Monday, November 05, 2012

The return of Ministerial responsibility

The Pike River Commission has released its final report, which is available here. Their conclusion? The accident was preventable, and our health and safety regime is inadequate. Its recommendations look quite reasonable, and its good to see that the government is making the right noises about adopting them. While they're cautious about spinning health and safety off onto a new Crown Entity (as it clashes with their hostility to single-purpose agencies and their quest for efficiencies of scale), who does it is ultimately far less important than whether or not it gets done.

Its also seen a welcome return of Ministerial responsibility, with Kate Wilkinson's resignation. While the lax health and safety environment which allowed the accident to happen was the product of twenty years of deregulation and "reform" which occurred under both major parties (yes, Labour, your refusal to roll back deregulation makes you responsible too), she presided over the final, ultimate failure of that ramshackle system, and its entirely appropriate that she carries the can for that. She was Minister; an unconscionable failure happened on her watch; resigning is the honourable thing to do. At the same time, by doing so she highlights the unethical response of certain other Ministers (*cough* Bennett *cough* Key*) over similarly serious long-term failures in their departments.

If Ministers' jobs were on the line over serious failures in their departments, then I think we'd see a lot less of them. As voters, we should be demanding that more Ministers take responsibility like this, rather than letting them collect their inflated salaries for nothing.