David Shearer might be short on power but at least he can parrot the miners’ safety message

At first blush it seemed the West Coasters might not understand how much clout – or rather, how little – is carried by the Leader of the Opposition.

The answer, of course, is bugger all. Alf reckons you would get more power from an AAA battery.

And so when it comes to making decisions to raise or cut taxes, introduce new laws and regulations, and what-have-you, a Leader of the Opposition can do little more than vote no and persuade his team to do likewise if he does not support the Government’s plans.

Not everybody knows this, maybe, and it seemed the West Coasters certainly don’t understand the political impotence that comes with sitting on the Opposition side of Parliament, because Stuff says –

Opposition David Shearer has been urged to push for stronger safety regulations in the mining industry while being briefed by families of the Pike River victims.

See how tough it is, not being in government?

The tossers at Stuff won’t even give you your full title.

They dropped the word “leader”, although (come to think of it) dropping the word “leader” in this case maybe was done in the name of journalistic credibility.

Anyway, the urging on this occasion was done by a West Coaster who happens to have had his name in the newspapers and his picture on the telly as often as, and maybe more, than Shearer in recent months.

Families’ spokesman Bernie Monk said Shearer was told that while loved ones of the 29 men who died at Pike River in November 2010 would like any assistance in retrieving the remains of the men, his priority should be to ensure mine safety throughout New Zealand.

“He came to us wanting to know how he could help. I said one thing you can help with is that safety, even up to the present day, is paramount to us,” Monk told the Sunday Star-Times.

“I stated to him it was more important he spent his effort on [safety] until we get other things sorted out. That is what our top priority is now, with the problems that other mines in New Zealand are having at the moment.”

Shearer might not be able to do much to improve safety in the mines while he sits in Opposition (and because we have a great government doing a good job and taking care of things on the safety front, there is hardly much need for his intervention).

But Alf gives him credit for being a bloody good parrot.

After his chat with Monk he dutifully said:

“Safety is the issue. That is the No 1 issue.”

Indeed it is.

And here we should take note that this Monk feller did not go out of his way to find Shearer to drum the safety message into him.

Hence there is no suggestion he is dissatisfied with the Government.

Nor is there any hint he does not understand the negligible political clout of a Leader of the Opposition.

As he told the SST about his chat with Shearer:

“He came to us wanting to know how he could help…”

Shearer affirmed this:

“I hadn’t met Bernie before. We were going past his pub so we popped in and had a chat to him,” he said.

“He is such a lovely guy. His real concern was wanting to make sure all the safety considerations were taken into account with the Spring Creek mine so there wasn’t any tragedy that could have happened there

It should be noted, moreover, that Shearer arrived on the West Coast shortly after Monk had received a reply to a three-page letter the Pike River 29 families had sent to the government.

The families’ letter to The Boss was described by the SST as the latest initiative to try to speed up progress of a recovery mission.

Monk said: “I can’t divulge the letter we got from the government yet as we are still working through things. But it is very positive. We are heading in the right direction, after 15 months.”

So Monk reckons things are headed in the right direction.

They will keep going that way, with or without Shearer’s assistance.

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