Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Update: Into the River

22 Responses

  • Lilith __,

    The TL:DR “this is a weighty matter and a month isn’t that long.”
    A very disappointing response. Doesn’t present any reason for the interim ban. I get that they want to make the right choice, but they don’t justify how it would hurt the public to read the book in the meantime.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I just finished the book the other day and even an interim ban is utterly, utterly mad. I honestly wonder if I'm part of the same species as someone who'd want it made unavailable to the public. The one thing Ted Dawe's work *should* be rapped over the knuckles for is depicting such a joyless night on ecstasy. :)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Danielle,

    The one thing Ted Dawe’s work *should* be rapped over the knuckles for is depicting such a joyless night on ecstasy. :)

    That’s intriguing! Did he not tune in to the buchla synth or what?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4411 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Danielle,

    I just finished the book the other day...

    Likewise. Couldn't help but wonder if it was the portrayal of a flatulent Christian phys-ed teacher that tipped McCroskie over the edge.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    ... it is important that the Board’s consideration of whether any restriction on availability is appropriate is not inhibited in any way by further distribution in the short period before the Board’s decision, whatever it is, is reached and published.

    Huh? This just isn't a reason that goes to "the public interest", which is the only basis on which Mathieson can impose the order.

    As best I can make out, it seems that Mathieson is worried that without the order lots and lots and lots of under-14's will get hold of the book before the Board has a chance to slap another R14 classification on it ... and that this will somehow prevent the Board then being able to do so. But this is just barmy:

    (1) Even if lots and lots and lots of under-14s did get hold of the book, so what? It might make an R-14 label ineffective for them ... but books don't disappear and kids grow older. So if this really is a bad book that people under-14 should not read (yeah, right), then an R-14 label for future youth would still be justifiable irrespective of how many current kids have had access to it.

    (2) Where is the evidence that lots and lots and lots of under-14s will get hold of the book before the Board looks at it again. This book was unclassified for months prior to the Board's first decision on it - did that somehow result in such widespread distribution that the Board's hands were (in effect) tied? Obviously not. So what is different this time around?

    (3) What Mathieson is really saying is "the Board has decided under-14s can't see this. The Office shouldn't be allowed to undo our decision. So I'm going to use this interim order to reassert the Board's authority over the Office." Which may be good workplace politics, but it's not the same as "the public interest" - which is all that Mathieson may consider.

    He's acting illegally, and counting on the fact that there isn't really enough time to get a court to review his actions before the Board meets and reclassifies the book. Which is pretty average behaviour.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    So what is different this time around?

    To be fair, there is at least one thing different this time, for most of that time the book was self-published, and perhaps not very widely known. It has now won an award and everything.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3205 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Would I be right in thinking that in the mainstream legal world, if say a District Court judge were to climb out on a limb like this and make a tendentious decision that gets torn apart on appeal, then that would be a bit career limiting for them? (particularly if they made a habit of it).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    ... for most of that time the book was self-published, and perhaps not very widely known. It has now won an award and everything.

    The book won the best novel award on June 24, 2013. The Review Board classified it in December 2013. So for over 5 months after being given additional public prominence by the award win the book could be read, sold, shared and displayed completely free from any restrictions ... yet the Board was still able to give it an R14 rating.

    So how would two-or-three months of free availability now prevent the Board from doing likewise?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    @Rich,

    Difference being, District Court judges stay in their jobs no matter what until age 72.* Don Mathieson, however, is up for periodic reappointment to his role by Peter Dunne.

    *Unless the Attorney-General tells the Governor General to sack him or her following a recommendation by a Judicial Conduct Panel, that is.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    How do they get promoted to be a High Court judge? Or do High Court judges get appointed directly from barristers?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    @Rich,

    True - consistently being ripped apart on appeal would likely prevent any chance of progression up the judicial ranks. But my point was that Peter Dunne has the opportunity to decide whether Dr Mathieson's decision-making is so poor that he should be "off the bench" altogether (so to speak).

    In answer to your question, but ... most High Court judges get appointed directly there (i.e. without serving on the District Court first).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    So how would two-or-three months of free availability now prevent the Board from doing likewise?

    It fairly obviously would not. The decision makes little sense to me either :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3205 posts Report Reply

  • Lin Nah,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Lin Nah,

    Is there anything people can do to ensure our voices are heard wrt opposition on the banning or even age restriction of the book? It seems like there have been articles online either in MSM or blog sites written in opposition to the ban. Is there anything that can be done to ensure these are read by the Board of Review, and anyone else who has a say in changing the decision on the banning and/or classification of the book?

    I couldn't find an online petition against the banning of this book. Should there be one or is it not a good way to sway the board of review?

    In the AMA Ted Dawe was asked if he'd fight the ban. It doesn't sound like he think he can say anything that will sway the board.

    Well, I have to put in a submission to the review committee but I have no confidence that they will reach a different decision because they are entirely the same group that got the book banned, and their positions are more entrenched.

    Someone else responded to the reply above that he should submit one anyway, detailing your reasons, as a matter of record and principle. He replied:

    I am drafting one at the moment but I am not hopeful of its ability to sway the board. Remember- I've already tried this once before.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    for over 5 months after being given additional public prominence by the award win the book could be read, sold, shared and displayed completely free from any restrictions … yet the Board was still able to give it an R14 rating. … how would two-or-three months of free availability now prevent the Board from doing likewise?

    Because then there’d be even more real evidence Into the River being freely available hasn’t harmed society and the sky hasn’t fallen?

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2108 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Dunster,

    Pertinent comments in the Wanganui (no h!) Chronicle editorial – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/wanganui-chronicle/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503423&objectid=11514466. Also the Herald reports positive worldwide interest in the book – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=11513997 – so all we now have to do is resolve the crazy legislation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 184 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Don Mathieson, QC, the censor who banned Into the River is quitting the Film and Literature Board of Review.

    Mathieson, a conservative Christian, made headlines in September, after Ted Dawe's teen novel Into The River was briefly banned, following a complaint from conservative lobby group Family First.

    The book had previously won the NZ Post Children's Book Award, and the ban - the first handed down in 22 years - sparked public outrage.

    By a majority vote, the board lifted the interim ban in October - and the book's previous R14 classification was thrown out at the same time, making it an unrestricted read.

    Mathieson opposed the ruling, with a dissenting opinion in the board's final decision, saying "no responsible parent of a 17-year-old, let alone of a 12-year-old, would want this repetitive coarse language normalised."

    On Monday, Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne announced Mathieson's departure from the board, in a statement announcing seven new appointments.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1433 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Alfie,

    Don Mathieson, QC, the censor who banned Into the River is quitting the Film and Literature Board of Review.

    Having served two consecutive terms on the Board, he was forbidden by law from being re-appointed to a third.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3205 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Thanks Graeme. I was actually more surprised that a self-confessed "conservative Christian" was selected as a guardian of our country's morals in the first place.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1433 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Alfie,

    If you think the job description is "guardian of our country's morals" then a social conservative is exactly who you'd appoint.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1923 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Having now finished the book, I don't think the Censor's real issue was with any "repetitive coarse language" at all.

    I'd suspect that the combination of the (probably accurate) portrayal of a posh Auckland school as a fount of bullying, abuse and racism with a depiction of a staff-student sexual relationship in less than horrified terms was the crux of it.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    the (probably accurate) portrayal of a posh Auckland school as a fount of bullying, abuse and racism with a depiction of a staff-student sexual relationship in less than horrified terms was the crux of it.

    While I don't know the inner workings of Mathieson's moral compass, that was certainly my feeling. If Into the River had been simple propaganda I might have some sympathy, but it's far more than that. All of its characters, Pakeha or Maori, male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor, are fully human. Dawe treats his readers as having the ability to draw their own conclusions. Perhaps that's what bothered Mathieson, as much as any superficial issues about sexuality or class.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

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