BusinessNZ misses the point

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

today broke its silence on the issue, with a press release quoting its chief executive, Phil O’Reilly.

“For the record, Business NZ utterly rejects mistaken allegations made by lobbyist Jordan Williams since repeated by the minister,” O’Reilly said.

“The BusinessNZ family’s involvement has been completely ethical at all times, and I am confident that this is also the case with the involvement of the CTU and Impac Services.”

The CTU has also strongly rejected the criticisms by Collins and Williams.

O’Reilly said it was “unfortunate that important debate on workplace safety has been undermined by intemperate media comment”. …

O’Reilly said claims about the training scheme had been “regrettable and BusinessNZ had so far refrained from commenting on them because it has not been possible to have constructive dialogue in the context of overblown media comment”.

“Key issues are that New Zealand’s health and safety has just been changed and more stringent focus is needed on the goals of improving workplace safety,” O’Reilly said.

“The ACC and the Government are central to this goal, and BusinessNZ and the CTU as the largest representatives of people in the workplace also have a critical role to play.

BusinessNZ does have a role to play. That role should be representing the interests of businesses to ACC. When it sticks its hand out for effective taxpayer (or levy payer) funding, it becomes hopelessly compromised. How can it advocate for (for example) a reduction in levies when those levies help fund it?

Instead we have BusinessNZ defending ACC, themselves and the CTU, rather than sticking up for its members who I am sure the vast majority would like to see ACC more cost effective.

The goals and outcomes of the ACC courses appeared to have been misunderstood, O’Reilly said.

“The training part-funded by ACC is being run according to the brief set by ACC and is achieving the outcomes it was set up for. The objectives include ensuring that health and safety reps are able to reduce and remove workplace hazards, co-develop safety plans for their workplace, promote safety management among their co-workers, and train others to do the same.

“The course objectives are clearly specified and are being successfully delivered according to specifications.”

Contrary to claims by Williams, who is the spokesman for the anti-waste lobby group the Taxpayers’ Union, the training objective was not set in terms of reducing the number of workplace accidents in New Zealand, O’Reilly said.

But that’s the point. They should be.

What BusinessNZ and the CTU both overlook (because of course they get funded from the status quo) is the opportunity cost of the $19 million they have received. No one is saying what they have done is of no value. But think what could have been achieved if that $19 million had been spent on (for example) a campaign to reduce forestry accidents, or a campaign focusing on the five most dangerous industries.

I expect the CTU to not really grasp the reality that money doesn’t grow on trees, and that ACC should prioritise its limited budget to areas where it gets the best value for money. But I would have hoped Business NZ would realise this, especially as it is primarily their own members who fund ACC. This again show how hopelessly conflicted they have become on this issue, by allowing themselves to become part of the system they are meant to be a watchdog over.

The response from Business NZ is one of the reasons so many people have been supportive of the Taxpayers’ Union. Many people have complained to me that it has been some time since there has been a strong voice sticking up for those who fund the Government. Once upon a time Business NZ may have been that strong voice, but now it seems they’re about taking money from the Government, instead of demanding less wasteful spending on behalf of those who fund the Government.

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