Little bill to enable Pike River re-entry

After visiting the Pike River picket line today Andrew Little said he would table a bill in Parliament that would remove an obstacle to re-entry into the Pike River mine.

RNZ: Labour would remove liability for Pike River re-entry

Labour leader Andrew Little plans to table a bill in Parliament removing liability from the directors of Solid Energy so that the Pike River Mine can be re-entered.

He said the government claimed the mine could not be re-entered because of the liability risk, so on the first day of the new parliamentary year he would seek leave to table his bill.

That would exonerate Solid Energy’s directors from being held liable for any harm to people taking part in the mine re-entry, he said.

Mr Little said the victims’ families were promised everything that could be done to recover their loved ones’ bodies would be done, and the government needed to follow through on that.

This doesn’t guarantee re-entry, it would just remove one obstacle.

Little had earlier said that he supported an independent investigation to see if mine re-entry was safe enough to attempt.

He said that if the Government did not allow his bill to proceed he would add it to the Members’ ballot.

NZH: Labour leader Andrew Little proposes health and safety exemption for Solid Energy

During a visit to Greymouth today, Little said he had a solution.

“We can actually deal with that threat of liability for the [Solid Energy] directors by legislating to prevent that happening in this particular case.

“What I pledged to the families is that on the first day of Parliament I will seek leave to table a bill that does just that.”

He added: “It removes any risk of liability for the directors of Solid Energy in relation to any attempt at re-entry for the purpose of recovering remains or any bodies in the drift leading to the mine.

“And I’m working on that bill now, I’ll have that ready to go on the 6th of February.”

He won’t be tabling the bill on February 6, that’s a Monday and also a public holiday (Waitangi Day).

Speaking in Parliament last year, English said Pike River was the “most dangerous workplace in New Zealand“, and approving a re-entry would go against the very health and safety laws passed by Parliament in response to the disaster.

English said Little himself had lobbied for the safety changes.

“The member should understand the legislation which he advocated for, which brings together judgement about safety and legal responsibility for anyone in that workplace,” he said.

“So whatever any independent expert says, someone who is responsible for anyone who might go into that mine are legally responsibly for their lives.”

So Little is proposing an exception to the safety laws he lobbied for.


Pike River angst continues

Another Pike River anniversary, more angst over the non-removal of the bodies from the mine.

Some want the bodies of family members retrieved, that’s understandable.

Solid Energy says that there is 98% methane in the mine and it’s not safe risk lives to remove dead bodies.

RNZ: Pike River families furious at mine’s closure

In a strongly worded statement released earlier today, Solid Energy hit out at “inaccurate and misleading statements in the media”, saying they were feeding “false hope”.

“It is disingenuous and, frankly, deeply disappointing for commentators who lack the full information base on which this decision was made – and who bear no legal responsibility for the outcomes of the re-entry project – to once again raise hopes regarding re-entry,” the statement said.

The company said its decision was based on an exhaustive investigation into the feasibility of safe re-entry and was backed by the independent expertise of Emeritus Professor Jim Galvin.

Solid Energy said there had been no material improvements in the conditions in the drift since the decision was made to seal the mine in November 2014.

“The reality is that for the entire time since Solid Energy took over Pike Rive Mine in 2012, the drift has been full of nearly pure methane. There is no report that shows that gas levels have reduced.

“There are no recent tests that show the seal is unnecessary. In fact, our continuous monitoring shows that methane remains at around 98 percent and is continually being released into the mine and the drift,” it said.

But family angst continues.

Families furious with Solid Energy’s decision to proceed with plans to permanently seal the Pike River Mine are looking at legal action.

Some of the victims’ families have staged a sit-in protest in recent weeks, saying the mine should not be closed until the victims’ bodies have been retrieved.

A lawyer for the families, Nigel Hampton QC, said he filed an application with WorkSafe to review the closure plans on Friday.

There have been a number of protests, including the blocking of a road with rocks.

I don’t think there’s any easy answers here.

I can understand (some) families wanting bodies removed, but is it worth risking the lives of others?

Russel Norman and playing politics

Russel Norman and the Green Party have launched a ‘Spring offensive’ to try and get enough signatures for their asset sale petition to initiate a referendum.

Greens launch drive for asset sales referendum signatures

“The Government’s asset sales programme is in crisis and the referendum campaign is on a roll,” said Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.

He’s right, it is a campaign by Greens – an extension of the election campaign and relitigation of the parliamentary process.

“If the Government delays the holding of a referendum then they are playing politics with the issue against the will of New Zealanders.

That’s the height of hypocrisy, Greens are playing politics by hijacking the Citizen Initiated Referenda process to promote their politic views.

CIR are supposed to be a means of citizens expressing their opinion to politicians, not yet another way politicians can argue amongst themselves.

“It is only fair that a referendum is held as soon as possible to give the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders who oppose asset sales the chance to cast a vote against them.”

Greens keep claiming they are giving the people a chance to express their view via the petition and possible referendum, but if this were the case they would taking a balanced approach to guaging opinion.

The real Green motive?

This statement from Norman highlights their actual motive – they have a strong and fixed political opinion and they are using CIR to try and generate a vote of no confidence against a Government policy.

This is a blatant abuse of both the CIR and parliamentary processes. Greens are either cynically abusing our democracy, or they are abusing it through ignorance – so certain of their rightness that they think any means justifies their campaign. The latter is a repeating major flaw in Green thinking.

What was the Green position on the last CIR?

The Green Party were not so keen on listening to the vote of the people in the last CIR on smacking – they (along with other parties) chose to ignore the voice of the people then.

They are selectively ignoring or using CIR to suit their own political objectives, and the voice of the people is used went it fits convenience, or ignored when it doesn’t suit them.

Not arguing for MOM share floats

I’m not arguing for or against the MOM share float programme here – on that I’m not sure if the Mighty River Power float should go ahead at the moment, Solid Energy seems best left off the programme until a major improvement in their outlook, and certainly I prefer that not all the power companies were floated this parliamentary term.

I’m arguing against a misuse and abuse of our democratic system.

CIR should be for citizens

CIR should be for citizens. I’m totally opposed to any political party using CIR to promote their own political agendas, in effect the are petitioning themselves, which is absurd.

Is Russel Norman blind to his misuse of our democracy, or blatantly abusing it? Whichever it is he is certainly hypocritically playing politics while he accuses others of doing that if they don’t play his game.

If the asset sales referendum was held today…

Greens and Labour MPs are having another push to try and get enough signatures to have a referendum to tell themselves in the House of Representatives that they are members of what they have been promoting for the last year.

What would such a referendum tell the country? What would I do if the referendum was held today? The proposed question:

Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?

I would consider a number of options:

  1. Not vote in protest  – unlikely
  2. Spoil my voting paper in protest – very tempting
  3. Answer Yes – possible because I’ve sort of supported the MOM share float programme on principle as it was National’s major election policy.

But if I was to honestly answer the question?

  • Right now I’d answer No – for a start market conditions make a Solid Energy float very unwise.

If the referendum is held some time next year I’d have to reconsider my response for a number of reasons, including:

  1. One or two SOEs may have already had their share floats so the whole question is meaingless
  2. The world economic situation may have tanked, making share floats difficult to justify
  3. The New Zealand economy might be resurgent making likely share prices very tempting

And there are many other considerations and factors.

This shows how unsuitable a simple referendum is for a complex political and economic policy.