The 29 miners who perished in Pike River have become members of all our families. What began as a local tragedy has become the continued mourning of a nation.
Pacific Helmets chief executive David Bennett's expertise in protective clothing necessary for re-entry and recovery of the miners is a welcome discussion of part of the logistics of a recovery mission. I appreciate learning about the complex covering needed.
What seemed unfitting was the partisan tone of a piece about a matter that unites, rather than divides us: The fate of the miners. Bennett has been a part of National's local party structure for years.
Calling our attention to Andrew Little's life before Parliament as a trade union official seemed gratuitous until I reflected on the charge those words held, especially in a country with an atmosphere of anti-unionism. All but exploded off the page as the partisan nature of the piece became apparent.
Mr Bennett acknowledged the possibility of a crime having been committed and a need for forensic services.
It was another former union official, Whanganui man Dave Feickert, who, in his capacity as mine safety engineer, was asked to survey the damage and its cause. He and the other safety experts seemed to agree that standards of mine safety were not sufficiently followed, though in place.
Mr Bennett claims the Government changed workplace laws to tighten safety in response to the disaster. In fact, they did tighten up existing rules in response to the evidence of liability, civil and perhaps criminal, that Feickert et al were pinning on the mining company.
A new-found urgency for transparency seems to motivate several National MPs. At the time, the management was improperly allowed by government to offer "blood money" to avoid prosecution where all the facts might have come out.
Where I find agreement with Mr Bennett is for the overriding consideration of safety in the recovery project. The difference between the two governments is in Labour's willingness to include the families in these complex decisions. John Key and Bill English kept them at arm's length.
The other dark place where National's new-found drive to transparency needs exercise is in an official inquiry into the allegations raised by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson in Hit and Run.
The book alleges possible war crimes in the apparently retaliatory killings of Afghan civilians in a 2010 attack on two Afghan villages, following the killing by insurgents of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell. The raid was approved at the highest level, allegedly by Mr Key, famous for yelling "Get some guts!" to opponents of his Afghanistan engagement.
The book describes the raid as shambolic, with faulty intelligence, the insurgents having long departed. The action resulted in the killing of six Afghan civilians and wounding of 15, including women and children.
The initial response of the coalition forces was complete denial of civilian deaths, a claim of 13 insurgents killed. This was followed by a news release acknowledging deaths of some civilians due to a gun-sight malfunction.
New Zealand Defence forces continued to deny civilian deaths. Later, Wayne Mapp,
Minister of Defence, admitted that civilian deaths may have occurred but that the SAS might have thought these unarmed people were insurgents.
The stonewalling continued throughout National's time in office.
Labour campaigned in support of an inquiry.
The new Government's Defence Minister, Ron Mark, seems to be wavering. While little surprises me when it's from politicians who have never worn the uniform, practising CYA, Mark had a military career. He understands how this cloud hanging over the SAS from that 2010 raid needs to be dispelled by a thorough inquiry to bring the facts out completely.
It's another matter of safety, this time in concern for the honour of our forces, which depends on our willingness to follow the facts wherever they may lead.
That honour is beyond partisan consideration. It's the mark of what we stand for as a nation.
■Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.