COMMENT:

Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little was asked if he'd resign if the re-entry to the wrecked mine early next year failed - he ummed and ahhed without giving a firm answer when the answer was bleedingly obvious.

Of course he'd resign, his portfolio would cease to exist, the cause would be lost and that'd be an end to the matter.

The bigger question, put to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saw her in a pickle, fumbling for words. That was whether the Government would resign - but the answer to that is also bleedingly obvious: of course it wouldn't.

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The fallout since the much-heralded decision in front of weeping families this time last week to go into the mine at the latest cost of $36 million has seen an ugly side to the politics behind the issue.

The politics of it actually began before the last election with NZ First leader Winston Peters making re-entry his coalition bottom line. As a young man Peters worked in mines in Australia and he seemed to say going into the Pike River one was a piece of the old proverbial.

In fact he even offered to be the first to go in, as the mine canary, which will never happen of course, even if it would be a less expensive and safer option for others who'll be expected to trudge into the tragedy.

The politics has been cranked up to another level since the decision was made to go in.

The Beehive's now thinking about offering a formal apology to the families. What they would be doing of course is apologising for the last Government erring on the side of caution, listening to the advice they had that it'd be too dangerous to go into the mine.

But this Government says it'd also be apologising for the lack of health and safety around at the time. Well while they're at it, Andrew Little as the trade union leader responsible for some of the miners who perished should also be apologising for not taking a stand at the time for the peril his members were being placed in.

Former National Prime Minister John Key apologised to the families after the royal commission of inquiry into the tragedy identified a lack of safety around mining, but blamed successive Governments for that, and his Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson resigned as minister because the explosion occurred on her watch.

Since the explosion at Pike River, health and safety across all industries has been tightened by law to such an extent that if you haven't signed a waiver before leaving the office and you're run over by a bus, your company could be liable, or for that matter so could the owner of the bus.

And that brings us back to the mine's re-entry. Who under the law's responsible if something goes wrong? Not the minister who's made the decision to go in, but the Recovery Agency's boss, former head of the army Dave Gawn.

Let's hope he doesn't need a flak jacket.