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W.o.F “reforms” – coming to a crash in your suburb

29 October 2012 25 comments

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Continued from Liberalising WoF rules – where have we heard this before?

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A Bad Joke?

Stop me if you’ve heard this before; a National minister walks into  Parliamentary  and sez, “Mate, do I have a de-regulation for you!”

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Source

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Transport Minister, Simon Bridges, is proceeding full steam ahead with privatisation of the country’s Warrant of Fitness system.  Strangely, this policy was never ‘flagged’ at last year’s election – but that has never stopped National from implementing potentially problematic policies by rat-cunning stealth.

In fact, National’s Road Safety policy could be labelled “nanny statish” when it comes to issues such as banning cellphone use whilst driving; cracking down on the  anti-social “boy racing” culture; introducing zero blood levels for young drivers (but not older drivers);  tightening driving license procedures, etc.

See: National 2011 Transport Policy

See: National 2011 Road Safety Policy

National’s proposed WoF “reforms” do not appear anywhere in their Transport or Road Safety policies.

As outlined in my previous blogpost – Liberalising WoF rules – where have we heard this before? – this is another of National’s rush-of-blood-to-the-head type of policy which is based more on right wing, user-pays ideology than any measure of common sense.

Those Who Forget The Past…

Going by past examples of de-regulation and passing-the-buck on  safety issues, this will prove a costly exercise for the taxpayer. Costly in terms of damage caused by more accidents due to unchecked, unsafe, unroadworthy cars – and costly in terms of lives.

It is precisely this ideological  de-regulation and “reforms” in the 1990s that later created a crisis with our building industry and mines safety.

The loosening of building standards within the  1991 Building Act resulted in a leaking-rotting homes crisis that will ultimately cost home owners, local bodies, and the taxpayer billions in repairs.  Passed by Jim Bolger’s National Government, and which came into effect about 1994, light-handed controls and minimal standards (such as allowing the use of untreated timber and monolithic claddings) in the belief that building quality would be mostly assured by market-driven forces

See: Leaky homes prompt repeal of Building Act

The gutting of the mines inspectorate, allowing self-regulation by mining companies,  had it’s genesis in the early 1990s – again the Bolger-led National government –  where Bill Birch introduced the so-called “Health and Safety in Employment Act, in 1992.

Under the guise of  “eliminating red tape”, this dangerous piece of legislation allowed mining companies to self-monitor their own activities,

“39. Prior to the enactment of the HSE Act, New Zealand had a ‘mishmash of legislation’[5], in which the duties of employers and others tended to be set out prescriptively and in considerable detail. Under this regime, specification standards directed duty holders as to precisely what preventive measures they must take in particular circumstances. Such standards identified inputs, telling duty holders how to meet a goal, rather than health and safety outcomes to be achieved

42. In undertaking reform, New Zealand, like the UK and Australia before it, was strongly influenced by the British Robens Report of 1972. This report resulted in widespread legislative change, from the traditional, ‘command and control’ model, imposing detailed obligations on firms enforced by a state inspectorate, to a more ‘self-regulatory’ regime, using less direct means to achieve broad social goals

46. New Zealand embraced the Robens philosophy of self-regulation somewhat belatedly, but with particular enthusiasm and in the context of a political environment that was strongly supportive of deregulation. Indeed, in various forms, deregulation (and reducing the regulatory burden on industry more broadly) was strongly endorsed by the Labour Government that came into power in 1984 and by the National Government that succeeded it in 1990. The HSE Act was a product of this deregulatory environment and in its initial version was stripped of some of the key measures recommended by Robens, not least tripartism, worker participation and an independent executive. It was regarded, so we were told, as a ‘necessary evil’ at a time when the predominant public policy goal was to enhance business competitiveness…”

See: Review of the Department of Labour’s interactions with Pike River Coal Limited

The conclusion of this experiment in free market de-regulation lies deep within the Pike River Mine, with the entombed bodies of 29 dead miners.

Unfortunately, the architects of this de-regulation, Bill Birch Birch, Ruth Richardson, and Jim Bolger were never prosecuted for their malfeasance in this tragedy.

They should have been.

Fastforward to 2012…

Never let it be said that National learns from history, mistakes, or uses simple common sense. That would be far too much to expect from right wing, market-faith-based ideologues.

Under proposals announced on 18 September, the Government is considering reducing warrant of fitness checks to once a year for cars under 12 years old. (Currently, they are checked in six monthly intervals,  six years after their first registration.)

Bridges says millions could be “saved” in “unnecessary inspections”.

Bullshit.

At most, a car-owner with a vehicle older than six years would save about $60 in a potentially “unnecessary inspection”.

$60.

About $1.15 a week.

16 cents a day.

For that money, we ensure that a vehicle is up to standard, and is not a rolling death-trap on our roads, waiting to maim, kill, and/or destroy property. It means tyres have tread on them; brakes actually brake the vehicle; and the indicator is more than just mere decoration on the steering column.

As a car owner, it’s tempting to save $60 a year.

Until I realise that, for 16 cents a day, I have peace-of-mind that the other car behind me will stop in time because it has working brakes. Or the car-driver approaching on my right will see me through heavy rain because his  car window-wipers work.

There is damned good reason why the Motor Trade Association is campaigning heavily against National’s lunatic proposals. The MTA understands the full implications of increasing WoF checks to yearly intervals; a lot can happen to an older model car in twelve months.

This blogger can foresee a scenario where older vehicles  go for longer periods without WoF checks; family incomes dropping whilst living expenses continue to rise;  coupled to no mandatory Third Party insurance  – and this will end in tears.

As it is, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, AA spokesperson Mark Stockdale himself conceded that 9% of cars  on the roads   already lack a current WoF. How many more will we see  if the interval between WoF checks is increased? It doesn’t take supernatural powers of prescience to see where this is heading.

See: TV3’s The Nation 28 October 2012

As mechanic, Don Sweet,  told Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme on 27 September,

“When you talk about the repairs, I’ve found steering joints falling off, brakes worn right out, brake hoses cracked to bursting, rusted brake pipes, tyres with steel cords coming out.

And that’s not just on six-month checks, that’s on one-year cars as well. I just think the six months is going to save lives.”

See: Warning warrant of fitness changes could cost lives

National has a habit of not listening to those at the coalface when they stuff around with our laws. Whether it’s Hekia Parata undermining our teachers, or Primary Industries Minister, David Carter, not listening to the agricultural sector when bio-security regulations are watered-down – the Nats are spectacularly inept at consultation.

With National, “nanny state”  becomes Daddy State, and “Father Knows Best” according to these misguided, Ministerial muppets.

The tragedy here is that if this craziness becomes reality, it will be innocent New Zealanders who suffer the consequences as cars become increasingly unsafe and our roads turn into potential killing zones.

Daft Idea #2

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Full story

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In the same episode of TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, Bridges voiced the bizarre proposition that WoF checks could be contracted out to private companies who would be authorised by the government to carry out “randomised roadside checks” for WoFs,

It could be a private organisation who’s contracted by the government. As I understand it, that’s what they do in Queensland with a very good success.”

Only a male could come up with such a short-sighted, ill-conceived idea.

A female friend of mine listened to Bridges’ suggestion with wide-eyed horror on her face. She turned and said to me,

There is no way on god’s earth I’d stop for a strange car trying to flag me down. I’d have my foot on the gas pedal and head for the nearest police station. ”

She has a point.

When a police vehicle pulls over another vehicle, the former is clearly marked – with flashing lights – and it is safe to do so.

Expecting lone women drivers to pull over for unmarked private vehicles, with god-knows-who at the wheel, is a recipe for disaster. It puts women at risk and cannot be justified by any rational, clear-thinking individual.

Simon Bridges has more than a ‘brain fade’ here – we’re talking full-on ‘brain-wipe‘.

He must be barking mad to believe that,

If all we did as a country was decrease the frequency of vehicle inspections, that in itself may lead to slightly less, or not as good safety outcomes, but if we then target it, have a better targeting of regulation to where the risk is, I think that’s a smart thing.”

On every level, extending the period between WoF check and allowing “randomised roadside checks” by private companies, is the same craziness that National foisted on us in the 1990s.

All in the name of de-regulation and saving $60 a year.

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Related

Hands Off The WoF Campaign

Make A Submission Against the “Reforms”

Additional

TV3: Private companies may do random WoF checks

Previous related blogpost

This will end in tears

Other blogs

Deregulating for Disaster

Another deregulation fiasco

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