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Ian Lees-Galloway Referred to Anger Management Group

The State Services Commission website has a helpful page titled “Creating a Positive Work Environment - Respect and Safety in the Public Service Workplace”. On it there are various definitions of behaviours which may constitute workplace harassment or bullying. Under the lengthy bullying section we see the following entries ‘shouting or yelling or screaming’ and ‘unexplained rages’.

It was therefore something of a surprise in parliament this afternoon when Ian Lees-Galloway chose an otherwise painfully civilised debate around the first reading of the Health and Safety at Work (Volunteer Associations) Amendment Bill to demonstrate his capacity for heated chamber rhetoric. He seemed to be auditioning for higher office, imagining himself in the throes of a crucial argument, defending his position as Prime Minister against an outrageous and hypocritical attack, with his career and reputation on the line and his government fighting to win a vote of confidence.

His eruption was aimed at National’s Alfred Ngaro who had the audacity to support the Private Members Bill to Select Committee and a second reading. He seemed to trigger Lees-Galloway (don’t worry Ian, they’ll cover triggers on the anger management course) by referring to the Health and Safety legislation as ‘punishing’ small volunteer organisations with its heavy bureaucratic burden. The Palmerston North MP jumped to his feet and screamed the word punish several times, hardly able to collect his thoughts, and then launched into a righteous defence of the sanctity of all government efforts to improve health and safety at work. The idea that all-encompassing government control of absolutely everything could be anything less than an ideal to be strived for and defended at all costs was not going to be allowed to stand.

Given that the Act has now been in place for over two years and was clearly signalled to businesses in advance, giving them time to put things in place, one might have expected some sort of reduction in workplace deaths by now if legislation was the key. A glance at the WorkSafe stats from 2013 to current seems to show no discernible downward trend after the Act came into force. One suspects that the government can’t abide the thought of any organisations slipping out from under its’ tentacles once they’ve been initially captured. As Mr Lees-Galloway pointed out, the only reason Labour didn’t support the 2015 Bill at the time was that they didn’t think it went far enough.

Content with the quality of his cabinet reshuffle audition, Lees-Galloway immediately left the chamber with one of the more melodramatic dojo exit bows the house has seen in a while. This left his Labour and Green colleagues to continue to gently voice their dissent as though conscious that the Health and Safety officers would be out patrolling in force having heard the ruckus from the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety and wouldn’t want to join him at the anger management classes.