Thursday, 29 November 2012

What am I bid for this life? (Going once, going tw.....)

So how much is a human life worth in New Zealand? It might sound a silly. It all depends on the context as to the value placed on each life.

Some might wonder why I am even asking the question, but it is something we need to get our heads around because like it or not a human life is frequently assessed as having some kind of monetary value for a host of different reasons. I think we need to know the whys and wherefores of these processes because sometimes they defy any logical explanation.

For example when a life is lost through natural causes insurance companies make a payout (if you are lucky) and that amount could be considered as the value that has been placed upon that particular life. But here it is not so much the insurance company that is setting that ‘value’ rather it is the person taking out the insurance policy. However it is still a value and in most cases this will start at around $100,000 and go up from there according to the premium paid and the policy chosen.

ACC is also in the business of assessing the value of human life and their figures are a little less straightforward (as you might expect). Their calculation can involve a funeral grant of up to $4500.00 and a survivor’s grant of $4702.79, plus weekly compensation equivalent to 60% of the deceased’s earnings (roughly). There are some finer points to that, such as additional allowances for dependants other than the spouse, but the total possible amount payable is 80% of earnings. This can be paid as weekly compo or in a lump sum. Obviously the total amount depends on how much you were earning, so of course the very well paid families fare best in this situation as with life insurance. The weekly payments if you choose those, last for a maximum of five years and this is how the lump sum is also calculated. Thus if your nearest and dearest was on the minimum wage their life will be valued at about $93,000.

Accidents in the workplace are another of the areas where determinations as to the monetary worth of human life is regularly determined. In this respect the courts and the Department of Labour are involved. The courts have the power to fine an employer (although not if they are a Government Department apparently) and award compensation. Two recent cases that give an idea of how this works are the case of the worker at Safe Air Ltd (they should change the name) who was sucked into a jet engine he was doing a maintenance check on it. The company was fined $56,000 and ordered to pay his family $22,500 in compo. Thus his life was valued at less than $80K.  
DOC on the other hand couldn’t be fined when their volunteer worker was apparently swept out to sea at Raoul Island and thus they escaped at just $60K which was the payout they made voluntarily to the guy’s family.

Similarly the courts regularly assess the value of a human life when they direct careless drivers to make payments to the relatives of those they have killed through their careless or reckless driving. Currently the most you can be fined for this sort of thing is $20,000 and then only if you can be proven to have been drunk or stoned at the time. Payments for emotional harm can also be levied, but these seldom reach five figures, so the courts are less generous than the insurance companies with a human life worth basically less than $30,000 in total. It would appear they don’t believe the loss to the family is even equivalent to the minimum wage for one year (before tax).  

However it is now official that New Zealand’s lousiest bastards are the Royal New Zealand Air Force who apparently value human lives at a great deal less than any of the above examples.
You will all no doubt remember the tragic helicopter crash on Anzac Day 2010 that resulted in the deaths of three Air Force personnel and serious injuries to another. We now discover after months of red herrings about how the crash came about because of dangerous practices by a pilot who wasn’t properly trained to fly at dusk that he only did it because the Air Force top brass had been moaning about how much it would cost for the guys to stay overnight. It has taken until this week for that admission to be dragged out of the Defence Monster Jonathan Coleface. Then the prick had the audacity to try and blame the Labour Government which hasn’t been in power since 2008!

So how many much was it actually going to cost to put up four men at the Amora Hotel in Wellington which the Air Force were in the habit of using? How close were we to blowing the entire Defence budget had we accommodated these guys instead of making them fly out in dangerous circumstances they had not been trained for? Surely it can’t have been very much?
Well we now learn that the amount at stake was $149.00 per room. I have been unable to ascertain how many the rooms at that price can sleep, but it is probably two and even if it is only one, then we lost three lives and made a mess of another for the sake of less than $600.00.  I think that speaks volumes about how much the Air Force cares about the welfare of its personnel.

And by the way; if you are thinking of making a firm appointment with the reaper any time soon, for goodness sake take out a large insurance policy or find yourself a dodgy accountant to fudge your income figures – there are tons of them about at the moment – just pick a name from the court reports.

No comments:

Post a Comment