Paula Bennett shows her media training skills

Posted July 3, 2012

While media training is all about mastering media interviews, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett showed this week that there are times when requests by journalists can and should be turned down. Mrs Bennett's daughter Ana resigned from her role at the Waipareira Trust, which is locked in a legal battle with the Government over the decision to withdraw funding for the provision of the Family Start programme. The battle is being fought by Mrs Bennett's own Ministry. Anna said she would feel compromised fighting for Waipareira due to by her mother's position on the other side of the table. Mrs Bennett was then asked for her comments about her daughter's decision. While media training consultants usually advise Government Ministers to front up for interviews, this is one of those exceptions. That's because this has nothing to do with Mrs Bennett's role as a Minister. She quite rightly made one brief statement, which read: "As a mum, I talk to my daughter all the time ... I am proud of her achievements, and the fact that she is an independent woman who is capable of making up her own mind." This was the perfect response. The media will always report ironic stories like this, but from a media training perspective, there would have been little value in Mrs Bennett commenting further. When deciding whether to agree to an interview, a Minister needs to weigh up the pros and cons. As a media training consultant, I believe they usually have a responsibility to front up. After all, they have a duty to inform people of their policies. But there was no Ministerial responsibility here, just an ironic situation where two family members were on different sides of an issue.
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