Hard News by Russell Brown

What's that wheezing sound from Wellington?

What is it with ageing baby-booomer Fairfax columnists and homosexuals? The Dom Post's Karl du Fresne has joined his stablemate Rosemary McLeod in advancing wheezy conspiracy theories about the Labour Party's gay mafia wing.

In the paper this week, du Fresne let fly:

Charles Chauvel's self-serving spin on his promotion to Parliament is that he will bring a business perspective to the Labour Party caucus. But hang on a minute. Just how representative is Mr Chauvel of New Zealand business?

Being a partner in the Wellington branch of global law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts doesn't make him a businessman. His areas of supposed legal expertise include government, education, and workplace health and safety, which are matters of concern to business only insofar as they are often impediments to it. And his CV records that he served time as counsel to the Service Workers' Union – hardly a background likely to make him sympathetic to business.

This is a rather determined effort to make Chauvel look like something he isn't, and never mind the facts. Yes, a look at the lawyer's CV will show that he once acted for the Service Workers Union. It will also show that he is an employment law specialist who has been retained, in the vast majority of cases, by employers, often large ones. I'd wager he understands their perspective on that issue quite well.

Du Fresne froths on:

Much is made of the fact that he served on the boards of Meridian Energy and the Lotteries Commission; but they're state-owned enterprises stacked with politically favoured appointees rather than people with real business expertise.

Oh, of course. That'll be why the Meridian Energy board includes a director and senior executive from Telecom and a senior BNZ executive. No "real" business experience there, then. It tends to be prudent to look these things up before you begin generalising wildly.

And then he gets to his point:

Mr Chauvel is of course homosexual, which is probably the real key to his rapid ascent in a party whose prevailing ideology now seems to be the championing of "oppressed" minorities. He wears expensive designer suits, lives in Oriental Bay and gets around in a Mercedes convertible (if that's oppression, I'd like some). Fashionably, he has a baby son, though he has lived with the same man for 11 years. We await an explanation for this apparent incongruity. Perhaps ego-babies are the latest designer accessories in the gay community.

He may be the new face of what was once the working-class party, but if he represents business, I'm the secret lover of Nicky Watson.

If Chauvel's homosexuality was a factor, it seems rather more likely that that (like his Tahitian heritage) made the Labour Party attractive to him than vice versa, and that his "rapid ascent" (to the dizzying heights of, um, number 45 on its 2005 list) was due to his expertise in law. But I hereby demand an inquiry into the National Party placing an openly homosexual lawyer at number eight on its list in the same election. What's the world coming to?

Oh, and by the way, that list also includes the MP Judith Collins, Chauvel's subordinate at Minter Ellison, and also a specialist in employment law and corporate governance, who likes to talk about her "vision" for business. Can she expect a lashing from de Fresne too?

Meanwhile, Public Address reader Peter Calder was feeling rather left out after being informed by McLeod that "There'd be few adult gatherings in this country where the sexual preferences of the prime minister, her husband, advisers, and other Labour politicians and friends are not speculated on at some point …":

I am ashamed to admit that I have never been at an adult - or any other - gathering in this country where anyone has "speculated on ... the sexual preferences of the prime minister, her husband, advisers, and other Labour politicians and friends." Where did I go wrong? Surely not all my friends are boring and clueless? Should I move to Wellington immediately and brighten up my tawdry little life?

Which perhaps strikes at the heart of the tragedy, Peter. These people really do sit around at their dinner parties muttering darkly about who might be gay.

Up here in Auckland, we're much too busy mounting kerbs in our 4WDs and trying to get noticed by Bridget Saunders to care about that stuff. (Which reminds me: why didn't my Friday-at-Prego encounter with a steaming drunk "telly type" make the gossip columns? Does one have to phone these things in oneself?)

An ambulance is hit with a guided missile, neatly through the apex of its big, red cross. And then the UN observation post is bombed, even though its location has been noted since 1978 and its occupants have called their Israeli liason 10 times in six hours to reiterate their position, and been assured the shelling would stop. It's very, very hard to believe that either strike was an accident. I don't know what's going on at the political level in Israel, but IDF command seems to be out of control.

Without wishing to belabour the Lebanon thing …

Chilling bellicosity from one side:

Hezbollah‘s representative in Iran struck a defiant tone Monday, warning that his Islamic militant group plans to widen its attacks on Israel until "no place" is safe for Israelis.

"We are going to make Israel not safe for Israelis. There will be no place they are safe," Safiadeen told a conference that included the Tehran-based representative of the Palestinian group Hamas and the ambassadors from Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Authority .

Chilling reciprocity from the other:

"Army chief of staff Dan Halutz has given the order to the air force to destroy 10 multi-storey buildings in the Dahaya district (of Beirut) in response to every rocket fired on Haifa," a senior air force officer told army radio on Monday.

And, finally for the day, because it's a busy one, best wishes to the cast and crew of Look Back in Anger as their Auckland run begins tonight.