Yes, I’m looking at the Australian Liberal party, who have gleefully piled onto Peter Garrett and called for his resignation over the Insulation scheme debacle (which is predictably being called Insulationgate), but don’t seem to know that their arses are on fire.
Now, sure, I’m predisposed to like the guy. But let it be known I’m not particularly keen to fight Garrett’s corner as a minister in the Labor government. I’m the Voter who Cannot Love*, after all. He, like Julia, has broken my heart over environmental and Arts policies. No, I don’t think parachute-in celebrity politicians are necessarily a good thing, and I also think he’s overfaced. He was given too much responsibility, too quickly. The fact that every right wing hack was automatically programmed to hate him was just icing on the cake.
Should he move aside into a less demanding portfolio to gain more experience? Should he sit down and have a big think about whether the realpolitik of the Labor tent has negated his entire life’s work on environmental issues? Yes and yes. Should he stand aside because his position has become completely untenable and he’s electoral poison? Or because, in some quaint and symbolic way, in the Westminster system a Minister is required to fall on his or her sword for the actions of other people? Probably. But should he stand aside, or be sacked, because he bears some kind of moral responsibility for the four workplace deaths that have happened since the inception of the insulation scheme? That is such a pack of horse hockey I’m unable to contain my rage.
Gosh, it’s touching that the Liberal party has suddenly discovered workplace deaths in the building industry. When they were in power, those despised Unions were constantly trying to tell them. About forty people a year, more or less, die in Australia every year. Are the other thirty-six people who died in Australia in the last year chopped liver, just because they don’t come with a Ministerial scalp? I don’t hear any outrage in doorstop interviews about them.
The four people (some of them boys) died for the usual reason: because their employers ignored occupational health and safety practice (as well as ordinary common sense). The employer of the worker who died in October could possibly claim ignorance about the metal fasteners used with metal foil insulation close to wiring. The others couldn’t, because Garrett didn’t do nothing: he moved to ban the fasteners in November. Two more workers died as a direct result of the employer ignoring a new regulation which Garrett himself had put in place, as well as one from heat stroke, again the employer’s responsibility. To quote one commenter, the responsibility to run a safe workplace lies with the employers.
Now we have the Liberals shouting that Peter Garrett should have micromanaged the scheme to the point of overseeing every employer, perhaps, I don’t know, climbing into every roof space himself. This is the same Liberal party mainly composed of people who see every government regulation as a slippery slope to socialism. This is the Liberal party whose constituency is business groups which oppose industry regulation as “anti-business”.
These are the people who claim to espouse a doctrine of individual responsibility, but because it suits them at the moment, they’re willing to abandon that. “If you don’t like my principles, I have others”, I guess? See Also, the invisible hand of the Market sorting things out? When push comes to shove, this incident has shown that they really know it’s a crock.
So, Libs, if you want to claim your prize Ministerial Scalp at the prize desk, I think you should have to fess up that the despised unions were right all along and that government oversight of private industry is totes necessary (and that at the moment you’re calling for government micromanagement on a scale hardly known except in command economies). Also, that conservatives are for Individual Responsibility, except where you can blame something on someone you don’t like.
Also, that your arses are on fire.
*Just like Chilly, the Elf who Cannot Love.