Hard News by Russell Brown


"Rubbish" is putting it politely

It's a shame I hadn't seen the Listener's risible 'Gay wrongs?' story before I spoke to Rodney Hide on Tuesday night. I'd have been happy to tell him how I felt about his part in it. The sub-heading of the story in the current issue quite effectively captures its small-minded tone:

Education Minister Chris Carter is supporting a new scholarship that bans applications from "straight" schoolchildren

Yes, like scholarships for young women ban applications from young men, and scholarships for Maori and Pacific Islanders shut out the white folks and scholarships for immigrant Jewish children only go to, well, immigrant Jewish children. But we'll get to that.

At issue is a single new $2000 tertiary education scholarship offered by the Gay Auckland Business Association (Gaba) to a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender student. Just the one, mind. You might think it's just a community helping its own in a modest way, but Rodney Hide describes this to the Listener's Mary Jane Boland as "a big story" and, writes Boland, "the last thing Prime Minister Helen Clark needs as Labour struggles in the pre-election opinion polls."


Because Chris Carter, MP and Minister of Education, is patron of Gaba. He played no role in creating the scholarship, but his name appears on the letterheads. This is the basis for the introductory paragraph that reads:

Labour MP Chris Carter is well known for supporting gay rights but legal experts say his latest foray – supporting a scholarship for gay or lesbian schoolchildren – is skirting discrimination.

Well, actually, one legal expert -- University of Auckland law faculty dean Professor Paul Rishworth -- says it's "complex", and he seems confused. I cannot question his expertise in the law, but his grounding in public health issues doesn't seem very strong:

The next issue, [Rishworth] says, is whether gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students need this sort of "financial assistance to achieve an equal place with other members of the community … It is hard to imagine that this sort of assistance is needed in the present situation."

You don't have to go far to slip the surly bonds of the professor's imagination. Only three years ago, researchers on the Christchurch Health and Development Study, one of the most important longitudinal studies of its kind in the world, announced a finding that young people (ages 14-21) with a predominantly homosexual orientation are at significantly greater risk of suffering depression, anxiety, illicit drug dependence, suicidal thoughts and other mental health problems than straight kids.

A more remarkable omission -- on the part of both the writer and her legal expert -- is any mention of what happened in July, when Victoria University researcher Dr Paul Callister sought clarification from the Human Rights Commission over educational scholarships for women. He did have an argument -- women's participation in tertiary education is now 14% higher than men's -- but the commission observed that charitable trusts are exempt from the unlawful discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act:

Section 150 of the Human Rights Act 1993 states clearly that the unlawful discrimination provisions of the act do not apply to charitable benefits.

The scholarship in question is offered by the Gaba Charitable Trust. That doesn't seem very "complex" to me.

This crappy little story speaks of everything that's wrong with the Listener now. The next thing Mary Jane Boland writes should be an apology.


On the other hand, once you get past the hopeless cover ("Did Hitler use P?") of the same issue, you'll find the best story yet written on how the methamphetamine trade works in New Zealand, courtesy David Fisher. It really is that good.


Presumably at risk of a Listener story for, um, banning teh menz or something: Girl Geek Dinners, to which I was hipped by Robyn Gallagher after the TVNZ 7 Internet Debate this week. They're for girls who are, like, geeks, and dinners have been held in Wellington, Auckland and lots of other places in the world.

Speaking of the debate, both parts are now up on TVNZ ondemand. But I'm still getting the "sorry this content is not available to view" message, even after updating Flash and turning off my pop-up blocker. Is anyone else having this problem? (The Windows Media versions are still available at debate.net.nz.)

Reader Allan B has been in touch with a link to the 2008 Republican Platform, adopted about three weeks ago, which explicitly opposes government bailouts of private companies. From the Economics section "Rebuilding Homeownership":

We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself. We believe in the free market as the best tool to sustained prosperity and opportunity for all. We encourage potential buyers to work in concert with the lending community to educate themselves about the responsibilities of purchasing a home, condo, or land.

The Chairmen’s Preamble begins:

This is a platform of enduring principle, not passing convenience.


On a happier note, you might want to pop over to Bob Dylan's website for your free download of 'Dreamin' of You', from his forthcoming album Tell Tale Signs, No.8 in the Bootleg Series of rare and unreleased material. It's a 320kbit/s LAME-encoded MP3. If you like it, you can pre-order the album as a double CD, vinyl album or CD-vinyl combo. The first 5000 pre-orders come with a Jaime Hernandez(!) poster for Bob's radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour. Way to go, Bob.

Hannah Sarney went to the Peaches show, where the boys and the girls lost their shirts.

This remix makes the new Kanye West song sound a bit less sucky.

Soulwax had a whole lot of songs thrown at them by Pure FM (including Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up'!) and had to mix them on the fly. You can download the result, and also read a Guardian interview with the brothers, and watch a clip from their new film Part of the Weekend Never Dies (warning: contains trollied people talking bollocks).

Did I mention that Santogold is going to play Rhythm 'n' Vines?

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