An Australian journalist at the Pike River mine disaster was taken to task for questioning if New Zealand was handling the disaster properly.

Ean Higgins, from The Australian, asked why police superintendent Garu Knowles (above) was heading the rescue operation, rather than the mining union.

“Why is the local country cop doing it?” Higgins asked to gasps from the packed press conference.

Knowles, who called Higgins ‘sir’, responded: “Where do I start. I’m not going to answer the last part of your question, I’m the district commander. I have responsibility for policing three quarters of the South Island.”

“This is a multi-agency approach…this is not a union matter, sir, it’s a matter for the experts.”

Energy minister Gerry Brownlee, speaking later to, described Higgins as “boorish” and said he was one of those ‘typewriter interviewers.” And he said the paper’s editor should be called to account.

“I think it’s very easy to be a critic. The particular journalist that asked the most offensive question, the simple fact is he should not be reporting for a country like this because Australia has been so good to us.

“Australia are so focused on us, their prayers and their best wishes to all involved and they get some utter tosspot like that over here who mars all them”

“Their editor needs to give some explanation of why they’ve sent such a boorish fellow to this sensitive situation.”

Another reporter, from Australian television station Channel Seven, asked: “Can you imagine New York firefighters standing around the World Trade Centre waiting to be told they shouldn’t be told go in if there were lives in the balance.”

The Australian also reported rescuers believed four men had survived the blast.

This was incorrect, Knowles told the press conference. “‘We don’t know where the miners are … and a lot of these comments from you guys are not helpful because they are distressing for the families.”


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