Red Alert

Archive for the ‘community’ Category

Rachel Smalley, you are so wrong

Posted by on June 14th, 2014

Newstalk ZB presenter Rachel Smalley has accused me of politicising a murder by raising some policy issues in the wake of the murder this week of Henderson dairy owner Arun Kumar.

I called for a stronger police presence with a community constable based in the Henderson town centre, more Council staffing  so they can actually enforce the by-law on begging and anti-social behaviour, and a concerted effort by Council and others to turn around the economic decline of the town centre.

Hardly radical views. In fact the three things I called for are all supported by the chair of the Henderson-Massey Local Board, the head of the local retailers association, and the Waitakere Indian Association which takes a strong interest in the safety of local dairy owners. Coincidence? No. I talked the issues through with all of them, and talked with the shopkeepers in the vicinity of the Kumars’ dairy, before making my comments.

Mayor Len Brown and west Auckland based Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse have also been calling for more police presence in Henderson.

You see Rachel, my constituents don’t get to comment on Morning Report about what they think should be done after an event like this.  But that is why they employ me. It’s my job to do that.

And I certainly won’t be silenced by knee-jerk responses like yours. I expect it from right wing hacks like Whale Oil and David Farrar.  As partisans for the Government it is not in their interests to see Opposition MPs raising questions about matters of public concern,  but I thought you were a credible journalist who would have seen the importance of that.

You write that a greater police presence would not have prevented Mr Kumar’s murder. Of course getting a community cop in Henderson won’t turn back the clock on the messed up parenting and social damage that saw a 12 and a 13 year old making trouble with a knife in a dairy at 7am on a school day, but to deny the relevance of police presence to these kinds of crimes is just shallow and uninformed.

If you had taken the time to find out a few facts you’d know that youth crime and anti-social behaviour have been a consistent problem in the Henderson Town Centre, including begging, intimidation and vandalism. Read the Western Leader, they’ll tell you.  The two boys accused of the crime were well known to the Kumars and other shopkeepers, and part of a group that hangs out in the centre.  The retailers have been asking for a greater police presence – specifically a community constable located in the town centre – specifically to deal with this issue.

The political Right loves to try and close down debate by drawing the cloak of sanctimony over any controversy.  Three years after the Canterbury earthquakes Gerry Brownlee was accusing MPs who raised questions about the mismanagement of the rebuild of playing politics with a natural disaster. In the months that followed the Pike River disaster, journalists and politicians who raised questions about the culpability of the company were accused of politicising the 29 deaths. It was three years before the full extent of the company’s negligence was exposed to light.

It is never wrong for an elected official to raise issues of public concern.

So Rachel, how about you have me on your show on Monday morning and we can discuss this?

Wake up and listen

Posted by on February 15th, 2013

This last week has seen the Living Wage profiled in a way rarely seen of any social movement in recent times. The NZ Herald ran a week long series, Duncan Garner came out as a strong advocate on Radio Live, other journalists picked it up with interviews and stories. Even the Prime Minister took on the language of the Living Wage even if he was trying to diss the notion and tell us all it’s not happening under his government.

Like it or not, the Living Wage movement has hit New Zealand. It’s powerful, it’s growing and will change the narrative not only around work and wages, but around community expectations about how they want and need to live.

While there’s been a lot of publicity around the “rate” of the living wage, announced by the community alliance of the Living Wage Aotearoa NZ, the two day symposium held this week in Auckland was much more than a talk about wages. It was designed to highlight the changing nature of work, the challenges to the norms of defining work and labour, the impact on our communities and the Living Wage movement as a growing community movement in response.

Guy Standing, who I blogged about some time ago, kicked off the seminar with a challenging lecture on “The Precariat – the new dangerous class”. You can find many Guy Standing lectures on Youtube and he’s really worth tuning into. Standing says the old class structures of the 20th century are vanishing (whether we like it or not) and being replaced by new ones – the largest being the growing class of the “precariat” – who have no occupational identity, who work in increasingly precarious arrangements, are expected to do a high ratio of work for labour (ie applying for multiple jobs, filling in forms, travelling to interviews and from job to job) and who, by and large reject the political agendas of the Right and the Left and other established organizations such as unions, simply because they are irrelevant to them.

Then today, Deborah Littman, from London Citizens and now the Metro Vancouver Alliance gave a compelling lecture about the movement in the UK and Canada. If you want to know about why and how, you can watch it here.  If you want to know about the business case and case studies, watch it here.

The overseas movements have grown up over many years, but their experiences and stories provide a lift for our own home grown version as it gathers strength.

New Zealand’s movement is following in their footsteps, building an alliance with unions, faith based and community organisations involved in Living Wage Aotearoa NZ. It’s a different dynamic; not party politically aligned, with no group dominating, with a lot of listening and understanding of how low pay comes at a cost to society as a whole. And then a negotiation through the process of moving to a living wage that provides families with the basic necessities of life, to live with dignity and participate as active citizens in our society.

We need to wake up and listen.

Larry Ross – in memoriam

Posted by on April 24th, 2012

“Peacenik” is a word which will only resonate with a few, but Larry Ross’s work for the anti-nuclear movement resonated far and wide.

Born in 1927, Larry Ross died last week at the age of 84. He founded the NZ Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Committee in 1981. His work at local government level saw the establishment of 105 nuclear free zones across New Zealand. That work was pivotal in building an anti-nuclear movement which culminated in New Zealand’s nuclear-free status enshrined in the Nuclear Free Zone Act of 1987.

Larry’s contribution to the peace movement in New Zealand was extraordinary. His commitment to a nuclear-free world was absolute and he achieved more than one person could ever expect to achieve, by galvanising neighbourhood peace groups and working from the ground up to build a robust and effective anti-nuclear peace movement, expressed locally and globally.

Rest in that peace you worked so hard for Larry. The NZ Labour Party salutes you and your years of commitment. Our thought and condolences go to Larry’s family and loved ones.


Posted by on March 15th, 2012

I visited Moerewa on Tuesday to support the Talleys AFFCO workers. I went to a big meeting of locked out Talleys workers, their families and the community, and then spent some time on the picket outside the Works.

This is where the rubber hits the road, not in John Key’s announcement today of a Super Ministry which is “business facing” and will gulp up the Department of Labour and presumably with it, the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson.

Talley’s locked out these workers two weeks ago.  There are generations of workers involved here : fathers, sons, mothers, daughters. Some I talked to have worked at the Works for more than 40 years. Most are long serving workers. Skilled workers at that. You try wielding a boning knife.

The community is backing the workers.  A nice moment was when one of the local nurses came out with her Nurses Organisation banner to stand with the Talleys workers. She, of all people will know the impact this is having on the local community – not just on those who are locked out, but those affected by the downstream economic effect on a small community like Moerewa.

The workers told me they love their jobs and just want to work.  One young woman has just bought a house, another is due to have a child in the next couple of months.  The lockout is hurting.

The Tally family have a reputation for being anti-union.  The meat workers are the only unionised workforce they have to deal with among the 8000 or so employees in their food production businesses. Now it seems they’re hell bent on expunging the union from their meat works as well.

If what the workers told me is true, Talley’s breaks the law with impunity.  Sure, there’s a mountain of  Employment Authority and Employment Court decisions, but the law is meaningless if someone has enough dough to pay the fine, then do it again, or alternatively, tie the union up in endless litigation.

One story doing the rounds is that an AFFCO manager boasted that “no one ever went to jail breaking employment laws.”

That’s true. Sounds like an invitation to have a closer look at the penalties for serial offenders.

Moerewa is a brave community.  No-one was feeling sorry for themselves. Their concern was for each other, their whanau, their jobs and their community.

The Talley family might find these bonds harder to break than they think.

And John Key’s Super Ministry?

Irrelevant and meaningless for 1000 locked out workers in one of our key export industries.

Youth NEETs change since 2008

Posted by on February 26th, 2012
Youth NEETs

Youth NEETs

Despite the foodhardy belief by some that all is well with New Zealand employment under National, if they would just pull their heads out of John Key’s armpits for a second and took seriously that our unemployment rate from Dec 2008 to Dec 2011 has doubled, and these are NOT just numbers but REAL people with families to support, then perhaps they might get a sense of the looming employment crisis that I’m talking about. Take note of the job losses so far announced with MFAT, Air NZ, and a host of other companies that have laid off workers in the last few months.

What should also compoud our collective concern is the increasing numbers of Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training. As of December 2011 they numbered 83,000 as highlighted in the graph above.

Some might be providing homecare to family members but I suspect the vast majority are drifting doing nothing. These are our future leaders – now mostly at risk. Without work, without skills and without the hope for a better future, what will be the chances of them slipping into drugs, alchoholism, crime and benefit dependency? If these trends continue to worsen, what is there to stop it from becoming a ticking time bomb making New Zealand susceptible to the kinds of riots we’ve witnessed on TV occuring in Europe and the likes.

The NZ Institute who released proposals last year of reducing youth disadvantage estimated that the cost of youth unemployment, youth incarceration, youth on the sole parent benefit and taxes forgone, is around $900 million per year. Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training is not only a tragic waste of talent and potential, but we also all carry the cost.

We should also be worried that Maori & Pasefika youth make up a large number of NEETS. While the 6.3% unemployment rate in NZ is worrying, its not at the crisis levels of the PIGS. But the 6.3% unemployment rate hides the fact that for some parts of New Zealand unemployment truly is at crisis levels. I’ve shown int the graph below the figures by HLFS showing 43.3% of Pasifika 15-19 year olds are unemployed. That’s a shocking figure, right up there with the worst youth unemployment rates of Europe.

Pasifika & Maori Youth Unemployment

Pasifika & Maori Youth Unemployment

A day to remember

Posted by on February 22nd, 2012


Today was a day I have been approaching with mixed emotions. It was incredibly important that we marked the day, remembered those who lost their lives and their families, and acknowledged what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. As a community we needed to confront all we had lost – people, homes, places, and security. Like many people though, I suspect, I saw today as a bit of a milestone – as David Shearer commented, like in any grieving process one year on you have marked all the significant days.

The last 24 hours have been pretty much wall-to-wall with events marking the day. Politicians from all Parties, the families of those lost, diplomats, and the community came together and remembered, commemorated, and acknowledged at incredibly moving ceremonies. There has been much good and sensitive media coverage of these.

Tonight my day finished with a much less formal event at a local school in Hornby. This was a community BBQ organised by the school (Branston Intermediate), a church (Hornby Presbyterian), and a local business (The Gough Group). The people of this suburb in the west had come out on a drizzly and overcast evening to be together and acknowledge what they had been through. Although the streets and houses in this suburb have got off lightly compared to their eastern neighbours, the people in these houses have certainly felt the stresses of the last 12 months. Many have lost their jobs, and of course like people all over the city they no longer trust the ground under them.

This event was much less sombre than the earlier events I went to. Several hundred people came out to remember but also to look forward to what comes next. There was music, a bouncy castle, egg and spoon and sack races, ice-creams and a BBQ cooked by 4 members of the Crusaders (Andy Ellis, Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock and Patrick Osborne for the rugby fans out there).  This was a community coming together to be together. This was a community doing what we do on a smaller scale in back yards all over the country during summer – having a bbq and a yarn when something happens. A turnout of this scale is not something I could have not imagined before February 22nd last year.

For me there is great hope in Christchurch, albeit a hope that is embedded in frustrations and tensions (but that is for another day). It is this community togetherness with new combinations of co-operation (the school, the church and the business),  this empowered grassroots organisation, and this spirit that are the solid foundation that we will rebuild our broken city on.

Our job as politicians is to make sure these voices are heard and that this collective spirit is part of our new city.

Something’s got to change

Posted by on November 5th, 2011

I am not a practising Catholic. I can’t quite do the God thing. Though having been brought up as a Catholic I can’t quite not do it either.

Perhaps that’s why I’m a member of the Labour Party instead. There’s a set of values that underpin the broader Catholic Church and christianity generally which Labour shares.

For social justice, and against greed.

One of the reasons I’m not a practicising Catholic is that I can’t abide the institutional  corruption and greed which (in many cases) lies at the heart of organised religion. But Catholicism, like all many religions, is also driven by a desire to make sense of our world and to promote collective goodness and community. My view of what politics should be is not dissimilar.

Tonight Last night I watched a programme on Sky News (Australia) called Mamamia where a pannelist referred to this article, where the Vatican (or  the social justice branch of the Vatican) called for morality to be put back into the heart of economics. And radical reform of the world’s financial systems, including the creation of a global political authority to manage the economy.

I’m not sure morality was ever in the heart of economics. But mark my words. There’s a change happening in our world.

Greed is not ok. Poverty is not ok.

Politicians, social justice activists and those of many religious faiths across our world are forming a new community as we speak. I support that community as long as it’s not driven by vested interests and greed. And the Vatican needs to demonstrate that to the world.

But listen up.

The Vatican and the Global Financial Crisis

Published: November 04, 2011

As protesters demonstrate against corporate greed and politicians struggle with the eurozone crisis, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has published proposals for reforming international finance. It is a document that puts morality back into the heart of economics, says William Keegan in The Tablet.

While the New Testament tells us to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, the Church, and Churches, understandably take a close interest in the effect that governmental economic and social policies have on the well-being of the flock.

Apart from anything else, the Church has close contact with both the citizens of what are known as the “advanced economies” as well as with the emerging nations of the developing world.

PS: (see this link to last week’s episode of Mamamia, great show)

Chch Labour MPs good communicators

Posted by on November 2nd, 2011

We already know this. But research backs it up.

Story in today’s Press highlights the important role the Chch Labour MPs have played in keeping their communities informed and advocating on their behalf post earthquakes. The ChCh bulletins from the Labour MPs have been and remain an important resource.

The Fairfax Media-Research International poll out today suggests an ongoing rump of discontent.

Some 31.2 per cent strongly agree that the speed of decisionmaking affecting individuals and home-owners has been far too slow. And 44.8 per cent agree or strongly agree that the speed of decision-making affecting businesses has been far too slow.

Labour has long been preaching the need for community buy-in, to soften the blow of inevitable bad news. Its local MPs have kept up a daily earthquake bulletin – up to its 137th edition – and rallied street corner meetings and caravan clinics.

Canterbury University researcher Kris Vavasour has canvassed hundreds of residents about communication after the quakes. A “big issue” for people was conflicting and confusing information, specifically from leaders like Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee or Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, Mr Vavasour says.

Something else happened this week

Posted by on September 9th, 2011

With all the excitement around the Rugby World Cup it may have slipped your notice that the long battle by Disability Support workers to be paid minimum wage for “sleepover” shifts looks like it might come to an end by Christmas – if the government gets its act together.

The government, IHC and the unions have reached a compromise deal, which will see the full minimum hourly rate paid for sleepovers by December 2012.

50% of the backpay owed will be paid eight weeks after the government legislates, which will need to happen to enable a variation of the Court’s decision and the very reasonable position taken by the unions of enabling the minimum wage to increase over a period of time.

I’m pleased that after a drawn-out process lasting five years and workers jumping through the hoops and appeals in three Courts, Tony Ryall has finally decided to get the matter settled. I’m also intensely relieved that the government has shelved any idea of amending the Minimum Wage Act to avoid these payments. This would have had an impact on tens of thousands of workers.

The only note of concern is that Minister Ryall is saying legislation won’t be passed before the election.  If that happens, there is no trigger for the backpay to be paid and workers will have to wait a lot longer. There’s no reason settlement legislation can’t happen in the next three sitting weeks.

After all, the government managed to ram through significant changes under urgency that removed rights for a whole category of workers so they could please Warner Bros. They can please the nearly 4,000 workers who have made a claim by getting the legislation through the House asap.  Labour will co-operate with the government so these workers can be paid.

Well done to Service & Food Workers Union and PSA for hanging in there.  You’ve done your members proud.

One of the most powerful of speeches…

Posted by on July 3rd, 2011

Late last week I spent a day and a half at NetHui in Auckland. Couldn’t make the full 3 days. It’s a new initiative, organised by InternetNZ.

It will be an annual event. That all MPs should attend and all of you.

It was all about the internet. What it means for us. What the opportunities and the scary challenges are. And that it’s about equality.

Lawrence Lessig was the keynote speaker.

Some takeout messages:

  • Kids, dropouts, outsiders have been the innovators and have developed the major changes on the internet
  • The internet is about reviving a culture of passive consumption to re-creating a culture of sharing, participation and making new stuff.
  • The need for truth tellers about the network.
  • The enormous challenges for policy-makers and law makers. One of which is for politicians to move away from a culture of being funded  and therefore influenced by private interests. To halt law-making by lobbyists. And consider other ways.
  • How NZ could become a beacon of light in showing the way forward on many of the issues that arise because of the internet

If you watch nothing else for a while, watch his speech. It’s on Youtube in 3 parts.

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

2 min 38 secs on the national party leader’s plan – have a look

Posted by on June 17th, 2011


Posted by on February 1st, 2011

Food, shelter, clothing


Food, housing, education, health, power, a job, a vote, connectivity, (not sure about the order)

Gumboots take off

Posted by on January 18th, 2011

Gumboots- Operation Angel QLD floods

Today in Melbourne the 1600 gumboots donated by The Warehouse were loaded onto trucks along with other essential relief supplies headed for Queensland where they are being named as a critically important item in the flood clean-up. No doubt they’ll be needed in Victoria too.

Organised by relief agency, Operation Angel, who last worked in Victoria’s Bushfires, thousands of gumboots have been loaded onto trucks by volunteers and carried free of charge by Toll Transport to Brisbane, Somerset, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Esk, Laidley & Riverview.

Word of this quirky, but vital initiative has spread around the globe with stories running on CNN, BBC World, New Zealand media & PRI radio across the USA.

1600 of the gumboots were donated by The Warehouse, along with hundreds more from Bata in Victoria. The latest major boots donation came from iconic Aussie brand Blundstone with 3000 pairs of boots – 1000 from Australia, and 2000 to be shipped over from New Zealand. (I’ve got a pair of blundstones)

Via a hugely successful radio and viral Twitter campaign, scores more pre-loved gumboots have been donated by members of the Australian public, along with sturdy metal gardening tools and other items.

Offers of gumboots have flooded in from corporate donors around the globe following Jonathan Mann, CNN’s lead anchor’s interview with Operation Angel’s Founder and Director, Jacqueline Pascarl, as the prime time lead story internationally.

Jacqueline is pictured above (on the right). Not sure who other person is.

Gumboot update

Posted by on January 14th, 2011

Had a bit of new information about where the gumboots are going to.

I’ve also had it confirmed by The Warehouse that there are 1600 (not 1200) pairs of gumboots. Thanks.

They’ve been picked up and are awaiting their flight to Melbourne on Sunday. Thanks Qantas.

All the costs have been covered by The Warehouse, Qantas and Toll Group (an Aussie trucking company)

Operation Angel has determined that they are destined for the Lockyer Valley (around Gatton and Grantham).  The Lockyer Valley is 70km east of Toowoomba.

I understand the loss of life and of entire communites has been significant in this area and the clean up  for kilometres around is still designated a coronial scene.

Our thoughts are with the people of Queensland.

More commercial donations of gumboots, waders, mosquito nets, coils and repellent are needed.

If it weren’t for your gumboots

Posted by on January 13th, 2011

Huge congratulations to Clare Curran for organising from scratch for 1200 pairs of gumboots to get from New Zealand to Australia to help with those in caught up in the floods.

So to celebrate, a song. Well done Clare, great work.

Gumboots unite NZ and Oz

Posted by on January 13th, 2011

Phew. Compared with the enormity of what Queenslanders are facing right now, organising a few gumboots isn’t much. But I’m glad it’s done. And it seems to have united the Kiwi and Oz spirit.

On Sunday, 1200 (pairs of) gumboots provided by our very own NZ company; The Warehouse, will fly out of Auckland headed towards the flood recovery in Queensland. Big ups to The Warehouse. I know it was a team effort, but Rachel Walker and I seem to have become friends as a result.

Why gumboots? There is a chronic shortage of gumboots in Australia. It’s not the season for them. And to be honest, I’m not sure that gumboots are really the essential item that they are in NZ.

Throughout flood-swept Qld people are being told by Mayors, by Premier Anna Bligh and by the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to be careful of their footwear. Not to wear thongs (jandals).  Once the clean up begins gumboots will be essential, for adults and kids.

The gumboots will go to Toowoomba, where Operation Angel, an organisation based in Melbourne, is directing its efforts.

On Tuesday night I got a text from my sister Judith who said our mutual friend Jacqueline Pascarl had been in touch to say she was reinvigorating Operation Angel to coordinate a recovery operation in Toowomba, Queensland. She said among the most essential items were gumboots and mosquito nets, coils and repellent. And would I help?

Jack’s a tenatious person and is good in a crisis. She’s a Patron of Care International, and a bunch of other things, and she’s had a lot happen in her life. So I sent an email to Stephen Tindall of The Warehouse late Tuesday night and by close of business Wednesday  they’d found 1200 pairs of gumboots.

It took a bit longer to organise how to get the gumboots to Oz. I won’t say too much about that, but after I emailed CEO Allan Joyce this morning, by this afternoon Qantas had got back to me saying they’d be pleased to transport the gumboots to Oz.

I understand the gumboots will be flown to Melbourne via Auckland on Sunday and then transported free by truck to Qld, courtesy of Toll Group in Oz.

The generosity of NZ and Oz companies is fantastic and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.

John Clarke (aka Fred Dagg) would be proud.

A bit of info about:

Operation Angel is a not for profit, secular, humanitarian organisation founded in 1997 by Jacqueline Pascarl to assist the women and children of the war-torn Balkan states. Reinvigorated during the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Crisis, it has since evolved into a rapid response, community and volunteer support organisation, priding itself on being lateral thinking and responsive – filling niches that are often overlooked in the time of emergency and disaster.

Jacqueline is a friend and a very special person.

PS: Mosquito nets, coils and repellent are still needed. And probably more gumboots. Can you help?

Don’t dump on the do-gooders

Posted by on January 9th, 2011

Paul Thomas had a good article in the NZ Herald yesterday, where he describes the work Jimmy Carter has been doing since he lost the US Presidency in 1980.

Apparently, he’s on the verge of eradicating the guinea worm – a parasite that is ingested from drinking water and grows to around a metre in length, then erupts from blisters (eewww I know!)

The Carter Foundation’s campaign of education and distribution of water purification strainers has reduced the number of cases from three million reported cases in 1980  to 1700 last year, mostly in Sudan.

Yet, as Paul Thomas says :

(Jimmy Carter)… remains the benchmark of liberal ineffectuality and a prime target of that curious pejorative, habitually delivered with a curl of the lip, do-gooder.Carter is routinely described as a peanut farmer, which is true as far as it goes. He was also a naval officer involved in America’s nuclear submarine programme and a modernising governor of Georgia, but those parts of his CV don’t conform to the narrative.

Sarah Palin, who during the 2008 presidential campaign sneered at Barack Obama’s background as a community organiser, recently joined the dots. Asked to summarise Obama’s presidency, she offered, “Two words: Jimmy Carter.”

This is the same Sarah Palin who, since she resigned her Alaska governship, has made $16 million through books, speaking engagements and appearances on Fox News.

It says something about today’s society that we (some) hang on Palin’s every tweet and treat her as a serious political figure when all she seems to be good at, or interested in, is self-promotion, while continuing to deprecate Carter despite his measurable contribution to mankind.

I agree. And don’t we see it here?  The denigration of those whose work involves helping others, rather than themselves and whose causes are about more than building personal wealth.

We need to value and respect those who are dedicated through their work or community involvement or activism, to doing good and to fighting for important causes.

Because if they don’t, who will?

Australian workers raising money for Pike River families

Posted by on December 3rd, 2010

A show of solidarity from acrosss the ditch. The Australian Workers Union (AWU) represents the miners at Beaconsfield in Tasmania where there was another mining accident several years ago.

Good on them

Just one of many acts of kindness being shown around our country and the globe on this.

AWU members donating to support New Zealand Pike River Families

03 December 2010

The tragic deaths at New Zealand’s Pike River mine has affected many Australian Workers’ Union members who have contacted the national office asking if they can donate money to support the families left behind.

australia and new zealand350 4ce64ff9965e3 [australia and new zealand350 4ce64ff9965e3.jpg]Already AWU members in Tasmania have donated more than $1000 to our New Zealand sister union’s EPMU Pike River Miners Families Support Trust.

AWU members who want to support the donation drive can send cheques made out  to: “ EPMU Pike River Families Support Trust” care of the EPMU, PO Box 14-277, Kilbirnie, Wellington, 6241, New Zealand.

We must ask the hard questions

Posted by on November 28th, 2010

John Armstrong’s piece in yesterday’s Herald got it wrong.

He inferred that most politicians raising questions and exploring the reasons for the explosions at Pike River will be tainted with “exploiting the catastrophe for selfish political motives”.

John by writing that you do two things:

1. You perpetuate the view that politics is somehow “dirty” and “bad”. Is that what you really think?

2. You are undermining the questioner and the questions. That means it will be much harder to get to the truth. Is that really your intention?

Instead, asking the hard questions and seeking answers to them is what we would expect and what we require from our politicians. And from our media. Surely!

29 men died. Their families want answers. Their community wants answers. Politicians were elected to ask questions.

Armstrong appears to be framing the Pike River aftermath so that from the Opposition Benches only Jim Anderton has credibility in asking the hard questions about what went wrong.

I’m happy that Jim will be doing it.

But according to Armstrong, Labour can’t because we’ll be cynically exploiting the catastrophe for the wrong reasons, or showing desperation. What rubbish!

The union movement can’t because they (according to Armstrong) want payback “for the humiliation the Combined Trade Unions incurred over The Hobbit”. More rubbish!

Not sure what he thinks about the Greens asking questions.

On day one of the Pike River explosion I raised on Twitter the importance of hard questions being asked of the company responsible for Pike River Mine. I raised the issue of the Beaconsfield Mine collapse in Tasmania and the important role played by the (AWU) union in bringing health and safety issues to the fore.

And I encouraged the media to ask the tough questions. They are the ones who are placed to ask them. And not be put off by cries of insensitivity. Or inappropriateness. Let’s hope they do.

Fran O’Sullivan, also writing yesterday in the Herald,  believes that the hard questions need to be asked and the vested interests of everyone taken into account. I agree.

My vested interest is to determine why this disaster happened, make sure it doesn’t happen again and bring some accountability. It’s the truth that matters here. All questions are important, even if they are scoffed at by some.

Politicians, no matter what side of politics they are on must ask the hard questions. Otherwise, they’re not doing their jobs.

Damien, Rick and Phil

Posted by on November 28th, 2010

I know there’s a bunch of MPs who’ve spent time at Pike River over the last week and a bit. All of them, from across the political spectrum, have done their best to contribute in whatever way they could to the immense tragedy. This post applies to all of them.

I just want to acknowledge three colleagues; Damien O’Connor who dropped everything and headed to Greymouth on the Friday evening of the mine accident. The West Coast is his patch. And I can’t imagine what the last week has been like for him.

And Rick Barker. We spent last Saturday together in Mana during the by-election. I know his mind and heart was on the West Coast and he headed there the next day. Rick grew up on the Coast.

And of course Phil Goff. He’s been there as much as could be this week. To be honest nothing else really mattered.

They are among the ones who’ve seen first hand the effect this tragedy has had on the people affected. Think they need support too.