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New Zealand's Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety forgets the safety part

Brooke Van Velden prioritises employers and the economy over the risk of Kiwi workers dying. Video April 2024

By the time Van Velden rocked up to the Q&A studio on a sunny April’s day for an interview with Jack Tame, she was in her job as Workplace Safety Minister for over 4 months. And in opposition for a lot longer.

So hands up who believes her story in the video that the question of engineered stone had just landed on her desk right on just the weekend before the interview on April 7, 2024.

Australia had already banned the substance 3-4 months ago from the interview date. I wrote more about it here

Australia’s workplace regulator noted: “There is no toxological evidence of a safe threshold for crystal silica content.”

Hundreds of workers in Australia developed silicosis from working on engineered stone, a popular material mostly used for kitchen benches and bathroom vanities.

But what did Van Velden do?

She argued that she had just found out about this workplace issue, she needed “more time” and definitely didn’t want to be a “reactionary politician.

After all, won’t someone think of the poor employers?

All the while demonstrating her party’s values - putting the economy front and center, while Kiwi workers are relegated to a footnote - useful for being the worker bees, but of no more apparent import than that.

So Brooke, it’s been over 2 months now and today, another call from 19 organisations for you to do your job and let Kiwi families live. And workers survive.

Let’s watch you at least be reactive to public opinion and bed press, if Kiwi work and safety doesn’t rock your boat.


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Bringing you updates and analysis on social and political issues in Aotearoa New Zealand.
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