… almost none. Profits with no downside… the national way

  22. Tracey 22

    Section 145 of the Crimes Act 1961 states, that “Every one commits criminal nuisance who does any unlawful act or omits to discharge any legal duty, such act or omission being one which he knew would endanger the lives, safety, or health of the public, or the life, safety, or health of any individual” (Crimes Act 1961).

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