Judith Collins: Worm farm machines dangerous, not worms themselves

Judith Collins and Annette King
Judith Collins and Annette King

National Party backbencher Judith Collins has laughed her way through a futile attempt to defend the Government's much-ridiculed health and safety reforms.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse signed off on a list of exceptions to the otherwise tougher new rules, which inadvertently included worm farms, chess clubs, mini golf operators and butterfly breeders.

'Low-risk' jobs, according to Mr Woodhouse, include laying explosives and dairy farming.

The exclusions were included after a revolt from National Party backbenchers, reportedly led by Ms Collins, who giggled this morning as she called the strange list an "interesting development".

"The worm farming thing, I've been assured it's not because of worms turning dangerously; it's actually because of heavy moving equipment and things," she said on the Paul Henry programme. "I'm just saying there's apparently a lot of digger work where they get great big, you know, lots of earth moved around the place. That's what I've been told."

As for why laying explosives is considered low-risk, Ms Collins said it's because they are "properly trained".

"People know what they're doing when they're laying explosives." Laughing along with Ms Collins was Labour deputy leader Annette King, who urged the former Justice Minister to "give up" defending the "loser" list.

"That list is amazing. My personal favourite is the worm farming," said Ms King.

"I'm just wondering, will they have to have a health and safety officer in schools? Because they often have worm farms in schools, in boxes."

As for butterfly farming, Ms King joked employees might hurt themselves lifting the "big, big nets".

"This minister told the House he needed time to sort out the list, so we waited and we waited, and finally we get the list – which is ridiculous. If you don't include dairy and beef, but you include butterfly farming and worm farming, you've really lost the plot."

Ms Collins denied responsibility for the bizarre list, saying she didn't get a chance to look at it before it was released.

"The concern was always about making sure that we have something that is workable and that isn't going to penalise small businesses so that they cannot even comply. But also, to have something that's going to be sensible.

"I have to say this is an interesting development, but I think we're going to find our way through it."

She rejected host Paul Henry's suggestions that Mr Woodhouse was a "twat".

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