National braces for Pike River backlash

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 04/11/2012

Relevant offers

Opinion

Having access to workers with the right skills is essential for business From the beehive with Ria Bond Peter Dunne: Unified fire agency will emphasise flexibility Malcolm McKinnon: Anzac Day 2017 – time to lower the flag? Excellent public radio shines a light on our history Gerry Brownlee exits Christchurch a controversial, contrary figure Brownlee gets foreign affairs, but Smith's demotion on drip-feed Editorial: Proceed with caution on moves to dump school decile system Damien Grant: Aged care workers may have won the battle, but it will be the elderly who lose out in the end Tired of the election campaign already? Here's how to make it shorter

John Key will need all his political nous this week.

OPINION: Tomorrow, after deliberations in Cabinet, Justice Minister Judith Collins is set to announce the way forward for the MMP review. Indications are the Government is likely to kick it for touch for a bit while it goes in search of "consensus". Which is just a neat little trick while it finds a way to backtrack on the National Party's defence of the 5 per cent threshold. Dropping to 4 per cent gives potential coalition partner the Conservative Party a much better shot in 2014.

So that's one pending conundrum dealt to. The other could cause the Government much bigger problems: the imminent public release of the findings of the Pike River Commission of Inquiry.

It is inevitable that Pike River Coal and its management will get a flogging for negligence. Criminal charges will surely follow. But National is also unlikely to get off lightly - there is little doubt that red-tape cutting contributed to the worst industrial disaster in living memory.

Last year, expert witness after expert witness in front of the commission painted a damning picture of lax safety practices which developed once the National Government of the 1990s left the industry to its own devices.

As grieving relatives, unions and opposition MPs clamoured for change, Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson resisted.

A U-turn eventually came in the form of a high hazards unit and a doubling of the number of mine inspectors. It looked very much like an admission that the Pike River disaster might not have occurred if the inspectorates hadn't been abolished.

The commission is likely to conclude the regulatory environment still falls short, especially when compared to Australia.

The prime minister's stocks rose sky high in the weeks following the disaster. But almost two years on from the death of the 29 miners, their families feel betrayed. They heard him promise to recover the remains - anything other than that will be a bitter disappointment, whatever the commission concludes.

The Government appears to be resigned to the fact it can't satisfy the miners' families. That Key will not return to Greymouth for the release speaks volumes.

However, the PM is less Eeyorish and more Tiggerish than in recent weeks.

The spying row has fizzled out for a bit, and with its annual conference fast approaching, Labour will be more preoccupied with navel-gazing.

Providing the commission's recommendations aren't too outrageous, National will be inclined to adopt them as Key rolls with the punches.

Ad Feedback

- Sunday Star Times

Comments

Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content