Paul Holmes: Dignity in guilty plea

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The end of this stage of the Tony Veitch affair came very quickly, just as the whole thing erupted in the first place, on a Monday morning in the middle of last year, out of the blue, to the shock of those who know him and work with him and to the shock of the country too.

Tony's career was in the beginning stages of real ascent. Tony had it all in front of him. After the years of hard working apprenticeship - and Tony is a driven worker - he was moving centre stage. Tony's time had come.

But then something else came, too, as it probably was always going to. The allegations, now admitted, that he kicked his former girlfriend in a rage caused one of the greatest falls we have ever seen in public life in this country.

It took his career and his livelihood and he is lucky to have escaped the indignity of prison. The toll on his life has been immeasurable. Twice, we are led to believe, he seems to have tried to take his own life.

He must feel terrible shame. Shame for what he did to Kristin Dunne-Powell, shame for the respect he has lost from decent, mature people, shame for the hurt his actions have caused his father, himself a broadcaster, who was so proud of Tony's success, and shame for the burden the whole affair has placed on his devoted and loyal young wife and her family.

One has to feel a generous admiration for the way Zoe and her family have stood by their man and I know that Tony himself has nothing but gratitude for them all. They must be strong people.

In making his guilty plea, Veitch has made a deal with fate. Not wanting to wait an eternity for justice, he has decided to admit guilt in one instance. In doing so, he can now speak. And also in doing so, he spared the young woman weeks of harrowing disclosure. Her dignity is preserved.

In making the guilty plea, he earns dignity himself. This should not be forgotten. By standing for that hideous hour in the dock in a courtroom filled with his colleagues, the media, pleading guilty and listening to Dunne-Powell's victim report, he earned back some respect.

I wonder if he did too much media on the day of his conviction and whether he was wise to go near TV3, given the delight the channel took in the story from day one. I wondered if his tone was right, if he appeared less remorseful than he obviously is, whether it appeared to be too much about Tony and not enough about Dunne-Powell. But, then again, the whole sad matter has been very much about Tony. I wonder, too, about the wisdom of altering the character references in court. It has merely prolonged

the story and left an untidy end. And, finally I wonder about the wisdom of his embarking on a programme of defamation suits, which will keep the story around for months, if not years.

The great question, of course, is whether his career is over. Time will have to pass. Time, which claims us all in the end, is also the greatest healer. From my own experience of various tribulations I know how time softens everything.

Veitch is genuinely remorseful. I would say this: his performance on Close Up on Thursday night in his interview with Mark Sainsbury, resurrected Tony Veitch. Tony suddenly became the most interesting man on New Zealand television. It was a gripping, edge-of-the-seat watch.

I am quite religious, though not in a churchy sense, and here is what I actually think this whole thing has been about. I think that last year, with Tony on the verge of becoming the major New Zealand television presence, God said: "No, no, Tony. Not yet. There is something that has to be paid for. You have to pay for it and it's up to you to find your way back." I think Tony Veitch will find his way back.

I will say this too. A radio breakfast guy on a Sunday night is nervous and tense, no matter how long he has been doing the job and no matter how successfully. A radio breakfast man on a Sunday night is getting ready to lose his freedom for five days.

A radio breakfast guy like Veitch, who was struggling with his breakfast job and finding it much more difficult than he had thought he would, as Veitch was at the time, is especially tense on a Sunday night. Sunday night is not a night to have a fight with a breakfast man.

I do not excuse anything in saying this. It is just the way it is.

THE AUCKLAND mayors do not get it. They are gone, and with them the cumbersome, overlapping structure they presided over for so long. They are making it clear their main concern is grassroots representation, the little people being able to affect the actions of the powerful in any new Supercity.

There may be some issues here. The mayors' main concerns, of course, are their jobs and those of the councillors. They need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Andy Williams in North Shore City is an outspoken type. John Banks, for his part, seems to have little time for Williams. Banks is not shy of a striking word or two.

He can be a great friend but if he has contempt for someone's views or capabilities he can be scathing. Accidentally, I read, "by mistake" he sent Williams a text suggesting Williams was a lunatic.

I laughed when I read that. Mistake, indeed! Why write the text in the first place? And whoever sends a text accidentally, especially one as sensitive as that? If Banks were the kind of person who is to be seen relaxing at a Viaduct watering hole late on Friday nights, where something called, I believe, "The Viaduct Phone Call" is often a matter of regret on Saturday mornings, there might be a chance. But he is not, so there is not.

There will be all sorts of twists and turns and groaning agonies of dying power before the Supercity is set in place. It will sound like the unearthly whining and wrenching of steel as Titanic breaks its back and the bow breaks off and disappears out of sight forever in the James Cameron movie.

THERE WILL have to be great awakening to itself and a very great intake of the smell of fresh coffee in those beautiful and impoverished isles north of here, Fiji, if the country is not to disintegrate.

Firing a Reserve Bank Governor is always a delicate matter and putting soldiers around the news media offices frightens horses terribly. Once you get journalists writing about censorship you have a very bad look.

Journalists do not like countries where journalists are heavied. Commodore Frank Bainimarama seems now to have a God complex, which convinces him that only he knows the way the truth and the life. What can be done by Fiji's neighbours to return it to democracy? Precisely zilch. Not until someone liquidates or somehow removes Commodore Frank.

- Herald on Sunday

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