Pike River highlights PM's flaws

16:00, Nov 07 2012

The Pike River Mining disaster - the story of how a company and its executives put profits ahead of lives. No amount of digging can avoid this; no amount of Government tokenism can hide its complicity in the matter. If anything, Labour minister Kate Wilkinson's "it's not my fault but I'll do the decent thing" routine, only highlights its warped sense of values. From the sounds of it, she resigned only because she thought it would look better.

The Prime Minister has been just as pathetic and evasive. So typical of him, talking of successive Government failures, as if the buck doesn't stop with him. It never does. Even when he showed himself to be twice as gormless as David Beckham with his "gay red top" gaffe, he chose to blame his kids. That's the sort of bloke we have as PM. If his metaphorical ship was sinking he'd doubtless get to the lifeboats before anyone else.

It's about time someone told Key and Wilkinson they shouldn't consider themselves mere observers to what happened at Pike River. They're up to their eyeballs in this; their policies have cost lives. Far from an arbitrary or random event, the disaster reflects the extent to which business owners have been emboldened by the Government's approach. I mean, if the Government isn't concerned about protecting workers, why would employers be?

New Zealanders should be sickened by the Government's response to the inquiry report. Especially the part where the PM has the temerity to castigate the Department of Labour over its inadequate oversight. Would be hilarious if it wasn't so utterly gut-turning. Here's a joker who's shown all the leadership of a rubber chicken, who's been embarrassed frequently over his own abject management standards - and he's pointing the finger at others?

Hopefully now, more of us will see through Key's nonsense. Hopefully, more will appreciate how his regime has encouraged a culture of hostility towards regulation and apathy towards worker concerns. That, indirectly, his Government not only allowed the Pike River mining disaster to happen, but cultivated the perfect environment for it to happen. Wilkinson, so pro-employer and anti-worker, can't dodge this inconvenient truth, either.

Instructionally, she doesn't even seem to understand why she's resigned. When asked this week why she hadn't stepped down from her other cabinet posts, she shot back: "What have I done wrong?" She'd only resigned because it was the "honourable" thing to do; because she valued her "integrity", she said. So there you are. What a bloody heroine; what a martyr. Twenty nine blokes die but at least she still has her image intact.

Key's been singing from the same songbook, praising Wilkinson for her decision and talking about her honour, rather than condemning her incompetence. Really, he wouldn't recognise a principle if it slapped him in the face. No wonder the GCSB is running amuck under his watch. From what he's saying, he seems to view Wilkinson's resignation as a matter of political expediency; as a necessary gesture. Just a way of getting people off his back.

This Government has ruled over some pretty sleazy moves during its second term; from its undermining of youth workers and our education system, to its disgraceful stunt with Sky City Casino. Its reaction to the Pike River mining disaster report, however, tells us more than we should ever need to know about the calibre of the people involved. Workers have died unnecessarily, and yet they're talking about protecting their honour and integrity?

Question needs to be asked. What honour? What integrity?

» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
» Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardboock.

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