Brian Edwards Media

Archive for November, 2010

Two Years On From the Last Election, Your Chance To Rate Our Policitians

Roy Morgan/The Standard

Australasian political newsletter Trans Tasman has today given its annual scorecard of our politicians two years out from the last election. Each politician is scored out of 10. Among its main results Simon Power (9) ousts John Key (9) as politician of the year, on the basis of  his ‘insatiable appétite for work’. Phil Goff (6) takes second place to Annette King, David Parker and Darren Hughes (all on 6.5). Hone Harawira (2) is up from zero last year because ‘he believes in what he is doing and the others accept it’. Pansy Wong (2) and Chris Carter (2)  have both fallen from grace

Overall, 30 National MPs improved their scores over last year, 13 were unchanged, and 15 went down.

Labour did rather better. 30 of their MPs went up, 10 stayed the same, and only 5 went down.

This seems like a good time to ask you to rate our Members of Parliament. Here’s how we’ll do it.

Score any five MPs out of ten. Zero out of 10 means indescribably awful; ten out of 10 means improvement virtually impossible. You may make a short one-sentence comment on each of your choices, which will be published only if they show insight or wit.

I’ll give regular updates on the results as they come in.

What you said about… (in no particular order):

John Key:

3/10 Have no confidence in him especially with his hypocritical statements

9/10 Were I a National supporter I would have to say he has done a brilliant job

8/10 He’s doing pretty well considering he’s the only Nat MP with any electoral “charm”

9/10. As his political stocks continue to rise, so do Phil Goff’s fall.

7/10 Like Key himself this is ranking is more for style than substance.

3/10 This is the cabinet he picked – out of all of the National party caucus, this lot, with Tolley, Bennett, Collins, Key judged these to be the best blooms in the National garden. So no points there. Three for his on-going ability to make poor government, (increased unemployment, as well as the decreased average household incomes across New Zealand.

7/10 He is the master of aspirational politics and still manages to make his style of politics work. Although he has not achieved anything of note, he and he alone maintains the popularity of his government.

6/10  A little bit country and a luittle bit rock’n’roll – clearly the folksy/slick PR is working wonders – but the Trans-Tasman comment makes sense – he’s still, by appearances, governing based on what the pollsters advise is popular after things are floated.

Phil Goff:

3/10 A step up from earlier when I would have considered 0/10

5/10 A pleasant guy but out of his depth

5/10 Sigh…

5/10. Like a fox terrier, snapping at the heels of someone wearing Doc Martens.

3/10 (with Annette King) Despite repeatedly being handed some terrific opportunities by the current administration Labour’s leadership duo have failed to capitalize in any meaningful manner. Goff and King and truly yesterday’s people.

2/10  Has not managed to do much right. He seemed to be on the right track following the Party conference, sadly he has fallen back into oblivion.

5/10, Mostly invisible – but when he’s pulled in to provide something quotable he flubs it up. He’s got others facing the government at his behest, but should be leading from the front.

Rodney Hide:

0/10  This man should be the Minister Of Hypocrisy Do as I say not as I do!

 0/10  Hide has alienated a significant number of Aucklanders and gifted the supercity mayoralty to the left. No need to mention his gross hypocrisy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Method acting – Shortland Street style

While we’re in the mood for a little TV nostalgia…

We went for nearly 10 years without regular local drama in the 80s. Yes, I’m talking soap opera – that’s how actors learn TV acting, crews learn their craft, directors learn how they look with grey hair. 

The 80s gave us Gloss, with its big hair and matching shoulder pads – it was slick and it was funny and it was one of the best things NZ had ever made.

But no soap. And no soap meant that for a decade actors hadn’t worked on fast-turnaround drama. And it showed.

I’m not sure of the current penalties for encouraging people into acts of masochism, but here it is – the very first episode of Shortland Street. Hilarious!

Shortland Street -Episode One

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TVNZ – whizzing through the years.

Here’s a spot of nostalgia for those of you who remember the early days of television – and a bit of a shock for those who don’t, I imagine!

 

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The Pike River Mine Disaster – Moving On

I have decided not to take any further comments on the previous post. This has been a reasoned and generally civilised debate and I thank the contributors for that. But with 29 men now certainly dead and their relatives and the nation in mourning, the time seems inappropriate to continue to debate whether more could have been done to effect a rescue. That will be the responsibility of the the commission/s of enquiry which will next year  attempt to determine the causes of the disaster and rule on the rightness of the measures taken or not taken after the initial explosion. What can be said is that whether the decisions made by the police, the search and rescue teams and the management of the mine were right or wrong, they were the decisions that, on the available information and advice,  they genuinely believed to be right. You cannot ask more than that.

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The Pike River Mine Disaster – Patience and Self-Control Beyond Reason?

  
 

Mark Mitchell/NZ Herald

When you have read this post, please go to this link to an interview with one of the lost miners’ families on tonight’s Campbell Live.  

***** 

 Handling of mine crisis appalling  

 I am appalled by the police and the company’s handling of the Pike River coalmine disaster.  

Their assuming that this is a “search and rescue” operation seems to allow the police to act centre-stage and to deny access to those who are desperately anxious to help.  

When did the police stop someone going to a burning car, to a snowfield avalanche area or to a baby in a room with an escape of natural gas, because of the danger to the potential rescuers? Yet here they await a secure environment for rescue – not that common after mine disasters.  

If I, at the age of 87, were to offer to don appropriate equipment and walk the distance needed in an underground coalmine to get valuable information on gas levels or survivors, I know I would have hundreds of volunteers to accompany me. We might only find unwelcome news of corpses but that would be a bonus in the present environment.  

I’ve walked that distance daily to the coal face in South Wales mines. I’ve been among  miners and their families there, on the West Coast and in the Waikato. Such people have been prepared to die for their mates for centuries. Why should a small group carrying no more than needed for that short, possibly suicidal mission be denied the opportunity of gathering vital information for mates and their community?  

I accept those in authority have extensive search and rescue experience. I have only a first class honours degree in Mining Engineering from the Royal School of Mines at Imperial College, London University.  

David Kear, Ohope (former director-general, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research)  

Let Locals Help  

The news that no mine rescue will be attempted “until it’s safe” has a depressingly familiar sound.  

During the Wahine ferry disaster the police closed off the road south of Eastbourne because “it is too dangerous” and “we need to keep the road open for emergency services”.  

Meanwhile, exhausted people were drowning in the breakers, heavy lifeboats were being crushed on to rocks and “the authorities” were right, it was very dangerous.  

Locals arriving with ropes, blankets and local knowledge were turned away until they rebelled, pushed aside the earnest young constable on guard and went in to save dozens of lives.  

By all means keep out the sightseers, but not knowledgeable locals, such as miners in this case. They just might know something.  

And yes, many of the Wahine helpers were injured, and some could have been killed. It was a risk they were prepared to take and they knew exactly what they were doing.  

In a disaster, safety is not possible; the only choice is between degrees of danger and that requires local knowledge. “Secure the area” often means “secure our authority”.  

            Charles Lockhead, Devonport  

Read the rest of this entry »

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What Silvio Berlusconi, Hugh Hefner, Rodney Hide, Brian Edwards and 20 Other (named) well-known Kiwi men have in common – and it ain’t pretty!

 

I recently contributed a chapter to a book called Loving All Of It – Eminent New Zealanders Write About Growing Old. Gordon McLauchlan edited this collection of essays by 11 women and 21 men, all over the age of 65. It’s a wonderful book, full of humour and the insight into the twists and turns, the ironies and contradictions  of life that perhaps only old age can bring. Or maybe ‘getting older’, for whatever year appears on their birth certificates, none of these writers has reached ‘old age’, none of them is old. Invite any six to a dinner party and you would be guaranteed a wonderful evening of stimulating conversation, passionate debate, brilliant storytelling, side-splitting humour and, quite possibly, the heated exchange of opposing views. What defines these 32 Supergold card-holders is that they are gloriously alive.

A quite different view of aging was provided by Sunday Star Times columnist Rosermary McLeod yesterday. In a piece entitled In Praise of Older Men? Not Likely she offers as reality a caricature of older men, so sick and jaundiced that one can only wonder what life experiences have drawn her to these conclusions.

Her concentration is on the physical unattractiveness of older men, their geriatric self-delusion in imagining themselves still appealing to younger women, their pathetic attempts to retain or revive their fading libidos. Equating ‘older men’ with ‘dirty old men’, McLeod chooses as representative of the species: 74-year-old Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 84-year-old Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner and, one might have thought prematurely, 51-year-old New Zealand politician, Rodney Hide.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Now come on, admit it, you’re missing him, aren’t you? You know who I mean. And it’s just not the same, is it?

Herald on Sunday

I see that TVNZ spokesperson Megan Richards has denied reports that viewers have deserted the channel’s Breakfast show since Paul Henry left the programme. Richards said that a report in the Herald on Sunday headed ‘Audience dives since Henry’s departure’ was simply ‘wrong’. Viewership ratings had ‘held steady’. 

Interpretation of television ratings to suit one’s own purposes has become something of a PR art form. There’s bound to be a demographic somewhere where your channel is ahead, if only among insomniac devotees of geriatric movies. 

But I suspect Richards is correct. Leaving aside the fact that there is no competing programme on TV3 for viewers to defect to, weekday early morning TV shows are rarely appointment viewing. 

I became particularly aware of this when staying with relatives in Britain. As mum bustled around making breakfast, getting the kids ready for school, finding dad’s cufflinks and generally transforming chaos into some semblance of order, television sets in the living room, kitchen, master and teenagers’ bedrooms sprayed news, weather, traffic information and chat to anyone who cared to listen and watch. 

Breakfast is a chaotic time for most families, making concentrated viewing of anything on TV difficult. So, other than for the unemployed or  retired, breakfast viewing is distracted viewing. Audiences do not so much ‘watch’ the programme, as ‘catch’ snatches of information relevant to their areas of interest or to the forthcoming day. The often complained of cyclical repetition of news headlines, weather forecasts and traffic reports makes absolute sense since it increases the chances that an individual member of the household will get the information they want while commuting from bedroom to bathroom or kitchen to living room. Weather forecasts are worldwide the highest rating programmes on television, a sobering thought perhaps for programme makers and the stars who appear on the programmes. 

All of this may mean that the hosts of breakfast TV programmes play a somewhat less significant role in attracting and retaining viewers than they would in prime time. There is, after all, very little difference between breakfast television formats world wide: attractive female presenter and (at least passable) male presenter chat, make jokes, occasionally flirt, do serious and not-so-serious short interviews on topical issues, read emails and texts, throw to news headlines, weather and traffic reports and cross live to hyperactive field reporters with the latest quirky, offbeat, sad/happy human interest story in town.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Campbell Live’s Tristram Clayton: Bloody Awful; Totally Superb!

Campbell Live team member Tristram Clayton has begun to make something of a name for himself as a slightly quirky, off-beat reporter. He’s very good at it, as a superb little television vignette he appeared in on Tuesday made abundantly clear. Sadly, there was Wednesday to come, bringing with it a lesson for Clayton and his producer – the cobbler should stick to his last.

So as not to finish on a sour note, I’ll start with last night’s appearance. 3 News had obviously got wind of the fact that Mark Hotchin was returning from overseas and had dispatched Clayton to meet him at Auckland airport. They no doubt expected two bites off this particular cherry, a clip for the 6pm bulletin and a longer piece for Campbell Live. The tone of the interview which Clayton was expected to deliver was made clear in a promo for Campbell Live by Rachel Smalley at the start of the bulletin:

‘And we’ve got him! Campbell Live speaks exclusively to Mark Hotchin about his extravagant holiday as he tries to slip back into the country.’

This is a disgraceful statement to appear at the front of a news bulletin. All pretence of objectivity is abandoned. A businessman returning home from overseas is effectively cast as a criminal, attempting to avoid the authorities: ‘And we’ve got him … as he tries to slip back into the country.’ Hotchin’s holiday, if it were indeed a holiday, is defined as ‘extravagant’, a largely irrelevant concept in the case of a multi-millionaire, but more importantly a matter for the viewer to decide, not the reporter to prejudge.

I don’t have much time for Hotchin myself, as a post I wrote in May makes clear. There are questions I’d like to see put to him, but not by a nervous reporter, clearly out of his depth, pursuing him through an airport arrival area. The outcome is an embarrassing mess, in which Clayton manages to look inept and wetly offensive while Hotchin keeps his cool, remains determinedly polite and comes across as remarkably forbearing in fending off this irritating gnat.

Clayton’s problem is that he isn’t sure of his ground. Hotchin corrects almost everything he says and he can’t come back. After Hotchin replies to an accusation that Hanover was over-valued at the time of sale to Allied Farmers, Clayton says, ‘Right, well that’s good to know.’ I think that’s called a retreat.

When he tackles Hotchin on the mansion at Paratai Drive, Hotchin matter-of-factly replies: ‘I can’t hide it. It’s there. It’s going to be finished and it’s going to be sold.’

Clayton: ‘That’s fair enough.’

I’ve got firsthand experience of Clayton’s difficulty, of being faced with a rather daunting interviewee, being expected to take a fairly aggressive line and knowing full well that you’re out of your depth. (The name Muldoon springs to mind) This accounts for Clayton stammering and stuttering his way through the interview and for those soothing verbal gestures he makes to Hotchin, who barely looks at him.

When Hotchin finally said, ‘Why do I keep talking to you?’ I thought this was the best question in the interview.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Media Tip: When good microphones go bad.

It’s easy to forget you’re wearing a microphone – or even in range of one. The hazards of the radio mic are often exploited in comedies (think Leslie Nielson in Naked Gun), but they can create very real problems  as Gordon Brown demonstrates:

 

If you’re in a studio, it’s worth remembering that everything you say can be heard in the control room – and possibly all around the building on the ring main – so this is not the time for intimate confessions, salacious gossip or derogatory comments.

The best way to stay out of trouble in the presence of any microphone is to behave as if it is broadcasting, or at least recording. It probably is.

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Getting it Right. A Bouquet for Close Up’s Coverage of the David Tamihere Case

Sarah Ivey/NZ Herald

 

I spend a fair amout of time on this site taking the New Zealand television networks to task for their generally abysmal prime-time coverage of public affairs. So it’s appropriate to be equally generous in praise when they get it right.

Following David Tamihere’s release from prison, Monday’s Close Up featured a background report by Hannah Ockelford on the murder of the Swedish tourists, the subsequent arrest,  trial and conviction of Tamihere, his unsuccessful appeal to the Privy Council to overturn his conviction and his 20-year imprisonment during which he continued to assert his innocence.

This was not a long item, perhaps five or six minutes, but it was a model of television storytelling. I have long been an admirer or Hannah Ockelford, who is an excellent interviewer, brings a quiet maturity to her reporting and, as a bonus, both looks and sounds good. Her report included archival footage of the police hunt for Tamihere, who was then on the run, a summary of the evidence both for and against him, and interviews with Tamihere’s wife Kristine, his son Jon and journalist Pat Booth. All three impressed.

Pat Booth is without question the most admired  investigative journalist in New Zealand.  He is a crusader for justice. And, as it happens, he understands the art of persuasive communication, no better illustrated than in his interview with Ockelford. At a technical level, he sits forward, holds intense eye-contact with his interviewer, speaks quietly – this is an intimate format – and listens intently to the questions. I doubt that he thinks about any of this. It’s instinctual. He presents his case entirely without hyperbole or histrionics. He is utterly reasonable. And, most important of all, he willingly concedes any weakness in his argument. When accused by the interviewer of having just as blinkered a view of the case as the police, he simply replies, ‘Oh yes, yes, I agree. We are all victims of our environment and what we know.’   The effect is not to undermine but to enhance his credibility. This is an object lesson in the art of the interview.

At the end of the five or six minutes, I feel that I have been given a clear, concise, low-key and even-handed summary of the issues surrounding the arrest, trial,  conviction and imprisonment of David Tamihere. I have been informed. And I have been left to make up my own mind on where the truth actually lies. That is what I mean by ‘getting it right’.

Take another look

And look for the line of the week – Pat Booth talking about hard-line detective John Hughes, who headed the investigation: ‘He was known in the underworld as The Gardener, because he planted so well.’

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The longest words in the English language

Here’s a little light relief for the language buffs:

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From Our “How (not) to get a Word in Edgeways” Department

The doyen of British interviewers, Sir Robin Day, asks Margaret Thatcher on Panorama whether Thatcherism has left the nation divided.

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Why Absolutely No Apology Was Due To Amethyst Staladi Or Her Parents

Pic: Kent Blechynden/Dom Post

I hadn’t intended to deal with the story about 14 year old Newlands College student, Amethyst Staladi, being told by dean Angela King to pull her skirt down because she ‘looked like a slut’. That was until I saw her mother, Kahira Marshall,  on One News last night telling the country that she considered Mrs King’s verbal apology a couple of days ago ‘doesn’t go far enough’ and that what she wanted was ‘a letter of apology to go on both Amethyst’s and the dean’s personal file’. At that point my blood began to boil.

Ms Marshall appears not to understand that when you enrol your child in any school you automatically accept the rules of student conduct set down by the school’s board, including any dress code which the school may have. Her daughter, Amethyst, has been flouting Newlands College’s dress code for some time. Acting Principal David Pegram noted that Amethyst had had ‘ongoing problems’ with her uniform, but that Mrs King had been very supportive of her. The dean had not been disciplined and would not be interviewed.

‘It was a sincere apology given by the member of staff and the apology seemed to be accepted in good grace by the student.’

But this was not enough for her mother or father, Michael Staladi,  who said that he wanted Mrs King disciplined: ‘If the kids step out of line they have to go to detention. So they should have the same standards for the adults.’

Or maybe a public stoning, Mr Staladi?    Read the rest of this entry »

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The Short But Fascinating History of Camp Coffee

The Rehabilitation of Camp Coffee

Dating back to 1885, this thick black syrup, a ‘secret blend’ of sugar, water, coffee and chicory essence, was originally made in Glasgow by R. Paterson and Sons Ltd, ‘sole proprietors’. It came in a square, eight and a half fluid-ounce glass bottle, rather like HP Sauce. The original label showed a moustachioed Gordon Highlander sitting on a cushion drinking a cup of Camp, while a turbaned Sikh servant stood patiently next to him, holding a tray with a bottle of Camp and a jug. A tent in the background was topped by a fluttering pennant with the words ‘Ready Aye Ready’, while helpful instructions advised users to ‘Stir one teaspoonful of “Camp” into each cupful of boiling water, then add cream and sugar to taste. Made with heated milk (not boiled) it is delicious.’

Though I didn’t know it as a ten-year old in Belfast after the war, controversy surrounded  not only the label but the Scottish officer on it. According to an article in the Guardian, Major General Sir Hector McDonald was the model for the Gordon Highlander. The son of a crofter, he had worked his way up through the ranks of the regiment, serving with distinction in the Afghan War and in India. Known as ‘Fighting Mac’ for his exploits at the battle of Omdurman, he was wounded in the second Boer War and later given command of the regiment’s troops in Ceylon where charges of homosexuality were brought against him. (Too much Camp Coffee perhaps?) He shot himself in a Paris hotel in 1903.

Several decades later, a small but significant change, the sort of thing you might see in a ‘Spot the Difference’ puzzle, was made by Paterson & Sons to the label: the tray disappeared and the Sikh servant was left standing with his left arm by his side, while his right remained in its original crooked position, the fist clenched holding – nothing. Whether this was an early example of political correctness, designed to make the Sikh look rather less like a waiter, is uncertain. But it was undoubtedly complaints of racism, allegedly from Asian shopkeepers, that led the new owners of Camp, McCormick Foods, to change the label once again. In September 2006 a headline in the Daily Mail read ‘Camp Coffee forced to change label by the PC brigade’. The new label showed the officer and the Sikh sitting side by side, both drinking Camp, an excellent example of racial equality and historical revisionism.

[Excerpt from Daddy Was A German Spy by BE. Still available from discerning bookshops or at http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/what-we-offer/books/]

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Goodbye Cafe/Coffee Life!

As an Irishman I am genetically predisposed to be a tea-drinker. Before coming to New Zealand 46 years ago the closest thing to coffee that had ever crossed my lips was that glutinous brown mix of chicory essence (26%),  coffee essence (4%),  sugar and water, called Camp Coffee. As the ingredients suggest, the relationship between Camp Coffee and real coffee was distant, but it was all you could get in post-war Ulster and kids like me drank this sickly concoction, sweetened with more sugar, with relish.

So I arrived in New Zealand a coffee virgin. Not only did I not like the stuff, but I had brought with me the Irish working-class prejudice towards what we considered a snob’s drink.

In that near half-century, I have developed a taste not for ‘real’ coffee, which the cognoscenti tell me can only be a short or long black, but for that pleasant and innocuous milky drink, the flat white.

Each fine morning, Judy and I take our morning constitutional around the highways and byways of the coffee capitals of New Zealand – Ponsonby, Grey Lynn  and Herne Bay. We walk for between an hour and an hour and a half, before ordering two flat whites (and the occasional biscotti) at one of the district’s proliferating cafes. (Three new ones have opened in the last month in Jervois Road alone.)

But this is all about to change. Yesterday I approached the counter in one of my favourite cafes and ordered ‘the usual’ and two biscotti from the charming owner. (I display, you’ll observe all the standard pretensions of a regular customer.) I had my $9 ready in my hand – $7 for the two flat whites and $2 for the two biscotti.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Body Contact Sport, Booze, Jingoism, Testosterone, Limited Articulateness and Low IQ – So what the bloody hell did you expect?

 

 

I was amused by the shock/horror expressed in this morning’s papers about the disgraceful behaviour of seemingly large groups of Eden Park spectators at the Four Nations games last night. ‘Amused’ because it’s really hard to imagine a coming together of factors more calculated to result in the sort of mindless bedlam we’ve come to associate with English soccer hooligans – booze, jingoism, testosterone, limited articulateness and low IQ.

Since wild horses wouldn’t drag me to a rugby match of either code, my experience of this sort of simian behaviour – a grave insult, I’m afraid, to the apes – has been limited to observing these morons on holiday in Greece where the lager louts and skinheads drunkenly rampage, effing and blinding, through the streets, repair to a local taverna to swill more beer, down huge quantities of fish, chips, baked beans and/or ‘a curry’ and shout abuse at the huge TV screens showing non-stop soccer matches, then finish off the night by throwing up in the street, verbally and/or physically assaulting passing women and, in the short time we had the misfortune to be trapped in Kavos, managing to knife at least one of their number to death each night – perhaps the only saving grace of our stay. Meanwhile, their Page 3 girlfriends offend the locals by lying topless on the beaches, tracking the sun with their nipples.

And yes, things aren’t as bad as that here. We don’t have the sex element for a start and violence by rugby players and spectators is generally limited to verbal abuse, fisticuffs and throwing things.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Nayan Woods’ Dad replies to “Misplaced Sympathy for the Killer of a Teenage Boy

Nayan

A couple of days ago, I received a personal email from Duncan Woods, whose 4-year-old son Nayan was killed when when 18-year-old Ashley Austin lost control of his illegally modfied car and ploughed into the Woods family on the pavement. It was clear from the tone of Duncan’s email that my post had caused him considerable distress. 

We have corresponded several times since I received Duncan’s original email, and Duncan, who was at first understandably reluctant, has now generously agreed to my publishing a composite version of his emails. I have done the same with my own fairly brief replies. 

I suggested to Duncan that I should not publish any comments on his statement, since the aim of the exercise from my point of view is to provide Nayan’s father’s perspective on the issues raised in the post, not to reopen the debate. 

Duncan Woods Writes

Greetings Brian, 

Many people have expressed many opinions about the decisions my wife and I have made in reagrds to dealing with the death and injury of our children. Unfortunately these opinions are formed from the perceptions they hold based on the limited information they have access too. Many assumptions have been made yet not once has anyone, media or otherwise, asked me why I am choosing to behave the way I am. I have yet to read, view or hear any representation that comes close to being accurate. 

It is easy to spout position and opinion, be outraged and angry. It is not easy to see your dead four year old son in pieces in the dungeons of the hospital whilst dealing with the significant injuries suffered by your wife and other child. Each day gets a little harder, I sleep maybe three or four hours a night, it takes every ounce of strength I have to throw my feet on the floor each morning and face the day. 

I bet it is easy to write down an imaginary victim impact statement where you can imagine screaming at another human being that you don’t want their remorse. It is somewhat more difficult to write an actual one and deliver it, particularly when, uninvited, the eyes of the nation are upon you. 

I understand your job as journalist and that opinion pieces are or rather can be controversial. I appreciate that you indicated an admiration for Emma and me.  My real issue was with the the next part of the sentence where you wrote:  ”I find their plea that Austin not be sent to prison (for however short a term) misguided…” 

How you have reached such a conclusion without knowing the thinking that informed the decisions we have made is where I am troubled. I have to behave in ways that I think will best serve my living son. I don’t believe that if he grows up in a family dominated by anger and hatred that his needs are best served. To that end I am as thoughtful as I can be with the messages released to media. At seven years old he is not old enough to fully understand what has happened to him, but as he gets older I am sure he will have questions and feelings that will need to be supported. Our judgement based on the knowledge that we have of our son is that behaving with compassion and empathy towards Ash is the best thing we can do for him (Jacob). Time may show this to be a mistake.  I hope that it is not. At this stage Jacob has no desire to meet with Ash. We have given him that opportunity, but he may feel different at 17 or 27. If so, the decisions we make now about preserving a relationship with Ash and his family are safeguarding future opportunities for him to have questions that he may have answered . It is not only Jacob we have a responsibility to, however. He is our most significant focus, but  our wider family don’t deserve a life of bitterness and anger, so we believe we are helping them also by the position we are taking.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Misplaced Sympathy for the Teenage Killer of a Four-Year-Old Boy

Austin hugs Emma Woods after sentencing. Pic: The Press

I’m rarely in agreement with Michael Laws, but I was in general agreement with his column in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times. Laws was discussing the sentence handed down to 18-year-old Ashley Austin. 

As he was attempting a ‘a controlled drift’ in Christchurch’s Linwood Avenue, Austin’s illegally modified car had mounted the grass verge, driven across the footpath and ploughed into Emma Woods, her  4-year old son Nayan  and his 6-year-old brother Jacob.  Nayan could not be resuscitated and died at the scene. His brother was seriously injured. 

Austin, who pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Nayan and injury to Jacob and Mrs Woods, was sentenced to six months community detention, 200 hours community work and disqualified from driving for three years. The seemingly inadequate sentence reflected Austin’s conduct at the scene – rather than running off, he had stayed and  attempted to resuscitate the four-year-old  – his evident remorse and the wishes of the boys’ parents,  Emma and Duncan Woods. 

The Herald reported: 

In a remarkable display of forgiveness, Emma Woods embraced a sobbing Austin outside Christchurch District Court after the sentencing this afternoon. 

“We do not believe he can be punished any more severely than by having the guilt of this accident on his conscience. [Mrs Woods said] 

“I guess he made a mistake that had pretty horrendous consequences, but that doesn’t make him a bad person. 

“And he’s done a lot since the accident to attempt to make amends or try to support us. 

“I don’t think somebody like him belongs in jail. I don’t think he’s going to learn anything from being in there. The mistake he made, he’s not going to do it again.”   Read the rest of this entry »

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