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Back to the Future Past with Paul Goldsmith

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On 25 June, Amy Adams (the National MP, not the actor portraying Lois Lane, Superman’s on-again/off-again love interest in the movies) announced she would be retiring from politics next year, not contesting the 2020 General Election.

National appears to have been short on experienced talent when they quickly announced her replacement as Opposition Finance spokesperson as Epsom’s Not-MP, Paul Goldsmith. Mr Goldsmith’s two stand-out political achievements thus far have been;

1. Standing for the Epsom electorate in 2011 as a “Clayton’s” Candidate in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge deal between National and ACT. The cuppa-tea-deal for (first) John Banks (and subsequently David Seymour) allowed him to secure the Epsom Electorate in an effort to bring in additional MPs on the ACT Party List. (Winning only 1.7% of the Party Vote, the cunning plan failed.)

2. Being the only known political candidate in recorded human history to deliberately remove election signs so voters would not vote for him.

National appointed Mr Goldsmith’s as their latest Finance spokesperson barely three hours and three minutes after Ms Adams’ announcement was made public.

Whatever experience Mr Goldsmith has to propel him into the Opposition Finance spokesperson position is unclear. His experience in the private sector is questionable, as his own National Party bio reveals:

Before entering Parliament, Paul created his own business as a historian and biographer focusing on New Zealand’s history and economic development. He has published 10 books, his last were biographies of Alan Gibbs (Serious Fun) and Sir William Gallagher (Legend). Between 2007 and 2010 he served as an Auckland City Councillor.

According to the same bio we are informed that  “he is an enthusiastic pianist”. (Good to know. As the fate of the Titanic showed, musicians are always handy to have around when a doomed ship goes down.)

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Despite lacking any personal experience in the commercial sector, it has not prevented Mr Goldsmith expressing firm neo-liberal beliefs. In 2015, as  National’s Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, he stated his categorical opposition to regulating corporate activities such as incentivising insurance brokers from selling products to clients who may or may not need them.

Instead, he opted for the usual “light handed” approach;

“I can’t rule it out, but I think it’s highly unlikely. I don’t personally like the idea of Government directly regulating such things.

The preference would be devising a disclosure regime, which is clear and simple and effective. There are countries around the world that ban commissions, full stop, and I think that’s probably carrying it too far.”

As Jenée Tibshraeny explained for Interest.co.nz;

“The main argument against commission is that it risks distorting the advice clients are given, as they’re often unaware of the perks their broker or adviser may receive for recommending different products.”

It appears obvious that Mr Goldsmith’s sympathies align more with corporate interests and defending the laissez-faire status quo rather than protecting consumers. (Only National could so blatantly subvert the role of “Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs” until the “Consumer Affairs” part of the ministerial title became meaningless.)

As if to underscore his disdain for safety in pursuit of unfettered de-regulation, in July last year, Mr Goldsmith drafted a Private Member’s Bill that would remove the 10pm “curfew” for new drivers on Restricted-class car licences. His rationale was that Restricted Licences potentially interfered with late-night work shifts;

“A lot of people at that age – in their last year of school or at university – have jobs in the hospitality sector. Very often, those shifts don’t finish until 10.30pm or somewhere around there, and it’s just a pain in the neck [to get home].”

However, Mr Goldsmith seemed oblivious (or simply did not care) to existing provisions where the New Zealand Transport Agency regulations permitted flexibility to Restricted licence requirements. As Fairfax journalist Damian George pointed out;

New Zealand Transport Agency regulations allowed for exemptions in special circumstances. The agency said 750 of 1585 exemption applications, primarily for driving hours, were approved for restricted drivers last year.

Automobile Association road safety spokesperson, Dylan Thomsen, was clearly not impressed.  He also pointed out that young  (under 25) drivers were predominantly involved in crashes and fatalities on New Zealand roads, especially at nights.

In early June this year, Mr Goldsmith slammed proposals from Associate Transport Minister, Julie Anne Genter, to reduce the speed limit on some open roads in this country. The NZTA revealed that “87 percent of speed limits on New Zealand roads are higher than is safe. An agency risk assessment tool, Mega Maps, suggests only 5 percent of the open road should have the current 100km/h speed limit. In most cases a speed of 60-80 km/h should apply, and in most urban areas 30-40 km/h would be appropriate“.

Mr Goldsmith’s extreme knee-jerk reaction on the same day bordered on “shower head-style” mischief-making;

“The reality is, New Zealanders lead busy lives and don’t want the Government telling them they need to operate at a slower pace. They would rather see their tax dollars spent on new, high-quality roads that are safe for them drive on at 100kmh, but this Government hasn’t built a single new road.

Drastically cutting speed limits to improve road safety is too simplistic. It would further isolate people living in regional New Zealand and pull the handbrake on our economy by hindering the movement of freight.”

Mr Goldsmith’s comments run counter to National’s previous Associate Transport Minister, Craig Foss, who recognised that some speed limits were inappropriate for certain stretches of roads. In November 2016, Mr Foss announced;

“New Zealand roads are unique and conditions vary from towns to cities, north to south. The Guide strongly encourages community involvement as local knowledge and perspectives, backed by the information and data provided in the Guide, will help ensure the best possible safety results.

Changes made under the Guide may include altering road design, lowering speed limits, or in certain circumstances, raising them.”

It is no secret that many of New Zealand’s roads are utterly unsuitable for high speeds. For Mr Goldsmith to “play politics” on this issue sadly demonstrates his willingness to exploit people’s lives when it suits his personal political agenda.

On 3 July, Mr Goldsmith told quasi-National Party chat-show host, Duncan Garner, on TV3’s ‘The AM Show;

Goldsmith also wants to look at dialing back excessive regulations, such as by reforming the Resource Management Act and reviewing health and safety laws.

“The health and safety laws were ones that we brought in and I think we need to just make sure we haven’t gone too far.”

Health and safety… “gone too far“?

Mr Goldsmith’s memory and grasp of recent historical events must be very poor indeed. He has apparently overlooked (or is ignorant of) instances of de-regulation in the early 1990s – the height of Small Government mania where common sense gave way to free market ideological purity – which has  cost us dearly. And not just in monetary terms.

The de-regulation of the New Zealand building industry can be pin-pointed with the “reforms” of the Building Act 1991. In essence, the Act “changed building controls from a prescriptive system to a more self-regulated regime“.

The resulting self-policing resulted in a free-for-all where caveat emptor  became the new standard for buying a home in New Zealand. Minimal regulation; self-policing; hands-off government… what could possibly go wrong?

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In 2009, Price Waterhouse Coopers stated in a report on leaky homes that there were up to 89,000 homes affected throughout New Zealand. Remedial cost: $11.3 billion dollars.

Another leaky homes consultant put the true cost of remedial work at a staggering $23 billion.

“Legal Vision” – a firm of barristers and solicitors wrote a lengthy, detailed analysis of the failures of our building industry in the 1990s. With regards to de-regulation and the Building Act 1991, they concluded;

There was a lack of accountability for those responsible for construction mishaps/defects. The market forces in themselves were not sufficient to protect the key stakeholder being the home owner. The power imbalance as between home owner and the supplier was significant, such that you cannot rely upon market forces alone to protect the home owner. There was little to protect them within the 1991 Act and other legislation.

The financial and legal consequences from rotting homes would make send many in the industry – from builders to private certifiers (outsourced from local bodies) bankrupt – often to escape their liabilities.

The financial, political, and social fall-out would last for decades. As then-North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams said nine years ago;

“The Government must accept its own liability for the deregulation experiment inflicted on the building industry and local government and take responsibility for the liability accumulated by the private sector builders, designers, architects and certifiers who are now insolvent and unable to meet their responsibilities to leaky-home owners.

Unless these wider issues are dealt with, and dealt with soon, the ratepayers of the new Super City will be burdened for years, and the Government’s brave new world for Auckland governance will never be fully realised.”

As economist, Brian Easton, assessing the failures of the “reformed” Building Act, said in 2010;

The early 1990s was a period when the market extremists were still triumphant, and there was frequent reference to ‘light-handed regulation’, referring to a regulatory system in which the government is not very active but the regulation is based upon normal market practices, including litigation for breach of contract (perhaps under the Consumer Guarantees Act in cases where the contract was not very elaborate). Ideally, the threat of litigation is sufficient to ensure that the contractor maintains the agreed standards.

It appears that little thought was put into considering the issue of what redress the house owner would have if the performance standards were not attained. Suppose the cladding fell off after 14 years? Under light-handed regulation the aggrieved party can take the matter to litigation, but who exactly is to be sued? The above account suggests that there are many involved, and all, to some extent, may be at fault: the local authority, its building inspector, the builder, the architect, the buildings material supplier, the developer, the home owner who onsold, and even the legislators and their advisers who passed the relevant legislation. In such situations fault can be very difficult to establish in law.

Or perhaps Mr Goldsmith is thinking of the de-regulation of the Labour Dept, Mining Inspectorate, and safety legislation – also in the early 1990s.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act) now “impose[d] the obligation on employers to take all practicable steps to ensure safety at work“.

Then, Pike River happened.

An independent review commissioned by the then-Chief Executive of the Department of Labour revealed the nature of the new, de-regulated environment which dangerous workplaces such as mines, now operated.

The report optimistically set out expectations of of the HSE Act;

11. The nature of the Department’s regulatory role is set out in the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act). The principal plank of the legislation imposes the obligation on employers to take all practicable steps to ensure safety at work. The Department sees its role under the Act as being to ensure that employers are aware of their obligations, to support and assist them to understand and give effect to these obligations and to enforce as appropriate.

And then revealed a staggering flaw in the Act;

15. There was one gap in this picture. The inspectors did not conduct general safety systems audits. They were not required to do so by their work plans. The approach the mine inspectors took in scrutinising specific complex and technical mine safety issues confronting the mine, is an appropriate one for a technical and specialist area involving high hazards. However, this approach should be complemented by also paying attention to general systems. In high hazard industries, inspectors should engage in an integrated approach that involves systems audits and in-depth scrutiny of specific, often technically complex safety issues. We note that in future the Department plans to complement its regulatory approach with a greater level of emphasis on safety system audits. When it does so, it will need to equip its inspectors with the training and support tools to successfully perform this role.

The report was damning in pointing out the utter failure of the so-called Health and Safety in Employment Act to actually do what it’s label demanded of it: to provide health and safety in employment;

45. In broad terms, the HSE Act replaced heavily prescriptive standards (telling duty holders precisely what measures to take in a particular situation) with a performance-based approach, primarily by imposing general duties (sometimes referred to as goal setting regulation) such as to take ‘all practicable steps’ to ensure health and safety, leaving it to the discretion of the duty holder how they achieve that standard. This approach was coupled with greater use of performance standards that specify the outcome of the health and safety improvement or the desired level of performance but leave the concrete measures to achieve this end open for the duty holder to adapt to varying local circumstances. There was also a focus on systemsbased standards. These identify a particular process, or series of steps, to be followed in the pursuit of safety, and may include the use of formal health and safety management systems.

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…

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50. Put differently, whereas under the previous legislation, inspectors had been expected to go into workplaces and direct duty holders as to what safety measures they should introduce (the expectation being that the inspector rather than the employer would take the initiative) under the HSE Act employers bear primary responsibility for health and safety while providing information and support, particularly when it comes to establishing and developing health and safety systems and processes and takes enforcement action where the employer fails to meet the practicability standard.”

Again, “reforms” replaced set prescriptive standards of safety with individual self-policing and self-regulation.

As well as deferring health and safety to individual companies, the government mines inspectorate was reduced to a shadow of it’s former self.

Amongst other things the Coal Mines Act 1979 took a strong, proactive approach to safeguarding health and safety in the country’s mines. The Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy described the role of the mines inspectors;

“…provided for a chief inspector, district, electrical and mechanical inspectors of coal mines. Chief inspectors could support and review the actions of the inspectors. They held first class coal mine manager’s certificates and had significant coal mining expertise, usually as manager of a large and challenging New Zealand mine such as Strongman, which had problems with gas and spontaneous combustion.

…District inspectors had coal mining expertise and inspected mines within a particular geographical area. Inspections occurred with and without notice and following notification of incidents and accidents. Small mines were inspected monthly and large mines inspected weekly“.

The coal mines inspectorate was a unit with the then Ministry of Energy.

From 1993 to 1998 the MIG consisted of about 20 to 25 people. In 1995, for example, there were three coal inspectors, three mining engineers, five quarry inspectors, one electrical/mechanical engineer, two petroleum/ geothermal inspectors, two regional managers, one group manager and eight support staff.

In 1989, the Mines Inspectorate Group (MIG) was transferred to the Minister of Commerce. After considerable opposition from the MIG, the group was transfered to the then Department of Labour.

Staff rationalisation then proceeded with a vengeance.

Mines inspections were reduced from once every two months  in 1993/94 to every three months by 1995. By the time the Mines Inspectorate Group was incorporated into the DoL, it ceased being a separate entity and became part of general workplace safety inspectors.

Most mines inspectors resigned.

Only three dedicated mines inspectors remained by 2001.

From 2001 to 2011 the number of mines inspectors fluctuated between one and two – for the entire country. When one of those inspectors resigned in 2011,  one  was left by himself, for several months, to monitor every mine in New Zealand.

The gutting of the Mines Inspectorate over several governments and decades was a breathtaking act of stupidity for what was undoubtedly one of the most dangerous industries in the world.

The consequence was inevitable. On 19 November 2010,the ticking time bomb detonated:  a series of methane explosions at Pike River Mine killed twentynine miners.

In an almost perverse understatement, The Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy reported,

DOL now appreciates the importance of, and deficiencies in, its leadership of health and safety. As the minister’s proposal noted, ‘the Pike River tragedy and Royal Commission hearings indicate areas of weakness in the effectiveness and credibility of the regulator, and the ability to support industry-led activity and effective employee participation’.

As if to underscore the findings of the Royal Commission, another government enquiry, the  Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety in 2013 wrote scathingly of our current mania for de-regulation;

Ultimately, New Zealand implemented a much lighter version of the Robens [workplace health and safety self-regulated by employers] model, and much later, than other countries. This light implementation reflected a range of New Zealand-specific factors during the late 1980s and 1990s, notably resource constraints (including public sector staff cuts), changing attitudes towards the roles of government and business (including an ethos of business self-regulation), and liberalisation of the labour market with weakened union representation.

As if to drive home the point, the Taskforce spelled it out for us:

Our national culture includes a high level of tolerance for risk, and negative perceptions of health and safety. Kiwi stoicism, deference to authority, laid-back complacency and suspicion of red tape all affect behaviour from the boardroom to the shop floor.

For those who see human life in purely monetary terms, the Taskforce estimated that the cost of workplace injuries was approximately $3.5 billion a year – nearly 2% of GDP.

Then-Labour Minister – and currently holding the position of Leader of the National Party – Simon Bridges, accepted the Taskforce’s report;

“The Working Safer package represents a major step change in New Zealand’s approach to meet our target of reducing the workplace injury and death toll by 25 percent by 2020,” says Mr Bridges.

The reforms recalibrate our approach so we are working smarter, targeting risk and working together to improve performance in workplace health and safety.

Working Safer addresses the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety which provided Government with a solid foundation to work from.

We will improve the legislation and back it up with clear guidelines and enforcement, and investment in a strong new regulator WorkSafe New Zealand.”

So when Paul Goldsmith recently said to Duncan Garner;

“The health and safety laws were ones that we brought in and I think we need to just make sure we haven’t gone too far.”

– he had obviously missed the memo from his current Leader.

The cost of de-regulation in our building industry is estimated in excess of $23 billion.

The cost of de-regulation and watering-down of safety practices in our work places: injuries; permanent disabilities; and lives lost. In other words: incalculable.

If the definition of lunacy is to repeat the same thing over and over again, expecting differing results, then the National Party has been wildly successful: it is a party of lunatic ideologues.

It has not learned a single thing from our recent, well-publicised, recent history.

Who else will be injured, maimed, or killed, in the name of de-regulation if Paul Goldsmith gets his way?

Mr Goldsmith should not be allowed anywhere near a ministerial position. He is not fit for any role of responsibility.

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Postscript

Since December 2010 – one month after the Pike River Mine disaster – 422 people have been killed in workplace accidents:

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References

Parliament: Hon Amy Adams

Youtube:  Lois & Clark | In My Veins ( Batman vs Superman Drawn of Justice)

Radio NZ: Senior National MP Amy Adams to retire from politics

NZ Herald: Leaky homes a disaster and a $2b tax windfall

MoBIE: Dept of Labour – Pike River Mine Review

Parliament: Paul Goldsmith

Wikipedia: 2011 New Zealand general election – Epsom and the Tea Tape scandal

The Standard: Goldsmith removing Goldsmith signs

Scoop media: National Party Caucus reshuffle announced

Scoop media: Amy Adams to retire from politics at election

National Party: About Paul

Interest.co.nz: Minister Paul Goldsmith admits he doesn’t like the idea of the Govt directly regulating how insurers incentivise advisers to sell their products

Fairfax/Stuff media: Member’s bill to scrap curfew for restricted licence holders so they can get to work

Scoop media: Minister shows how misguided she is on speed limits

Radio NZ: ‘Huge majority’ of NZers would prefer lower speeds on some roads – Genter

Scoop media: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state

Scoop media: A new approach to safer speeds

Mediaworks/Newshub: National Party Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith outlines plan for cutting regulation, taxes

Wikipedia: Leaky homes crisis

Merriam Webster: caveat emptor

MoBIE: Building Performance – Signs of a leaky home

Leaky Homes: A New Zealand Crisis

NZ Herald: Leaky homeowners on suicide watch

NZ Herald: Leaky-home bill estimated at $6.3b

NZ Herald: Repaired leaky homes worth 1/4 less

Fairfax/Stuff: 15 years of leaky homes and the brutal economics of owning one

Homes to Love: 10 tell-tale signs you have a leaky home

NZ Herald: It’s not if – it’s when for our dripping time bombs

Interest.co.nz: Price Waterhouse Coopers – Weathertightness – Estimating the Cost

Legal Vision:  Failings of the Building Act 1991 – Were these a cause of the leaky building crisis?

Brian Easton: Regulatory Lessons from the Leaky Home Experience

MoBIE/Dept of Labour: Review of the Department of Labour’s interactions with Pike River Coal Limited

Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy: The decline of the mining inspectorate

Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy: Chapter 24 -Effectiveness of the health and safety regulator
– Leadership of health and safety

Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety: Key Findings

Scoop media: Major reform of workplace health and safety (alt.link)

Worksafe: Workplace fatalities for all industries, all regions, all ages, from Dec 2010 to Jul 2019

Additional

Ministry of Labour: A Guide to the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992

Other Blogs

Tumeke: The myth of over-regulation and the delusion of self-regulation

The Standard: Two faced John Key on Pike River

Previous related blogposts

This will end in tears

A hole they all dug?

A lethal lesson in de-regulation

Heather Roy – head down the mine shaft?

Health and safety jobcuts? Haven’t we been down this road before?!

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 July 2019.

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Citizen A – 10 November 2012 – Online now!

12 November 2012 1 comment

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Citizen A

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– 10 November 2012 –

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– Selwyn Manning & Phoebe Fletcher –

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– 7.3% unemployment – Pike River Mine – US Elections –

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Issue 1: Does the Pike River Mine report herald a change in the culture of self regulation and deregulation?

Issue 2: Big gay red shirts and David Beckham’s intelligence rated by the thickness of bat feces – is it Prime Ministerial?

and Issue 3: What can the world expect from an Obama win?

Citizen A broadcasts 7pm Thursday Triangle TV

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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W.o.F “reforms” – coming to a crash in your suburb (Part Rua)

3 November 2012 4 comments

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

On TV3 News tonight,

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Source

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… and this is what Simon Bridges wants to liberalise and change from six monthly Warrants of Fitness, to yearly?! Or spot-checks? Or at point-of-sale?!

See: Warrant of fitness changes considered

See: Private vehicle inspectors could stop cars to check warrants

Whether the police set up this exercise as some kind of “propaganda event” is immaterial.

The point here is that in one night, they found 25 cars that were unroadworthy. One had been lowered to such a degree that their rear tyres were scrapping against the metal body of the car. Double blowouts waiting to happen. (With two young children in the back seat to cap off the car owners’ exercise in stupidity. Candidates for the Darwin Awards, for sure.)

One hopes that Simon Bridges, or some other National Minister,  watched TV3 tonight and will squash any suggestion to liberalise the WoF on Monday’s Cabinet meeting.

How many other unsafe, unroadworthy cars are there, driving around on our roads?

I wouldn’t mind so much – except I happen to share those same roads with those rolling death traps.

An email sent to Mr Bridges,

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Date:  Sat,Saturday, 3 November 2012 9:48 PM
From: Frank Macskasy
Subject: Liberalising the Warrant of Fitness
To: Consumer Affairs Minister Simon Bridges “Simon.Bridges@parliament.govt.nz”
Cc: Campbell Live “campbelllive@tv3.co.nz”,
    TV3 News “wellington.news@tv3.co.nz”
Bcc:
Kia ora Mr Bridges,
I hope you watched TV3 news on Saturday evening (3 November).
TV3 presented a news story on a Police clamp-down on unsafe cars on our roads. In one night they wrote of at least 25 vehicles that were in an unsafe and unroadworthy condition. 
One vehicle had been lowered to such a degree that their rear tyres were scrapping against the metal body of the car. Double blowouts waiting to happen. (With two young children in the back seat to cap off the car owners’ exercise in stupidity.)
It is plain to see that there are too many people  who think nothing of driving unsafe cars on our roads. A six monthly WoF check picks up some of these foolish people.
One can only image the number of rolling deathtraps that will be on our roads should the WoF go from 6 to 12 months, or even longer still.
Your suggestion to liberalise the WoF system is badly misguided, and judging by tonights TV3 news story, will result in more deaths on our roads.
I ask that you cease your agenda on this issue and focus your attention elsewhere to facilitate safer roads. Otherwise your little experiment in de-regulation will cost lives.
Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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Let’s hope that common sense prevails. It’s not that difficult.

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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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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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Liberalising WoF rules – where have we heard this before?

20 September 2012 2 comments

The latest liberalisation policy from National; changing the frequency of Warrants of Fitness for new and older vehicles,

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Listen to Simon Bridges on Checkpoint

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Listen to more on Nine to Noon

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I have an uneasy feeling about National’s proposals…

On one hand, it would be easier and cheaper to have my car checked for a WoF once every six months.  Who could say ‘no’ to saving $40 or $60 a year?

On the other hand, a lot can go wrong with a car in one year.  As mechanic, Don Sweet, told Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme,

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.”

So why my apprehension? What is it about National’s liberalisation of  this regulation that causes my ‘spidey-sense‘ to tingle, with on-coming danger?

Perhaps because we’ve been down this road before – with disturbing and tragic consequences,

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Full Story

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Source: Hansards – Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Despite Minister Williamson attempting to duck responsibility, the de-regulation of the Building Industry, as well as the Mining Inspectorate, can be sheeted home fairly-and-squarely upon National’s neo-liberal shoulders.

As part of an ongoing agenda of transforming New Zealand society and economy into a de-regulated free-market, with minimal state over-sight, both Rogernomics Labour and National pursued liberalisation to the exclusion of common sense, safety, and consequences.

Those politicians responsible for the mess they created; the billions of dollars in damage; and lives lost, continue to abrogate all responsibility for the last two decades. Yet, many of those same politicians are still in office today.

The liberalisation of Warrants of Fitness for vehicles sounds like a good idea.

But so did de-regulation of the Building Industry and Mining Inspectorate, at the time.

One would like to think we have learnt our lessons over time, but it appears not. Our propensity for collective amnesia is as much a part of our nature as it ever was.

Liberalisation  of vehicle safety standards: this will not end well.

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Previous related blogpost

A lethal lesson in de-regulation

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3 things we will never see in our lifetime…

18 August 2011 3 comments

There are some things that are simply impossible, according to the laws of physics…

(Oh, ok, I was wrong about #1. It is possible for aliens to travel to Earth and land in front of the White House… )