Terry Sarten

Singer Songwriter

Burning Bridges and Common Sense

National trumpeting an intention to make a ‘bonfire on regulations’ is one sure way for party leader Simon to burn his bridges. It is simply a tilt for the populist vote.
Despite his talk of applying common sense to health and safety regulations it lacks any sense that could be considered common.
Common sense is defined as ‘good sense and sound judgement in practical matters.’ It is often touted as the fix-it kiwi way to do things but the many and various ways we manage to injure ourselves or others shows the common bit is right but the sense part is missing.
Let’s take a simple example – driving is probably the most dangerous thing we do. It is very common to encounter (as I did the other day) a vehicle coming towards you on your side of the road. The driver hurtling towards you has decided it makes some kind of sense to overtake into the face of oncoming traffic. The road rules provide regulations intended to keep us all safe. Without them it would be chaotic and dangerous. This tells us that our lack of common sense is not a reason to get rid of regulations - it is the reason why we need to have them.
Burning a pile of health and safety regulations, as Simon Bridges is suggesting, will not make us safer. It might appeal to those who think government already interferes too much in their lives and complain about the ‘Nanny state’ along with the survivalist’s busy preparing for the end of the world but most people recognise that as a nation we are hopeless at regulating ourselves. We cannot be left to our own devices. When was the last time the self-regulation of an industry has worked to reduce risk? For those with short memories there have been a number of workplace deaths where the lack of effective regulatory oversight has been a contributing factor.
Simon Bridges used ridiculous arguments to bolster his case by asking “whether a saw-horse the builder has built requires engineering certification when we're trusting them to build, often times, a million-dollar home”. He added that it was ridiculous to have to list and identify hazards, such as the steam coming out of the kettle.
This tactic is a direct steal from the Boris Johnson Brexit playbook. He used selective false claims that the EU was tying up the UK in regulations. Johnson said it was “absolutely crazy that the EU is telling us how powerful our vacuum cleaners have got to be, what shape our bananas have got to be, and all that kind of thing”. None of it was factually correct but it stoked outrage. For good measure he also claimed EU regulations were “costing UK businesses about £600m a week in unnecessary regulation” repeatedly saying that Britain “sends the EU £350m a week”. This was not true. For Boris it was the thought that counts and getting millions of British voters to believe that ‘red tape’ was strangling progress was the way to further his political ambitions.
Simon Bridges may think he is on a winner using this style of political jousting at regulatory windmills in Don Quixote style but most people will see the notion of a bonfire of regulations as simply a smoke screen for the populist vote.

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